After many comments and the like, and of course a natural joy in writing, I have decided to write a blog! Of course, like many blogs out there it will mostly relate to the things I enjoy the most: food, fashion, and travel (and ideally a combination of the lot). I only wish I could have more of these in my life on a daily basis.
For my first post, I will hark back to my macaron obsession when my inner kitchen scientist and google researcher came out in force to on a quest to make the perfect macaron! Of course, once I had ‘perfected’ the process I no longer wanted to make them (far too labour intensive) much to the dismay of my friends who now had developed a taste for the bright coloured treats. Since I have been asked for the recipes many times since, it seems like a good place to start. So here is the story of Michelle’s culinary quest for the ultimate French confection…
Macarons became an obsession of mine from the moment I tried the Laduree rose macaron in Paris. They were originally made for King Louis XIV of France. These brightly coloured, petite and delicate small round treats – that have a crispy shell and gooey interior – are a delectable bite that utilises all the senses… what more could you want…
Since that fateful day in May 2007, I have been on a quest to make the perfect macaron (not to be confused with the Australian coconut macaroons). There are numerous recipes with different techniques – and you would be amazed at the ease at which the macaron can fail – imprecise measurements, over mixing, under mixing, even the baking trays are important!
This recipe comes above the rest because it is fairly simple and quite forgiving.
The four key steps that I would strongly recommend for creating the perfect macaron are:
1) Use aged egg whites – you might think ‘gross’ – but trust me, aged egg whites work best – I would suggest leaving egg whites out at least overnight before using them (I think this has something to do with reducing moisture).
2) Leave the macarons to sit for at least 20 minutes piped on trays before baking.
3) Use heavy/industrial baking trays (alternatively stack two trays together to ‘create’ a heavy tray).
4) Make and assemble the macarons two days prior to eating (this creates a perfect balance between texture and flavour).
The best thing about macarons – your imagination is the limit in terms of flavours and colours. But – beware the sugar hit!
Basic Macaron Batter
Makes about 2 doz
2/3 cup (85g) ground almonds
1 ½ cups (150g) pure icing sugar
3 large aged egg whites, at room temperature
5 tbsp (65g) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract – or other flavouring of preference
Colouring of preference
Prep: If you want perfectly sized macarons I would suggest that you draw circles (about 2.5cm in diameter) on the underside of the baking paper, spacing them at least 1.5cm apart.
1. Process almonds and icing sugar together to a fine mixture. If you are particularly conscientious, sift mixture through a medium-mesh sieve.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high. Gradually add the caster sugar and beat until stiff glossy peaks form. Add vanilla/flavouring and colour and stir lightly.
3. Fold in ½ the sifted almond mixture. Gently, fold in the remaining mixture. When the batter becomes nicely firm and drips slowly as you scoop it the mixture is done.
4. Attach a 1cm tip to the pastry bag. Twist the bag at the tip to prevent the batter from leaking out. Pour batter into bag.
5. Pipe batter onto centre of circles on the baking paper (batter will spread). Rap the tray firmly. Sit at room temperature, uncovered, for at least 20 minutes (avoid rainy days as there will be too much moisture). The circles should look smooth and a skin will form.
6. Place oven racks in the centre of the oven. Preheat oven to 190°C.
7. Use heavy trays or double trays (stack 2 trays together) and put macarons into the oven for 15-18 minutes. Rotate trays mid way.
8. If the insides of the macarons are still soft after 15 mins, lower temperature to 150°C and cover the tray with aluminium foil and bake for another 2-3 minutes. The macarons should come off the baking paper easily.
9. Cool macarons on trays.
10. Once cool, assemble macarons by joining two circles together with a filling.
NB: Alternative flavours for meringues:
a) Coconut – add 2 tbsp (30g) dry coconut powder to the almond powder mix prior to processing.
b) Green tea – add 1 tsp matcha to the almond powder mix prior to processing. Add green food colouring to glossy meringue (do not over mix).
c) Raspberry – add 2 tbsp (30g) dried raspberries, ground in a food processor, to the almond powder mix prior to processing. Add red food colouring to glossy meringue (do not over mix).
d) Lavender/ violet meringue – add 1 tsp dried (ground) lavender or violet to the almond powder mix prior to processing. Add purple food colouring to glossy meringue (do not over mix).
Macarons can be filled with almost anything, whipped cream, jam, lemon curd, butter cream, or ganache (my favourite). Below are some recipes you may wish to use.
Dark Chocolate ganache
Bring 100ml thickened cream to the boil. Add cream to 100g drak chocolate, mix slowly with a whisk. Cool.
White chocolate and rose ganache
Bring 100ml thickened cream to the boil. Add cream to 100g white chocolate, mix slowly with a whisk. Add 1 tsp rose water. Cool.
Chocolate and peanut butter ganache
Bring 100ml thickened cream to the boil. Add cream to 80g dark chocolate chocolate, mix slowly with a whisk. Add 20g peanut butter, mix. Cool.
Basic Butter Cream
7 tbsp (100g) unsalted butter
3 tbsp (40ml) water
3 tbsp (40g) granulated sugar
1. Cut butter into pieces 5mm thick and place them in a heat-resistant bowl. Heat in the microwave for 10 seconds. If the pieces are soft enough for your fingers to press into them, the butter is done. If they are still hard, heat them for another 5 seconds.
2. Stir the butter with a spatula until it becomes smooth and creamy like mayonnaise.
3. Put water and sugar together in a bowl and stir well. Heat in microwave for 1 minute. Stir until dissolved. Heat for another 4 minutes. Stir.
4. If a drop of syrup dropped in a bowl of water forms a ball in your fingers, it has the right density.
5. While heating the syrup, beat lightly beat egg.
6. Pour the syrup like a thread into the egg and beat on high. Reduce the speed to medium and then to slow, and continue beating until the bottom of the bowl is no longer hot and the mixture becomes white and heavy.
7. Divide the butter mixture, adding it to the syrup in two or three batches. Beat at medium speed as you add the butter. Mix well (bubbles may appear – keep beating).
8. Stir a drop or two of vanilla extract into the mixture. Butter cream can be kept for at least a month, wrapped in gladwrap and frozen.
Butter cream flavours:
a) Rose and lychee butter cream – replace vanilla extract with 1 tbsp rose water and 3 tbsp pureed lychee.
b) Passionfruit butter cream – Replace vanilla extract with 3.5 tbsp (50g) passionfruit.
1×15-ounce ripe mango, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1. Puree first 4 ingredients in a food processor, scraping down sides of work bowl occasionally.
2. Add yolks; puree 15 seconds longer.
3. Strain through sieve set over large metal bowl, pressing on solids with back of spatula to release as much puree as possible. Discard solids in sieve.
4. Set metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water); whisk puree until thickened and thermometer registers 77°C (about 10 minutes). Remove from over water. Whisk in butter 1 piece at a time. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
COMBINATIONS (the ones I made for my Marie Antoinette Themed 30th):
– Raspberry meringue with rose and lychee butter cream.
– Green tea (matcha) meringue with dark chocolate ganache.
– Basic meringue (with yellow food colouring) with chocolate and peanut butter ganache.
– Violet meringue with passionfruit butter cream.
– Coconut meringue with mango curd