Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hazelnut Macarons

Fresh ground hazelnuts went into these delectable Macarons, along with a dark chocolate ganache filling. So heavenly!

I was surprised at how well these high-maintenance Macarons turned out, especially since I was still reeling from a recent Biscotti debacle when I set out to make them. I don't care to go into details about the Biscotti incident, but let's just say that somewhere along the way, I mis-measured and the entire batch ended up in the trash. I don't think I've ever screwed up a recipe so badly before. Usually when I mess up, it's at least still edible. Just to put it in perspective for you, my traditional Chinese parents (who refuse to waste even a single grain of rice) told me to throw it out., I'm not being a drama queen when I refer to it as a "debacle."

Anyway, I bring up the painful Biscotti incident because it's what spurred me to try my hand at Macarons. Ashamed that I had failed so miserably at such a seemingly simple recipe, I felt like I now had something to prove! Thus, I picked this difficult delicacy to try and pulled out all the stops. Yes, I brought out the full kitchen gadget cavalry in order to ensure that nothing goes wrong this time!

The recipe called for whole hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and ground. I meticulously rubbed, peeled, and picked at the nuts until they were completely free of skin- which was no easy feat!

I brought out my top of the line Cuisinart coffee grinder to grind the nuts into a fine, soft & powdery form. The recipe gave measurements both in weight (oz) and in terms of tablespoons and cups. So to be absolutely precise, I brought out my digital, state-of-the-art food scale (it measures down to the last 1/8 of an ounce). Instead of measuring out 1 cup of ground hazelnuts, I weighed exactly 4 oz.

Next, I put my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer to work!

It beat four egg whites perfectly to produce stiff & shiny peaks!

Next, I added in the precisely measured-out portions of hazelnut grounds and powdered sugar

Prepare a parchment lined double pan. Doubling the pan does two things: it helps to form the "feet" of the Macarons as well as help to insulate it so that the bottoms don't burn. Pour the batter into a zip lock bag for piping. I found that the smaller the hole, the easier it is to control the size and shape of your Macarons when you're piping.

I piped small Macarons, about 1 inch in diameter. I like everything to be bite-sized and cute! Plus, they're so sugary and sweet that sometimes all you want is just a bite. Let the Macarons sit at room temperature for 35-45 minutes. This creates the crispy egg-shell coat after it's baked.

While they were baking, I made the chocolate ganache. Refrigerate until it becomes more of a solid form and easily spreadable.

The "feet" formed perfectly! They're so pretty, even on the cooling rack. At first, I had a hard time lifting them off of the parchment. It stuck to the bottom and when I pulled, they either broke in half or the "feet" were destroyed. The easy solution to this is to pour a tiny bit of water under the parchment paper right after it comes out of the oven, then pull them off immediately after. The steam from the water allows them come off easily. It took some practice to get this one right!

When the Macarons have cooled, gently spread the ganache and make into cute little sandwiches!

I was in shock at how well these turned out! They were not only beautiful, but had all the components of a good Macaron: two "feet," a crispy egg-shell-like crust, with a soft and gooey center! Yum! Hubby really liked them and ate about a dozen! It was the first time he had ever tasted one!

I think the key to this recipe was the fresh hazelnuts. They had such a nice fragrance. Their awesome aroma overtook the kitchen as soon as I started grinding them. I've never had a pastry with such a pure hazelnut flavor before! If you attempt this recipe, make sure to get your hazelnuts from Whole Foods!

So you're probably wondering where this awesome recipe came from! I recently came across the best cookbook ever (and I've read a lot of them). The second I browsed through this one at Williams Sonoma, I was in love and had to have it! It even has my beloved Emile Henry pie plate on the cover! It's called "Essentials of Baking," from the Williams Sonoma collection of cookbooks. It has step by step instructions in picture form for a lot of the recipes, to demonstrate how to carry out the important ones. It has everything from cakes to breads.. to an entire chapter devoted to chocolate! I plan on eventually trying out most, if not all of the recipes in this book!

Hazelnut Macaroon Sandwiches
Essentials of Baking, Williams Sonoma, p. 37

4 large egg whites, at room temp
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cup (2 oz) superfine sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (4 oz) toasted, skinned, and ground hazelnuts
2 cups (8 oz) confectioners' sugar, sifted
About 2/3 cup ( 5 fl oz) Ganache filling (see below)

Line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper. have ready a third rimless baking sheet, unlined.

In a large, clean bowl, combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment or a hand mixer, beat on medium speed until the whites begin to thicken. increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until stiff, shiny peaks form. Beat in the vanilla until blended. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the hazelnuts and confectioners' sugar until incorporated.

Scoop the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain tip. Pipe mounds 1 1/2 inches in diameter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the mounds 1 inch apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Let the cookies sit, uncovered, at room temp for 35-45 minutes.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees. Bake the cookies, 1 sheet at a time, putting the cookie filled baking sheet on top of the unlined baking sheet. Bake until the tops and bottoms are firm and golden, 10-13 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven, carefully lift the parchment, one end at a time, and sprinkle about 2 tbsp water under the paper. Be careful that the steam does not burn you and that water does not splash on the cookies. After 3 minutes, slide the parchment paper off of the baking sheet, peel the cookies from the paper, and transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.

Make the ganache filling and refrigerate until cooled and thickened enough to spread. Turn half of the cookies bottom side up. Spread a thin layer of the ganache over the cookie bottoms. Press a plain cookie, bottom side down, onto the ganache. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temp for up to 3 days.

Ganache Filling
Essentials of Baking, Williams Sonoma, p. 309

6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream

Combine the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream just to a boil. Remove from the heat and immediately pour over the chocolate and butter. Stir with a wire whisk until the chocolate and butter melt and are smooth. Let cool until spreadable.


  1. Great discovery Judy! Delicious.

  2. I ate 2, and am contemplating a third one! Great job, and the website is cool too. Good pictures.

  3. OMG! I LOVE macarons! Great job Judy - they look delish!

  4. Those look incredible!! I have always been way too intimidated to make macarons, but I might need to give it a try now.

  5. You did such a terrific job! They look just perfect and I bet they tasted delightful as well! :0)

  6. Made these last night. They weren't as pretty as yours, but tasted delicious! I got lots of compliments. I think I'll pretty much just make the recipes you try out :-) So much easier! BTW - we were brainstorming other flavors like lemon, vanilla bean, guava, macha etc to try. I'll let you know if they work out!

  7. I love Macaroni and proven to the various flavors of vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, pistachio. but did not know how it was done. thanks.


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