Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chocolate-hazelnut macarons

Chocolate-hazelnut macaron

For Valentine's Day this year, I decided to try the latest, hippest thing in baked goods, at least according to the Internet -- macarons. That's macarOns, one O, as in a meringue-and-nut-based sandwich cookie, as opposed to macarOOns, which are the coconut ones most people are familiar with.

Wouldn't you know, they ended up being way more of a pain than I suspected, and my quick afternoon baking project became "sorry I'm not ready to go out to dinner yet, honey, but I'm piping, and then these have to sit, and then I have to bake them... but here's a nice card and some chocolate-dipped strawberries to occupy you in the meantime, okay?"

As it turns out, as I was fussing over the meringue, Google-ing "macaron meringue texture" to try to figure out how this stuff was supposed to look, I realized that almost every recipe out there uses an easier meringue, the kind I'm familiar with and have made a bunch of times. Apparently, I picked the hardest macaron recipe on the Internet. Leave it to me to get sucked in by "ooh, chocolate, hazelnuts, Nutella!" and not notice the details until I was halfway into the recipe. Also, I hate piping. It looks good, but I always seem to forget how much it makes my hand hurt. Ah, well.

I have to say, these did come out pretty tasty, though they didn't spread like I thought they would, so they ended up being a bit small and fat. Next time, I think I might look for a simpler recipe, then just substitute like ingredients to get what I want. Or maybe I'd just try a different kind altogether, maybe some traditional almond ones.


Chocolate-Hazelnut Macarons
From Baking Bites
2 1/4 c ground hazelnuts
2 c confectioners’ sugar
1/2 c cocoa
4 egg whites, room temperature
1 c sugar
1/4 c water
Nutella (the original recipe calls for a cup, but I totally didn't need that much)

1. Set 2 of the egg whites aside in a large bowl.
2. In another large bowl, whisk together the hazelnuts, confectioners' sugar and cocoa. Add the other 2 egg whites and mix until you have a stiff dough (I ended up using my hands for this task, 'cause a spoon wasn't cutting it).
3. Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan and turn on the burner to bring the mixture to a rolling boil.
4. Meanwhile, beat the 2 remaining egg whites until frothy. Once the sugar comes to a boil, keep beating the egg whites until soft peaks are formed.
5. With the mixer running on medium, slowly drizzle the hot sugar mixture into the bowl. Beat until about the texture of shaving cream.
6. Spoon about a third of the meringue into the bowl with the chocolate-nut mixture and beat them together. Then, fold in the remaining meringue a bit at a time. (Note: This totally didn't work for me -- the dough was just too stiff and thick to get the meringue to combine delicately. I ended up beating the whole mess together. They still came out tasting alright in the end. *shrugs*)
7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Do NOT skip this, or you'll never get them off the pan.
8. Spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a 1 cm round tip, then pipe 1-inch circles about an inch apart on your baking sheets. If you get peaks on the tops of them (I did, 'cause my piping technique is far from perfect), just wet your finger with a bit of water and push those peaks down flat.
9. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. Then, walk away for about 20 minutes -- the cookies need to sit so they'll develop a skin on top, so they're the right shape once they bake (smooth tops with little "feet" on the bottoms).
10. Bake the cookies for 11-12 minutes, until the tops are set. (One site I looked at recommended checking for doneness by grabbing the top of one and wiggling it from side to side -- if it shifts just slightly against the bottom of the cookie, it's done.)
11. Let cool on pan for 2 minutes, then remove to cooling racks. Once cooled, sandwich with Nutella.