such a good idea, sis ::::
Just before our birthday last spring, I presented the idea to my sister-in-law Becky that we should have birthday macarons instead of cake. She was in full agreement. We share our birthday (along with my twin brother obviously), so it was only fair that everyone have a say in what flavors the macarons should be. While she gave me a fair list to consider, one combination that really stuck out was hazelnut and coffee. Together.
While the black sesame-peanut butter macarons were pretty fabulous (mixed in with pandan-coconut and some orange-blueberry — I’ll post about these eventually) , I really loved the hazelnut-coffee combo. Since our birthday last spring, I have reprised the hazelnut-coffee flavor without flavor fatigue. Becky is full of great ideas, food and otherwise, so I am not surprised that this flavor combo has staying power. It is welcomed springtime or wintertime, a great macaron to grace a baby shower, birthday, or holiday table. The fun part of the hazelnut-coffee combo was figuring out the optimal flavor delivery method. Essentially, I knew that I had to make the shells with hazelnut meal and not rely on an elusive hazelnut extract. And the filling had to be a creamy coffee concoction. Though I have made coffee macaron shells before, I wasn’t sold. I needed to try another approach. We are problem solvers, Becky and I. When it comes to food, we’ll figure it out (and sacrifice ourselves to tasting). These are great for Christmas — and if you happen to have leftovers, wrap them well and freeze for the next special occasion.
Happy Holidays! Enjoy your families, all around!
One year ago: sunflower seed butter chocolate cups
Two years ago: whole orange cake
- FOR THE MACARON SHELLS: 4 ounces cornstarch-free powdered sugar
- 7 ounces hazelnut flour (meal), toasted
- 4 ounces egg whites, aged and at room temperature
- pinch of cream of tartar (optional - it helps the egg whites whip, but not necessary)
- 3½ ounces granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- Pinch of salt
- FOR THE COFFEE FILLING: 4 ounces (113 g) good quality white chocolate, chopped (don’t use those crappy “candy melting chips” – they suck)
- ½ cup cream
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (if granules, crush more finely before using)
- ⅔ cup (60 g) hazelnut flour (meal), toasted
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F, racks positioned in the middle. Prepare your parchment paper macaron templates and line baking sheet. (You may draw circles on the parchment paper, or use a paper with circles drawn on it underneath the diaphanous parchment, removing the template before baking.)
- Pulse about ⅓ of the powdered sugar and all the hazelnut flour in a food processor to form a fine powder. In a medium mixing bowl, combine remaining powdered sugar and hazelnut flour and sift 4 times and set aside.
- In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a wire-whip attachment, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar (if using) on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add granulated sugar and throw in the pinch of salt. Once all sugar is incorporated, scrape down sides of bowl, and increase speed to high, whisking until stiff, firm, glossy peaks form. To check this, take your whisk attachment off and flip it over. Are the whites holding up? Or do they bend a little? Bending means the egg whites are not stiff enough. Scrape the bottom of the bowl also, as those egg whites may need more beating.
- When egg whites are stiff, REALLY stiff, add the almond extract.
- Sift the hazelnut flour mixture ⅓ at a time over the egg-white mixture, and fold using a large silicon spatula until mixture is smooth and shiny. The first addition is usually the hardest. Fold the mixture carefully: don't smash it. Lift!
- Once the hazelnut flour mixture is incorporated, check to see the batter is nicely firm and drips slowly from the spatula, like lava.
- Transfer batter to pastry bag fitting with a ½-inch plain, round tip (#12), and pipe rounds on parchment-lined baking sheets (your templates may be ¾-inch rounds, 1-1/3-inch rounds, even an 8-inch pan for a crazy macaron cake!). Don't put the macarons too close together because they will stick together when baking. Need some lessons on piping? You Tube has scads of them. The trick is to be gentle and consistent, without twirling the piping tip around like you are decorating a cake - NO! Don't drink caffeine beforehand; you don't want to be jittery. Think of it like the archers in the Olympics. Aim, focus, gentle, and release! (Videos really are better than my description). If you have some minor peaks, you can gently rub them down with a lightly damp fingertip.
- When piping is completed for one sheet, rap it hard on the counter to release trapped air. Turn it 90 degrees and do it again. This is also important to help form the pied, or the foot, of the macaron.
- Let stand at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes. Macarons are ready to bake when they no longer stick to a finger when lightly touched. This wait time works better when it is not humid weather.
- Remember to stack each prepared baking sheet on an empty baking sheet and remove the templates from underneath the parchment (if using). Bake one sheet at time (may do two sheets if they fit in the oven), rotating pan halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm. Here's the trick: check at 7 minutes and rotate pan. If there is browning (Ahhhh! Nooooo!), then turn down the oven to 275 degrees F. Check the macarons at 12 minutes: touching them gently with a fingertip should give no wiggle and they're done. If a wiggle, put them back in the oven for 2 minutes and check again.
- Let macarons cool on baking sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, and transfer to wire rack to cool completely before filling.
- FILLING: Melt the white chocolate in 15 minutes increments in the microwave to prevent burning, or over a double boiler. Warm the cream and add the espresso powder. Mix to combine. Mix cream mixture into the white chocolate. Stir until smooth. Likely this will not set well enough for macaron filling. Add in toasted hazelnut flour to thicken. This also gives a little more texture to the filling. When cool, pipe or spoon onto macaron shells and top with matching sized shell.
- After assembly, allow the macarons to age for 48 hours in the refrigerator. These also freeze well, if well wrapped. Allow to come to room temperature in their container before serving.