This was my first time making macarons by myself and I have concluded that it's a little bit bogus to pay $2-$4 for one of these buggers.
More than anything, they just require patience and time.
The first time I had macarons was a few years ago when one of my aunts brought them to Thanksgiving. I tried one and it was deliciously chocolatey (the flavor was chocolate with chocolate ganache). I liked them but proceeded to forget about them for a while. Then, I studied abroad in the U.K. where we spent the last week of the trip in London. Everyone kept raving about going to Ladurée to get macarons so I jumped on that bandwagon, too. I got three but mainly, my impression was intense sweetness. And when I got home, I again proceeded to forget about them for several months.
Until Jackie, of the lovely calligraphy and hyper Corgis, started talking about them non-stop for weeks on end. This recipe is hers using some of the Twinings tea I brought back to share with her all the way from London. And I still have some, too (it was a box of 100 tea bags). I don't normally like to drink earl grey tea so I'm not sure what my logic was when I got some. Probably because it is distinctly British and probably because of Captain Picard. But, it complements these macarons and the chocolate ganache in a way that makes them seem both extremely proper but also rather indulgent.
The intense tea flavor comes from the actual tea leaves. Yup, you're eating them in the cookies and it also makes them smell quite nice.
There are a lot of macaron tips, tricks and troubleshooting methods out there. These are some things that I learned from Jackie:
To get stiff egg whites, allow them to foam first before adding the sugar. Then, add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks form.
Once you start folding the dry ingredients in the the egg whites, you're looking for the consistency of molten lava / the inside of a lava cake.
After piping the macaronage (the batter), allow them to dry up to 1.5 hours (depending on the level of humidity) or until a thin skin forms on top. You should be able to touch the top without sticking your finger to it.
A trick to filling up the piping bag is to place it in a tall glass and pull the sides over the lip of the glass. Quickly fill the piping bag and then, fold the sides up.
And from my solo macaron making experience I found that:
Parchment paper sticks less than a Silpat.
The macaron shells that I baked longer also tended to stick less.
Piping the filling isn't necessary, especially if you're lazy and don't want to fill up another piping bag.
The messed up ones taste just as good as the pretty ones
So next time, I need to figure out how to make the shells stick less, how to get consistently smooth tops and how prevent hollow shells.
Also, if aged egg whites really make a difference.
Basically this means a lot more macarons in the near future, right?
They may be nubby but at least they have feet!
Earl Grey Macarons with Chocolate Ganache
Yields: approximately 2 dozen macarons
If you don't have almond flour on hand, you can also sift almond meal to get a more flour-like consistency.
Macarons store well in the freezer. Remove from the freezer about 30 minutes - 1 hour before you want to consume them. Or, eat them slightly frozen if you can't want to wait that long. (Thanks for that tip, Mark!)
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
⅔ cups almond flour
1½ cups powdered sugar
2 bags Earl Grey tea
4 ounces chocolate, chopped
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, cubed
Round piping tip (#12)
Whip the egg whites on high until foamy. Once foamy, add in the granulated sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes.
Sift together the almond flour, powdered sugar and tea leaves. Fold this gently into the beaten egg whites until the consistency of the macaronage (the batter) becomes like molten lava. You want your batter to pass the "figure 8" test. This means you should be able to make a figure 8 on the top of the batter before it sinks back into itself. It's too thick if the batter can't make a complete figure 8 and too thin if it sinks back into itself like pancake batter.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Place the batter in the piping bag with the round piping tip. Pipe into 1½-inch circles, spacing them ¼ - ½-inch apart. Tap the pan a few times on a flat surface to release the air bubbles. Allow the macaronage to dry and form a skin on top. This can take up to 1.5 hours depending on the level of humidity.
In the meantime, make the ganache. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, warm the cream and the butter until just before it starts boiling. Add the cream and butter mixture to the chocolate and slowly stir the mixture until smooth. Chill for 30 minutes or until thick and spreadable.
Once the macaronage has dried, bake in a 350ºF oven for 10-12 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden brown and the macaron shells have hardened.
Let cool completely and then remove them from the parchment paper and/or Silpat. Using a knife or piping bake, spread the ganache on one macaron shell and gently press another on top. Continue with the rest of the macaron shells and ganache.