Chocolate Macarons


05 Jan Chocolate Macarons

Macaron with chocolate ganache

Remember my resolution to espouse joy, accept my weakness for sugary treats and let the professionals worry about the camera work? Well, today I share with you one of the highlights of my food writing career and a few less than stellar pictures.

Recently, I spent an afternoon at Bonnie Gordon College with Master Chocolatier Derrick Tu Tan Pho. Not only did I learn a lot about one of my favourite edible culinary inspirations, I got to make impossibly shiny macarons and near-nebulous mousse alongside some of my favourite human culinary inspirations. Forgive me if I name drop or two but wouldn’t you get a little excited if you sat beside the iconic Elizabeth Baird for two glorious uninterrupted hours, watched the talented Emily Richards drizzle her name in chocolate, piped batter alongside the all-knowing Susan Sampson and talked muffins with prolific author/editor Jennifer Mackenzie?

In between mouthfuls of macarons and potentially addictive chocolate pearls, I scribbled enough notes to fill a small binder.  So I’m breaking my afternoon of chocolate nirvana into a few of posts, which I’ll share with you over the next little while. After all, too much chocolate in one seating will spoil your dinner. Plus, I get to relive the joy a few more times.

Did I mention I sat beside Elizabeth Baird?

Piping macarons

Elizabeth Baird pipes macarons with the help of Derrick Tu Tan Pho

The first dish Derek made was the classic macaron. Most macarons I’ve tasted were more sweet than flavorful, but Derrick’s were rich and intense. The top quality chocolate made all the difference. The ganache filling was so delicious you’d want to eat it with a spoon — which is exactly how Elizabeth enjoyed hers. I followed suit — just so she wouldn’t feel self-conscious. Yup, that’s me. Always falling on the culinary sword — or spoon, in this case.

Despite their fussy-looking construction, macarons are fairly easy. The only trick lies in the piping, which I eventually mastered. With a bit of help from Derrick.

Piping macarons at Bonnie Gordon

Right after piping, Derrick dusted his unbaked macarons with gold flakes. The gold flakes can withstand up to 600F, so put them on while the batter is still sticky. But don’t feel you have to get fancy. These decadent sandwiches are enough on their own. Feeling inspired? Here are Derrick’s tips and recipe…

Derrick’s Macaron Tips

  • Use icing sugar instead of granulated sugar. Standard white sugar takes too much time to melt while icing sugar (also known as powdered sugar or confectioners sugar) has 23% corn starch and helps hold the cookie together.
  • If you want coloured macarons (providing you’re make a flavour other than chocolate), add the colouring to the almond flour and sugar. Food colouring can collapse the egg whites if you add it to them directly.
  • Parchment paper can flap about in a convection oven. “Glue” the parchment to the baking sheet with a dot of batter at the corners and the middle of the sheet.
  • When piping the macaron batter, hold the tip in your dominant hand so the batter flows by itself and isn’t forced out.
  • Before baking, let the macarons sit for 30 to 45 minutes. This allows them to form a crust, which gives them the classic “skirt”.

A variety of macarons on chocolate pearls

*Note to non-Canadian readers. Yes, you read it right. A milk bag. Milk comes in bags in Canada. And cartons. And bottles. We also call whole milk homo milk (short for homogenized), but that’s another story…

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No Comments
  • Robin Smart
    Posted at 17:16h, 05 January Reply

    OMG. Even I know who Elizabeth Baird is!! I am properly impressed.
    I can’t wait for you to make these for us. Who needs yoga when you have Derrick’s Decadent Chocolate Macarons with Ganache??
    Love from the least cooking sister.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 15:03h, 06 January Reply

      @Robin Smart, uh, I think one needs yoga so one can eat Derrick’s Decandent Chocolate Macarons with Ganache without having to buy bigger clothes. It’s just a theory. Wanna test it?

  • jodi (bloomingwriter)
    Posted at 21:47h, 05 January Reply

    I’m sure they are delicious, but I can’t get past the colour…I hate artificially coloured food, so I’m thinking I’ll skip the food colouring part. Coconut…chocolate…mmmmmmm.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 15:09h, 06 January Reply

      @jodi (bloomingwriter), I hear you. I featured the red macaron since it showed off the ganache better than the chocolate version. Surprisingly, I couldn’t taste the food colouring, which I often can. I know there are natural food colours out there. I should ask Derrick what he used. He uses top drawer ingredients so I can’t imagine him going cheap of red food dye :-)

      Regardless, the chocolate recipe I posted doesn’t require any colouring. It’s really rich — kind of like “That Cake” of yours. And the coconut idea sounds pretty good, too!

  • Cheryl Arkison
    Posted at 09:11h, 06 January Reply

    What a smart idea to use a milk bag!

    And what an amazing experience, macarons aside. Very jealous out here.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 15:14h, 06 January Reply

      @Cheryl Arkison, I thought the milk bag was a great idea, too. I don’t buy milk in bags (I only use milk in my morning latte) but it makes me wonder if I should be asking my sister to save hers…

      It was a great experience. Derrick was amazingly knowledgeable and personable. That alone would have been enough. To find myself in a room of “students” such as these was the ganache between the macarons. I’m still pinching myself.

  • Julie
    Posted at 00:38h, 07 January Reply

    Love macarons (the good, not just sweet) ones almost as much as I adore Elizabeth Baird! I so wanted to be her when I grew up. Still do.

    And I’d love to master the macaron… I’ve never made one that worked out!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:25h, 07 January Reply

      @Julie, I thought you were Calgary’s Elizabeth Baird :-)

      I’m sure you will master the macaron in no time. If you do try Derrick’s recipe or tricks, I’d love to know how yours turn out.

  • Julie
    Posted at 00:40h, 07 January Reply

    P.S. Great idea to use a milk bag! Since we out west don’t have milk bags (miss that about my Grandma’s house in Windsor) I use zip-lock freezer bags, sealed and with a corner snipped off. Great for frosting, melted chocolate, meringue, marshmallows…

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:28h, 07 January Reply

      @Julie, oh, that’s a great idea! I’m the only one in our house to drink milk (in my latte) so I buy it one litre at a time. I will try your Ziplock trick. Thanks so much for sharing this tip!

      And it’s interesting you don’t have bags of milk out west. Funny how packaging changes from province to province let alone country to country.

  • Crystal
    Posted at 21:22h, 18 April Reply

    I have cream of tartar, can I use that instead of lemons? And how much do I use in place of the lemon juice?

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 21:57h, 18 April Reply

      Interesting question. The substitution usually goes the other way. People have lemon juice but no cream of tartar. However, I don’t see why the reverse wouldn’t work.

      The rule of thumb is 1 tsp cream of tartar can be replaced by 1 tbsp of lemon juice, so reversing the process, I’d guess 1/3 tsp cream of tartar could replace the lemon juice in this recipe.

      Let me know how your macarons turn out!

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