Macarons


Wedding inspiration board

First off, this post may seem to deviate away from baking, but I promise there is a (round-about!) connection.

I am getting married at the end of the year.  I am pretty excited as you can imagine.  And those that know me well, know that it also means one thing.  A highly researched, organised, considered event.  Do not get me wrong; there is absolutely nothing elaborate planned.  It will be a simple affair of 30-35 people, sans formalities.  No bridal party.  No speeches.  No first dance.  And dare I say it…no cake.

When first engaged, the prospect of eloping seemed very appealing.  Simple, minimal fuss, low key.  Problem was, we would miss out on sharing the day with family and close friends.  And really, at the end of the day, what is more important?  I was then reminded of the reason I bake.  It is really part of my fabric.  I love baking to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, birthdays.  I love to bake to give homemade gifts.  I love to learn and discover what families around the world incorporate as baking traditions into their lives.  For me, it is the people in your life that make you who you are and provide the joyous memories.  Baking helps me create those memories.

So you may be thinking, “if baking is so important in your life, why not have a cake at your own wedding?”

Good question.  There are two reasons why.

1. Because we do not want the formality of cake cutting, and
2. I am including something better!

Macarons.

Everyone knows I am obsessed with these little petit fours so what a better way to personalise my wedding day?  The search is now on for colours, flavours, fillings, packaging, labeling to give these little macarons the regard they deserve.

I have created my own ‘inspiration board’ (above) for the wedding.  I selected emerald green with hints of aqua and lavender as the theme colours.  (Long story!)  So far I have considered my macaron options to be pistachio, lavender and vanilla, to tie in with my colour palette.  But there are so many other choices. 

Any ideas for flavours, colours and filling?  Anyone made macarons for wedding favors?  Any tips or hints?

I am glad it did finally come back to baking – and my favourite kind at that.

{ Images }
1st Row: Champagne bottle photo by Jonathan Canlas, Green tie from Martha Stewart Weddings, Lavender field, Atonement movie scene, Long table photography from the Brides Cafe
2nd Row: Flowers from Martha Stewart Weddings, Invitation from Snippet and Ink, Table Number from Novak Photography, Champagne Truffles from Teuscher
3rd Row: Hanging Flowers from Apartment Therapy, Jewellery from Martha Stewart Weddings, ‘The Dress!’ – Wedding Dress, Oscar de la Renta, Martha Stewart Weddings Fall 2008
4th Row: Macarons from Paulette via Brooklyn Bride, Favor Boxes from Snippet and Ink

dmblgit_blue-apr-2009A big thank you to Gine of i dolci fanno felici for hosting the April 2009 Edition of DMBLGiT (Does My Blog Look Good in This?) event.

Thank you also to the other judges this month – Marija from Palachinka, Ash from Butterflyfoodie, Celine from Have cake will travel and Y from Lemonpi.

My lavender macarons with lavender cream were awarded Overall 2nd Place.

There were many beautiful images in the running this month, and I am humbled to have won an award with so  many good-looking entries submitted.  Thank you!

(Make sure to check out all the other winners and entries.)

pistachio-macarons2

I attended a baby shower on the weekend for my lovely friend J.  I took along some mini pistachio macarons, which were selected specifically so I could colour the little mouth sized treats with the party theme colour – mint.

I was a little nervous about sharing my macarons on such a wide scale as some of my recent macaron attempts have ended up with a slightly thicker than desirable shell.  Y at Lemonpi and Duncan from Syrup and Tang both suggested slightly increasing the baking temperature and decreasing the resting time to counter this.  I wanted these macarons as perfect as possible so I decided to bake this batch of macarons in line with this advice.

Everything seemed to come together well.  The sugar syrup was not over heated, the nut / sugar mixture was blended carefully, and the overall batter was mixed well.  When I started to pipe the macarons out, however, I noticed they did not form well.  They held a slight peak.  I gave the batter a couple more turns and tried again.  Same thing.  Worried that I could over-mix the batter, I piped out all the little macarons anyway.  I wrapped the baking sheets a few times on the counter to help flattened them out.

Disappointingly, these macarons did not form as well as previous attempts.  Quite a number of them cracked, and were absent of their cute little ‘feet’.  After a couple of batches, I decided to lower the oven temperature closer to my previous attempts.  Interestingly, the last batch seemed to have the most successful number of perfect macarons.  Bizarre.

Despite the little hiccups they were probably the best tasting macarons I have made.  The shells were perfectly delicate and gave way to a slightly chewy centre.  The pistachio was a delicious flavour, too.   I guess the true test is the speed with which these little macarons disappeared at the party – they flew off the stand so quickly that some people did not even have a chance to sample one at all.  So not all bad, I suppose.

Next time though, I’ll crack it.  Fingers crossed!

{ Pistachio macarons }

* Ingredients *

100g egg whites
3g egg white powder
65g almond meal
60g ground pistachios
125g icing sugar
Extra ground pistachios for garnish
Food colour
For the syrup:
150g sugar and 50ml water

* Directions *

Process the almond meal, pistachio and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  At the final changes of whipping the meringue, add the colouring.  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond / pistachio mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with extra ground pistachios.  Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Bake at 180C for 10-12 minutes.  Fill with ganache or filling of your choice.  Refrigerate to set.

{ Vanilla buttercream } adapted from Epicurious

* Ingredients *

4 large egg whites at room temperature for 30 minutes
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup water
1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces and softened
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

* Directions *

Combine whites and salt in a very large bowl. Stir together water and 1 1/3 cups sugar in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan until sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil over moderate heat, without stirring, brushing any sugar crystals down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water.

When syrup reaches a boil, start beating egg whites with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until frothy, then gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat at medium speed until whites just hold soft peaks. (Do not beat again until sugar syrup is ready.)

Meanwhile, put thermometer into sugar syrup and continue boiling until syrup registers 117C or 242°F. Immediately remove from heat and, with mixer at high speed, slowly pour hot syrup in a thin stream down side of bowl into whites, beating constantly. Beat, scraping down side of bowl with a rubber spatula, until meringue is cool to the touch, about 10 minutes in a standing mixer or 15 with a handheld. (It is important that meringue is properly cooled before proceeding.)

With mixer at medium speed, gradually add butter 1 piece at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated. (Buttercream will look soupy after some butter is added if meringue is still warm. If so, briefly chill bottom of bowl in a large bowl filled with ice water for a few seconds before continuing to beat in remaining butter.) Continue beating until buttercream is smooth. (Mixture may look curdled before all of butter is added but will come back together by the time beating is finished.) Add vanilla bean paste and beat 1 minute more.

passionfruit-macarons21

Living in sub-tropical Queensland certainly comes with its advantages;  it is the perfect climate for a range of home-grown produce.  One of my colleagues at work is the proud owner of a yellow passionfruit plant.  I often only see the purple variety available in stores (I rarely come across the yellow…), so I was pretty happy when I was able to snaffle myself a handful of these tarty fruits.  I endeavoured to somehow combine this flavour into a macaron. 

Gifted macaron-maker, Duncan, of Syrup and Tang, recently posted his version of the famous PH passionfruit macaron.  This little gem comprises a macaron shell lightly flavoured with coffee essence, dusted with cocoa and sandwiched together with a passionfruit infused ganache.

I could not ever remember eating passionfruit and chocolate together, so I instantly knew this would be macaron flavour / version #6 for the month.

I was keen for a fairly strong passionfruit flavour, so skipped the infusing part of the ganache and simply added whole passionfruit pulp.  The result?  The flavour was still delicate (thanks to the yellow passionfruit variety), but it was unmistakably passionfruit in taste without being too overbearing. 

As a ganache is relatively quick to make, these macarons were produced almost in record time.  The same base recipe was used but again seems like the shells were thicker than preferred after letting the sugar syrup reach too high a temperature.  But despite that, they were still delicious!

Next weekend I am attending a baby shower and have been requested to bring some baked treats.  Macarons, of course.  There was no direction in terms of flavour, only colour.  Colour = mint.  Flavour = ?  Stay tuned…

{ Passionfruit macarons }

* Ingredients *

100g egg whites
3g egg white powder
125g almond meal
125g icing sugar
Dash coffee essence
Cocoa for dusting
For the syrup:
150g sugar and 50ml water

* Directions *

Process the almond meal and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  At the final changes of whipping the meringue, add the flavouring / colouring.  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Dust lightly with cocoa.  Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes.  Fill with ganache or filling of your choice.  Refrigerate to set.

{ Passionfruit ganache }

* Ingredients *

120g dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pulp of one passionfruit

* Directions *

Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Pour cream over the chocolate.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes and then stir.  Cool slightly and add the passionfruit pulp.  Transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.

lavender-macaron3

My first visit to Provence was nearly 15 years ago.  I was very young, but fortunately travelled enough to appreciate the beauty that shined brightly in this part of France.  Since that time, I have joked (somewhat seriously!) that I would love to retire to that part of the world. 

Retirement is a long way off, so if I ever need a sensory reminder of the beauty of Provence, I simply head to my local L’Occitane store.  I am instantly greeted with gorgeous imagery and aromas of the region … including lavender.  I love the smell and rustic look of this special flower.  My partner, A., has actually planted a few varieties in our garden for me to admire.  (Love him!)  So with my macaron month, I could not go past including a humble lavender inspired version.

I was tempted to incorporate lavender with orange after reading about a quite delicious sounding lavender, orange and almond cake on Melissa’s beautiful blog, The Traveller’s Lunchbox.  I also came across this flavour combination in macaron form by the talented Aran’s of Cannelle et Vanille

I was all prepared to embark on combining these flavours when I hit a bit of a snag.  I carefully added the right amount of red and blue food colour to the macaron batter to create the perfect lavender tint, I carefully piped the batter and then sprinkled with lavender flowers.  So far so good.  All was working like a charm.  But then I baked the macarons.  After 15 minutes in the oven, the colour paled significantly.

Plan B.

I ended up creating a lavender infused white chocolate cream as the filling so I could brighten the centre to enhance the flattened hue of the shell.  I guess I will just have to taste the lavender / orange flavour another day.

Overall, I was fairly happy with the macarons.  The only comment I would make would be the shells were probably thicker than desirable.  I believe I took the sugar syrup slightly too high in temperature – closer to 120C.  My previously attempts were at a lower temperature.

I will have to test that again, next time!

{ Lavender macarons }

* Ingredients *

100g egg whites
3g egg white powder
125g almond meal
125g icing sugar
Red and blue food colouring
For the syrup:
150g sugar and 50ml water

* Directions *

Process the almond meal and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  At the final changes of whipping the meringue, add the food colouring to make a lavender colour.  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with lavender flowers.  Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes.  Fill with ganache or filling of your choice.  Refrigerate to set.

{ Lavender cream }

* Ingredients *

120g white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp of lavender flowers (Herbie’s)
Red and blue food colouring

* Directions *

Heat cream and lavender flowers until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Let cool and rest for about an hour.  Strain the lavender flowers from the cream.  Reheat the cream gently and pour over the chocolate.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes and then stir.  Add food colouring to suit.  Let cool then transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.

rose-macarons

I was reflecting on the macarons I saw throughout Paris at Pierre Hermé, Ladurée, Gérard Mulot, as well as those I made at Savour Chocolate and Patisserie school.  I think part of the attraction of macarons for me is the bold, strong colour and favour combinations.  So for my next macaron challenge, I wanted to be more daring in my selections.

In searching my pantry I came across some rose water.  I instantly knew that rose macarons would be the next feature.  Combining the delicate rose flavour, along with some essential food colouring, would certainly produce quite an attractive shell.

For the filling, I initially considered a nice simple vanilla buttercream.  But after some thought, I considered complementing the rosy colour with a berry filling.  I took some inspiration from Fanny at Foodbeam and one of her macaron posts, and raspberry cream was born.
 
The macaron batter used was the same as the lemon macarons I made recently.  The only key difference was resting time.  I was able to let this batch sit for closer to an hour before baking.  The outcome for these blushing delights?  A slightly more prominent foot.   You cannot be disappointed with that?

rose-macarons-21{ Rose macarons }

* Ingredients *

100g egg whites
3g egg white powder
125g almond meal
125g icing sugar
Rose pink food colouring
2 teaspoons rose water
For the syrup:
150g sugar and 50ml water

* Directions *

Process the almond meal and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  At the final changes of whipping the meringue, add the food colouring and flavouring.  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes.  Fill with ganache or filling of your choice.  Refrigerate to set.

roses{ Raspberry cream }

* Ingredients *

120g white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbs good quality raspberry jam (St Dalfour)

* Directions *

Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Pour cream over the chocolate.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes and then stir.  Add the raspberry jam and continue until just mixed.  Let cool then transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.

lemon-macaron

I recently made a zesty lemon meringue cakefor my sister’s birthday.  I borrowed from the flavours of that delicious cake for my next macaron experiment.

I adapted the basic macaron recipe that I have been using with a few tarty enhancements.  I added lemon juice in the meringue for a hint of flavouring, and some yellow food colouring to imitate the sunny shade of a lemon.

I also made some more fundamental changes to the macaron batter.  I omitted the sugar suggested to accompany the almond mixture – I found the sweetness of the last batch of macarons could be reduced.  Also, I experimented and included some egg white powder.  I have not used egg white powder before, and think it has certainly helped stabilise the mixture to produce a much improved shell.

For the filling, I used the same lemon curd recipe from the cake.  It has a perfect balance of sweetness and tartness that I thought would complement a fairly sweet macaron shell well.

Overall, I think a bit of a success.  Fingers crossed this continues…

lemon-macaron-2{ Lemon macarons }

* Ingredients *

100g egg whites
3g egg white powder
125g almond meal
125g icing sugar
Yellow food colouring
2 tsp lemon juice
For the syrup:
150g sugar and 50ml water

* Directions *

Process the almond meal and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  In the final minutes of whipping the meringue, add the lemon juice and food colouring.  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes.  Fill with lemon curd and refrigerate to set.

lemon-curd{ Lemon Curd } adapted from Martha Stewart

* Ingredients *

4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

* Directions *

Prepare an ice water bath; set aside. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a medium heatproof bowl. Add the lemon juice, butter, and lemon zest. Place over a pan of simmering water and cook, whisking occasionally, until thick, about 15 minutes. Transfer bowl to ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Transfer to refrigerator until completely cold, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

logo160x180Today is Macaron Day (or Jour du Macaron) in France!

Created by Pierre Hermé and other members of the prestigious Association Relais Desserts, le Jour du Macaron raises money and awareness for the Federation des Maladies Orphelines children’s charity.

Today in Paris you can pick up four free macarons! at a Pierre Hermé boutique.  In exchange, the lucky recipients are encouraged to make a donation to the charity. 

Unfortunately, Brisbane is too far away from Paris to take advantage of this dream event, so I look forward to seeing posts and pictures from other bloggers who were fortunate enough to participate today!

In the meantime, I continue my macaron experiments in honour of celebrating my own macaron month!  So far I have attempted mint chocolate macarons and café au lait macarons.   This week, I think lemon and raspberry flavours may feature strongly.  Souhaitez-moi bonne chance … and happy macaron day!

cafe-au-lait-macaronsWhen I made the mint chocolate macarons, I split the mixture to create a second version.  I decided to lightly mix through some ground coffee to try and create a different flavour and finish.

Interestingly, the shells seemed less fragile than the mint version even though they were made from the same mixture.  I can only conclude it was due to the rest time – they were the second batch in the oven. 

To complement the coffee flecked shells, I made a mocha ganache for the filling.  I love chocolate and cannot remember never enjoying coffee, so a perfect combination for me!

I was much happier with the results … but still a long way to go.  I will persevere with the Italian meringue method.  Given many of the recipes and techniques I have found are similar, my instinct is to keep those elements constant and continue to practise while experimenting with flavours.

Hopefully I will be able to look back and observe improvements!

{ Coffee macaron }

* Ingredients *

120g egg whites
25g sugar
150g almond meal
150g icing sugar
1 teaspoon of ground coffee
For the syrup:
150g sugar and 50ml water

* Directions *

Process the almond meal and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.  Lightly fold through ground coffee.

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes.  Fill with ganache or filling of your choice.

{ Mocha Ganache }

* Ingredients *

120g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbs ground coffee

* Directions *

Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Pour cream over the chocolate and ground coffee.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes and then stir.  Let cool then transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.

mint-macaron21My first experimental batch of macarons for this month is with the Italian meringue (sucre cuit method).  I borrowed from Mercotte’s  recipe that is favoured by Tartelette, and strongly resembles the quantities and techniques used by Pierre Hermé.

Unfortunately … I was disappointed in the outcome. 

Probably not surprising my maiden effort with the Italian meringue method was disappointing.  In addition to being pretty heavy-handed in the kitchen (never good when making meringue!), I did also take a few short cuts.  1) I did not use eggs that had been separated ahead of time.  2) I did not dry out my almond meal.  And 3) I did not wait after piping to put the macarons in the oven. 

But that is all part of the experiment, I guess. 

The resulting shells were sort of smooth (though a far far cry from the little treats I savoured in France!).  They were also the most fragile I have made.  They certainly had the right texture though – a crisp outer shell and soft centre – and the taste was lovely, too. 

All in all, worth the effort.  But chalk this up to being a record of (hopefully) mastering the techniques over time.

{ Basic macaron }

* Ingredients *

120g egg whites
25g sugar
150g almond meal
150g icing sugar
For the syrup:
150g sugar and 50ml water

* Directions *

Process the almond meal and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes.  Fill with ganache or filling of your choice.

{ Mint Chocolate Ganache }

* Ingredients *

120g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves

* Directions *

Heat cream and mint until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Pour cream through strainer, over the chocolate.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes and then stir.  Let cool then transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.

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