Nine macarons in about 30 minutes. Hello. And welcome to my life.
So, I've wanted to do a taste test of all "the best" macarons that this lovely city called Paris has to offer. I love baking macarons, and, as you may have noticed, I do it quite often. The thing is, I'm not the best at making chocolate macarons. For some reason the cocoa addition doesn't work so well for me. Maybe it's the cocoa (student guilt: I used the cheapest kind at the super market)? Maybe I just need more practice? Maybe I need a little bit of inspiration. Or, perhaps it's a combination of all three.
Well, my tasting partner and I walked around the Opera area of Paris this weekend to collect some culinary specimens for examination. Today, Ladurée and Pierre Hermé are featured. They both currently offer two chocolate varieties, so obviously we had to try both. Obviously.
On top of this, I made chocolate macarons with the most amazing (or, in my elegant grasp of the English language: bamf) chocolate ganache. Despite my macarons not winning our little taste test, they did hold up pretty well against the macaron celebrities. Plus, most importantly, I now know what small tweaks I can make (next time) to my chocolate macarons to improve them just a tad.
Before we get to the exciting results, let's do a little chocolate-macaron-ing of ourselves.
Chocolate Macarons - What you need:
- 110 grams almond powder
- 180 grams of confectioner’s sugar
- 20 grams (roughly 2 heaping tablespoons) of cocoa powder
- 100 egg whites, aged overnight in a sealed container at room temperature
- 50 grams caster sugar
Chocolate Macarons - What you do:
Optional, but recommended: In a food processor, blend together the almond powder, confectioner's sugar, and cocoa powder. Next, sift the mixture to remove any lumps that didn't blend up, then set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Slowly add the sugar to the egg whites while beating them. Beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Be careful not to over beat at this step!
Fold the egg whites (also known as meringue) into the almond mixture. Continue to fold the mixture together, again being careful not to overbeat. The stirs should not exceed 50!
Place the macaron batter into a pastry bag and pipe out macarons onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Tap the baking sheet on a counter a few times to get all of the air bubbles out of the macarons.
Allow the macarons to rest for approximately one hour before baking.
When they have sat for around 50 minutes, pre-heat your oven to 140c.
Bake the macarons in the pre-heated oven at 140c for 16 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking tray half way through the baking process. The chocolate macarons take longer to bake than the other macarons that I have made. If they do not come off the parchment paper easily, pop them back into the oven for a few more minutes (I had to do this for these macarons).
Remove the macarons from the baking sheet, and cool completely on a cooling rack before filling with THIS AMAZING GANACHE.
Chocolate Ganache - What you need:
- 2 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup golden or cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon bourbon (you can replace with vanilla extract, coffee, or whatever flavour you choose)
- 100 grams dark chocolate, melted
Chocolate Ganache - What you do:
Make a double boiler by heating 4 to 5 centimetres of water in a saucepan to a simmer, and then placing a (medium sized) heat-proof bowl on top.
In the bowl, add the egg whites and sugar. Whisk this mixture until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are warm to the touch. Scrape down the side of the bowl with a spatula occasionally to make sure that all the sugar gets incorporated. This should take about 3 minutes.
Take the bowl off the saucepan, and using an electric beater or really strong arm muscles, beat the mixture for 7 to 10 minutes until stiff peaks form. Add in the flavour of your choice (yay whiskey!) and the melted chocolate, beat until smooth and creamy. Cool the ganache completely.
Fill the macarons once everything has cooled.
This recipe makes around 20 finished macarons. For best results, prepare the macarons a day before you plan on serving them. Store them in a sealed container in the fridge overnight, and remove them 20 minutes to an hour before serving them. They will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 4 days after preparation.
Well, now let's get to the exciting part of the story: the taste test/macaron-off/pure gluttony.
1. Ladurée: "Classic" chocolate, "the original"
2. Pierre Hermé: Infiniment Chocolat Perou (with the chocolate from Peru)
3. Bakecetera (I was in SUCH a rush to prepare this taste test, hence my inability to spell the name of my beloved blog : /.)
4. Pierre Hermé: Infinment Chocolat Porcelana (with the chocolate from Venezuela)
5. Ladurée: Chocolate with the chocolate from Ghana
How we actually did this thing:
Well, I prepared the plate, so I already knew what they looked like, but JUST to be sure, my tasting partner started off with eyes closed.
After I showed him the second half so that there was indeed a visual aspect as well. I just did a blind test. I saw the macarons before, so it was fine.
Then, during the tasting process, we both took notes on each macaron.
This was more of a fun thing, nothing too serious... but we do have some results:
First - there were no disappointing macarons. (PHEW!!!) They were all really freaking good.
Second - my tasting bud (he he) and I agreed on some things, but we each preferred different macarons. And, that being said, they all tasted differently!
So, drum roll...
My friend's favourite was the classic Ladurée chocolate macaron. The shells were very smooth for this one. The flavours blended well. It is what it is: a solid, no frills, classic chocolate macaron. I think this one was my least favourite, but probably for the same reasons that he loved it (for its simplicity), and again: still delicious.
My favourite was from Mr. Hermé. The Venezuela chocolate one. For me, this macaron had the most pure cocoa taste. The flavour was natural and powerful. The shell was soft so that the entire experience was almost light eating a really light, high end brownie, but it still held together well while eating. I think my partner marked down that it had a nice "homogeneity". I totally agree.
Then, some more random notes:
The Ladurée macaron with the Ghanaian chocolate had a quite surprisingly similar ganache to the Bakecetera macaron, except that the Laduree ganache melted in the mouth (too?) quickly. I would have preferred if it held its texture a bit better/longer. (Ahem, like mine : D.)
The ganache in the PH Peruvian chocolate macaron was a bit too heavy for my tastes. My friend noted that it was slightly too soft. I think that the shell wasn't strong enough for the burden of this particular ganache. However, this one is really creamy... in a good way if you're in to that sort of vibe.
And, the Bakecetera macaron. I am really proud of this ganache. The whiskey is subtle, but I like it (as did my friend). It definitely didn't over power the chocolate.
Now, the shell is something I do want to work on... and this was a cool experiment to figure out how I can improve, because I think the shell could be just a touch softer.
That being said, this chocolate recipe is pretty good, and the ganache = incredible (AND easy!).
In fact I have made chocolate macarons before, but I prefer the extra amount of cocoa that this recipe has in it today.
AND, if you're wondering how I ended up eating 9 macarons even though only the test involved 5 halves... well, we got 16 in total on our little walk. And, my dear friends, I was introduced to the most amazing macaron flavour ever: Pierre Hermé's "Imagine" macaron with matcha green tea and sesame. Not ONLY will I be making these soon, a cake recipe inspired from these flavours will be flowing from the Bakecetera kitchen within the following days. Stay tuned : D!
Et voilà. Until then...
Baking soundtrack - Tunes to inspire your inner baker: