BLACK SESAME MACARONS

My macaron obsession goes on and on. I would love to bake a batch each weekend, but must keep in mind that even the most understanding departmental colleagues might say enough is enough. Plus, if I only make macarons…  brownies, cakes, and cookies will get jealous. So here I am to share with you a batch I am quite proud of: Black Sesame Macarons. Because, although I’m addicted to colors, we all know that black is beautiful…

 

BLACK SESAME MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
100 g almond meal
15 g black sesame powder (or you can grind black sesame seeds to a powder)
113 g egg whites (aged for three days)
1 g or a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
Black Gel color  (about 1/2 teaspoon, add 1/4 to start and adjust as you mix)
for the filling:
8oz (227g) cream cheese
⅔ cup (134g) brown sugar
1 tsp (5g) vanilla extract
½ cup (122g) heavy whipping cream

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, almond meal and black sesame powder in a food processor or mini processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 15 seconds. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to medium-high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme. Add the gel color and the vanilla. Staying at medium-high speed, whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the almond meal mixture in three increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with one of the tips listed above. Pipe on the prepared baking sheets.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Then fist bump each end of the sheet’s underside twice. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. In a dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 330 F (170 C). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide, then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. The macarons should release without sticking. Check one or two. If they stick, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Make the filling:Whip the cream in a clean bowl till stiff peaks. In another bowl, whip the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract.   Gently fold in the whipped cream into the bowl until well combined. Reserve.

Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of filling to the bottom of one of them. Place the other on top and squeeze gently to take the filling all the way to the edge.  Ideally, store in the fridge for 24 hours before digging in…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments:  I am definitely not the first person to bake black macarons. A quick google expedition will show you a few other examples. Some recipes go to extent of using exclusively powdered sesame seeds as you would use almond meal for the shells. I did not want to do that, fearing that the change would be too much of a departure from the classic. So I used a small amount of black sesame powder (15 g in 115 g total seed/nut component). We could definitely taste it in the final product and I thought it was just right. More could have been overpowering.  My intention was to use a white chocolate filling, but I ran into problems and my filling never set enough to use. White chocolate is a temperamental creature. So I quickly whipped up (literally) a vanilla cream cheese filling and used it instead. It complemented well the sesame flavor of the shells, and the slight hint of caramel color given by the brown sugar looked good with the black surrounding it.

I was very happy with the way these turned out. Not a single shell cracked during baking, and the surface was for the most part pretty smooth. Beautiful, well-formed feet, and the black food coloring rose to the challenge. I am almost to the point of trying the Italian  meringue method, but want to tackle this simpler version a few more times. You know, build confidence first before facing the combination of hot syrup with egg whites.

 

I have yet another macaron post for you, shockingly green…  Stay tuned!

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MACARONS: MUCH BETTER WITH A FRIEND!

Making macarons has been on my list of culinary projects for a very long time! They are quite intimidating, because small details in the preparation can ruin them. Even experienced bakers often share stories involving feet-less macarons  (can you imagine the horror?), cracked macarons, and many other types of monstrosities. Even though I did not list cooking projects for 2014, I was set on not letting another year pass by without attempting them.  Then, the perfect opportunity shaped up: our friend Cindy came up for a visit with her husband, and we decided to tackle this challenge together.  We had so much fun, I highly recommend that you consider inviting a friend over and doing the same. I’d been collecting recipes, tips, advice, and after consulting with my expert patissier friend Gary, we focused our efforts in two sites: Gwen’s Kitchen Creations and Joanne’s Eats Well With Others. They both definitely know their ways around the tricky Parisian macarons.

FrenchMacarons

SNICKERDOODLE MACARONS
(adapted from Gwen & Joanne)

for the shells:
3 large egg whites, (95-100g), aged overnight
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar (50g)
pinch of salt
2 cups powdered sugar (200g)
1 cup almond flour  (120g)
.
for the filling:

(makes a lot, you can reduce the amount, if you prefer)
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
salt, to taste
1 tbsp cinnamon, plus more for dusting

 .
 Sift the salt, powdered sugar, and almond flour into a large container. Discard any clumps in the sieve. Using a whisk attachment, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Add sugar in 3 batches. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Add gel food coloring, if desired, whisk again.
.
Add 1/3 of the almond mixture into the egg whites. Fold until incorporated – about 15-20 turns. Then add another 1/3. Fold again. Repeat one last time. It will take about 65 folds for the right consistency.
.
Draw circles with a pencil on a sheet of parchment paper, then place the sheet with the drawing side down on a baking sheet, so that you can see the lines through. Pipe small circles using a pastry bag, making sure your hand is vertical, at 90 degrees over the center of the circle.
.
Let rest until a skin forms. It should no longer be sticky. 30-60 minutes.
.
Bake at 275F for 17 minutes. Let the shells cool completely before attempting to peel them off.

Make the filling: in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and powdered sugar, mixing on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add in the cream and vanilla and beat on medium-high for 3 minutes. Mix in the cinnamon until completely combined, as well as salt to taste.

Pipe the buttercream onto the flat side of half of the macarons and then top them with a second, similarly sized macaron. Refrigerate in an airtight container overnight. Dust with cinnamon before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

piping

Comments: Very few culinary projects will confuse you as much as macarons. If you read cookbooks or advice online, you will find conflicting info almost for every step. Do not over-beat the egg whites… It’s impossible to over-beat the egg whites, beat a couple of minutes longer after you think they are done… don’t over-dry the shells…. it’s impossible to over-dry the shells….  sift the flour at room temperature…. roast the flour to dry it completely…  don’t even think of making macarons with regular meringue…  Mind blowing, my friends, mind-blowing.  At some point you will have to settle on a recipe for your first time, take a deep breath, and see how it goes. I think for a first time we did pretty good, actually.  Aren’t they cute?

closeup
From what I gathered around the many sources, it is VERY important to age the egg whites, so make sure to do that. Crack the eggs the day before, separating the whites and let them sit over the countertop overnight.

Since this was such an involved process, I’d like to share a few photos of our adventure…

Sifting… it was by far the most painful and boring step of the whole recipe. We took turns, but sifting the almond flour took a loooong time. Cindy did a much better job than me, she is patient and thorough. Moi? Not so much… (sigh)
sifting

We made a nice template for the shells, using the top of shot glasses….
template

Egg whites were beaten until shiny, smooth-looking peaks formed…
eggwghites

Here are the results of our labor of love, shells piped and drying….
drying

Here are our baby-shells after baking, most with nice little feet…..
baked

All in all, we had a great time, and learned a lot that day… We assembled the best looking ones, and some of the ugly ducklings were consumed right away by our partners in the name of aesthetics.
ready

The advice to wait to savor them next day is also spot-on: there is a definite improvement in texture, so these are perfect to make in advance and show-off your baking abilities at a get together.

Next time I will try Dorie Greenspan’s recipe, that uses an Italian-type meringue, in which the sugar-egg white mixture is stabilized by heat. I thought it was too involved for our first time, but from what I’ve been reading, it might be a better approach.

Cindy, thanks for joining me in this challenge,
I definitely could not have done it without you!

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