Summary

Give me cake or give me death cookies.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

An Adventure in Macarons

After stocking up on very illusive purple sweet potatoes recently, I had it in my head to make ube cheesecake and decorate it with ube macarons. The only problem was I have only made macarons once before, years ago, and I hadn't exactly succeeded. "Well, how hard can it be?" I thought to myself.

Actually,  pretty damn hard as it turns out.

Within the space of three days I churned out five batches of macarons in the quest for perfection. While I still need more practice with mixing consistency and my temperamental oven (as you'll find out mixing and the way your oven behaves are crucial elements), I came pretty close to a decent macaron, complete with shiny shell and frilly foot.



I still need to work on getting a totally smooth shell, though. I had a couple of good attempts- these bigger ones, and slightly smaller ones (the batch before I made the ones above) with a rougher surface, less of a foot and more food colouring.



I totally nailed the crisp exterior and chewy interior, though:


I used two different basic recipes, adding ube flavouring and food colouring: this one for the first three tries, and this one for the second. I had more luck getting the second one to work more consistently, probably because the ratio of egg whites and sugar to ground almonds is higher.

Here are the ingredients I used, along with a step-by-step tutorial (I've put the oven tempurature as 150 degrees C which is the recommended temperature, but to behonest my oven is a little on the hot side and could have done with being set at 140 degrees- you'll just have to experiment with your own oven):

-3 egg whites
-50g caster sugar
-120g ground almonds sifted well with:
-200g icing sugar
-1tsp ube flavouring
-a few drops of purple food colouring (go a few shades darker than you want the end result as ge macarons will go pale in the oven)

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C and line a couple of baking trays with nonstick baking paper (do not grease)

Step 2: Whisk the egg whites until very stiff, and thoroughly whisk in the caster sugar


Step 3: Whisk in the ube flavouring and colour


Step 4: Carefully fold in the sifted almond and sugar just until you get a smooth, spoonable consistency (some call this a "molten lava" consistency, but having seen a number of nature programs where lava behaves in different ways I didn't find this particularly helpful...)


Step 5: Pipe little round circles onto your baking trays, making sure to leave a couple of inches' gap between each


Step 6: Pick up each baking sheet and drop them flat on the kitchen counter a few times to tap out any large air bubbles that might cause cracks later

Step 7: Leave to air-dry for 20-30 mins (this both forms the shiny shell and gives the best frilly feet when the macarons rise in the oven)

Step 8: bake for 15-20 mins (unfortunately this will depend on what your oven is like- I baked mine for the suggested 20 and they browned on top a little- again, this might have been because my oven is a bit inaccurate when setting temperature)


Step 9: Leave to cool completely before removing from the baking paper and sandwiching with filling (I also painted on some detail with gold lustre dust mixed with a little vanilla extract)


 For educational purposes (or just your amusement), here are the different batches I made and how I arrived at the results. I'll also write up the recipe for the ube halaya I made to full them-a purple sweet potato jam enriched with coconut milk, condensed milk and butter (oh my goodness).

Batch 1 (undermixing, resulting in thick batter):


Batch 2 (overmixing, resulting in flat macarons):






Batch 3 (also overmixed, came out like B2)

Batch 4: (undermixed but less so than B1, even but rough surface):


Batch 5: (slightly undermixed, slightly rough surface, oven too hot resulting in browning):

See pics from the tutorial.

So now you can see how just a little under or overmixing and a slightly off oven temperature can throw things off quite a bit. Practise, practise, practise!

My ube halaya recipe for filling:

-125g mashed purple sweet potato
-200ml thick coconut milk
-1/2 can of sweetened condensed milk

Method:

Simply stir all the ingredients together in a saucepan, bring to a simmer and stir until thick. Done!


 I'll certainly try making macarons again for another venture next week, next time in a different flavour. Hopefully I'll retain the skills I gained from this week and continue to improve!

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