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Tag: Macarons

Snowflake Macarons for Sinterklaas

We have a long history in our family with Saint Nicholas of Bari. My Spanish grandmother and one of her sisters were very devout toward this saint and what he represented. Saint Nicholas was born Greek in what today is a part of modern, south Turkey. He was the only son of a wealthy Christian couple and had been doubting whether to follow his father’s footsteps in the family business or to follow his “calling” in the Church. His uncle was already Bishop of Myra; and when the plague claimed the lives of his mother and father, Nicholas went in search of his uncle.

Saint Nicholas is known for giving up all of his worldly possessions to the poor and for secretly giving gifts and coins to those in need. After his uncle’s death, the Church elected Saint Nicholas as the next Bishop of Myra. He was persecuted for his faith, exiled and imprisoned. But throughout his life, he helped numerous people with money and gifts, protected the innocent, and fought for justice.

Saint Nicholas died on December 6, 343 AD. Since the 5th Century, Saint Nicholas has been known as the “wonderworker” and he is revered on the anniversary of his death, as is the custom with all saints. In the 1100s, French nuns started giving gifts to needy children, on the saint’s feast day, December 6th, in representation of Saint Nicholas’ selfless generosity. Soon this became a tradition and spread throughout Europe, creating little by little the figure of Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, Papa Noel in Spain and France, and Father Christmas in other places…

In the Netherlands, “he” arrives on a steamboat from Spain with his moorish helper, Zwarte Piet. He hands out edible treats and gifts to the children, who are eagerly awaiting his arrival. I love the Dutch traditions surrounding Sinterklaas and the illusion it creates for children and adults alike.  So, in memory of my grandmother and to celebrate this great person, Saint Nicholas, who later became the symbol of generosity, protection and gift giving, we partake in the traditions every year, giving each other small tokens of appreciation, accompanied by a poem.. and in this year’s case, a few delightful macarons!

I have to warn you: these macarons are time-consuming to decorate. But they are delicious and a delight to make and present to family, friends and guests!

SNOWFLAKE MACARONS, WITH RASPBERRY MASCARPONE GANACHE

Ingredients, Shells (makes about 30)

  • 75g egg whites, aged overnight
  • 40g fine caster sugar
  • 90g ground almonds
  • 125g icing sugar
  • green food colouring
(Same recipe for natural macarons, only without the food colouring. Pierre Herme uses titanium oxide for his white macarons to make them truly white.)

Process

Prepare your baking sheets and cut parchment paper to fit. Set aside.

Measure out all of your ingredients. Sift the ground almonds and icing sugar together, making sure you discard any large pieces of ground almonds. If there are many, weigh them and add more ground almonds for the same amount. Sift these also.

In a clean bowl (no oil, water, or specks of any residue), beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the caster sugar and beat until glossy peaks form. You know they are ready if you can turn the bowl upside down and nothing falls out. However, do not overbeat or your macaron shells will be dry and crack. Add the food colouring.

With a spatula, fold in the almond mixture. Work the mixture (macaronnage) from bottom up, until you achieve a smooth texture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula. Do not over mix, though! If the mixture is too liquid, the macarons will come out flat and without pieds (feet) that make a macaron what they are. If the mixture is not blended enough, or dry, the shells will crack.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag. If you’re using disposable bags, cut the tip straight across. Pipe desired width circles onto the parchment sheets.

Let sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature. This stage is called crouter. You should be able to touch the macarons after about 20 minutes and they will not stick to your fingers. This step produces the pieds.

(For the green macarons, nothing needs to be added; for the natural macarons, I sprinkled silver and gold edible dust over the raw shells.)

Preheat oven to 160C (fan setting). Bake shells for 10-12 minutes. Test after about 5 minutes. If you’re using more than one baking sheet, rotate their positions in the oven, so all shells bake evenly. You will know they are ready, when they do not wiggle to the touch. But do not overbake, or they can crack and burn. Allow to cool completely before filling with the ganache and decorating with the icing.

RASPBERRY MASCARPONE GANACHE

Ingredients

  • 250g mascarpone cheese
  • 125g fresh raspberries, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons of raw honey or caster sugar (optional, if desired)
Mix all ingredients with a hand whisk and transfer to a piping bag. If the mixture is a bit soft, place in fridge to harden up, about 30 minutes.

PIPING ICING

Ingredients

  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1 egg white, slightly beaten
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • green food colouring

Process

Mix all of the ingredients with a fork or hand whisk until blended. Transfer half to a piping bag (this will be your white icing). To the other half, add some green food colouring and mix well. Transfer this remaining half to another piping bag (this will be your green icing). For my icing piping bags, I used the smallest round tip (for the green on white) that I have from Wilton, Number 2. However, I would suggest going even smaller, if you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Spice Macarons

As the US Thanksgiving approached, I wanted to create something unique to celebrate this festivity. Don’t get me wrong I love traditions and I love the typical dishes, which are served for this holiday. But I figured everyone is making the same thing, so let’s be a little bit different.

So, here are my Thanksgiving special Pumpkin Spice Macarons, made with roasted butternut squash and some edible flowers I’ve been dying to experiment with. And if you can get over the fact that there’s A LOT of sugar in these little cookies, I have incorporated some healthy spices, including turmeric, in the shells themselves!

 

PUMPKIN SPICE MACARONS

Ingredients, Shells (makes about 60 shells)

  • 150g egg whites, aged overnight
  • 100g fine caster sugar
  • 180g ground almonds
  • 270g icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • edible marigold leaves (garnish)

Process

Prepare your baking sheets and cut parchment paper to fit. Set aside.

Measure out all of your ingredients. Sift the ground almonds and icing sugar together, making sure you discard any large pieces of ground almonds. If there are many, weigh them and add more ground almonds for the same amount. Sift these also. Add the spices and turmeric. Do not mix.

In a clean bowl (no oil, water, or specks of any residue), beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the caster sugar and beat until glossy peaks form. You know they are ready if you can turn the bowl upside down and nothing falls out. However, do not overbeat or your macaron shells will be dry and crack. With a spatula, fold in the almond mixture. Work the mixture (macaronnage) from bottom up, until you achieve a smooth texture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula. Do not over mix, though! If the mixture is too liquid, the macarons will come out flat and without pieds (feet) that make a macaron what they are. If the mixture is not blended enough, or dry, the shells will crack.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag. If you’re using disposable bags, cut the tip straight across. Pipe desired width circles onto the parchment sheets. Sprinkle with edible marigold leaves, if desired.

Let sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature. This stage is called crouter. You should be able to touch the macarons after about 20 minutes and they will not stick to your fingers. This step produces the pieds.

Preheat oven to 160C (fan setting). Bake shells for 10-12 minutes. Test after about 5 minutes. If you’re using more than one baking sheet, rotate their positions in the oven, so all shells bake evenly. You will know they are ready, when they do not wiggle to the touch. But do not overbake, or they can crack and burn. Allow to cool completely before filling with the ganache.

PUMPKIN SPICE BUTTER-CREAM GANACHE

Ingredients

  • 100ml coconut meal
  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin meat (previously baked, or used canned)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Process

Mix all of the ingredients, except the butter in the blender. Transfer to a bowl. With the mixer, beat the butter into the pumpkin mixture, until creamy. Set aside or in fridge to harden if too soft.

Assembly

Peel the shells off of the parchment paper and place the shells upside down on a clean surface. Transfer the ganache mixture into a piping bag and pipe the ganache onto half of the shells. The other half of the shells are the “cover” of the cookie. Et voila!

I hope you enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Lilikoi Macarons with Coconut Flakes

After making the Lilikoi ganache a few days ago, I just needed to pair it with a macaron shell. But as I’ve been busy with the London 2012 Olympics, it was hard getting motivated to make a mess in the kitchen. However, I put my apron on yesterday and indulged in my obsession.
As I’m a chocolate lover, I thought this combination, along with a touch of coconut would be perfect. I have to admit, out of all the macarons I’ve made, these are probably my favourite so far! And as my husband and a friend of mine can attest, I’m a bit mad about macs! 😉
I followed the basic chocolate macaron recipe from Mad About Macarons, by Jill Colonna, and added my Lilikoi Ganache.
Chocolate-Lilikoi Macarons, with Coconut Flakes
Ingredients
  • 150g egg whites (aged overnight)
  • 100g caster sugar (super fine sugar)
  • 180g ground almonds (I use the Tesco brand)
  • 270g icing sugar
  • 15g raw cocoa powder
Process
  • For purposes of being organised and making things easier on myself, I measure everything out first and set it all aside. It’s essential to have a digital scale for making macarons.
  • Additionally, I prepare my baking sheets and cut my parchment paper and lay it all on a flat surface, at a level, which is comfortable for piping the mixture later. (I usually use three baking sheets with this recipe.)
  • Also, prepare your piping bags. Depending on their size, you may need one or two disposable bags for the macaron shells, and one for the ganache.
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  • Sift icing sugar, ground almonds and cocoa powder together through a sieve. Set aside.
  • Whisk the egg whites to until a foamy white.
  • Add caster sugar all at once. (Jill recommends gradually, but I find it makes no difference at all.)
  • Continuing whisking at high speed until you have glossy form peaks and no liquid. What I do is check continuously by slightly turning the bowl on its side. If the egg whites move, then the mixture is not ready. Once you can turn the bowl upside down and the egg whites do not move or fall out, the mixture is ready. However be sure not to over-whisk, or your macaron shells will be too dry and crack in the oven.
  • Fold the prepared egg whites into the ground almond mixture. At this point, if you’re adding a colour, do so. I didn’t use colouring in these, as the cocoa powder is already providing it.
  • Mix well to incorporate all the ingredients.
  • Work the mixture (macaronnage) with a plastic spatula until a smooth mixture is achieve. Do not over-mix this either. About 4-5 minutes is enough, or until you achieve a soft and brillant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.
  • If you over-mix, the macarons will be flat when you pipe and not provide the desired “pieds”, which make the macarons so special.
  • Transfer the mixture to the piping bags. I use disposable plastic bags and cut the bottom once the mixture is inside.
  • Pipe out onto the parchment paper on the baking sheets, making the rounds in your preferred size. For medium sized macarons, they should be about 3 cm in diameter.
  • Sprinkle coconut flakes over macaron rounds.
  • Leave for 30 minutes to set (crouter). You can check if they are ready, but touching slightly. If they feel hard to the touch, they are ready for the oven.
  • About 10 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 160C, fan setting.
  • Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until they do not move when touched. I check them frequently, about every 4 minutes and more often after that to ensure I do not burn the bottoms. You will also see the “pieds” start to develop about 2-3 minutes after they are in the oven.
  • If you need to move the baking sheets around in the oven for a more even baking, do so.
  • Once they are done, remove the parchment paper with macarons onto a cool surface, such as a marble countertop. Let cool about 10 minutes.
  • Remove the macaron shells from the parchment paper, by removing the paper from the macaron, instead of the other way around. This ensures that you do not leave any macaron stuck to the paper.
  • Turn the shells upside down and pipe the ganache onto them. Remember the shells are sandwiched cookies, so you want to pipe the ganache only onto half of them.
  • Place in fridge for 24 hours before serving or freeze for later use.
  • If you’re like me, you’ll eat a few before packing them away! 😉
There’s only one thing that really bothers me about macaron making and that’s the amount of refined sugar used in them. While the almonds make this cookie gluten-free, the sugar of course is something that keeps me from eating all of them at once. I have to figure out a way to make them refined-sugar free… that’s my next challenge! Wish me luck!

French Macaron Obsession

Some people would say I am a bit obsessed. I say I have a healthy determination to achieve the challenge I’ve set upon myself. I had seen macarons in pastry shops and had had them served as part of dessert in France numerous times. But I didn’t think much of it. Yes, they are pretty to look at (almost too pretty to eat), and generally delightful to the palate. But so are so many other desserts or pastries…
Since a friend recommended David Lebovitz’s blog, I’ve enjoyed reading his intelligent, amusing and interesting things he has to share. And one of his posts especially caught my eye, Ketchup Macarons, by Pierre Herme. Now, that promised to be different! I like different; and I like challenges and creating things. So, this got me thinking that I could make macarons with exotic flavours.The problem is: I had never made a macaron in my life.

Step One: research
Step Two: buy recipe books
Step Three: master the macaron shell making
Step Four: indulge in my determinationIndulging in my determination has filled my freezer with multiple containers of macaron sandwiches and shells. My husband keeps asking me who is going to eat all of them. I simply retort that we’ll have to have a party! However, in the meantime, I do make frequent visits to the freezer for a taste or two and have taken some pretty pictures of them…but I’m stepping ahead of myself.

Step One was relatively time consuming and nauseating. There are SO many people out there with the same determination. It seems like there is a global social phenomenon called macaron obsession, which is daunting. So, I stopped doing online research and bought myself two books: one, Pierre Herme’s Macarons, and two, Mad About Macarons by Jill Colonna. My friend Julie, who seems to share the same madness as I, recommended Jill’s book. And I’ve found that it’s very easy to use; and as a bonus, Jill’s recipes are lower in sugar content than most. (It would be interesting to create a sugar-free macaron! In the meantime, at least it’s a gluten-free pastry, for those of you with gluten issues.)

In addition to the books, Julie and I took a class at L’Atelier des Chefs, which demystified the shell making process for me. I found it rather easy and straight-forward. We followed the class by a joint macaron making session, which resulted in a perfect batch. But it wasn’t until two batches later on my own, that I finally felt like I had mastered the shell making.

My first batch with perfect pieds!

Two very important ingredients have nothing to do with recipes, and more with one’s personality: preparation and Patience! I capitalise patience because making macarons is about exercising a lot of it. Cooking in general, and baking, specifically, is a chemical process, which oftentimes involves waiting. Not a good word for an impatient person as myself.

But, I can now boast that I don’t need therapy for developing patience. Macaron making has done the trick. 😉

As I like being creative and cannot stick to following a recipe to the tee, I’ve come up with some of my own adaptations. One I would like to share here is Beetroot-Sambal Macarons.

Beetroot-Sambal Macarons

Beetroot-Sambal Macarons
(adapted from Jill Colonna’s Macarons Beeterave et Raifort)
Ingredients for Shells

  • 150 g of organic egg whites, aged at room temperature for a few hours
  • 100 g of fine caster sugar
  • 180 g of ground almonds
  • 270 g of icing sugar (finer than powdered sugar)
  • Light green food colouring
Ingredients for Ganache
  • 100 g of organic butter, softened
  • 10 g of cornflour, like Maizena brand
  • 50 ml of beetroot juice
  • 50 g of beetroot, finely grated or chopped
  • 4 tbsp of sambal sauce, extra hot

Process
Shells: I find it’s easier to anticipate and prepare everything in advance, than have to do it once the mixture is ready. So, I prepare my cookie sheets and parchment paper before starting. For the amount produced from this batch, I can generally make three and a half cookie sheets of shells. So, I cut just enough parchment paper to cover the cookie sheets. Do not used waxed paper. The results will not be the same. Also, the cookie sheets work better if they have breathing holes, instead of regular solid sheets. The holes prevent the shells’ bottom from burning or changing colour.

Following Jill’s basic macaron recipe:

  • Measure out all of the ingredients first. Although it really pays to be precise as much as possible, I have found that a gram or two will not make a huge difference
  • Using a medium to fine sieve (I purchased a round, flat one at L’Atelier des Chefs, which is wonderful), sift the ground almonds and icing sugar. If you have large chunks left in the bottom, weigh them and discard them. Replace them with more ground almonds to ensure you have the specified 180 g.
  • Whisk the egg whites with an electric beater. When the egg whites start to turn airy, add the caster sugar. (Jill recommends adding it gradually; I find it doesn’t make a difference.) Continuing whisking until glossy firm peaks form and until you can turn the bowl upside-down and the whites do not fall out. Be careful as to not over-whisk. If you do, your shells will turn out too dry and crack in the baking process. Whisk just until the whites no longer fall out of the bowl. I keep checking when I’m getting close to this point.
  • Incorporate the beaten egg whites into the dry ingredients. Mix well with a rubber spatula.
  • Add food colouring at this point. At L’Atelier, they used powdered food colouring, which I’ve found works best and provides the desired colourful results we are looking for. You can also add the colouring when you add the egg whites to the dry ingredients.
  • Work the mixture (macaronnage) until the colour is uniform and the batter forms a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula. Do not overwork. If the mixture is too liquid, your shells will be flat and not form pieds. If the mixture is not worked enough, your shells will be dry and crack. Generally, after a few tries, your eyes will be trained to determine this point.
  • Transfer the mixture to a piping bag. I use disposable bags. I turn down the top of the bag to cover my hands before putting the mixture into the bag with the spatula. I tie the end with a rubber band, and cut the tip off with the scissors. I generally do not use a nozzle, but if you wish to use one, it should be plain and inserted into the bag prior to the mixture.
  • Pipe out the desired size of rounds (about 3cm diameter for medium macaron shells) onto the parchment papers. Press the tip of the piping bag down on the paper then finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round. Do leave some space between each round, as they do spread out a bit. I usually can achieve 7 shells across and 5 to 6 shells down the parchment sheets. But that will depend on the size of your cookie sheets, as well as how large you make the rounds.
  • Leave for about 30 minutes to set (crouter-the u has a cute hat on it!). The crouter step helps the mixture harden on the outside and moist on the inside. You will know when they are ready, because they will be hard to the touch (don’t poke your finger in it, just delicately touch them). This process helps form the pieds later in the oven. Without the pieds a macaron is not a macaron!
  • Before leaving to set, if you wish to decorate the shells, you can add seeds, edible gold, sprinkles, coconut, etc to the shells. The decoration will adhere to the mixture and bake into the shell later in the oven. For the decoration I used on the Beetroot-Sambal shells, I actually painted them, after they came out of the oven, with a brush dipped in food colouring.
  • While setting, preheat the oven to 160C fan setting. If you do not have a fan setting, you may need to make the temperature slightly higher.
  • Bake in the center of the oven for about 10-12 minutes. I usually check about half time, to see how they are progressing. You should be able to touch them, and they should not wiggle, when they are ready.
  • I place two trays in the oven. If I see one is baking quicker than the other, I switch them around and also turn them around, so that the front is facing the back and vice versa to ensure a uniform bake and colour in the shells.
  • When ready, remove the trays from the oven, and remove the parchment paper onto a marble or cool surface. I then proceed to continue baking the rest of the shells.
  • Once the shells are cool, remove from the parchment paper, by lifting the paper off the shells, not the reverse. This process prevents the shells from breaking or leaving pieces of dough behind.
  • Pair up the shells on a surface, at a height which will be easy for you to pipe the ganache/filling onto them. The shells should be turned inside up, with the pieds facing you and the filling.
  • Prepare another piping bag with your filling, just as you prepared the bag with the macaron shell mixture. Pipe the filling, just as you did the mixture onto each upturned shell. Remember, the macarons are sandwiches. So, only one shell gets the filling, while the other will be the cover to the cookie.
Ganache
  • Cream butter and set aside.
  • Heat the beet juice, add to the cornflour, and transfer back to heat. Using a whisk, move constantly until thickened.
  • Add the sambal, according to your taste. I used 3-4 tbsp for this recipe. I wanted the macarons to be spicy enough for a kick and a good contrast to the sugar of the shells. Whisk until well mixed.
  • Once the mixture is cool, beat in the creamed butter and grated beetroot.
  • The ganache should be a thick mixture, thick enough to hold its shape and not slide out of the shells, but still soft enough to pipe easily. If the mixture is not thick enough, try cooling further in the fridge or by placing the mixture bowl inside another bowl with cold, ice water, and continue mixing with whisk until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Pipe ganache onto shells and make sandwiches.
I place my macarons in the freezer and thaw a few minutes before serving. I find I get better results than leaving them out or eating immediately. You can also chill in the fridge for 24 hours before serving.
A Gouter!
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