I don’t recall having a favorite children’s book or reading that much for pleasure outside of school work. I do recall Barbar and a few standard children’s books and comic books. They didn’t seem to resolve my need to express my imagination, however. For that, I turned to Lego.
Back in those days, Lego was composed of only basic building blocks. There were no figures of firemen, astronauts, or policemen. There were no themes of Star Wars, Toy Story, or Transformers. If you wanted to create all that, you’d have to build them from scratch with the basic building blocks of red, yellow, blue, green, and white. Even though I spent most of my time with those colorful plastic pieces, I did love comic books of Super Heroes and cute Snoopy and Woodstock. The character that had the most impact on me was The Shadow, a dark character who fights crime with his psychic powers. The ability for flying and flame throwing super heroes seemed too farfetched to me, but a person with a mysterious dark side and psychic powers? That was more convincing to my 10-year-old self.
I used to go to bed with a radio under my pillow, listening to the broadcast of ghost stories. Since my parents didn’t read to me, that was my version of a bedtime story. So, when Mactweets May Challenge was to come up with a macaron that is inspired by your favorite childhood books, I dug deep into my childhood and I found the dark side. I could have done something inspired by my Lego, but since it’s about reading, I thought The Shadow comic book, was more appropriate for the theme of this challenge.
I created a Chocolate Macaron with a Bittersweet Mocha Ganache to reflect the dark side. Chocolate is considered a psychoactive food, something The Shadow would understand and appreciate. Since the Shadow fights crime at night, he’ll need all that caffeine to stay alert. Both chocolate and the Shadow can take on many forms and identities to achieve the ultimate goal—restore balance to the world.
Chocolate Macaron w Bittersweet Mocha Ganaché
recipe by hungryrabbitnyc, 2010
make 32-35 macarons
2/3 cups (3 oz) ground almonds
1-1/2 cups (5 1/4 oz) confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon table salt
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Prepare baking sheet and template: Using two half-sheet baking pan, fit each pan with a sheet of parchment. Use either a circle template or the wide end of a pastry tip, draw 1-1/8 inch-diameter circles on the papers, spacing them at least 3/4 inch apart. (I get 35 circles per sheet). Set aside.
2. Attach an Ateco #804 tip to a pastry bag. Twist the bag to hold the tip tightly. This prevents the batter from leaking out. Place the pastry bag, tip down, inside a measure cup or any container that will hold the pastry bag vertically. Set aside.
3. Grind almonds, confectioner’s sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt in food processor until powdery, about 30 sec. Sift almond cocoa mixture through a medium-mesh sieve. Set aside.
4. Add egg whites into the bowl of a hand mixer or a standing mixer with whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for 45 seconds to break up the whites. Increase speed to medium high and beat until foamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue to beat until meringue holds stiff, glossy peaks, about 1 minute.
5. Reduce speed to low, add vanilla extract to just combine. Remove bowl to a work surface. Using a silicon spatula, fold in half of the sifted hazelnut mixture with a circular motion (scooping from bottom of bowl) until just incorporated. Fold in the rest of the ahazelnut mixture with same motion. (Meringue will deflate slightly.)
6. Press and spread out the batter against the side of the bowl. Scoop the batter from the bottom and turn it upside down. Repeat this process about 12 times. This is what the french refers to as ‘Macaronnage’. This technique gives the baked macarons a luster. Be careful not to do it too many times, or you might get oil stains on the surface of your baked macarons, not so pretty.
7. Pour batter into prepared pastry bag, twist or clip to close. Refrigerate batter for 15-20 minutes. This process makes the batter easier to pipe.
8. Pipe the batter onto the center of the circles. Make small circles since the batter will spread out after it’s piped. (You’ll get the hang of it once you’ve piped a few.) Rap the baking sheet firmly on the counter. This will help the macarons to hold the rounded shape and pied (little foot) to formed.
9. Adjust oven racks to middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350°F.
10. Dry the batter at room temperature, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes. A slight crust should form on top of the macarons. (This might take longer on rainy or humid days). The batter is ready if it doesn’t stick to your finger when you touch it gently.
11. Place one baking sheet in middle rack and immediately reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Bake macarons for 8 minutes. Rotate baking sheet, front to back and place it on rack in lower-middle position. Continue to bake for another 8-10 minutes, until crisp and interior does not give easily when gently pressed. (Check macarons around 16 minutes into baking to make sure they don’t brown. You can place a piece of foil or parchment on top at this point to prevent top from browning. When done, move baking sheet from the oven and cool on wire rack. (Residual heat from baking sheet will harden bottoms), about 30 minutes. Loosen macarons gently from parchment with offset spatula (they will be fragile).
Bittersweet Mocha Ganaché
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon good-quality honey
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Bring cream, honey, salt and espresso powder to boil in small saucepan or in microwave. Place chocolate in medium bowl and pour boiling cream over. Let stand for 5 minutes and whisk until smooth. Add vanilla extract and whisk to combine. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool and slightly firm, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
To assemble the macarons
Sandwich flat side of macarons together with a generous teaspoon of Bittersweet Mocha Ganaché. Layer macarons between sheets of parchment in an airtight container and let stand at room temperature at least 2 hours to soften before eating.
COOKS’ NOTE: Filled macarons can be kept in an airtight container wrapped in plastic wrap, chilled 2 days or frozen 1 month. Bring to room temperature in wrapped container (to avoid condensation), about 1 hour if chilled or 2 hours if frozen.