On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your knowledge on Netspeak? I would probably be at a 5. Ironically, despite all the time I spend online, my Internet vocabulary is pretty poor. Until last year I had no idea what it meant to “ship”, and to think that is just one in the 9000+ new slang words being spoken on the Interwebs on a daily basis. Am I THAT behind on pop culture now that I’m at my mid-20’s? Am I more old-fashioned than I thought? (I would like to think NOT!)
I’m not updated on the abbreviated Internet slang dictionary either, but that may be because I’m just not much of a fan of abbreviations. I do use “LOL” occasionally, but I just don’t see why you have to say “IMMD” instead of the more expressive “it made my day”; or why my more frequently used “OMG” has to spawn an “OMGD” (“Oh my gosh, dude”). But that’s just me. I never even use “gonna” or “wanna” because my public speaking training in uni has made it unnatural for me. However there is one abbreviation that I have come to use just lately in my life and that is “HG”.
No, not “Hot Girl”!!!
“Holy grail”. Something you believe is the ultimate version of a thing. It could be the best you’ve tried or your most favourite among favourites. I hear that abbreviation on YouTube Make-Up reviews all the time. (Something I have to admit I spend quite a bit of time watching haha!) Since then I have come to associate that word with the declaration “THIS IS IT!”, which is exactly what I thought and how I felt after making these macarons.
I can’t promise you that this recipe is foolproof because again the success of the recipe still depends on the consistency of your macaron batter and whether you can tell if it’s ready, but I will try my best to help you out on that part. It’s just that I was so shocked at how non-finicky this recipe was compared to the others I’ve tried. I didn’t weigh my ingredients, didn’t age my eggs for long, and yet I came up with gorgeous macarons. All of them came out domed and with feet. Of course I did test this recipe again the second time just to make sure– the recipe of which I will share a little later– and it still worked! I’m still thinking about the third flavour to try out on my third attempt, but suffice it to say, this is the recipe I will be tweaking and perfecting and adapting into my own repertoire.
Why don’t I give you a little walk-through on how I made these Chilli Chocolate Macarons? 🙂
Like I said before when I made my first ever macarons, these lovely cookies are not as hard to make as they are made out to be. It’s just that sometimes we tend to let our minds get ahead of us to the point where we scare ourselves silly before even trying. I feel like it’s this way with most things we are nervous about or trying for the first time.
Truth be told, I felt like a mad scientist the day I made these and wanted to experiment with my macarons by doing the opposite of what most consider as the most important “rules” for macaron making. I’m not telling you to disregard these, but for me personally I wanted to find a process that worked for me and sometimes you can only do that by stepping outside the box.
I also wanted to test just exactly how precise you had to be to succeed in macaron-making. I on purpose did not age my eggs overnight like I used to. The very morning I was making my macarons, I took some eggs from the fridge, separated them, and left the whites to come down to room temperature for about 2 hours. The recipe I found measured in cups so I did not bother weighing my ingredients anymore either. It seemed like I was pushing it at the time but it all paid off!
Now I’m sure that the two most important things you really need to pay attention to in macaron-making are: 1) the consistency of your egg whites; 2) the ‘magma-flow’ consistency of your macaron batter.
For the whipped egg whites, you have to make darn sure that they are as stiff as they can go. Whip them until they become this white glossy meringue that creates a pointed pyramid (on your whisk and in the bowl) that stays firmly straight when you dip your whisk in and drag the meringue up. I like to hold the bowl upside down just to check if I’ve achieved the stiff peaks stage. The mixture shouldn’t slip, slide, or move at all and you should be able to hold the bowl over your head with no fear!
Now just sift your dry ingredients one last time into the meringue. Before starting the meringue, I do like to sift my almond flour and confectioner’s sugar twice just to get rid of the big chunks. Other recipes will have you taking out your food processor to help make your dry ingredients more fine, but I really hate taking mine out just for this purpose so I normally buy the more finely-milled almond flour and confectioner’s sugar from the baking supply store. It’s just less of a hassle.
Now comes the crucial part. When folding the batter, the most important thing is to be able to get a good sense or feeling of the batter’s consistency. The batter will be VERY thick at first, when you initially fold the dry ingredients in. It will be super stiff.
I start with small strokes of folding since it’s a bit hard to mix, but once the almond flour starts to get really incorporated into the egg whites the batter loosens up little by little. I use bigger strokes at this point, running my spatula down to the bottom of the bowl and the sides as well (even rotating my bowl) just to make sure I fold absolutely EVERYTHING in. I never count how many strokes I make, but I always start testing the batter when I feel that it is loose enough but still rather thick. When you lift your spatula, the batter should FLOW down in thick ribbons– not drop or plop down heavily!– sinking back into the rest of the mixture after a few seconds. They call this the Magma-Flow Consistency, and I think that’s a pretty apt description.
Next, transfer the batter to a pastry bag. If the batter kind of slowly comes out the tip then the batter is most probably the right consistency. If it doesn’t and just kind of stays put and is hard to squeeze then return everything to the mixing bowl and fold a bit more. However it the batter practically runs out of the tip of the pastry bag like a thin cupcake batter, then sorry but you have to do it all over again because you’ve overmixed the batter!
Pipe out rounds on your baking sheet that is about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter, because you’re still going to bang these babies on the countertop to flatten them out, even out the tops, and make the pipe marks disappear. In the process the batter will spread out a bit as well.
And when I say bang, I mean lift the tray up to your chin, grip the walls of the baking sheet on both ends tightly, and bang the whole thing down on the countertop. Loudly. Do this about four to six times or until the macarons are flat and even, and air bubbles on the surface have popped.
Now just leave the rounds to dry out at room temperature for about 30 minutes to an hour. The macarons will form a skin on top which will help them rise upward while baking instead of expand. The surface be smooth when you gently touch it with a finger. Also, I think this skin helps in keeping the macarons from cracking. Just remember to bake them at a lower temperature of around 325ºF or 160ºC. Sometimes if your oven is too hot or having heat regulation problems, you can even go down to 300ºF or 150ºC.
For the filling of these macarons I used my favourite: chocolate, of course! The chilli-chocolate flavour combo is what originally drew me to this recipe because I am a fan of it, so naturally, the cayenne pepper-spiked shells partnered with the rich dark chocolate ganache was for me a perfect partnership.
I used Malagos 60% Chocolate to make the ganache and it was perfection as the bittersweet chocolate cancelled out the sweetness of the macaron shells and allowed the slight cayenne heat to come out a little more. I’m thinking I should add some cayenne to the chocolate ganache too next time just to up the ante.
And in case you’re wondering about the design on top of the shells, that’s just a little something fun I thought I’d do as inspired by the original recipe of these macarons. I used a piece of baking paper and some red food colour to roughy paint some patterns on top of the macaron. I think I shall deem them rustic!
Makes about 12 to 14 sandwich cookies
- ¾ cup almond flour
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 pinch cream of tartar
- ½ cup caster sugar
- 130 grams (4.5 oz) chocolate chunks
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line two baking sheets with parchment.
- 2. Sift almond flour and confectioners' sugar together 2 to 3 times and discard the large bits. Set aside.
- 3. Whisk egg whites with the whisk attachment of the mixer until foamy. Attach the bowl and whisk to the mixer, sprinkle cream of tartar and beat at medium speed until soft peaks form. Reduce speed and gradually add the sugar. Once all sugar has been added, increase speed to medium high and beat until stiff peaks form. To test, flip the mixing bowl over. The mixture should not slip, slide, or move.
- 4. Sift flour mixture over the stiff meringue with a fine sieve. Discard any lumps or coarse bits that remain. Sift in cayenne pepper.
- 5. (If coloring the batter, place a bit of gel food coloring on the end of a rubber spatula before you begin folding the mixture.) Using a rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into the meringue using short strokes at first as the batter is very stiff. Once the batter loosens, fold with bigger strokes, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl as you go. To test if the batter is ready, it should fall from the spatula like flowing magma, forming thick ribbons that disappear into the mixture after a few seconds.
- 7. Transfer mixture to a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip. Pipe 1 to 1-1/2 -inch even rounds on the parchment lined baking sheets. Take the tray and bang on the countertop about six times, or until the surface evens out the macarons flatten, and all the air bubbles in the batter have popped. Let piped macarons stand uncovered for 30 minutes to an hour to form a "skin".
- 8. When ready to bake, decrease temperature to 325ºF (160ºC) just before placing the baking sheet in the oven. Bake pans one at a time for 10 minutes, turning halfway through. (If first batch of macarons have some cracks on them then the oven is probably a bit too hot. Turn it down to 300ºF or 150ºC for the next batch.)
- 9. Chop chocolate and place in a small bowl. Heat cream on the stove-top just until before it begins to boil. Immediately pour over chocolate and mix until smooth. Let cool at room temperature until it is of a spreadable consistency, or refrigerate until ready to use.
- 10. Pair up same-sized macaron shells. If painting on the shells, take one shell and design it as desired. I used a piece of parchment paper and some red food colouring to roughly paint patterns and designs.
- 11. Place a small spoonful of chocolate on one shell and top with its partner.
I have some other tips stemming from my first macaron-making session which I no longer included in this post, but you might want to check those out too. The things I learned from that experience have been carried on to my succeeding macaron-making attempts, and I have to say, it’s a lot easier once you get through that first-try hump. Have fun! 😉