Macarons with Chocolate Bacon Jam
For anyone who hasn’t attempted or really even looked into the macaron-making process, let me tell you, it is HARD. Its something you could think you’re doing right all the way up until you pull that first misshapen batch out of the oven, and grumble to yourself “what went wrong??” If you’ve been keeping track, this is now my third time making these French treats. The first time, was a learning experience, as I was just getting the hang of the new process and ingredients. The second time however, became my most successful post, gaining me a spot in the Freshly Pressed gallery! So as you can see, the process not only involves know-how, but also a fair bit of luck.
Yesterday, as I set out to make my macaron shells, I was guided by a more detailed recipe than I was used to, taken from Les Petits Macarons. Paying careful attention to how I sifted my dry ingredients, whipped my egg white (now using also dried egg white powder and cream of tartar), and piped my batter onto nifty little silicon mats that I received for Xmas, I thought I’d finally gotten my feel for the challenge that is macaronage. However, I was sadly mistaken. My shells first baked up wonky, overcooking and spewing out batter from the top like mini meringue volcanoes. After adjusting the baking procedure using the book’s troubleshooting guide, my macarons then cracked and didn’t form their feet. Finally I ended up realizing what I’d done was either over-beat my egg white and/or over-fold the dry ingredients into the meringue. Reluctantly I charged ahead, baking the final batches at a different temperature (375) for only 8 minutes, and at least ended up with cute non-cracked shells that I was content enough with to serve.
Alas, the end result is still delicious! Despite my macarons being a rag-tag bunch of feetless, un-shiny, less-than-crisp confections, they still taste great. Furthermore, the true star of this adventure really is the filling: Homemade chocolate bacon jam. Shall I repeat that? Chocolate. Bacon. Jam. Easier to make than you’d think, this unusual savory/smoky/sweet spread has saved the day. Besides being a great filling for my cookies, making them appear like adorable teeny hamburgers, this jam is also fabulous spread on toast, or paired with a nice ripe blue cheese.
Moral of the story here is two-fold. If you’ve been thinking about trying your hand at macaron-making, fret not. It takes practice and each round is a learning experience. Just remember that no one gets a perfect shell every time (well maybe besides Pierre Hermé). The second moral is, if you’re not feeling pumped enough for macaronage just yet, skip the cookie and just make the bacon jam!
Chocolate Bacon Jam
- 2 lb bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 cup strongly brewed coffee
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 cup water
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 oz. dark chocolate, at least 80% cacao, chopped
Cook the bacon in a heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium heat until brown, but not yet crispy. Remove from pot and set aside on top of paper towels to absorb excess oil. Pour off all but approximately 1 TBSP bacon fat from the pot and discard.
Add onions to the pot and cook until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add in coffee, vinegar, water, maple syrup and brown sugar, and bring to a boil, scraping down the sides to release browned bits. Add in the chocolate and bacon, and stir to combine.
Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for approximately 2 hours, stirring every 20-30 minutes. Use a hand blender or work carefully in batches with a food processor to puree the jam, until you reach a consistent but still a bit gritty texture. You don’t want to pulverize the bacon beyond recognition here! Return the pot to low heat and continue to simmer for another 2 hours, stirring every 20-30 minutes, until jam has reduced to a thicker consistency. It will thicken more once it cools. Store in glass jars in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before piping into your macarons.
Basic French Macaron Shells
This recipe and process is taken from Les Petits Macarons. For all dry ingredients, pack them into measuring cups firmly, as you would brown sugar.
- 1 1/4 Packed Cup Almond Flour
- 3/4 Packed Cup Confectioners’ Sugar
- Pinch Fine Sea Salt
- 1 TBSP Powdered Egg White
- 3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Aged Egg Whites, from 4 eggs (let them sit in the fridge for up to 5 days before using, covered with plastic wrap that has holes punched in it. Bring to room temperature before using)
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Place the almond flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 4 times for 3 secons each to combine them. Scrape the sides of the bowl between pulses with a spatula. Sift with fine-mesh strainer onto a sheet of waxed paper. (If you simply sift the flour and sugar together without processing them first, the macaron with not be as smooth-skinned.)
With a hand whisk, whisk together the powdered egg whites and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk in the egg whites and cream of tartar until the mixture is homogenous. Set the bowl and whisk attachment on the mixer and whisk on medium speed until the meringue is glossy and forms stiff peaks, about 11 minutes. Once the meringue reaches stiff peaks (the whisk will leave marks in the meringue as it goes around in the bowl) and resembles marshmallow fluff, stop the mixer. Turn the bowl upside down to check that you have reached the right stage: The meringue should not slip in the bowl.
With a spatula, quickly fold the sifted dry ingredients into the meringue.
Spoon the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip. Fill the bag halfway, leaving the rest of the meringue in the bowl while piping; cover it with plastic wrap while a batch is in the oven. If you overfill the bag, you will not be able to squeeze it hard enough in order to pipe even, tail-less shells. Twist the top of the bag to close.
Make a piping guide by drawing 1-inch circles, spaced 1 1/2 inches apart onto a sheet of parchment. Place your guide under another piece of parchment or a silicone mat. Stack an empty baking sheet underneath the one you’ll be piping onto, as this helps more evenly distribute the heat.
Pipe the meringue on your silicone mat or parchment-lined baking sheets into quarter-sized mounds, 1 1/2 inches apart from one another. Holding the tip of the bag at a 90-degree angle 1/4-inch above the baking sheet, firmly squeeze it until the batter fills the circle on the piping guide and is about 1/4-inch high. Do not move the bag while squeezing out the batter. As soon as you have reached the desired size, completely release the pressure on the bag and twist your wrist in a clockwise direction, without lifting it up. Once the batter stops flowing, stop squeezing the bag, lift, and move onto the next circle on the piping guide. Prolonged pressure on the batter and/or quick lifting results in “Tales” on the shell, which might not settle out.
Firmly slam the baking sheets down to remove excess air and see if the three-dimensional tails settle out, lifting the sheets about 6 inches above the table, about 6 times. Don’t be afraid to really slam them.
Bake your macarons at 200 degrees for 15 minutes, to dry out the shells. Increase the oven temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 9 minutes, until the foot and edge of the shells feel firm and they just come off the parchment paper if you forcibly lift them. Remove your shells from the oven and lower the temperature back to 200 degrees. Slide the silicone mat or parchment paper onto a cooling rack and let the shells cool completely before piping your filling into them.
When ready to fill, pair your shells by matching shape and size. Fill a piping back with the bacon jam filling and carefully pipe mounds about 1/2-inch high onto the flat side of one shell, leaving 1/4 inch to the edges. Place another shell onto the filling to make a sandwich. Twist slightly to sandwich them together securely. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days, or freeze them for up to three weeks.
Good luck with your macaronage! Don’t give up, and remember, even the ugly ones still taste delicious! I kept all my broken or misshapen shells in a tupperware in the freezer; they make a great little sweet snack in a pinch!