MACARONS – Chocolate Hazelnut Praline Macarons

I think it’s time to tackle macarons! I could write a whole essay on macarons, in fact I already have for my degree, but I’m here to explain as best as I can how to make the foolproof macaron. Only a few recipes out there I have a problem with, and one of them is macarons. First time I ever made them they were a complete mess, but I also knew nothing about them. After extensive research I was able to make them perfectly the second time, and since then I have discovered you can make macarons many different ways. This recipe uses the Italian method, creating a stable meringue. This means you don’t have to be as careful with the folding step as you would in a French method. This recipe also uses a mix of nut flours (ground nuts) for a more complex flavour to the basic macaron shell, but I explain what can be omitted and what can’t. Just follow the recipe to the T, and watch a couple of videos out there to get a better look at the method! The method does require some special equipment. This recipe is from one of my favourite pastry chefs, Maja Vase (@majachocolat).

Ingredients

For the macaron shells:

  • 75 g almond flour/finely ground almonds
  • 70 g ground hazelnuts (if you don’t want hazelnut flavoured shells, just replace this amount with almond flour)
  • 5 g cocoa powder (this is also optional, in addition you could replace this with a food colouring of choice)
  • 150 g icing sugar
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 55 g + 55 g egg whites, divided

For the hazelnut praline:

  • 50 g hazelnuts (toast the hazelnuts in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes)
  • 50 g caster sugar
  • generous pinch of salt

For the ganache:

  • 200 g dark chocolate
  • 120 g double cream

Method

  1. Clean your mixer! I know this might be a crazy first step, but make sure to choose either a glass or a metal bowl, plastic absorbs fat and can mess up the meringue making process. To make the bowl and the whisk attachments as clean as possible, use vinegar and paper towel to wipe the bowl and the whisk all over.
  2. Place the 55 g of egg white into a clean bowl of a stand mixer (you can use a handheld mixer and a large bowl as well). In a saucepan place the caster sugar and 50 g of water. Place over medium heat and using a pastry brush, brush cold water on the sides of the pan. Once the sugar is melted and the mixture starts bubbling, place a thermometer in the centre of the pot. Once the mixture reaches 115 degrees Celsius, start whipping the egg whites. Once the mixture reaches 120 degrees Celsius, take it of the heat, and slowly pour on the side of the bowl into the whipping egg whites. Keep whipping the egg whites until the bowl is cool to the touch.
  3. While the egg whites are whipping until cooled, in another bowl place the almond flour, hazelnut flour, pinch of salt, cocoa powder, icing sugar and the other 55 g of egg whites. Mix until a stiff paste is formed. This is where you’d add the food colouring if you’re using it – make sure you use more than you think, as the colour fades during baking.
  4. Once the egg whites are whipped into a stiff glossy meringue, and the bowl is cooled to the touch, take a portion of the meringue and using a rubber spatula mix it in the almond paste. Transfer the rest of the meringue into the paste, and gently fold until incorporated. Keep folding the mixture to eliminate some of the air – the consistency you’re looking for is often described as lava like. The mixture should fall off the spatula easily, and should fall into itself after 10-20 seconds. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius preferably with the fan on.
  5. Transfer the macaron mixture into a piping bag and pipe uniform circles with at least a centimetre apart onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. (pro tip: pipe some batter into the corners of the baking sheet underneath the non stick paper so it doesn’t slide around) Bang the tray a couple of times off of the work surface to remove any extra air bubbles and to evenly distribute the batter. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, without opening the oven door. Once baked, the macaron shells should easily come off of the baking paper.
  6. Cool the shells at room temperature and pair up the similar ones. Make the praline while the shells are baking and cooling. In a small saucepan place the sugar and slowly melt over low heat. Once the sugar is melted and deeply caramelised, add in the toasted hazelnuts and transfer onto a plate lined with parchment paper. Let cool completely. Once cooled, break up the praline into a blender and add a generous pinch of salt. Start blending until a course mix is formed. Keep blending into a paste, what happens is the natural oils in the nuts are released and a paste should form. If your blender is not super powerful, you can speed up this process by adding some neutral oil into the mix.
  7. For the ganache heat the cream in a small saucepan and pour over broken up dark chocolate. Let sit for a minute and stir until combined. Cover with plastic wrap touch the surface of the ganache and chill until fully cooled. You can use the cooled ganache as is, or whip it for a more airy consistency.
  8. Time to assemble! Pipe a generous amount of ganache into the centre of a macaron shell. Place the piping bag with the hazelnut praline paste into the centre of the ganache and squeeze until the desired amount is piped. Top with another macaron shell and twist 90 degrees clockwise. Repeat until all shells and fillings are used up. These are the best after at least 24 hours in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

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