Chocolate macarons

  (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)



Chocolate macarons

Total time: About 1 hour, plus cooling and assembly times

Servings: 24 to 30 sandwich cookies

Note: Adapted from "Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé," by Pierre Hermé and Dorie Greenspan. The almond meal (or flour) should be finely ground. If the almond flour and powdered sugar are a bit coarse, process them in a food processor for a finer texture before running through a strainer or sifter. Additionally, if the almond meal feels a bit moist, spread it out on a lined baking sheet and place in a 325-degree oven to dry out, about 3 to 5 minutes.

1 1/3 cups (5 ounces) blanched almond meal or flour

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (8.5 ounces) powdered sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder, plus more for dusting

1/2 cup (3 to 4 large) egg whites, at room temperature

1. Push the almond meal or flour, along with the powdered sugar and cocoa, through a strainer into a large bowl and whisk to blend.

2. Beat the egg whites in a mixer with a whisk attachment over low to medium speed until foamy, then increase the speed and continue just until they hold glossy, medium-firm peaks. Gently fold in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions. When the dry ingredients are all incorporated, the mixture will be runny and look like cake batter.

3. Spoon half the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a half-inch round tip and, keeping the bag vertical and 1 to 2 inches above the sheet, pipe rounds about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 2 inches apart onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

4. Rap the pan against the counter (or don't), refill the bag and pipe macarons onto the second sheet. Set the rounds aside in a cool, dry place for 30 minutes to rest.

5. Meanwhile, center a rack in the oven and heat it to 425 degrees.

6. Work with one baking sheet at a time. Dust the tops of the macarons lightly with cocoa and put the baking sheet on top of a spare sheet. Slide the set-up into the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Prop the door open slightly using a wooden spoon (to reduce the heat as the macarons continue to rise and dry). The heat of every oven will vary; if the oven cools too quickly, do not prop open the door and instead quickly open and close the oven door every few minutes to gently release excess heat.

7. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the macarons are smooth and just firm to the touch. Transfer the sheet to a cooling rack.

8. Bring the oven temperature back to 425 degrees and repeat with the second sheet of macarons.

9. As soon as the oven has been reset, remove the macarons from the parchment . Lift the paper at one corner and pour a little hot water onto the baking sheet underneath the paper. Tilt the sheet to evenly dampen the parchment and leave the macarons on the paper for 15 seconds. Peel them off the paper and place them on a cooling rack. Match them up for sandwiching.

10. Pipe a generous amount of filling (about 1 teaspoon, or as desired) on one half of the macs and top with their mates. Pack the sandwiched cookies in a container and refrigerate for 24 hours (or for up to 4 days) before serving. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

Each of 30 macarons, filled with bittersweet ganache: 93 calories; 2 grams protein; 11 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 5 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 6 mg. cholesterol; 10 grams sugar; 10 mg. sodium.