Okay, so this has been a bit late in coming… so who doesn’t enjoy a public holiday, whatever the reason? It is such a luxurious feeling to sleep-in on a ‘school day’ and not have to go into the office. The 26th of January is Australia Day (as I said this is a very late post) – which commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788 and is a public holiday in every state and territory in Australia. Though in recent years Australia Day events have garnered some negative attention, ultimately it is a day that we ought to be celebrating all that it means to be Australian (which includes multiculturalism). That said, I do have a rather frivolous side to my personality, and that part of me thinks of lamingtons, pavlova and Vegemite…
You can probably guess where this is going. What a great opportunity to try making Vegemite macarons again. This time though I went back to the original macaron. Now, I am going to take this opportunity to rant about the disappointment I have had of late with macarons. My local places (who must buy the macarons from elsewhere) are serving up dry and hard macarons – definitely not what a macaron should be! It has made me realise that the texture of a macaron is crucial – and appearance is just the icing on the cake.
I have been very spoilt previously with the opportunity to indulge in the ultimate in macarons – the ones from Laduree reputed to be the inventor, at the beginning of the 20th century, of the sandwiched macarons – according to Wikipedia Laduree currently produces 15,000 macarons each day! I have in my cookbook library Laduree’s “Sucre” and “Sale” – absolutely beautiful books (check out the website for more information).
This recipe worked better (or would have if I didn’t over mix the batter) than my last batch – I definitely feel that this is the recipe to use for future attempts. The macarons were shiny, and the ones baked on heavy/ commercial trays formed the requisite ‘pied’ or feet. The main problem with this batch was that since I wanted the macarons to be black (like Vegemite) I underestimated the amount of colouring I would need and so had to mix in two lots, thus over mixing – which may have resulted in the cracked surfaces. None-the-less, even with cracked surfaces, these tasted great! I will add though that many people were put off by the colour… I thought they looked great (but then again I love red velvet cake)!
Laduree’s Basic Macaron (from “Sucre: the recipes”)
275g ground almonds
250g confectioners’ (icing) sugar
195g egg whites (keep 15g separate), aged (i.e. allow to sit out at room temperature for 1-2 days)
210g castor sugar
food colouring (in this case 1.5 jars Wilton black food gel)
1. Combine the almonds and icing sugar in a food processor and pulse to obtain a fine powder. Sift to remove any lumps.
2. In a clean, dry bowl, whisk 180g egg whites to a foam. Once they are frothy, add a third of the castor sugar and whip until sugar is dissolved; add another third of the castor sugar, whip for another minute; finally add the remaining granulated sugar and whip for one more minute. Using a clean rubber spatula, delicately fold the almond meal mixture into the whipped egg whites. Add the food colouring. In a small separate bowl, beat the remaining egg (15g) until just frothy. Then add to the final mixture, folding gently to slightly loosen the batter.
3. Transfer the mixture to the piping bag fitted with a plain tip. On a lined heavy baking tray, pipe small macron rounds (3-4 cm in diameter). Lightly tap the tray so the macrons spread fully. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Allow the macarons to sit uncovered for 10 minutes and then place in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes until they form a slight crust.
4. Remove tray from oven, and with a small glass, carefully pour a tiny amount of water in between the tray and baking paper so that the moisture and steam will allow the macarons to peel more easily (to be honest this didn’t really work for me – my paper just seemed to get wet!). Do not poor too much water as this could cause the macarons to become soggy. Allow to cool completely.
I wanted a thicker caramel this time so for the basic salted caramel recipe I borrowed form Not Quite Nigella who borrowed the recipe from Baroque Bistro – of course there was a change… the substitution of salt with Vegemite.
250g double cream
350g castor sugar
3 tsp Vegemite
350g butter, chopped into small cubes
Bring cream to the boil in a small saucepan, remove from heat as soon as it starts to boil. In a medium saucepan, cook sugar on high, stirring occasionally to ensure even caramelisation. When the sugar reaches a dark brown consistency, remove from heat and slowly pour in the hot cream, stirring continuously. Be warned this will splutter. Let the caramel cool (according to NQN to about 45°C – I just let it cool slightly). Melt one cube of butter and mix with the Vegemite to dilute. Then add the butter a few pieces at a time to the caramel, continuously stirring. Add the Vegemite mix to the caramel. Mix well. Pour the caramel into a shallow container and cool in the fridge (I let this sit overnight). Before use, beat the caramel mixture until light, shiny and smooth.
Sandwich the macarons together with the caramel. Store in a cool dry place (airtight container in the fridge) for at least 12 hours and ideally 2 days before serving. According to the Laduree chef, this is the time it takes to achieve a perfect balance between texture and flavour.