Two sweet but not too sweet macarons have graced our house this week as it is almost MacTweet time.  We I have been on a macaron baking spree, as I want to perfect the baking of the macaron for Valentine’s Day gifts.  When I get the idea to perfect something, I do it until it is right.  You cannot tell from this batch but they were near perfect.  Near perfect until I decided to photograph them on a slightly humid day last week …. they barely withstood the photo shoot.  No worries, though, they were delicious and both sets of our test tasters said they loved them.

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The first recipe was inspired by our love of bittersweet chocolate and this wonderful Portuguese cherry liquor called Ginja or Ginjinha, I got to sample over the holidays.  Ginginha is a sweet liquor made from the sour cherry-like ginja berry, sugar, and schnapps.  As soon as I had my first sip I thought of bittersweet chocolate and macarons.  I smuggled a small water size bottle home on the plane.  Need I say more, chocolate and cherry just go hand in hand.

The second recipe was inspired one of the best gifts I received over the holidays.  Our good friend as well as Lenny’s cousin, Christian,  gave us three precious bottles of pure essence oil to use in our cooking.  These oils are hand made by his father over in France and are used in some of the finest cooking at two of Boston’s top restaurants, the Clio and Uni.  You see, up until a couple weeks ago, Christian was the GM at both restaurants and has been since the beginning.  It is always a treat when we stop by as we are completely spoiled by the wonderful meals there but this time the spoiling was even better, when he gave us three bottles of this very fine oil.  I have been dreaming about all the things to make, but which flavor to use first ….. cardamon, citron or bergamot?   After stumbling upon some fresh bergamot at the market it was an easy decision, I would use the essence oil and some zest from the fresh fruit to flavor this recipe.

Don’t forget about all the other macarons that will be out there in the MacTweets virtual pastry shop, be sure to hop over and indulge!

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Recipe:  Chocolate Macarons with Bergamot Buttercream

8 ounces whole raw almonds
8 ounces whole hazelnuts
1 cup powdered sugar

100 grams egg whites
25 grams sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon creme of tarter
200 grams powdered sugar
125 grams mixed nut flour, I used half hazelnuts and half almonds
15 grams scharffen berger (or really good) cocoa powder
pinch of salt

Prepare the nut flour by grinding the nuts with 1 cup of powdered sugar, in a food processor until the consistency of flour.  You will need to pulse the food processor and run it, then pulse and then run. *I did toast my nuts beforehand and let cool completely before grinding.

Separate the egg whites  and let them sit at room temperature for 24 hours before starting to make the macarons.

Preheat oven to 300.  Whip the egg whites and creme of tarter until they are foamy.  Sprinkle in the sugar while still mixing. Continue to whip until stiff peaks form.  Sift the powdered sugar, salt, nut flour and cocoa powder into a bowl. Add to the meringue and fold until a shiny mass comes together. ill a pastry bag with a number 806 tip.  Pipe the macarons onto parchment paper.  Let the macarons dry at room temperature for 30 minutes (Aran suggests 20, I lost track of time).  Bake them for 8 minutes, rotate the baking pan and bake for another 8 minutes.  Cool. Remover from parchment and fill with your favorite filling.

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Recipe:  Bergamot Buttercream

60 grams egg whites at room temperature
35 grams & 15 grams Castor Sugar
30 grams water
1/2 teaspoon bergamont essence oil
zest from half of a fresh bergamont
1 stick unsalted butter
pinch salt
1/8 tsp Cream of Tartar

Mix 35 grams of sugar with the water  and zest and bring to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Stir sugar until it boils.   Using a candy thermometer, continue to boil until 121°C / 249°F.  Meanwhile, beat  the egg whites with an electric mixer in a clean bowl on medium high speed until frothy.  Add in the cream of tartar, and continue to whip until soft peaks form.  Add the remaining sugar and continue to beat until stiff, and glossy peaks form.  When the sugar reaches 121°C / 249°F, remove it from heat.  Reduce the mixer to medium low and slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Be careful not to splash the hot syrup or your buttercream may form small sugar crystals in it. Return the mixer to medium high, and continue beating until the mixture is fully cooled. About 15 minutes.  Reduce mixer speed to medium and gradually add small amounts of the butter, but only as much as it can be absorbed into the mixture before adding the next amount.  Continue to beat until the buttercream is smooth. About 15 minutes.  As the buttercream solidifies, add 1/2 teaspoon essence oil and beat into the mixture for an additional minute.

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Recipe:  Vanilla Bean Macarons with Bittersweet Chocolate Cherry Ganache

Use the above recipe for the cookie part of the macaron.  Leave out the chocolate.  I added a small amount of paste food coloring as I wanted a pink tint as well I added the seeds from 1/2 of a vanilla bean.

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Recipe:  Bittersweet Chocolate Cherry Ganache

200 ml heavy cream
200 g scharffen berger bittersweet chocolate broken into small pieces
1 tablespoon Ginja/Ginjinha

Bring cream to a boil.  Put chocolate into a mixing bowl and pour the cream over the top.  Let sit for a couple minutes.  Stir until melted.  Add the liquor, stir well.  Let sit in the refridgerator for at least an hour before using.

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