In the Kitchen: Chocolate Macarons with Chocolate Ganache (Yum!)

Macarons are absolutely divine, that is, when they are baked just right. I'm talking about the famous Ladurée colourful macarons and the glamorous gold dusted Pierre Hermé ones. They are cute to look at (so Instagrammable!), soft when bitten into and contain explosive melt-in-your-mouth flavours sandwiched between the two biscuits.

When in Perth, however, I have not been so lucky to find such delicious macarons. I've had some here and there in Garden City or at Saturday markets but they have always disappointed. ): Mind you, these little French treats don't come cheap. In my desperate search to find decent macarons, I thought, why don't I make myself some?! You know, it doesn't hurt to try.

Fast forward two weeks of baking practice (butter cake, banana bread.. all the basics), I've finally grown enough balls to try making some of my very own macarons! It's my first time and I went easy on myself by selecting a really simple macaron flavour by Chowhound: French Chocolate Macarons with Chocolate Ganache. 

Naturally, I was giddy with excitement over the weekend. I was surprised that I didn't need any traditional plain flours to make macarons so I had to go out and buy some almond flour/almond meal which is crucial to making those little biscuits (who knew?). The preparation of the recipe was pretty breezy as I went along and I caught myself thinking "Wow, I'm winning this!" since I am known to be a baking disaster.

Prep... prep... prep... and the macarons were ready to be piped onto my Lékué Macaroon Kit mat which came together with this set that I received as a gift some years ago. I've never had to chance to use the kit but these days with more time on my hands, I've finally put it to good use! I must say, any Macaron fanatic or aspiring baker should really get one of these because it makes piping those little biscuit circles so easy! No more worrying about uniform circles.

Off into the oven it goes ~ I actually made enough batter for about 50 macarons (that's 100 biscuits) but only ended up with 15 because I killed burnt the rest off. Getting the temperature and time right for baking macarons is seriously not the easiest thing in the world. Too short and the biscuit is undercooked, too long and it burns and cracks. It's also extremely time consuming because after piping the circles, they have to be left to dry for at least 30 minutes or else the shells will crack. 

After burning and cracking my first batch of shells, I looked up on Google and was overwhelmed by the number of "Macaron Troubleshooting" tips out there. Its a testament to how difficult and delicate these things are. I decided to just wing it and went for the trial-and-error method instead of reading them up because there could be 101 reasons for cracked macaron shells.

Finally after my fourth attempt, my shells came out beautifully (only 7 in the 36 actually cracked)! I finally figured out the ideal temperature for me: 150˚C for 20 minutes by baking multiple batches and using a lower temperature. While many recipes encourage baking at 160-170˚C for 12-15 minutes, I find that a lower temperature for a longer time results in a more evenly cooked shell.

After it cooled ~more waiting~ I could finally put in the dark chocolate ganache. I popped the first successful one into my mouth and was horrified by the texture - it was way too chewy! I was left feeling pretty disappointed last night. It seemed like my macaron plan has failed.

So, imagine my surprise this morning when I ate one and realised that when left overnight, it became so soft yet crisp just like a real macaron should be! I would recommend eating the macarons only the next day. I think the trick to macarons is in the patience and waiting (and not to mention, not over-beating the eggs and sugar, or over-mixing the batter, or setting the wrong temperature....) LOL.

I took about 4 hours to bake and only 15 survived the challenge but hey, at least I got the good fifteen and learnt a few lessons.

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