I’m the type of person who takes ‘this is a very hard thing to do/get right’ as a personal challenge. For example: I heard that socks are really difficult to knit, so I learned how to make them. So, it was inevitable that macarons, with their reputation for being hard to make, would be on my hit list at some point.
Turns out, the socks were way easier to master.
I can’t really say I’ve mastered macarons yet, but with some excellent help from the Brave Tart, I’m getting better with each try, and I felt sufficiently bold to venture a new flavour: Mexican chocolate. My husband’s a lover of all things spicy, so this combination of chocolate, chili, and cinnamon’s always a dessert winner in our household. Happily, for the first time, the macarons turned out beautifully! They had feet and everything! Filled with some cinnamon buttercream, they were an indulgent treat.
Mexican Chocolate Macarons
(Recipe adapted from Brave Tart)
For the Macarons
115g (4oz) almond flour (or blanched almonds finely ground in a food processor)
200g (7oz) icing (powdered) sugar
30g (1oz) cocoa powder
¾ to 1tsp chili powder (depending on how spicy you want these)
144g (5oz) egg whites
72g (2 ½ oz) sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
For the Cinnamon Buttercream
150g unsalted butter, softened
150g icing sugar
2tsp cinnamon (or to taste)
Spread some sheet pans with parchment paper or silpats and prepare a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip.
Sift the almond flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder, and chili powder. Discard any large pieces of almond that remain behind.
Combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat for 3 minutes on medium speed (4 on a Kitchen Aid)
Increase the speed to medium-high (7 on a Kitchen Aid) and whip for another 3 minutes. Increase the speed again to 8 for another 3 minutes. Give the whites 1 minute at full speed. At this point, the whites should be very stiff and dry looking and will clump in the middle of your whisk.
Add your dry ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula. Don’t be shy about abusing the whites a little bit—you want to knock all the air out of them. I’ve heard it takes about 50 folds to get to where you want the mixture to be, but it usually takes me much more than that. However, don’t completely take my word for it. Maybe my folding is wimpy or something. You want your mixture to be glossy, well-mixed, and if you hold the spatula over the bowl, a ribbon of macaron mix should drop off like a ribbon and, after a few seconds, melt slightly back into the rest of the mixture. Many people describe the correct appearance as being lava-like. When you pipe it out, it shouldn’t have stiff peaks at the top that refuse to melt down after the trays are rapped on your worktop, but the macarons also shouldn’t spread out like crazy.
Transfer the mix to the piping bag and pipe out circles on the prepared baking sheets that are nearly 1 ½” wide. Once the macarons are all piped, take the pans and smack them down HARD on your worktop. You can also just hold them a couple of feet up and let go, if you’re not afraid they’ll accidentally hit the floor instead. This is to release any large bubbles that might have ended up in your macarons. Rotate the pans 90 degrees and repeat the process.
Let your macarons rest for 20 minutes to an hour, just until they develop a dry shell on top. I know a lot of recipes (including Brave Tart’s) say macarons don’t need to rest, but I found that when I didn’t let them rest, they cracked like mad when I baked them. Go ahead and try throwing them in the oven right away if you wish, maybe you’ll have more luck than I did! I, however, found a rest to be really helpful.
Bake the macarons for about 18 minutes at 150 degrees C (300 degrees F), rotating the trays back to front halfway through, so they bake evenly. Let the macarons cool on the parchment, then gently peel them off. If the bottom of the macaron sticks, put them back in the oven for another minute or so.
Prepare your buttercream: combine all the buttercream ingredients and beat until well blended. Spread or pipe onto half the cooled macaron shells and top with the remaining shells, to make little sandwiches. Macarons are said to be better a day after they’re made, because the buttercream melds with the shells. Refrigerated, these keep up to a week.