By Stephanie K.
Halloween is here! Which means the holidays will arrive in a hot second. While some people look forward to candy canes and pumpkin/cranberry-flavored everything, I look forward to the decadant flavors of chocolate and orange. Yes, my friends. Tis the season of Terry’s Chocolate Orange Balls.
No, those are macarons – I’m getting to that. First – about Terry’s. Terry’s chocolate ball is the size of an orange, shaped like an orange, and flavored with real orange oil. Before you unwrap and devour, however, you have to whack it. Literally. Take the chocolate ball in your hand, then firmly rap it on a table or whatever sturdy structure is immediately handly. (Yes, I know, it doesn’t sound terribly practical, but it’s all part of the fun. Just go with it). After a good, strong whack, remove the foil. The chocolate ball falls apart into lovely little pieces that – you guessed it – are shaped into individual orange segments. Terry’s doesn’t disappoint with the details; it’s like they’ve covered a real orange in chocolate. It’s holiday fun for the whole family.
Terry’s was my first introduction to the flavor combination of chocolate and orange. The confection has made a Christmas-time appearance since I can remember. My parents, two sisters, and I would share just one on Christmas day - a gift from Mrs. Claus. My mom always assumed the “Whack and Unwrap” role (you pick and choose your battles). There’s nothing quite like the silky texture of chocolate melting in your mouth, dancing in the brightness of a fresh orange. We would sit in silence, savoring each segment as Kenny G’s Christmas album played in the background, hoping the delicate, rich flavor would linger and carry us through to the following Christmas…
Well, I’m an adult now, and married. My husband and I are creating our own set of holiday traditions…which means ORANGE AND CHOCOLATE ALL YEAR LONG.
Don’t get me wrong (Mom and Dad), Terry’s will always be special, and I hope that one day when I become a mom, I can
assume commandeer the “Whack and Unwrap” role, too. I simply believe that orange and chocolate is a combination to be enjoyed year-round. Chocolate and orange are well suited for Halloween, don’t you think?
I know there are A LOT of steps listed in the recipe. Please don’t let that daunt you! Because of the delicate nature of macarons, they require more precision, patience, and attention-to-detail than other sweet treats. However, this doesn’t mean they require pasty chef-level expertise. You CAN make wonderful, picture perfect macarons. To help you become a Macaron Master, I included my top four tips below:
1. Weigh your ingredients. A cup of almond meal in my kitchen may not exactly equal a cup of almond meal in your kitchen. To create the perfect macaron, with its both chewy and delightfully crunchy shell, precise measurements are needed. Ending up with too much almond meal or too few egg whites can throw off the ratio, texture, and final result. Kitchen scales are inexpensive and a valuable tool in the kitchen – especially when making macarons.
2. Fine powder, not just finely ground. I know what you’re thinking. “I bought finely ground almond meal, isn’t that enough?” For macarons, not quite. You want the tops of the macarons to be perfectly smooth, which calls for very fine powder – not just “finely ground.” Hence the food processor and quadruple sifting I included in the steps. It may seem excessive, but this will result in silky smooth tops without pesky, sand-like bumps.
3. Age the whites, and avoid the carton. Aging egg whites, according to the “Picasso of Pastry,” Pierre Herme, helps increase their elasticity and prevents a runny batter from forming. You can age the egg whites by storing them in the fridge for 24 hours before baking; just be sure to bring to room temperature before whipping sot he egg whites reach their full volume. I sugest obtaining egg whites the old fasioned way – buying whole eggs, then separating yolks from whites. I used egg whites from a carton once, and it went terribly. The batter was runny, sat like puddles on the baking sheets, and never formed an outer shell (see tip #4). From then on, I avoided egg whites and never encountered the problem again.
4. Be patient. After piping the macaron batter on the baking sheets, let them “rest” for at least 20 minutes. They are ready for the oven when you touch the top of the macaron, and your finger doesn’t stick to the batter. It is very important not to rush this step. You want an outer shell to form so when the macarons are baking, any air is trapped and forced down, forming those trademark ruffled feet – the pied - around the base. If the macarons bake too soon without an outer shell, the tops are likely to crack. Depending on the humidity, this resting process may take longer than 20 minutes – just give it time…the end result will be worth it!
More macaron resources - Craving more? Check out the links below:
Food Nouveau – A Macaron Troubleshooting Guide
Not So Humble Pie – Macaron Troubleshooting
Fine Cooking – Video: How to Make Classic French Macarons
HuffPost Taste – A Definitive Ranking of Macaron Flavors
Sortrachen – 20 Macaron Shell & Filling Recipes