Thursday, 27 December 2007

Festive More-ish Macarons

Duncan of Syrup & Tang has been spreading the gospel on the sugary delights of macarons (light almond meringue biscuits sandwiched with sweet flavoured filling) to the ignorant and enlightened alike within the Melbourne blogosphere, and I had not been immune. In my previous post I touched on the challenge of gifting something small but different as celebratory bonbons in place of the usual cellophane wrapped handful of chocolate and lollies bought from the supermarket. Having recalled vague distant memories of macarons due to recent postings about these delights in the local food blogs, I too was struck with the idea that some homebaked ones would make ideal and unique cellophane fillers. Yeah right...how was I to know that the process would be so fraught with the need for fiddly details, requiring prerequisite degrees in both food chemistry and would you believe, meteorology! Luckily Duncan had most accommodatingly provided step-by-step protocols (erm...recipes) for those who wished to try their hand at making some.

I won't detail Duncan's recipe here as it's readily accessible in all its eloquent glory at his own site. Suffice to say that I followed his Italian meringue recipe pretty much to the letter, deciding on a base vanilla flavour provided from scrapings of a split vanilla bean. I confess that my first attempt at baking the macarons was total and humbling failure, resulting in sticky, soft, ugly pock-marked flat wafers that looked nothing like the gloriously smooth-domed wonders that they're meant to be! Well I put that setback down to my optimisation phase, convinced that I'd overmixed all the air out of the batter. My confidence recovered a day or two later for another attempt, this time deciding to divide the blended dry ingredients into exact halves by weight in order to add different flavourings and/or colourings to each. One half with just red liquid food colouring, and the other half-a-batch with some matcha green tea powder plus some extra green from food colouring (for the festive red and green gift-set). I also took extra care not to overmix the batter once the meringue was folded in! Imagine my excitement when after approximately 5 minutes in the oven my macarons started to rise off their 'feet' and to form perfectly smooth domes. Unfortunately, the second red half produced a drier batter and was not as successful although the resultant macarons still rose but their feet puffed out sideways and their domes were quite lumpy. Not quite as picturesque as their green counterparts. Overall though, I was more than pleased with the results from only two attempts. Think I'll now leave home-baked macarons alone for awhile however. By all accounts, continuing with such fallacious confidence and sense of tantalising achievement would be tempting fate!

Festive macarons in seasonal green and red livery

I sandwiched the macarons with a dark chocolate ganache flavoured with Cointreau and a faint hint of chilli, for that 'secret' buzz of something indiscernibly special (grated orange zest and dried chilli flakes were added to the cream for boiling then sieved before adding to blitzed chocolate and the liqueur added when cooled). The flavours in the matcha macarons in particular were heavenly. Feedback from those that received some of these macarons have yielded comments in the vein of, "These are the best cookies! What are they and where did you buy them?" Thank you Syrup & Tang!

9 comments:

Agnes said...

They look beautiful - well done!

Towser said...

Thank you Agnes. I definitely let out an audible sigh of relief when I witnessed the second attempt 'working' through the oven door! Just in time to give them away before the Christmas breakup. But the few I did try tasted great and definitely worth the trouble.

Duncan | Syrup&Tang said...

Well done Towser! They look great and the flavour combinations are definitely in the spirit of this creativity too.

Thanks, too, for your kind praise of the explanations I did on my site. I'm glad they've proved useful and accessible.

Towser said...

Thanks Duncan! Especially for your fascinating series that enticed and challenged me into giving them a go. And if they look great to your discerning eye, well what more can I say...suitably chuffed ;)

thanh7580 said...

Towser, your macaron experience mirrored mine exactly, except you were clever to call it quits while you were ahead.

My first attempt was total failure too. The second attempt worked so great and I was all ready to make a huge batch to give as gifts for Christmas as well. The third huge batch was a total disaster again and had me pulling my hair out at 1am at night. I did end up wrapping them in cellophane and giving away as gifts.

Friends didn't know what they were and said "these biscuits are really nice". One friend even said he liked how they were all bumpy. Hmmmm. I couldn't be bothered trying to explain to everyone that they were suppposed to be "macarons", the diva of all pastry. Instead I was happy that people appreciated the home made gift. I will just bask in the glory of my second attempt that produced perfect macarons and try them again in a while when I have recovered from my macaron headaches.

Towser said...

Hi Thanh, Yes I read about your macaron pre-Christmas saga and your dispirited 1 AM post had me in stitches, even as I shared your frustrations. It's a lot of work to get to that stage, only to see them fail to rise to 'Diva' status in the oven! But those that did were certainly a sight to behold, and taste all the more sweeter for it!

thanh7580 said...

Towser, aren't those macaron's such fussy divas. Your ones look fantastic by the way. I'm definitely going to try some green tea ones.

The perfect ones really did taste better due to both physical and pychological reasons. Physically, they had a nicer inside which was less chewy. Psychologically, the satisfaction of making them so great just made them taste so much better.

Vicki said...

hi there, you mentioned that you divided the dried ingredients.? So how did you divide the meringue? by eyeballing? Wouldn't it result in different consistencies? Thanks! your macarons look wonderful btw :)

Towser said...

Thanks for visiting vicky! Yes I had that dilemma when I wanted to divide the meringue mix into different batches. And you're right, I pretty much did it by eyeballing. Which should be okay despite the need for accurate measurements I think, although my second mix (red macarons) came out much dryer and lumpier. But this was probably due to the mix drying out a little while waiting for the first mixture to be prepared and piped etc. I would maybe cling-wrap the later batch till I am ready to get to it the next time.
Good luck and tell us all how you went.