Has anyone ever seen that strange phenomenon outside where there’s a breeze going from a steady direction, but at some spot on the pavement there’s a random tightly-knit swirling circle of leaves and dust; seeming to go at its own pace? There’s probably some sort of scientific or meteorological explanation for this, but I’d much rather be inside my apartment basking in the warmth of the oven while baking up a storm.
The oven is not yet a year old, as it was shortly replaced after we moved in due to the temperature skyrocketing about 50 degrees higher than I set it to every time I used it. My current kitchen is electric, and while I’ve found it heats up slower than the previous gas kitchens I’ve used, it provides a good consistent level of power and cooks surprisingly evenly. In comparison, the last apartment I was in had a very old-fashioned gas stove top and oven with gas marks (not temperatures), which blasted heat perfect for baking bread but not so much delicate items. It also had a solid metal door which I could not peer through to spy on how my baking was progressing.
It was while I was stumbling home last week after work and a couple of celebratory Friday drinks that I came up with the mind-blowing idea of trying to make macarons again, after about three years of being out of practise. Originally, I thought about utilising some of the more inventive additives I have at home, being freeze-dried passionfruit powder to dust the shells, and mango flavouring for the sandwiching ganache. When I started on the recipe however, I opened the pack of passionfruit powder to find that it had been ruined by moisture, and when tasting the mango flavouring, pulled a face of distaste at how intensely artificial it was. Luckily the flavour of a macaron comes more from the flavour of the ganache rather than the shell (which you can leave plain), so I made plain violet-coloured shells dusted in a tasteless yellow powder (from my cupcake decorating kit), and later went to the supermarket and bought a couple of passionfruit to make a beautiful passionfruit and vanilla white chocolate ganache. Both Night Owl and I are quite impressed that I managed to make these while slightly inebriated, although I had sobered up completely when it came to handling the sugar syrup!
To make about 20-25 macarons, you will need:
- 144g egg whites (divided into two parts: 94 grams and 50 grams);
- 135g almond meal;
- 135g pure icing sugar;
- 253g caster sugar;
- 62g water;
- 2g purple food colouring paste (pastes and gels are better rather than the runnier dyes available from general supermarkets just because they don’t dramatically affect the level of liquidity in the recipe).
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celcius.
Combine the almond meal, icing sugar and mix well. Pass this through a fine drum sieve to break up the clumps. Add the purple colouring paste and the 50g portion of egg whites into this almond-sugar mixture and mix until it becomes a consistently-coloured paste. Don’t worry about the intensity of the colour, as there is a large amount of Swiss meringue to add later which will dilute the colour significantly.
In a saucepan, bring the water and caster sugar to boil. Use a sugar thermometer to monitor the temperature of the syrup; 118 degrees Celcius is ideal (soft ball stage).
When the syrup reaches 114 degrees Celcius, separately begin to whisk the 94g portion of the egg whites to soft peakes in a large bowl.
When the syrup gets to 118 degrees, remove from heat and pour it at a steady slow trickle down the side of the bowl of egg whites, whisking continuously. Continue to whisk on high until the meringue cools and the bowl is warm to the touch (about 50 degrees Celcius).
Take a third of the meringue and mix hard into the purple almond-sugar mix (macronage) to incorporate and soften it. Add the remaining meringue in two lots and fold in gently, ensuring the colour is consistent. Scrape the bottom until it is fully incorporated, but take care not to over-mix.
Fill the batter into a piping bag fitted with a wide, plain nozzle (about 1cm diameter). I find it easier to fill a piping bag by opening it up into a large measuring cup or narrow vase, folding the edges of the bag over the sides of the container so as to form a stand.
Line baking trays with baking paper and smear a bit of the macaron mixture between the paper and the tray to hold it in place. Pipe rounds of batter (about 4cm in diameter) onto the trays, leaving 2cm between each round. If you don’t have a good eye for measurements, you can draw circles on the paper as a guide – just remember to draw on the underside of the paper so you don’t get pencil on your shells!
Holding onto the edge of the paper securely, firmly bang the edge of the tray on your countertop. This allows any air bubbles to expel and will even out any pointy tops you’ve made while piping. I like to do this on all sides of the tray for consistency, and it’s quite a hard *slap*. The macaron mixture is sticky and thick, so a lot more resistant than you give it credit for!
Dust with sifted yellow cake decorating dust if you have it.
Bake for eight minutes in the pre-heated oven. You can check the shells by gently touching them; if it still wobbles to the touch, bake for another minute.
Remove the trays from the oven and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, carefully remove the shells from the trays and the baking paper. Pair each shell with a like-sized shell, and get ready to make your ganache!
To make the Passionfruit-Vanilla Ganache, you will need:
- 90ml pure cream;
- 45ml passionfruit juice (to make the juice, blend the passionfruit pulp in a food processor, then strain through a fine sieve. 3-4 passionfruit made approximately 50ml juice);
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste;
- 180g white chocolate, finely chopped.
For the ganache, combine the cream, juice and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium-high heat. Place the chocolate in a bowl and pour over the hot cream mixture. Whisk until smooth and refrigerate for an hour or until thick (I prefer to stick it in the freezer because I have no patience). Spoon into a small sandwich bag, seal and snip off a small corner before piping onto half of the macaron shells. Sandwich them together by gently placing the top on and twisting so that the ganache comes to the edge of the shells.