Last week I traveled with my family to Turkey. While having breakfast at the hotel, my niece Jasmine brought a cake with her to the table. It was a piece of mousse cake decorated with a macaron on top. Jasmine picked the macaron off the cake, put the cake aside, and looked at the macaron. “Can you make me this for my birthday?” she asked. I had waited for that moment a long time. Finally one of my nieces or nephews asks for macarons for their birthday! In my mind, I started imagining festive birthday macarons with a fun flavor. A flavor that my nephews would sacrifice my mom’s stuffed grape leaves for: Kinder chocolate.

It was my first trip abroad with my eight nieces and nephews. I finally got to experience what it’s like to be that big noisy family on a plane or hotel who doesn’t seem to care about others. It’s not that we didn’t care or didn’t try to behave, but when there are eight, slightly spoiled, kids in the picture, it’s not such an easy task. Just trying to assign each kid to a seat on the plane was a bit of a catastrophe. “I want to sit next to a window”, “I DON’T want to sit next to my sister”, “I want to sit next to the cool uncle” (that’s me of course), and so on… luckily, it was only an hour flight!

Although I was under the weather the whole trip, I really enjoyed spending some quality time with the little rascals. I came back home exhausted and happy. I had to start working on the festive birthday macarons since Jasmine was celebrating her birthday the following week. I entered the kitchen pretty tired from the start. I began making macarons. I didn’t bother to age the egg whites in advance, I didn’t replace or fix my faulty thermometer*, and I didn’t even turn off the AC while the macaron shells where drying before baking. No wonder most of the macarons came out with only half “feet”.

I learned a lesson. First, if I don’t want to take unnecessary risks, I have to listen to my own instructions and not be hasty. Second, I shouldn’t enter the kitchen when I’m tired, exhausted or when I just don’t feel like it. It always affects the final product. Especially when my mind can’t stop thinking of that new Spider-Man video game I just got for my PlayStation – which by the way is calling me right now. So to keep it short, these are my new year’s resolutions. Wishing you all a successful and sweet year.

* Hot tip: To check if your thermometer is working properly, fill a saucepan with water and place it on high heat. Bring it to a boil. Measure the temperature of the boiling water. The temperature should be 100 °C / 212°F, or close to it. If the thermometer shows a different temperature, then it’s faulty. It’s time to calibrate, repair or replace it.

Piping macarons
Macarons before baking
Birthday Macarons
Preparing the macarons for filling
Kinder chocolate ganache
Assembling the macarons
Birthday Macarons

Milk chocolate ganache
110g milk chocolate
80g heavy cream

White chocolate ganache
130g white chocolate
80g heavy cream

Macaron shells
200g almond flour
200g powdered sugar
80g egg whites (for the meringue)
80g egg whites (for the macaronage)
200g sugar
75g water

Decoration
20g sprinkles

Equipment
Thermometer
A pastry bag fitted with a smooth 8mm piping tip


The recipe makes about 50-60 colorful macaron


Advance prep

Aging egg whites: The day before, separate the whites from the yolks (easier when the eggs are cold), set aside the whites in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Take a toothpick and punch a few holes in the plastic wrap, then put the bowl in the fridge.

In this process, some of the liquid from the egg whites evaporate, which makes for a nicer and smoother macaron shell. I recommend weighing a little more egg whites than the amount in the recipe, because the weight drops slightly after evaporation.

The day you bake the macarons, take out the egg whites bowl and wait for the egg whites to reach room temperature before whisking them.

Milk chocolate ganache

Break the chocolate into small pieces and put them in a measuring pitcher. Bring heavy cream to a boil. Pour immediately over chocolate, making sure all the chocolate is covered. Mix a little bit with a spatula and then use a hand blender to blend it to a uniform consistency.

Pour the ganache into a bowl. Cover the surface with plastic wrap. Let the ganache set overnight at a cool room temperature. (You may also keep it in the fridge for a few hours. Before use, let the ganache soften at room temperature to make it easier to pipe.)

White chocolate ganache

Break the chocolate into small pieces and put them in a measuring pitcher. Bring heavy cream to a boil. Pour immediately over chocolate, making sure all the chocolate is covered. Mix a little bit with a spatula and then use a hand blender to blend it to a uniform consistency.

Pour the ganache into a bowl. Cover the surface with plastic wrap. Let the ganache set overnight at a cool room temperature. (You may also keep it in the fridge for a few hours).

Shells

Mix almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor for a minute or two. Sift the mix in a sieve once, or better, twice. (The macaron shell will come out smoother that way). If there are any chunks that remain from the sifting, grind and sift them again. Set aside the bowl.

Italian MeringuePut water and then sugar in a saucepan. Place on medium/high heat. Stir the sugar with a spatula to dissolve it. Once the water starts to boil, stop stirring and remove the spatula. Let the syrup boil and check with a thermometer that the temperature does not exceed 115°C (240°F). While it’s boiling, whip 80g egg whites in a mixer on medium speed. When the syrup reaches 105°C (220°F), increase the speed of the mixer so the egg whites get to soft peaks (white foam consistency). As soon as the syrup reaches 115°C (240°F), turn off the stove, reduce the mixer speed to medium, and slowly pour the syrup into the mixer. Increase the mixer speed to high and continue to whip for about 10 minutes, until the meringue cools.

Almond paste: Add the other 80g egg whites to the flour mixture and mix well with a spatula.

MacaronageThis is just a mix of the meringue with almond paste. This step is critical. Take a third of the meringue, add to the cream and mix with a spatula to loosen up the density of the cream. Gently fold in the rest of the meringue until you get a shiny, dense texture similar to lava or raw tahini. (Here’s how you know it’s ready: take a spoonful of the batter and throw it back into the bowl in rows. After 10-15 seconds, the rows should sink into the mix but not flatten completely.) Make sure not to fold the batter too much, so it doesn’t get watery, which would make flat shells without the much desired “feet”. But also make sure not to fold too little, because then the macaron batter won’t flatten at all when you pipe, and it could rise and crack while baking. If you’re not sure, you can pipe a few test macarons, wait a minute and see if it stabilizes.

Fit a pastry bag with an 8 mm smooth tip and fill it with the batter. Prepare 3 or 4 baking sheets with straight, unfolded baking paper on top. Pipe a tiny bit of the batter on each corner of the baking sheet and “glue” the baking paper on top. Pipe circles of batter about 3 cm in diameter with a little space between each one. Tap the bottom of the baking sheet. If bubbles remain on the macaron shells, you can pop them gently with a toothpick.

Sprinkle sprinkles (that’s right!) on the macaron shells. Leave the baking sheets out in the kitchen for about 30 minutes (depending on the room temperature) until the shells develop a crust and is not sticky when you touch it with your fingertip. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).

Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 14 minutes. For uniform baking, flip the tray after about 7-8 minutes. Baking time depends on your oven. Bake a couple test macaron shells before you bake the rest of the batter. When you get the baking sheet out of the oven, immediately separate the baking paper with the macaron shells from the tray and place it on a cool surface (this makes it easier to remove the shells from the baking paper). Wait for the shells to cool before removing.

Putting it all together!

Fit two pastry bags with an 8 mm smooth tip (if you don’t have two similar piping tips, you may use a slightly smaller one). Fill each pastry bag with a different chocolate ganache.

Arrange pairs of equal sized macaron shells. Flip over one shell with the flat side facing up. Pipe a bit of milk chocolate ganache in the center, then pipe a little bit of white chocolate ganache on top of it. Put the second shell on top and gently squeeze so the ganache spreads between them a bit.

Put the birthday macarons in the fridge for 24 hours, so the flavors develop and the cream seeps into the shells and softens them. Remove from fridge half an hour to an hour before serving to get a perfect chocolaty bite.

Chocolate cake with whipped cream frosting and macarons
Yum

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