There are only four days left until Christmas, and I’ve just started my holiday baking! Normally I wouldn’t be super stressed, since I can whip up a batch of Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies in about 10 minutes, but this year in particular I’ve been baking for people with a lot of dietary restrictions. Yesterday I was meeting a friend who doesn’t eat gluten or dairy, and I could not for the life of me think of what to bake for her.
Macarons are obvious choice for the gluten free peeps, but how would I make a filling without dairy? I like to fill my macarons with swiss buttercream or some kind of ganache, both of which require copious amounts of dairy in the form of butter or heavy cream.
I knew that it was possible to make a ganache with water, but I was skeptical since ganache is usually a rich and creamy filling. After trying it, I will tell you that water ganache is a revelation. I don’t think I will make it any other way again. It’s super simple and comes together to form the perfect texture, and the water doesn’t mask the flavor of the chocolate like cream does. I added a touch of corn syrup to keep the ganache smooth, and it made the perfect filling for my gluten/dairy free friend.
I used cacao nibs on the outside of the macaron shells because they add a nice crunch and they won’t melt in the heat of the oven. If you don’t have cacao nibs, you can top the ganache with a few mini chocolate chips before you sandwich the macarons together.
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
- 130 grams chopped bittersweet (dairy free) chocolate
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract (optional)
- 60 grams (about 2 large) egg whites
- 75 grams almond flour
- 90 grams confectioner's sugar
- 50 grams granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
- A few drops of mint green gel food coloring
- Place the water and chocolate in a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl over a pot of boiling water).
- Stir the ingredients gently until the chocolate has melted.
- Remove the ganache from the heat and add the corn syrup and peppermint extract (to taste), and stir to combine.
- Scoop the ganache in a piping bag fitted with a small round tip (Ateco 803 or 804) and set aside until you're ready to use it.
- Line a half sheet pan with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
- Fit a piping bag with an round piping tip (I like Ateco 804).
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites (if you think your bowl may have any grease residue, wipe down the bowl and whisk with vinegar before you begin so the oil doesn't prevent the meringue from whipping up).
- In a separate bowl, sift together the almond flour and confectioner's sugar.
- Turn your mixer on to 4 and whip the egg whites until they start to form soft peaks (3-4 minutes).
- Add the cream of tartar and the sugar 1/3 at a time while continuing to whip the egg whites.
- Turn the mixer up to 6 and continue to whisk until stiff peaks are formed.
- In the last minute of whisking, add the peppermint extract and green food coloring.
- Using a spatula, take 1/3 of the meringue and place it in the bowl of dry ingredients and gently mix them together until they are combined.
- If there are still bits of dry ingredients remaining, add it a bit more meringue until the mixture is homogenous.
- Add another third of the meringue and fold it into the mixture, I do this by cutting down the middle of the bowl with my spatula and then continuing in a clockwise motion along the outside of the bowl.
- Continue doing this and turn the bowl each time until the meringue has been incorporated.
- Add the last third of the meringue to the bowl and do the same thing, being gentle so the batter doesn't get too runny.
- When the mixture starts to look glossy, test the batter by lifting the spatula up over the bowl. The batter should come off the spatula in slow ribbons and incorporate back into the batter in about 20 seconds. If it comes off in clumps and doesn't incorporate back into the batter, you will need to keep mixing. You can evaluate the batter consistency one stroke at a time. Keep in mind that the batter will continue to thin as you pipe it.
- Once the batter is at the right consistency, transfer it into the piping bag fitted with a round tip. You can make this process easier by folding the bag over a tall glass and then scooping the batter in.
- Pipe the batter onto silicone mats (I use a silpat with a macaron stencil built in). When piping, hold the piping tip at a 90 degree angle about 1/4 of an inch above the mat and squeeze gently until the batter almost fills the circle (it will spread out a bit as it settles). Pull the piping tip off without pulling up, or you will get a tail on your macarons.
- Bang the tray against the kitchen counter or the floor several times to knock out any air bubbles. If you still have visible air bubbles, you can pop them with a toothpick.
- Top half of the macaron shells with cacao nibs.
- Leave them to dry (preferably in front of a fan) until they for a skin. The batter should not come off on your finger tips when you touch them. This will take about 15-20 minutes, but I have left them to dry for up to an hour on humid days.
- While your macarons are drying, preheat your oven. If you have a convection oven, preheat to 325 degrees fahrenheit. If you have a conventional oven, preheat to 350. When your pan is ready to be placed in the oven, turn the oven down to 325.
- Bake the macarons on the middle rack for 12-14 minutes. You can test to see if they are done by wiggling the top of the shell. If it doesn't move, it's done baking.
- You can let the shells cool at room temperature or stick the whole sheet in the freezer to cool. Don't peel the macarons off the mat until they are completely cool.
- Pair macaron shells of similar sizes.
- Pipe some ganache onto one of the macaron shells and sandwich with the other shell (the macaron shells are easier to fill if they are frozen and they won't collapse when you sandwich them together).
- Let the macarons mature in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
- Pull them out of the fridge and enjoy at room temperature.