Orange Dark Chocolate Macarons

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.

Vanilla Bean Macarons with Dark Chocolate Orange Ganache l

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!

Halloween Macarons l Orange and Dark Chocolate l

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

This recipe was originally shared on landeelu.comRead my guest contribution and tips for pastry chef perfect macarons here.

Orange Dark Chocolate Macarons
*Inspired by Sur La Table and Joanne Chang (Fine Cooking)
Orange Dark Chocolate Macarons
*Inspired by Sur La Table and Joanne Chang (Fine Cooking)
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream and orange zest. Heat over medium, swirling the pot occasionally. Remove from heat just before it comes to a boil. Let cool for one hour, then strain through a fine sieve and discard the orange zest. Set the remaining cream aside.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 325 F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  3. Add almond meal and 1/3 confectioners sugar to a food processor fixed with a metal blade. Run until a fine powder forms.
  4. Combine the ingredients from the food processor with the remaining confectioners sugar. Sift four times, discarding any tiny lumps or almond meal “pebbles” between sifting. Set aside.
  5. Using a stand mixer fixed with the whisk attachment, whip the room temperature egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the granulated sugar one tablespoon at a time.
  6. Once the mixture thickens, stop the mixer. Add cream of tartar, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then turn the mixer back on, increasing speed to high.
  7. Whip the mixture for about 5-6 minutes until a peak at the end of the whisk attachment holds its form. (You can test this by turning off the mixer and checking to see if the mixture at the tip of the whisk attachment doesn’t drip).
  8. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and set on a counter or table. Add 1/3 of the almond meal-confectioners sugar mixture and fold. Add another third of the almond meal-confectioners sugar mixture, then fold again. Once incorporated, add the final third as well as the vanilla bean seeds. Fold one final time. The batter that forms should be firm with a glossy shine.
  9. Add orange food coloring (gel food coloring only, not the liquid as it will dilute the batter) and fold into the rest of the batter. Test the batter by lifting the spatula–if the batter drips very slowly from the spatula, it’s ready. If not, continue to fold the batter for another 30 seconds.
  10. Affix a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch plain round tip. Fill the bag 3/4 with batter. Pipe into 1.5 inch rounds on the lined baking sheets. You want to pipe so that the bag is perpendicular to the baking sheet, not at an angle. At the end, flick your wrist quickly to the side so that a point doesn’t form at the top of the macaron. (If a tip does form, no worries, you can smooth it out with a small spatula).
  11. Gently tap the baking sheet on your work surface to get rid of any air bubbles potentially stuck in the batter. Let the prepared baking sheets sit at room temperature until a dry shell forms on the macarons – test by touching the batter with your fingertip, if your fingertip doesn’t stick, they are ready for the oven. The “resting” phase can take 20 minutes to 40 minutes, depending on the humidity in the room.
  12. While the macarons are “resting,” complete the ganache. Fill a medium-sized bowl with the dark chocolate. Heat the small saucepan of heavy cream again over medium. Swirl the saucepan a few times, then remove from heat before it comes to a boil. Pour the cream over the dark chocolate and let sit for 30 seconds. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth. Set aside and let cool as the macarons bake.
  13. Bake the macarons, one sheet at a time, in the lower third of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, turning halfway through. When done, the tops will be firm to the touch.
  14. Remove macarons from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Gently peel the macarons off the parchment paper or silicone mat and transfer to a wire rack. Allow the macarons to cool completely before filling.
  15. Fill another piping bag affixed with 1/2 inch tip with the cooled ganache. Arrange the macarons by two’s, top side down, making sure to match sizes best you can. Depending on the size of the macaron, squeeze a nickel to quarter-size amount of ganache onto the bottom of the macaron. Lay the second macaron on top, and very gently, press together so that the filling expands but doesn’t come out the sides. Repeat for all remaining macarons.
  16. The macarons taste best consumed a few hours later, when they are softer and the flavors meld together better. The patience is worth it!
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