Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons

The classic French macaron. A meringue and almond biscuit with a crisp shell and chewy interior filled with tangy, chocolate cheesecake filling.
Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes
So pretty and fRANch. That's how I like to say French sometimes.
Look, I'm not saying I'm Fiona Cairns or Katherine Sabbath...the local bakery with buttercream cupcakes could probably teach me a thing or two. That being said, I do know my way around a KitchenAid and had success making éclairs which are considered challenging by some. But it was with more than a touch of trepidation that I approached the ultimate in temperamental baking - the French Macaron. If I'm totally honest, I have actually been avoiding making them for some time. They seem so hard, so easy to mess up. I've heard that the weather affects them, if it's too hot, too humid, you've got a failure on your hands.

Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes
Always amazes me how all these things can come together and make cakes, biscuits, pies...baking is magic.
Something grabbed me in the last few weeks. It was time. Like a bird that knows when to fly south for the winter, I felt it in my waters. It was time to make macarons! I spent days reading about them, trying to find the magic recipe, the magic list of tips and tricks that would make my macaron recipe fool proof.

Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes
This is the stiff peak we want. The peak will not fall in on itself. It stays straight and true. The type of meringue where you can hold the bowl upside down over your head and not end up wearing them.

I did discover that many find the "Italian" process easier than the traditional "French" method. The Italian method uses a sugar syrup in place of powdered icing sugar. It produces a more stable batter which is less likely to fail. And do you know what, I almost went that way. I did want to be less likely to fail.

Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes
This is the stage that you want but scarily, I forgot to put colour in! I had to give it few more turns, which I did super slowly, like that would trick the batter.

 But if I wasn't doing the classic macaron, it would forever be my white whale. You can neither win nor lose if you don't run the race. I had to do the classic French macaron. I had to know that I could do it! And if I couldn't, I would pull a Jerry - "I choose not to run!" and hide the fact that I couldn't from everyone. Really, would it change my life that much? It's just some bloody biscuits.

Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes
Hold the piping bag at 90 degrees to your tray and apply firm and even pressure, pulling the tip up to allow the batter to fill the circle on the template. Thanks to Mr Cakes for taking this photo! What a pro.
The perfect macaron should have a smooth, crisp shell with a slightly chewy, soft interior. The biscuit should have "feet", a ruffled area of a few millimetres where the batter has risen. And it should have a generous but neatly piped filling. This are the minimum standards of a macaron.
Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes
I was not happy with the colour of that food colouring. Baby poo brown.

Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes
Also, don't be like me, remember to take the template out from underneath the baking paper before you bake them.
Well, let me tell you, my life has changed. For the better. Because I nailed it.

Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes
I can not tell you how pleased I was at this stage. Like I discovered a cure for the common cold.
I made French macarons.
Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes
This looks like my favourite emoticon.
And now, my hair is shinier, my skin is glowing, I got a promotion at work, I no longer read celebrity trash websites and I don't have irrational, unexplainable mood swings. None of which is true. But! I can now tell you how I made macarons pretty darn well. And that's life change enough. And guys. If I can do it, you can too!
Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes
This looks slightly ominous. Like those macarons in the background might attack these foreground ones.
First tip. Egg whites. Some of the wonderful resources I read, of which there were countless, advised that the egg whites should be old, or aged. This is done by leaving the separated whites in a sealed container in the fridge for a few days. The aged whites are said to whip up better and hold more air. I did not do this. I am not the most patient of people and I wanted to make them today! What I did do and what forms my first tip, is let the eggs come to room temperature. A room temperature egg white beats better than a cold one and a stiff, "dry" meringue is needed. I guess if a room temp egg white whips better than a cold one, maybe an aged one does whip better than fresh...but regardless, I didn't bother. If your impatient like I so often am, submerge the eggs in warm water to bring them to room temperature quicker.
Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes
Macarons piled pretty and high.
The second tip I have gathered for you is to sift the icing sugar and the almond meal. Even the store bought almond meal with have some larger pieces in it and for the smoothest shells on your macarons. This will also make the batter lighter, ensuring you have a better chance of your cookies getting as nice foot on them.
Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes
That wooden spoon looks so pretty, with a bow in it's hair. Where you off to, Spoon?
Tip 3 might be the most ambiguous and also the most important of the tips. Do not over or under mix the batter. An under-mixed batter will crack and be lumpy. An over-mixed batter will spread when baked and not rise. The tricky thing though is that there is no exact number of turns of the spatula that I can tell you. The batter should have a "lava like" consistency. It should move slowly off your spatula when lifted. Turn the batter gently but firmly with spatula until the almond meal is thoroughly mixed, no more turns. If the batter becomes runny, you've gone too far!
Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes
 Once you pipe your macarons on to the prepared tray - I used these stencils to ensure they were all the same size - make sure that you bang the tray, very firmly, on the kitchen bench 3 times. Obviously don't hit the tray down so hard that the batter comes flying off but you want to make sure that any air bubbles in the macarons move to the surface so the tops of the shells are smooth.
Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes
These macarons are carrying a wounded fellow solider back to the safety of the pile.
Finally, after they have been piped and banged (hmm) it is time for the final tip I have for you. Let the piped uncooked shells sit  on the bench to dry for 30 minutes. The macarons will develop a skin which will prevent the from spreading, which means the only way is up! Baby! For you and me now! And for the macarons.

Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes
Little do they know Mr Cakes is coming and safety in numbers will not protect you.
So that's it. That's all I have to tell you. Now it's a matter of getting in that kitchen and baking them frilly little biscuits like a freaking baking warrior! Get in there and bake, you glorious muthalicker!

Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons Cassie Cakes

Chocolate Cheesecake Macarons
Use this template  to ensure your macarons are even and consistently sized. Lie the template under baking paper and pipe the batter on. Make sure the template is removed before baking.

Prep time: 20 mins

Cooking time: 15 mins
Total time:  35 mins

Servings: 24 sandwiched macarons

3 large egg whites, free range, room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
50g caster sugar
200g icing sugar
1 cup/120g almond meal
Brown food colouring
Chocolate sprinkles

Chocolate Cheesecake Buttercream
150g milk chocolate
110g softened butter
110g cream cheese
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 150°C
  2. Using a template to ensure the macarons are evenly sized, line a two trays with baking paper.
  3. Beat egg whites in the bowl of a mixer until egg whites are foamy.
  4. Add pinch of salt and cream of tartar and continue to beat egg whites,
  5. Slowly sprinkle in caster sugar and continue beating for around 8 minutes, until egg whites are stiff, peaks hold and do not collapse.
  6. Add food colouring.
  7. Sift almond meal and icing sugar in to a medium bowl.
  8. Gently add sifted almond meal and icing sugar into the egg white mix.
  9. With a flat spatula, gently and precisely fold the almond meal mix in to the egg whites. Batter should be thick and flow off the spatula - think 'molten lava'.
  10. Pipe macarons using a large piping bag and open round tip.
  11. Once they are all piped, sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles.
  12. Allow piped macarons to sit uncovered on the bench for 30 minutes. A skin will form that feels tacky to the touch and does not leave a fingerprint.
  13. Bake for 18 minutes. Bake one tray at a time, on the same shelf to ensure they are baked evenly.
  14. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely,
Chocolate Cheesecake Buttercream
  1. In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate in 30 seconds bursts until completely melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter until creamy.
  3. Add cream cheese, sugar and vanilla and beat until combined and mix is smooth and creamy.
  4. Add melted chocolate and beat well.
To assemble
  1. Once the biscuits are cooled, match each with another of the same size.
  2. Using a round tip fitted on a piping bag, pipe a generous circle of buttercream on one biscuit then sandwich corresponding biscuit, pushing buttercream to edges.
  3. Store in an airtight container.

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