Making macarons today. I bought a jar of French chestnuts with the explicit idea of attempting Pierre Herme’s Marrons Glaces Macarons, and after reading through his recipe (which includes chestnut puree, chestnut paste, cacao pate and actual marrons glaces crumbs) I decided to do a Pierre Herme inspired version, making cocoa macaron shells and filling with with gorgeous chestnut cream. The flavor combo was perfect, the chestnut cream has a rich earthiness next to the sweetness of the shells. The cocoa powder lets the chocolate be a supporting flavor, and these macarons are killer, tied with pistachio as my all-time favorite.
First, let’s start with the chestnut cream. Since macaron shells are already pretty sweet, I wanted the filling to be rich and earthy, with that smooth but delicate bitterness of chestnut. The answer was simple, delicious chestnut cream. Chestnut cream starts with just 4 ingredients…
I prefer the jarred or vacuum sealed from France. Dump the entire container into a small saucepan.
Again, open and dump the entire container’s worth into the saucepan over the chestnuts.
Barley Malt Syrup, 1/4 cup.
I have a friend who loves it for croissants, but I use brown sugar as well and don’t see much difference in that application. In the case of chestnut cream though, you want the malt syrup. I used to find malt syrup in a plastic squeeze tub, like honey. Now, I only find it in a jar. It’s usually next to agave and molasses at the grocery store. No malt syrup? Well, molasses or honey will work, brown sugar would be my 3rd choice as substitution.
Cognac, 1/4 cup.
How could I be the Boozy Epicure without liquor? In this case, cognac is the stuff I like, but any brandy will work. Honestly, whiskey or bourbon would be nice too, use what you like. I like cognac.
When you get these four ingredients in your saucepan, you want to turn on the heat to medium low and let everything cook together to soften the chestnuts. It’ll take 20-30 minutes.
Once the chestnuts are soft, it’s time to blend everything to a smooth paste. I like to use my immersion blender, but a regular blender or food processor works just as well. After it’s blended and smooth, give it a taste. I like to add a pinch of salt, a splash of vanilla extract and a little sugar. How much depends on you, but I think a tablespoon or two brings it all together. Just go easy, the shells are very sweet, the chestnut cream is there to lend richness and balance, not take you over the edge.
If it’s cool enough to place in a piping bag, go for it. If not, let it cool to room temp, then fill your bag and place it in the fridge to cool. You won’t need it for a few hours, but I like my macaron filling to be waiting for me.
Now it’s time to get to the shells, the hardest part of macaron making. Since I made these for my own personal consumption, I stuck with French method
15g cocoa powder
5g dehydrated egg whites
Start by weighing out your powdered sugar, cocoa and almond meal and placing in your food processor. I like to process mine for a full minute to get them mixed and break down any lumps. Sift the mixture into a bowl and move on to preparing the meringue.
Once the batter is mixed and coming off your spatula in thick ribbons (whatever you do, don’t over mix!) add it to the piping bag and pipe your macaron shells onto the parchment or silpat with the template underneath. Once they are piped, remove the template, pick up the pan with both hands, and tap it firmly on the counter a couple of times to bring up/pop any air bubbles in the piped cookies.
I’ve been experimenting with macaron baking techniques, and for today’s cocoa shells, I followed Pierre Herme’s recommended method of baking at a higher temperature, so preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
While your oven is preheating, let the shells rest. Depending on the humidity, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. They are ready to bake when you can touch the shells and they don’t stick to your finger.
Bake the shells approximately 12 minutes, one sheet at a time. After the first 8 minutes, open the oven door to release steam, then open again at 10. After 12 minutes, you should be able to lift a shell off the parchment paper. If not, keep the oven door cracked and let the shells have another minute or two.
When they are done baking, let them cool, then pipe in the chestnut cream filling. Let them mature in the fridge overnight, then serve or transfer to the freezer for longer storage.