Make macaron magic with this recipe for hazelnut chocolate passionfruit macarons

There were hardly any clouds in the sky, but rain misted through the Alpine air as we dangled our feet off the edge of a canal, swans circling around our feet, hoping for a piece of baguette. Across the water, a French couple were having a cozy moment that made all four of us feel invisible. Pink and yellow and green houses lined the canal in each direction and geraniums spilled over the bridges. We had less than an hour in Annecy before our train left back to Grenoble, and we had one thing left to find: chocolate.

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The problem with finding chocolate in France is a lot like the problem with finding a bakery in France. It’s not about finding somewhere to go —– it’s about choosing which patisserie to go in. Brightly-colored shops with windows filled to the brim with puffed and sugar-dusted pastries taunt you from every direction. There’s also the closely-related ice cream problem. Do we stop for lavender glace here? Or salted caramel here? We had passed and revisited multiple shop windows that day, debating and weighing our options, and finally decided to head back to a chocolatier we’d seen in the city center.

So we left the tangled couple and gaggle of disappointed swans to find the shop, passing rows of pastel houses and overflowing flower boxes on our quest. But before we got there, we stumbled into a narrow patisserie, its windows full of perfect rows of brightly-colored macarons. Resistance was futile. Chocolate and pistachio and raspberry swirled through the air, and I stood behind my three friends, watching each of them order their set of macarons and wondering how I would possibly choose a flavor. Dark chocolate, Nutella, tiramisu, and deep purple blueberry — how to choose?

When I asked the girl behind the counter which was her favorite, she seemed lost. Her finger hovered over the glass case, paused briefly over a pink one, then an orange one — finally it rested above a row of light chocolate macarons.

“Ceux-ci,” she finally answered. These ones. Milk chocolate with passion fruit. I nodded, and she dropped the treasure into a small paper sack. I’d planned to eat it on the train, slowly, taking in all the flavors. I couldn’t wait that long, so I ate it on the city square, as we passed a fountain.

The sweet edge of the passion fruit and the deep chocolate danced in my mouth, the ganache melting slowly. In over a month in France, it was the best macaron yet. Back in Grenoble, I picked up a slim baking book from a side stand, simply because it had a recipe for chocolate-passion fruit macarons.

Fast forward to today. Craving the warmth of a stove as the snow fell, I planned to make an orange butter cookie. But I was out of butter, which meant a trip to the store — and at the store, I stumbled on a little pile of wrinkled purple jewels — passion fruit. I changed plans that instant, threw some chocolate in my basket and headed for home. The ganache came together in minutes, and with some tweaks, it was every bit as heavenly as I’d remembered. Then, magic — I was out of almonds, the main ingredient of the outside of the macaron, and I didn’t feel like venturing out into the snow again, so I subbed in hazelnuts, adding a Nutella-esque note to the flavor. I don’t know if I’ll ever make an almond-based macaron again.

These are so soft and melting you’ll have a hard time not eating up the batch waiting for the ganache to set and the shells to cool — so I’d suggest doubling, especially since I wish I had.

 

Macaron base

2/3 cup chopped hazelnuts

1 cup powdered sugar

3 teaspoons cocoa powder

2 egg whites

1/4 cup granulated sugar

4 drops red food coloring

2 drops yellow food coloring

 

Chocolate-passion fruit ganache

200 grams, or 1/2 bag Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips

1 passion fruit

About half a pint of cream

2 tablespoons salted butter

 

Grind the nuts in a food processor until they are a fine powder — watch them carefully, as fresh hazelnuts don’t take long to turn into a nut butter. Add powdered sugar and cocoa and grind again to form a flour-like substance.

Separate eggs and add granulated sugar to the egg whites. Discard yolks. Beat whites on high with a hand mixer until they form glossy, stiff peaks. Stir food coloring into whites. Pour nut flour into center and fold together with a rubber spatula until it flows easily. (This will take about 25 strokes.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Snip a small corner off a Ziploc back and insert a piping tip with a wide hole. Place a silpat or parchment paper on a cookie sheet and pipe almond and egg white mixture into even mounds, with circular motions. Bang cookie sheet once on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles.

Bake for seven minutes, until the cookies have puffed and formed into shells, with little bubbles (known in the fancy schmancy baking world as “feet”) at the base of each.

 

Ganache

Bring cream to a boil, then immediately take off heat. Stir in chocolate to melt, then drop butter in. Stir until combined. Cut open passion fruit and scoop contents (there will be jelly-like green seeds and orange stuff) into a bowl. Mash around with a fork, then pour through sieve to get juice. Pour juice into ganache and stir until well combined.

Cool the cookies before sandwiching together. These save well if you refrigerate them in an air-tight container, but you probably won’t have leftovers.

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