Makings of a macaron, in chocolate

Unbelievably, it's been over two years since we last discussed the merits of the macaron and more than one year since I could satisfy my hankerings with a quick trip to the neighbourhood pâtisserie.

That previous post was more a lesson in tasting than baking. Now that I've had a chance to taste a few Canadian interpretations of this delicacy, it's abundantly clear that it's the baking I need to master.

Macarons are like most things French: small, dainty, beautiful, and more difficult than they look.

That didn't stop me from a first attempt this past week, on what may well have been the most ill-advised day of the year. A hot, humid summer afternoon that left my kitchen with that wet sauna feel—never a good thing when meringue is involved.

But cravings aren't rational, and neither am I.

Despite good intentions, I'm rarely systematic about my kitchen experiments. This time, however, I did manage a comparison of silicone and parchment baking surfaces, with dramatic results. Exhibits A and B were made from the same batter and baked side-by-side, at the same temperature, for the same length of time.

The macarons baked on parchment developed the requisite domes and ruffled bottoms affectionately called feet.

Exhibit A: parchment paper

The others? Well, they imploded.

Exhibit B: silicone baking mat

I was definitely happy with the results, but am also convinced the trick is not in baking a good macaron, but in baking consistently good macarons. Time will tell how I'm doing on that front.

Macarons au chocolat
Apologies for the mishmash of weight and volume measures.

100 grams egg whites (about 4 large)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
25 grams sugar
225 grams icing sugar
125 grams almond meal
15 grams cocoa

Separate the eggs and let the whites sit at room temperature for several hours before beginning.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a food processor, pulse the icing sugar, almond meal and cocoa until fine (about 10 3-second pulses). Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites with the lemon juice until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While still mixing, sprinkle in the sugar and beat the mixture until it forms stiff peaks (about 2 minutes).

Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. As soon as the mixture is smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, scrape the batter into a pastry bag with a plain 1/2-inch tip.

Pipe about 1 tablespoon of batter in a 1-inch circle, leave 1 inch of space, and repeat. At this point, advises rapping the bottom of the pan on a countertop and then baking immediately, while Cannelle et Vanille recommends letting the macarons dry at room temperature for 20 minutes before baking. Impatience led me down the first path, with good results.

Bake for 10 minutes, rotate, and bake for another 8 minutes.

1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan over low-medium heat just until the cream begins to boil at the edges. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute and then stir until smooth. Stir in the butter until completely incorporated. Cool completely before piping or spreading onto cooled macarons.

Sources: Bits and pieces from Cannelle et Vanille and