Over this past weekend I was put in charge of making some cupcakes for a First Communion. As soon as this was decided there was no shortage of ideas in my magnificent mind. First, I knew there absolutely had to be super rich chocolate cupcakes somewhere in this project and second: there had to be macarons involved as well. Yep. Macarons and cupcakes. Together. A match made in heaven, seriously.
So, I took to my Zumbo book again - a little nervously - and made his macarons. The first time I tried Zumbo's macarons - or "Zumbarons" as he refers to them - was for Easter of this year. Let's just say that they weren't very pretty. I didn't use a stencil to make sure each macaron was perfectly round and were all the same size like I did this time (which I highly recommend you do if you're a macaron newbie like me. It really makes a difference) so they were as big as the palm of my hand and all weird shapes. The chocolate ganache that I made was runny and just flooded out of the macarons, not to mention I wanted to make the macarons a lovely lime green colour but what really happened was a putty green disaster. If there's one thing I hate most in the world it's putting something you're not very proud of up in front of your family to eat and you know your creation is yuck and you know they think so too but they're too nice to say what they really think which I think is something along the lines of, "what the heck is this, you failure?! BACK TO THE KITCHEN." So you can see why I was a bit nervous travelling down macaron territory again. I wasn't looking forward to getting gang bashed by desserts while they screamed in my face how inadequate I was. But it's okay. I've learned and it's in the past now.
This time round, they were glorious and I was so so happy with the small chubby macarons that I produced. The prettiness and yummyness boxes were all ticked.
Macarons - recipe from Zumbo by Adriano Zumbo300g of almond meal
300g of pure icing (confectioners' sugar)
110g of egg whites, room temperature (the amount of eggs you'll need will vary depending on their size)
75mL of water
Food colouring (make them pretty)
2g of powdered egg white (because I'm lazy, I didn't bother with this. It just seemed redundant and they turned out perfect without it)
110g egg whites, extra, at room temperature
Grease 3 large baking trays and line with non-stick baking paper. I drew small circles 2cm in diameter on the back of the baking paper as a guide. You don't want the circles to be much larger than that for small macarons because the batter will relax after you pipe it and spread a little.
Sift almond meal and icing sugar together into a large bowl. Put the egg whites into an electric mixer and set aside while you complete the next step.
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved (after about 7 minutes). While you're doing this make sure to wash down the sides of the saucepan with water on a pastry brush to avoid crystallisation. Increase the heat and bring to the boil. At this stage, add the food colouring. Cook until the mixture reaches 118˚C. When it gets close to this temperature add the powdered egg whites (if you're using them) to the egg whites in the mixing bowl and whisk on medium speed until frothy.
Once the sugar syrup is at the right temperature, increase the mixer speed to high and pour the syrup in a steady stream down the side of the bowl. Whisk until warm, about 8 minutes. Add the extra egg whites to the dry ingredients and then add the meringue. Using a spatula, fold the mixture together until well combined and until it begins to loosen, softening the meringue. When the mixture falls slowly off the spatula, you've got the right consistency to start piping.
Transfer the mixture to a piping bag and pipe straight down onto your prepared baking trays. Make sure you leave a substantial gap between your macarons. If you have the right texture, the macaron will soften again slightly and the tip on top of the macaron will drop leaving a smooth top.
Leave the macarons at room temperature for 30 minutes or until a skin forms. This skin will lift when they are cooking, giving the macarons their distinctive foot at their base. Preheat the oven to 135˚C. To test if the macarons are ready, gently touch one with your fingertip to check that a light skin has formed - the macarons should not be sticky.
Bake the macarons for 16 minutes, until they have a firm outer shell. Remove from the oven and set aside for 2 minutes, then carefully remove one macaron with a spatula to check that the base is also cooked and dry. If the base is still slightly sticky, return the macarons to the oven for 2-3 minutes and then check again. Cool the macarons completely on the trays.
Now that your shells are ready, you might like to match up likely pairs of macaron shells to sandwhich together before you make the ganache! For the filling, I just made a simple dark chocolate ganache.
Simple Dark Chocolate Ganache150g of pouring/whipping cream
200g good quality dark chocolate
60g unsalted butter, softened
Put the cream in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, set aside for 3 minutes. Stir until the ganache is glossy and smooth. Set aside and let cool for 5 minutes. Using a stick mixer, blitz in the butter until smooth. Set the mixture aside to cool until it becomes firm enough to pipe.
Pipe the ganache on the bottom of one macaron shell and sandwhich it with its pair.
If you would like to check out more of Adriano Zumbo's amazing creations (which, trust me, you do) then click here to go to his website. If you'd like to buy a copy of his book Zumbo where this macaron recipe is from plus many many more delightful recipes click here.