“I’ve lost it!” I wailed in frustration. Oh I do hate it when you think you have mastered something only to discover that’s not the case… Okay – back to when it all started…
My cousin requested macarons for her birthday and though I LOVE rose flavoured, well, I felt that I should diversify. Black Star Pastry in Newtown has a fabulous Lemon Myrtle cake (which I was, of course, indulging in) which inspired the idea of using Australian flavours more. Combining the two ideas meant the creation of the Australian macarons that feature in this post. Easy enough right?
Well, unfortunately not quite. For some reason (and though I would like to say unfathomable – yet I feel that there is certainly a cause) only one of the four flavours worked properly. I ended by making two batches and halved each to make the following four flavours:
1. Lemon myrtle
2. Wattle seed and honey
4. Vegemite caramel
As you have heard me say before, ultimately it is the flavour that counts and (even if I do say so myself) these tasted great – it was a toss-up between the Vegemite caramel and the lemon myrtle for the best in my opinion – the disaster was the ‘shape’ of the shells. You can easily see below. I was in a bit of a quandary – what is that my approximation of 1/2 for the ingredients what put these out, did I over mix, was the problem the different trays I used (my heavy trays don’t fit in this oven), or was it a result of the oven itself? Of course, not happy with the results (even though they were still served up for my family) I decided to try again with a slightly different approach.
Before I launch into my second attempt and how this panned out – a little diversion about flavours. Obviously, after eating the Black Star cake, there was always going to be a lemon myrtle one. Lamington was suggested to me and seemed like a reasonable representation of Australian food (it definitely makes me thing of one of my favourite childhood books “Possum Magic” by Mem Fox) which then got me thinking about how I could possibly integrate the quintessential Vegemite into a macaron. Everyone I discussed it with thought I was crazy – “You want to put Vegemite into a macaron? Ah… macarons are meant to be sweet!” exclaimed Ms TT. To give her credit she did follow up with: “Some of your strange ideas do work…” though I would say that this was not said with much confidence. Anyway, I started thinking about salty macarons and what came to mind was the delicious salted caramel macaron – the train of thought led to the idea of substituting the salt in salted caramel with Vegemite. Voila, the Vegemite macaron was invented (and it tastes surprisingly good). As for the wattle and honey – I was in Perth and at Freemantle Markets when I cam across a herb shop that had ground wattle seeds for sale. I was very quickly sold on the idea. Ms TT says that it is between the Vegemite caramel and the wattle seed for her.
Okay, now to the cooking. This time,
rather than two batches, I did 4 half-batches – in the hope for consistency. Well… they were consistent… consistently bad! Sorry forgot to take photos to prove it. I tried different approaches for each (allowing more time to settle and form a crust, double trays, more mixing, less mixing), yet they still cracked on top and refused to form a ‘pied’ (foot) which is classic for macrons. I ended up searching solutions on Google. My theory was that it has to be the same factor that was causing the problem as they all looked the same despite my different attempts. In the end I decided that it was the oven that was to blame (since I never had this problem in my old oven) – and in my search I came across many a page describing the importance of heat and the way it was distributed. So for the last batch – by now it was 12:30am – I decided to lower the heat (to 170 degrees Celsius) and cross my fingers.
Failure… Yep – still didn’t work… Tasted good though! Ms TT has a saying that she likes to pull out whenever someone tries to make excuses: “A poor craftsman blames his tools” and there is some truth to that – I am now determined to figure out how to make these work – I just need someone to be willing to eat the experimental failures. So macarons anyone?
Basic Macaron Recipe
43g ground almonds
70g pure icing sugar
57g egg white
32g caster sugar
Flavouring (see individual flavours below)
Colouring of preference
1. Process almonds and icing sugar together to a fine mixture (also add dry flavouring to the mix).
2. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high. Gradually add the caster sugar and beat until stiff glossy peaks form. Add wet flavouring and colour and stir.
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 a baking sheet (I used a Wheel and Barrow macaron sheet under the baking paper as a guide to size – these make small macarons). Transfer sheet to tray, and rap the tray firmly on the bench top. Sit at room temperature, uncovered, for at least 20 minutes (avoid rainy days as there will be too much moisture – in retrospect this could have contributed to my troubles…). The circles should look smooth and a skin will form. You can test if a skin has formed by gently touching the macaron.
6. Place oven racks in the centre of the oven. Preheat oven to 190°C.
7. Put macarons into the oven for 15 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 aluminum foil and bake for another 2-3 minutes. The macarons should come off the baking paper easily.
9. Cool macarons.
10. Once cool, assemble macarons by joining two circles together with a filling.
Vegemite Caramel Macaron
For the macaron itself I used 1/2 tsp vanilla extract for flavour and I coloured these red.
Vegemite caramel filling:
125g thickened cream
175g castor sugar
2 tsp Vegemite
175g unsalted butter, chopped into small cubes
Place sugar into a medium saucepan. In another pan, bring cream to the boil, remove from heat. Cook sugar on high heat, stirring to ensure that it caramelises evenly. When the sugar reaches a dark brown consistency remove from the heat and slowly pour in the hot cream, mixing all the while. Add Vegemite and continue to mix. Let the caramel cool to around 45°C and then add the butter a few pieces at a time whilst mixing the caramel. Pour the caramel into a shallow container and allow to cool in the fridge.
Lemon Myrtle Macaron
Add 1/2 tsp lemon myrtle to dry ingredients and yellow colouring.
100 grams white chocolate
100 grams cream
1 tsp lemon myrtle
Place chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth. Whisk in the lemon myrtle. Cool – refrigerate until it thickens and can be used to sandwich the macaron shells together.
Wattle seed and Honey Macaron
1/2 teaspoon ground wattle seed to dry macaron mixture.
100 grams white chocolate, chopped
100 grams cream
1 tsp honey
1 tsp wattle seed
Place chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth. Whisk in the honey and wattle seed. Cool – refrigerate until it thickens and can be used to sandwich the macaron shells together.
To the dry macaron ingredients before processing add 1 tsp cocoa and 1 tsp dessicated coconut.
For the ganache: Bring 100 ml thickened cream to the boil. Add cream to 100g dark chocolate, mix slowly with a whisk. Cool. Sandwich between the macaron halves.