Dark Chocolate Cherry French Macarons

This year, we have missed out on a lot of special things.  We have missed out on graduations, weddings, funerals, births, holidays, get togethers, sports . . . let’s not miss out on chocolate too.  Dark Chocolate Cherry French Macarons are the perfect marriage between decadent, sinfully dark chocolate and tart, sour Italian cherries.  This is one marriage that you won’t have to miss.

What are we waiting for?  Let’s do this!

Dark Chocolate Cherry French Macarons

Macaron Ingredients:

100 g. egg whites

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

50 g. white sugar

200 g. powdered sugar

110 g. almond flour

Food Coloring Gel

Dark Chocolate Cherry Fillings:

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy cream

Cherry Preserves (homemade or purchased)

Whip room temperature egg whites, cream of tartar, and white sugar with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer until the whites reach stiff peak stage.  Meanwhile, pulse your almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor until the mixture is well combined.  Sift your almond flour/powdered sugar mixture through a sieve and throw away the pieces that are too large to pass through the sieve.  When the whites have whipped into stiff peaks, fold the almond/sugar mixture into the whites gradually and carefully until they reach proper “macaronage.”  Place 2-3 drops of gel food coloring into the batter and swirl gently before carefully pouring into a piping bag.  Pipe meringue circles onto a silpat using a template, if desired, and slam the cookie sheets several times on the counter to dislodge air bubbles.  Allow circles to dry for 20 minutes before baking at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, one sheet at a time, in the center of the oven (move oven racks, if necessary).  Do not open the oven until the 20 minutes are up, and use an oven thermometer for best results.  When your macarons are done they should feel “firm on their feet.”  If the macaron shells are soft or crack when gently touched, bake for 2 more minutes and test again until they are firm on their feet.  After baking, remove entire silpat to cooling rack and allow shells to cool, completely, before removing them from the silpat.

To make dark chocolate cherry filling, mix cream and dark chocolate together in a microwave safe bowl.  Heat in 20 second increments just until the chocolate melts (do not let mixture get too hot– 2 “heats” should be close to enough).  Allow warm ganache to chill in the refrigerator until it reaches the consistency of cake icing.  Whip chilled ganache with the whisk attachment of your mixer until the ganache is fluffy and a consistency that can be piped easily.  Fill cooled shells with circles of whipped ganache and top with a small dollop of cherry preserves. Cover finished macarons with plastic wrap and allow them to to chill in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours until you are ready to serve them.

Now, in pictures! 🙂

French Macarons are some of the trickiest and most rewarding little cookies you will ever make.  If you are new to macaron making, check out my more detailed beginner macaron post here.  Otherwise, Lead on, Livingstone.

Once you have made enough macarons, you start to get into your rhythm.  You know where to put all your bowls; you know when your egg whites are whipped sufficiently just by listening (what did the poor little eggies do wrong?  Why are we whipping them????).  You can tell when your shells have rested enough just by glancing, rather than by touching.  You know what is wrong with a shell just by looking at it when it’s finished– over or underbeaten, over or under-rested, over or underbaked.  You can also guess a woman’s true weight and hair color just by looking into her eyes.  Just kidding!

But it all starts with the meringue.  I start my egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar whipping in the bowl of my stand mixer while I weigh and sift my almond flour and powdered sugar.  I have my routine down just so– by the time I’m done sifting, the egg whites are done whipping.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Next, choose your poison . . . er . . . color.  If you are using gel colors (I highly recommend these, as opposed to the “teardrop” color liquids you buy at the grocery store) then it will take only a few drops to achieve the color you want.  The Nifty Fifty was a gift I received from a friend, and it has all the colors you could possibly want.  Next up?  Heavenly Seventy!  Yesssss. 🙂

Use a silicone spatula to mix your egg white, coloring, and almond flour mixture together until your batter resembles honey.  It should have a firm but steady “ooze” when you lift your spoon out of the bowl.  You want your macaron batter to be thick, but fold itself over and over into ribbons when you drizzle it off the end of your spatula.  Be careful not to overmix or your macarons will be flat.  If you don’t mix enough, they will have little points on them when they come out of the oven.  In time, you will learn exactly how many times to fold the batter and be able to recognize when it’s right.

In the beginning I read so many books and watched so many videos, but in the end it was really just experience that taught me when my batter was perfect.  The best way I can describe it is flowing like honey.  Thick but not too thick.  Runny but not too runny.

And lots of practice.

Pipe your macaron batter into circles on your silpat mats (yes, you really do need these.  Parchment crinkles too much, in my opinion).  Rap the cookie sheets 10-15 times on the counter.

Um, pardon me?

I know it sounds weird, but you need to kind of gently slam your cookie sheets on the counter.  A towel underneath will kill some of the sound.  But basically you want to get the extra air bubbles out of your shells.  If you see any extra bubbles you can pop them with a toothpick prior to resting.  If you don’t slam your trays then the macarons will be full of air bubbles, and many of the shells will be hollow.

THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS.

No one wants deathly hollows in your beautiful little cookies that you worked so hard to create.  Slam your trays.  Save a macaron life.  After you have done this (hey– you always wanted to be a rapper), you need to rest your shells and let them form a skin prior to baking them.

So how do you know when your shells have formed this skin and are “dry” enough to bake?  Well, there are a few ways to tell.  The first is to see that your dried shells will lose their shine and become matte when they are dry enough. In the photo above, the fresher shells are on the right.  They are shinier and glossier than the shells on the left, which have dulled in appearance and are ready for the oven.  If you put shiny shells in the oven they won’t rise properly– many of them will have cracks and no feet (the ruffly little layer around the bottom of the macaron).

You can also gently touch a properly rested shell and no batter will come off on your finger.  A fresh shell will “kiss” your finger with batter.  If you can touch without stickiness, then your shell is ready.

See?  I missed a few bubbles with my toothpick, too.  I’m such a naughty baker.  Oopsie.  Once the shells have rested you can’t pop the bubbles anymore, and you will just have to live with them, warts and all.  But don’t worry if you miss a few– the gorgeous, silky filling will push any imperfections out of everyone’s minds.

While your shells are baking, it’s time to make the best part– the filling!  You can make macarons in pretty much any flavor you like.  They absorb their flavors from their fillings, so contrary to popular belief, the colors of the shells do not indicate flavor.  The shells all taste like their base ingredients– almond, for the most part, and they kind of absorb the filling’s liquid and flavor as they sit.  Today I am going to be using 2 flavors– sour cherries and dark chocolate.  The cherries I am using are the sour variety from Agrimontana, but of course you can use any cherry preserves that you prefer or can find.

I am also using a dark European chocolate, which isn’t as sweet or waxy on the tongue as American chocolate– more of a dark, rich flavor.  If American chocolate is the song “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round,” then European chocolate is Pavarotti’s opera.  They both have their uses, and you just choose what you want your finished product to taste like before you select which one you prefer to use.  Pssst.  Choose the European chocolate.  

I am going to make a whipped chocolate ganache, so I start by mixing together my chocolate chips and heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl.

Ganache snobs will tell you down yards of nose that ganache is SUPPOSED TO BE MADE by warming cream on the stove and then pouring it over chocolate chips.  But you can make it in the microwave also– you just have to be careful not to overheat it.  I heat my chocolate and cream mixture in 20 second increments, stirring after each “heat.”  The chocolate doesn’t have to be hot– just warm enough to melt completely.  Usually I can get everything melted, with no lumps, in 2 heats.  Stir carefully and the chocolate will slowly dissolve into the cream, forming a luscious, dark chocolate ganache.

Now put it in the fridge.  WHAT????  Didn’t we JUST heat this?  Why are we putting it into the refrigerator?  I demand answers and cookies, not necessarily in that order!

Well, we didn’t want to heat up the chocolate, per sa– just melt it.  So once our chocolate is melted (and the cooler, the better), we want to cool it down again so that it will be of a pipeable consistency.  I stir it in the fridge every 5 minutes or so until it becomes the consistency of cake icing.

When the ganache is cake icing consistency, whip it in the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment.  Pipe yourself some circles on your macaron shells, and put a couple of your cherries in the center.  Mmmm.  Look how pretty those are.  Their little cherry eyes are just winking at me, full of beauty and loveliness.  How can you not fall in love with eyes like that?

Gently twist on the top shell (don’t squish them together, or your cherries might escape).  Allow the macarons to chill in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, for about 24 hours.  This “resting period” allows the macarons to absorb each other’s fillings and become one perfect, nougat-like bite.

Dark Chocolate Cherry French Macarons

Now, when I tell you to let the macarons rest (imagine them with their pretty, umbrella clad drinks by the pool) I merely offer that as a suggestion.  Of course, you may not be able to wait 24 hours.  You may look at those adorable macaron babies with their divine, winking cherry eyes and decide that your mom always told you to eat more fruit, and cherries definitely qualify.  It’s a matter of conscience, really.  You should do this, for the good of what your mother always told you.

Dark Chocolate Cherry French Macarons

You may decide that chocolate is good for heart health. You may decide that your heart can’t wait one more day for said health infusion to occur.  You may decide that cookie intervention is not a mere want, but a need, really.  And I would agree with you.

Dark Chocolate Cherry French Macarons

You may decide to get wicked and eat one of these babies RIGHT. NOW.

Dark Chocolate Cherry French Macarons

And when (not if) you should decide to indulge in these beauties a little early, I have this quotation from Mark Twain with which to leave you.

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”  

So look. You ate your fruit.  You ingested dark chocolate for heart health, and you also did your literary studies for today.  You are like, a superhero level of achievement today.  I think you should have a macaron. hehe.

You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.

 


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