The first time I tried chilli chocolate was on an Italian exchange back in 2005. The family I was staying with looked on with glee as I tried some of theirs - chilli chocolate was unheard of in Britain at the time. I didn't yet have much of a spicy palate back then (in fact, I'm still only partial to mildly spicy food), but I did enjoy the contrast between the smooth chocolate and fiery chilli. It was almost like crackling chocolate as the contrast in mouthfeel pulls you in.
Eight years later, I'm still only a cautious fan of chilli chocolate, looking on from the sidelines as it gains in popularity. My dad, on the other hand, is a huge fan. To celebrate his birthday, I made these Chilli Chocolate Macarons. I'm pretty pleased with how well the colour came out, even if the oven caused some of them to crack on top. My dad really liked them, and a sizeable chunk of them had disappeared by the end of the day.
We were out of chilli powder, but I managed so scrounge some chilli flakes from the depths of a cupboard so I used those to infuse the chocolate instead. I've seen a few recipes now where the macarons are sprinkled with something before being baked, so I tried this with the chilli flakes with great results. I know macarons are notoriously tricky, but once you find a good recipe it's hard to go wrong. I use Bravetart's recipe; the first time I tried them I also read her Ten Commandments of macarons and was very successful.
For the macarons
- 4 Egg Whites
- 230g Icing Sugar
- 115g Ground Almonds
- 72g Caster Sugar
- 1 Tsp Salt
- Red gel food colouring
- 5 Tsp Chilli Flakes
For the chilli chocolate ganache
- 100g Dark Chocolate
- 50mL Water
- 2 Tbsp Chilli Flakes
- Preheat the oven to 145C and line two baking trays with parchment paper. Use a 1.5in cookie cutter to trace circles about 1in apart on the sheets of baking parchment and turn over - you'll use these as a guide for piping the macarons.
- To make the macarons, put the egg whites and caster sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk on medium (on an electric whisk) for 3 minutes. Increase the speed setting to high and whisk for 3 minutes.
- Add the red food colouring (you will need a considerable amount to make the meringue red and not pink). Whisk for another minute. The meringue should be so stiff that it gets trapped inside the whisk. Rap it sharply on the edge of the bowl to make the trapped meringue fall out.
- Sift the ground almonds and icing sugar into the mixing bowl and fold in with a rubber spatula. After each fold, push down on the mixture as if you are trying to push the air out it (which, indeed, you are). Repeat until all of the ingredients are incorporated and, if you drop a bit of the mixture onto the top of the rest of it, the drop merges back into the mixture within 20 seconds. Make sure you also scrape around the bowl a lot to ensure that all of the meringue gets incorporated.
- Using a standard round nozzle (or by snipping the end off your disposable piping bag), pipe the macaron mixture inside the guides you drew earlier. Don't go right to the edges as the macarons do expand a little in the oven. Sprinkle the chilli flakes on top of half of the macarons.
- Rap each baking tray (complete with macarons) sharply on the work surface, then turn it 90 degrees and rap it again. This ensures that any air bubbles rise to the top.
- If you have a fan oven like me, it's a good idea to make sure your oven trays are either slightly above or slightly below the fan as this can cause the macarons to crack.
- Put the macarons in the oven for 25 mins, turning the baking tray around half way through. After this time, try peeling a macaron from the baking parchment by holding them perpendicular to the tray and holding the top of it. If the macaron does not come away cleanly, they are not done so put them back in the oven for another 3-6 minutes, or until they do come away from the parchment paper without leaving anything behind.
- Leave the macarons to cool on a rack.
- Meanwhile, make the ganache: place all of the ingredients into a heavy-based saucepan and place over a low heat until the water starts to steam. Remove from the heat and leave until the chocolate is melted before stirring until smooth. Leave to cool and thicken.
- When the ganache is thick enough, pipe it onto half of the macarons (the flat side which was touching the baking parchment when baking). Sandwich them together with the other half of the macarons.