I’m gonna get this out of the way: I hate making macarons. On the other hand, I love eating macarons. You can see that I’m in a bit of a pickle.
My issues with macarons never seems to lie in the folding process, which seems to be what trips up most people. No, my problems come from other factors… humidity, hot spots in the oven, a crummy silpat, Jupiter being out of alignment. I haven’t learned to master the environment for macarons nearly as well as I’ve learned to control the process of making the batter. It doesn’t help that everyone gives conflicting advice on macarons to begin with. For example, there’s the ongoing argument about letting them sit and form a “skin” before baking. I could introduce you to several extremely prolific pastry chefs that insist this is complete and total nonsense. I could also introduce you to a few that insist it’s absolutely necessary… and they all make great macarons.
One thing I will say is that if you don’t have a ton of practice with macarons, and in some cases even if you do… you can’t get too hung up on them being perfect. Even bakeries often throw out a decent percentage of their macarons. The bright side is that even failed macarons almost always taste delicious. Since they also freeze well, even if you screw up 5 batches, you’ll just end up with a gallon ziplock bag of ugly but delicious cookies in your freezer. Go into it in a laid back way and things will be much better.
Then, when you do get that perfect batch, the success is that much sweeter.
I like to leave explaining the ins and outs of macaron making to people who, frankly, are better at it than I am. My suggestion? Not So Humble Pie‘s amazing series of macaron posts. In fact, I used her basic French Macaron as a starting point for experiments more than once. Her troubleshooting guide is also absolutely fantastic. The amount of work she put into it is just incredible.
Now, with that out of the way… on to the complete recipe!
TIMING NOTE: Because macarons benefit incredibly from some time to mature, you’ll be making the shells and ganache 1-2 days before assembly time.
Dark Chocolate Raspberry Mega-Macaron
Yields: 8-10 large macaron sandwiches. (Note: You will have extra macaron shells. This is by design, in case some of them mess up. If you’re left with a lot of extra, just store them in the freezer!)
4.3 oz (120g) almond flour
6.4 oz (180g) powdered sugar
3.5 oz (100g) egg whites
1 oz (30g) granulated sugar
12.5 oz (350g) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped or in chips
3/4 cup + 4 tsp (200ml) heavy cream
1 tbsp. triple sec or raspberry liquer (optional)
8-10 large raspberries, washed and dried, per macaron sandwich
Cocoa powder for dusting
1. 1-2 days before you are serving the cookies, make the macarons. Preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C). Start by placing a large round tip (I use Ateco 806) into your piping bag and lining 2-3 cookie sheets in parchment (you may also use a silicone mat, but I have had much better results with parchment). I stand piping bag in a tall glass with the edges rolled outward like a sleeve; this makes filling the bag much easier. If you don’t have a lot of practice regulating your piping, you should use a 2″ round pastry cutter and marker to make a size guide on the underside of your parchment. In a food processor, pulse together your almond flour and powdered sugar until well combined. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar as you beat the whites. Once the whites have formed a stiff, glossy meringue, they are ready to go.
2. Sift about a third of your almond flour mixture onto the egg whites, and carefully fold them together until just incorporated. Sift on the remaining flour and fold it until just incorporated. Now you need to fold to get the batter to the correct consistency. Fold slowly and rotate your bowl often. You want your batter to be thick and lava-like. I typically judge the batter by how long it takes for the fold mark to disappear. If the batter does not begin to smooth out, it’s not beaten enough. If it takes about 10 seconds for things to look smoother, you’re on the right track. Remember it’s much better to undermix than overmix macarons, especially since piping them continues to liquify the batter a bit.
3. Fill the batter into your piping bag. Pipe your macarons to about 2″ in diameter, at least 1 1/2″ apart. Once you’ve piped your rounds, sharply tap the cookie sheet on your counter to get rid of air bubbles. If you see any bubbles the tapping didn’t take care of, pop them with a toothpick. If your macarons have pointed tops, dip your finger in a bit of water and gently pat it down. Allow your macarons to rest for 20-60 minutes, or until the tops are no longer tacky. This may take longer if your kitchen is humid.
4. Bake your macarons for 15-20 minutes or until very slightly browned on the bottom. You should be able to carefully pull one of the macarons off of the sheet without the bottom sticking. Since the side ones are usually the ones that go wonky (see above), feel free to sacrifice one of the ugly ones to test if the macarons are done. Allow the macarons to cool completely.
5. In a saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Place the chocolate in a heat-safe glass bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Allow to sit for about five minutes before whisking together until smooth. Add in your liquer, if using. Cover in saran wrap and cool until firmed up and pipeable.
6. Mix and match your macaron shells to find a partner for each shell that’s about the same size. Spread a thin layer of ganache on each of your individual shells. I spread a bit less on the shells I intended to use as the top layer. Place all your shells in an air-tight container, ganache side up, and allow the shells to mature in the fridge for 1-2 days. This will greatly improve the texture of your macarons. Store your remaining ganache in the fridge as well.
7. On the day you intend to serve the cookies, remove your shells from the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature. Warm your ganache very slightly (5-10 seconds in the microwave should be all it takes) until it’s suitable for piping. Fill it into a piping bag with a medium-sized round tip (I use Ateco 803). With a dab of ganache, secure one shell onto each of your serving plates. Spread a little more ganache on if you like, so the berries squish into it nicely. Arrange the raspberries on top of your bottom shell, then pipe the ganache on top of the berries and in the space between berries. Place your top shell on top and dust it with cocoa powder. Garnish with a single raspberry dipped partway in melted ganache, and serve immediately.