Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chocolate Macaron Success!

Finally, finally, on my fifth attempt and third recipe, I found success in the macaron world. Leave it to Macaron God Pierre Hermé to set me right! Not only are these feet just right, but the texture is a wonderful balance of chewiness and lightness, the tops formed a nice shiny crust, and the ganache is the smooth happiness in the middle.

Of course, now that I re-look at photos from my Paris trip last year I can recall exactly how perfect PH's macarons were, much finer in texture than mine, and lighter. But still, as progression from my previous attempts AND in comparison to the MANY disappointing American macaron imposters I've tried (Boule? Paulette? most of San Francisco?), these were quite a success. I even got a real Frenchman to try them, and his approval (as a wealthy Parisian well acquainted with Pierre Hermé) should serve as objective proof that these are the real deal!

One of you lovely readers actually brought this successful recipe to my attention; to be fair, this is a recipe based on PH's own, but I give him all the credit for the unique components of it. I believe that it was these unique techniques that set this recipe apart from recipe #1 and recipe #2:

1. The egg whites are measured by volume rather than by egg (1/2 C, instead of 4 eggs), giving it more accuracy.
2. The egg whites are warmed carefully in the microwave, and the mixing bowl warmed under warm running water, in order to keep the temperature of the egg whites high enough to boost their volumizing potential. Good instructions are also given about how to know when the whites are whipped enough.
3. Granulated sugar is NOT added to the whipping egg whites.
4. The piped cookies sit on the baking sheets for 15 minutes before going into the oven in order to form the sheen on the domes.
5. The oven is heated to 425 degrees, and then dropped to 350 upon placing the baking sheet in the oven by propping the oven door open with a wooden spoon (which may also help keep the humidity of the oven lower).

The ganache recipe is great, but makes twice as much as necessary to fill one recipe of these macarons, so you can halve it if you want to make the exact amount.

So, this recipe gets my vote as the best chocolate macaron recipe, both in outcomes and in thoroughness of instruction. I've made it twice now, to entirely consistent results (if only I hadn't been out of parchment paper the second time, that is - NEVER make these without parchment paper unless you want broken-top macarons!). Next time I will make sure to grind and sift the almond powder better in order to produce a finer texture, or perhaps grind blanched almonds rather than starting with Trader Joe's almond meal.

Now to find good recipes for other macaron flavors! I am scared to upset the dry ingredient balance by removing the cocoa powder...if only would e-mail me to say that PH's Macaron book is ready to ship to me!

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