Friday, 11 January 2013

Blueberry Cream Cheese Macarons

Macarons are a work of art in baking. Petit, delicate and simply sweet. Such a popular sweet that many people go crazy for, all thanks to a certain tv show. Even the two little twirps sisters at home can have FIVE  or more at one go. I do not have that crazy ability unfortunately...level down as a cake monster here, or should I say, sweets monster. As you can tell, the batch never lasts long in my household. There aren't many ingredients required to make this but mixing the macaronage to the right texture is such a fickle thing to do. Macarons have always been the bane of my existence due to many of my past failures. It really hurts each time a batch of macarons fail because of the costly almond meal and the amount of egg whites gone to waste. Previously, I never understood why macarons are so expensive but now I understand and appreciate the level of difficulty of getting everything just right to obtain the final product. It got to the point where I almost lost faith in myself with the potential to be able to produce pretty little macarons.

I've tried both the french and italian methods only to see them: flat as pancakes, cracked on top, do not 'feet'. There are numerous recipes and tips over the world wide web that you can read on, even video tutorials are available. I wished I did all of them earlier on to compensate for my numerous  mistakes. It all seems easy but then when it comes to baking it , it's a whole different story. But once you get it, you'll be jumping happily around like me and it'll appear to be more effortless, the more you bake them. A very good start to the new year for mastering picture-perfect macarons, 'Go me!'. I personally prefer the french method as I don't own a stand mixer and therefore I don't need to cope with having another person around helping to pour the sugar syrup in whilst beating the egg whites. French method is less complicated as well, which I like.
I've decided to bake a batch for Auntie L, who had selflessly helped me out a lot during the past 6 months. These little babies were happily boxed and wrapped up for her. Too bad, she didn't get them first hand when they were delivered to her house. Hope she's satisfied with what I put together for her.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Macarons

(recipe and tips adapted from Brave Tart)

115g almond meal
230g icing sugar
144g egg whites, room temperature (You can zap fresh egg whites from the fridge in the microwave on defrost for 10 seconds)
72g caster sugar
½ tsp kosher salt (I didn't add this in)

1. Sift the almond meal and icing sugar together in a medium bowl and set them aside.

2. Using an electric mixer in a medium bowl, beat the egg whites together with the caster sugar and salt at medium speed for 3 minutes (4 on a Kitchenaid). They won't seem especially foamy at this point.

3. Increase the speed to medium-high (7 on a Kitchenaid) and whip for another 3 minutes, then increase to highest speed (8 on a Kitchenaid) and beat for another 3 minutes.

4. Turn off the mixer. Add in any colouring/flavour/extracts and whip for another 1 minute at highest speed. At the end of this minute, you should have a very stiff, dry meringue. When you remove the whisk attachment, there will be a clump of meringue in the centre, just knock the whisk against the bowl to free it. If the meringue has not become stiff enough to clump inside the whisk, continue beating for another minute, or until it does so.

5. Dump in the sifted dry ingredients all at once and fold them with a rubber spatula. Use both a folding motion (to incorporate dry ingredients) and a rubbing/smearing motion to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl. Take care not to overmix, the mixture should flow like lava and a streak of mixture spread over the surface of the rest of the mixture should disappear after 30 seconds to a minute. Approximately around 30 strokes/folds of the batter will be just enough.

6. Place in a piping bag and pipe rounds of about 3cm diameter on lined baking sheets or silicon baking mats. Hold onto the baking sheet and tap them hard against your bench top to remove any extra bubbles from your piped shells. Preheat the oven to 150° C/130°C fan-forced. Leave shells on bench to dry for about 30 minutes to an hour, or until a shell forms around the piped macaron (I generally leave them for 20 minutes).

7. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until you can clearly peel the parchment paper away from a macaron. Cool thoroughly on the pans before peeling the cooled macarons from the parchment. Use a spatula or plastic scrape if necessary.

8. Pipe the cream cheese filling (recipe below) on a macaron shell, then sandwich it with another macaron shell. Refrigerate overnight. Can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for several days.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Filling
(recipe adapted from ai love baking)

113g cream cheese, softened
25g icing sugar
25g blueberry jam or puree
50g unsalted butter, softened

1. Beat the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar until smooth.

2. Add blueberry jam or puree and mix until incorporated.  Chill to set.