In which I make delightful chocolate pecan macarons that bear a striking resemblance to tiny elephan
There are a few things I just won't do, and I was reminded of these things during a Facebook conversation I had with one of my FB friends, who is also one of my husband's former co-workers. She gave her cat a bath last night. Now, I respect her God-given right to bathe her own cat. I respect her right to not want a "stinky cat." I respect all of her rights. But bathing cats is something I won't do, and, operating as an informal cat rescue on our street because almost no one else bothers to feed any of the starving feral cats living here (way to go, jackholes!), we've got a lot of cats. I do expect them to groom themselves, however . . . as they've been doing for thousands of years. (I know, I know, I know. The bathing of cats has all kinds of proponents. I already know the reasons. Never let it be said that I don't respect your right to bathe your cat!) I find bathing myself enough of a chore; I don't want to bathe what are essentially furry, pissed-off, living and breathing weapons, too. (If you've ever had a cat bite that didn't become immediately infected, you're a marvel.) Anyway, this conversation reminded me of other things I won't do, and they are as follows:
1. I won't put a bandana on a dog. I find bandanas on dogs annoying. They're DOGS. They should look like DOGS. My husband loves a bandana on a dog. LOVES a bandana! Surprisingly, we have not yet divorced over this divisive issue.
2. I won't share a sleeping pillow with anyone for any reason. I don't want anyone else's head juices getting anywhere near my head.
3. I won't stack dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, rendering the sink useless, and neither should you. (This one might be directed more towards my husband than the rest of you.)
4. I won't grow out my bangs, and, for this, you should all thank me.
5. I won't laugh at fat jokes because I find them lazy and unintelligent. I prefer to mock people for entirely different reasons, like for bathing their cats.
6. I won't use the phrase "first-world problems." I cannot help where I live. I still have the occasional problem.
7. And, finally, because this is a baking blog, after all, I won't eat chocolate.
I find chocolate really bitter, with only a few exceptions: M&Ms, Hershey bars, Hershey's Kisses, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and our family brownie recipe, which is probably a Betty Crocker brownie recipe from many decades ago. (I'm not trying to steal your thunder, Betty. Calm down.) The brownies are probably my favorite because they're the perfect mixture of sweet and chocolate flavors so that neither taste is overwhelming. They're balanced. For that matter, I like anything that is similar to that brownie recipe, like the old-fashioned fudge pies, like this one.
But, of course, other people loooooooooove chocolate, so, a few weeks ago, I put up a picture of the chocolate pecan macarons from the Great British Bake Off Big Book of Baking on my personal Facebook account and asked if anyone would be interested in them if I made some. They are, essentially, macarons made from pecan flour (and cocoa) instead of almond flour, and they're filled with a ring of white chocolate ganache, which is filled with a blob of dark chocolate ganache.
The crowd went wild! So, I decided to make them. I made two batches that week, one that turned out a little weird because the macarons didn't spread at ALL and one that was pretty much how it was supposed to be. I don't see the recipe anywhere on the Internet, and I'm not going to break copyright law by copying it here without permission, but these ladies have made a video of themselves making the exact recipe without giving the cookbook proper credit, which means that you can use it if you want to make them because they've included the measurements for the ingredients. Hopefully, you won't burn yours like they did theirs. (Copyright karma.)
I'm going to post pictures of the general process first, and then I'll show you my first results and then my second results. They're different because the macaron batter for the first batch was way too stiff. They still turned out to be delicious; they just looked absurd.
First, you make the pecan flour by grinding pecans in the food processor, and then you add the rest of the ingredients for the batter.
^^That is pecans and confectioners sugar.
If you're thinking the pecans and confectioners sugar look pretty tasty ground up together, you're thinking correctly. They smell GREAT.
Then, you have to whip up the egg whites to stiff peaks and sift in the cocoa (to make it as fluffy and lump-free as possible).
These egg whites are not done, yet.
These egg whites, like me after an hour and a half on the treadmill, are done. (I never said I was fast on the treadmill.)
And then you dump in the pecan and confectioners sugar mixture and fold it all together without squishing all of air out of the egg whites. I regret to inform you that I forget to take a picture of the mixture after it was complete. However, you can see how it looks when it's piped onto the parchment paper. (Most of the rest of the photos are of the first batch with the macarons that didn't spread . . . as will be obvious.)
The batter was REALLY thick. And here's how they looked after baking:
You might notice that they looked a little bit like tiny piles of elephant poop. But they were still delicious. They tasted a lot like my favorite brownies, except with pecans added, but I like pecans. The texture of a chocolate macaron, it's important to note, is NOT like a brownie. They are a meringue product, so they are airy and crunchy, especially on the outside, like a meringue and or regular macaron. If they weren't meringue-y, that would mean I had made a big mistake somewhere. So, even though they looked a bit like wee elephant poops, they were otherwise correct. So I've got that going for me.
Here's where I have a few pictures of the macarons from the second batch, and they turned out like they were supposed to turn out. (But then we'll have to go back to the elephant poop macarons.)
They look pretty good! Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of them after I filled them, AND I kept having problems getting the white chocolate ganache to set both times. (White chocolate, being a generally poor product, anyway, is a little bitch.) Thus, I still haven't gotten my perfect picture of a completed chocolate/pecan macaron, yet.
And now back to the uglies.
Because I couldn't get the white chocolate ganache to set (and I gave it a lot of time), I decided to do the outer ring in regular chocolate and fill the center with the white chocolate.
You can see that the white chocolate ganache is just pooled inside the regular chocolate ganache, and that annoyed me to no end. But I know now what the problem has been with my white chocolate ganaches--I used (real) white chocolate chips instead of an actual bar of white chocolate. Chocolate or white chocolate chips are the lowest quality of baking and confectionery chocolate, and white chocolate chips, especially, generally won't set once melted if you add any cream to it at all. If only I had known that then. Stupid white chocolate chips.
I then finished assembling the macarons, and, even though there's no way I could sell them when they're shaped like this, I still thought they were adorable.
Aren't they cute? They weren't the easiest things to eat due to their height, but I'm happy to report that my husband prevailed. (Because he finished them off at 2 a.m., standing in the kitchen, staring out the window in a trance, as per usual.) (He's not mentally ill.) (No more than the rest of us, I mean.)
I don't remember doing anything differently the second time around when the macarons spread like they were supposed to, but I at least know now that it's better to squish them down a little bit once they're piped onto a pan than to let them bake so vertically. I'm going to make them again soon because the white chocolate ganache still pisses me off. We've got a score to settle, white chocolate ganache, and I am going to MURDER YOU (by making you thick and delicious).