Friends are amazing. They are there when you're happy, down or simply need a listening ear. I'm really blessed to have friends accompanying me through the different seasons of life - some friendships lasted long, some short, some rather unpredictable at times. Just last Sunday, I had two of my favourite girlfriends at my place for a macaron baking session. One was a primary school friend whom I have known for (gosh) over 16 years while the other was a junior college friend whom I've been great friends with till now. Really appreciate them for sticking with me through thick and thin, through my emotional, unreasonable times and putting up with my mood swings and occasional tantrums. I know I'm not the easiest person to get along with, which makes them even more precious to me knowing what they "suffered" haha. Bottomline is, I love my friends! All of them :).
Well, after seeing my multiple posts and photos of my "mini" macaron successes, these two girls were really excited and wanted to try baking them. So last Sunday, we set out to do just that. After evaluating the pros and cons of using French vs Italian meringue methods, I settled on Italian as it is more foolproof and yields more consistent results. Somehow I feel my French meringue macarons don't keep as well? Or perhaps it's just me...hmmmm....
Anyway, we decided on making Hazelnut Praline Macarons after seeing this post. I've not tried using hazelnuts in my shells before hence it was especially attractive for me as opposed to making a tried and tested flavour which I already did before.
Preparation alone took me a couple of days - I had to shop for ingredients, weigh them, portion them out, ground the nuts and sieve them beforehand. I also made hazelnut praline for the first time and grounded them into fine bits for filling the shells. As a newbie in making caramel, I figured (only afterward) that I took the pot off the heat too quickly before the sugar had a chance to brown fully. Hence instead of achieving a dark amber caramel, I got a nice golden-hued caramel instead. Oh well, I think they still look pretty decent though I would have loved a stronger burnt sugar taste.
The most funny part of the baking process is watching them pipe the macaron shells. One of the girls actually piped them like ladyfinger rounds, swirling from the outside to the centre to make little swirl mountains (like frozen yogurt or soft serve ice cream)....it was epic! Haha. The good thing is, all of them baked well and came out looking nice and round - even the bottoms were perfectly smooth and dry, not sticky at all!
All in all, it was a truly enjoyable session with the girls and I also made my most successful batch of macarons to date. The texture of the shells was good - crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside - with smooth tops and good bottoms. I especially loved the flavour combination - hazelnut shells filled with Jivara chocolate nutella ganache and hazelnut praline bits - absolutely scrumptious! Perhaps it was the dream combination of awesome company, jovial mood and adequate number of hands in the kitchen that put together this delicious batch of macarons :). Baking in a good mood does help make more delicious desserts (I'm saying this from experience :P).
This time round, we made these into smaller-sized macarons perfect for a light midday snack. I passed some to my mum to try and she really liked the hazelnut flavour with the crunchy praline bits. I guess that means these have passed the taste test and may make them way back to the dessert table in time to come. My dear girlfriends are also hooked on making macarons (like me) after the first successful attempt and are aiming to replicate the results in their own kitchens. Cool, good luck girls! :).
As for me, I'll be taking a break from macaron-making for now. Too many whites used, too many yolks left. Any ideas on what I can do with the leftover yolks? If you have, let me know :).
Hazelnut Praline Macarons
150g hazelnuts, roasted and skins removed175g sugar
60 ml water
90g ground almonds
60g ground hazelnuts
150g confectioner’s sugar120 g egg whites (divided equally into two portions)
150g granulated sugar
[Jivara Nutella Ganache]
200g Valrhona Jivara (40%), roughly chopped
100g heavy cream
1 tablespoon Nutella
2 tablespoons hazelnut praline bits
1. Preheat oven to 140 degrees Celsius.
2. Spread hazelnuts evenly on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, moving them around with a spatula halfway through . Let cool.
3. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves and turns a dark amber color. Watch this carefully because the sugar mixture can go from caramelised to burnt in the blink of an eye. If using a candy thermometer, cooked until it reaches around 175 degrees. However, you can easily tell when it's done by the color of the sugar.4. Pour the cooked sugar over the hazelnuts and let cool. Once cool, break the sugar and hazelnuts into pieces and process in a food processor until finely ground.
1. Sift together the ground almonds and confectioner's sugar. Set aside.
2. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and cook till the sugar syrup reaches 118 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, beat 60g of the egg whites in the electric mixer on medium speed till soft peak form. When the sugar syrup is ready (both should come together at about the same time), pour the syrup in a steady stream into the egg whites with the mixer running on low. Increase the speed to high and beat till you get a thick, glossy meringue and the mixture is cool to the touch (around 10 minutes).
3. Mix the other 60g of the egg whites with the almond/sugar mixture. Add a third of the meringue into the mixture and fold gently. Add another third and fold before adding the final third. Fold gently till it flows like lava, with a thick, steady stream flowing from the spatula. Be careful not to overwork the batter as a couple more turns will result in over-runny batter.
4. Transfer the batter into piping bags fitted with big round tips. Pipe onto pre-drawn circles on parchment paper. Leave it out to set for around 25-30 minutes before baking it at 150 degrees Celsius for 13 minutes.
5. Once done, remove the baking sheet from the oven and slide the parchment onto a cooling rack. Let cool for a few minutes before removing the shells from the parchment.
[Jivara Nutella Ganache]
1. Heat the cream in a saucepan till its boiling point. Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and nutella and let steep for a few minutes. Stir till smooth before adding in hazelnut praline bits. Let cool till it firms up and is ready to be used.
2. Pipe ganache mixture onto macaron shells and top with hazelnut praline bits before sandwiching with another shell.
Yields 50 mini macarons.