Chocolate: It's the elixir of love and the drink of the gods, making it perfect for Valentine's Day. Its allure and power over mere mortals shouldn't be taken lightly. After all, the ancient Aztecs and Mayans prized the cocoa bean for its caffeine-like effects, and traded the beans as a commodity. These days, the buzz from cocoa isn't so much from chocolate's natural stimulants but rather the health benefits of eating it. And don't forget its amorous associations: Chocolat, anyone? When it comes to cooking with chocolate, consider your darling's taste buds-whether they prefer chocolate that's more milky, nutty, fruity, or bitter. Use the best quality chocolate that you can find to ensure that the Chocolate Cream Pie and Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bars-or any of the other 12 recipes-turn out the best way possible, and you just might have your sweetheart begging for more.
Raspberry Chocolate French Macaroons
Gourmet | December 2006
Yield: Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies
Active time: 45 min
Total time: 1 3/4 hr
Dainty pink cookies sandwiched together with a silky ganache look as if they belong on a restaurant's petits fours plate. In fact, the perfect little rounds can be made with a makeshift pastry bag.
- 6 oz sliced blanched almonds (not slivered; 2 cups)
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
- 3 large egg whites
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Red or pink food coloring
For chocolate raspberry ganache
- 3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (60 to 64% cacao), finely chopped
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
- 1/16 teaspoon raspberry extract (preferably McCormick brand)
- Special equipment: parchment paper; a gallon-size sealable plastic bag (not pleated)
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Pulse almonds with 1/2 cup confectioners sugar in a food processor until very finely ground, 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Sift in remaining cup confectioners sugar, stirring to combine.
Beat egg whites with salt in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add granulated sugar, a little at a time, beating, then increase speed to high and continue to beat until whites just hold stiff, glossy peaks. Add drops of food coloring to reach desired shade and mix at low speed until evenly combined. Stir almond mixture into meringue with a rubber spatula until completely incorporated. (Meringue will deflate.)
Spoon batter into bag, pressing out excess air, and snip off 1 corner of plastic bag to create a 1/4-inch opening. Twist bag firmly just above batter, then pipe peaked mounds of batter (the size of a chocolate kiss) onto lined sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Let cookies stand, uncovered, at room temperature until tops are no longer sticky and a light crust forms, 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 300°F.
Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until crisp and edges are just slightly darker, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on sheets on racks, about 30 minutes.
Make ganache while macaroons bake:
Melt chocolate with cream in a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water or in top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. (Bowl should not touch water.) Remove bowl from heat, then add butter and raspberry extract, stirring until butter is melted. Let stand at room temperature until cooled completely and slightly thickened.
Carefully peel cookies from parchment (they will be fragile). Sandwich a thin layer of ganache (about 1/2 teaspoon) between flat sides of cookies.
Cooks' note: Filled macaroons keep in an airtight container at room temperature 3 days.
By Esther Sung
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