As well as everyone bringing a donation for the privilege of wearing their best worst shirt to work on Friday today we had a morning tea today, where everyone put some money in the jar and in return got to nibble on various baked treats brought in by colleagues. I was thinking about what to make, but figured whatever it was it should be loud. Macarons, aside from being a minor current obsession of mine (oh, the chewy goodness!) are almost always coloured anyway, so the idea struck me of making some which were as offensive-looking as I could. I know, part of eating is with your eyes - and though they worked out exactly as I wanted I thought they looked disgusting and was a bit apologetic. My colleagues loved them, though - and actually a bunch of people commented that their kids would think they were brilliant. I'm still a bit unsure as to whether to call this a success - I like pretty, nice things too much!
There are a few things that are important in macaron-making, and one is being precise. You can probably afford to be out by a couple of grams but any more than that could have an unhappy ending, so you will need to weigh out the ingredients. I also strongly recommend that you pulse the almonds and icing sugar in a food processor, even if the almonds are already ground, as they will still be coarse and will affect the smoothness of the macarons. It's recommended to add the colour at this stage, too, but I split the batter in two to get two different, bright colours so I left mine till a bit later.
I had been planning to make these for Friday morning and hadn't yet aged my egg whites (you are supposed to separate the eggs and leave the whites on the bench, covered with cling film, for 1-5 days prior to making the macarons), and discovered a handy tip, suggesting I could simply put the whites in the microwave for 10 seconds to get the aging effect. While my macarons worked out, they weren't perfect and this was by no means a scientific trial! I think I'd prefer to have them sitting in a bowl on the bench for a couple of days - but a good shortcut if you need it. I would recommend watching closely, though; it wouldn't take much to have scrambled eggs!
I coloured half my batter with a deep pink colouring, and the other half blue. To create the weird, loud-shirt mottled effect I just put both into the same piping bag. In as much as was possible I did half and half - try to avoid mixing once it's in the bag as obviously this would combine the two and it would just be purple - and where it wasn't possible (i.e. at the narrow end) I just layered the colours.
I was very pleased with the effect - the two colours remained very distinct - and will likely use this again in the future, with more natural tones. I've heard this also works well for buttercream, if you want different shades in your cupcake swirls. Unfortunately, as I did this before work this morning in a bit of a hurry it would appear I omitted to take any photos of my muddled piping bag, but trust me when I say there wasn't any science to it! ;-)
Doesn't it look awful? Definitely fitted the "Loud Shirt Day" brief, though, I feel. Just... doesn't really look like food.
Once cooked there was some variation - I had made two batches, and had less pink colour to use the second time, but also baked two trays at a time and the top tray in both batches came out with paler colours - I'm sure all down to the temperature but it is curious to see so much difference when they were the same going in.
I used the same macaron recipe I have used previously, and my good old trusty buttercream, but this time used lime zest, lemon zest and a tiny bit of lime juice to flavour the buttercream.
You can use any flavour you like, but adding more than about 1 teaspoon of liquid will cause the buttercream to split - this happened to mine today (you can see if you look carefully at the photos below). It doesn't affect the flavour but it looks less pretty and is not so perfect texturally. I added lime juice because the zest turned out not to be enough, by my tastebuds; it would have been better to replace some of the water in the sugar syrup (the first step in the buttercream recipe) with lime juice, as this is incorporated fully into the buttercream and forms the structure. Moral of the story; if you want to add liquid flavours, add them to the syrup (and subtract the equivalent quantity of water). As you can see above I also added a generous swipe of green food colouring (I used gel colour, though you should be able to get away with a drop or two of liquid stuff if you need to) to get the lurid shade I needed to clash with the pink and blue.
And there we have it! Rows of revolting-looking (but utterly delicious) macarons. The lime buttercream was great - the lime was not overly prominent, but perfectly balanced the butter. Since discovering the few left in the fridge about an hour ago Mr Cake has had three - and that's about as good an endorsement as I can offer!
I normally try to steer clear of utterly fake looking colouring, and I realised when I heard some colleagues talking about how gross they looked that probably if I hadn't known what they were I wouldn't have eaten them myself. Would you be put off by the colour or would you be intrigued?
Ingredients90g egg whites (about 3 small eggs)
25g castor sugar
200g icing sugar
110g almonds (ground, slivered or blanched)
powdered food colour
Beat the egg whites to a foam (think bubble bath!), and gradually add the sugar until you have a glossy meringue. Put the remaining ingredients in a food processor and pulse until almonds are finely ground. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites, until ingredients are well combined and mixture falls back on itself in 10 seconds. Test the mixture by putting a little on a plate; if the top flattens it's ready, if not give the batter a couple more folds to remove a little more air.
Use a piping bag and plain, wide tip to pipe small mounds onto two baking sheets lined with baking paper. Leave for 30-60 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 130 C. Bake for 15-20 minutes - when done you should be able to easily lift a macaron off the tray in one piece. Makes about 24 macarons.
Buttercream Icing (makes enough for two batches of macarons)
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
Flavor of choice (add flavour to taste; I used zest of 3 limes, 1 lemon, and juice of 1 lime)
Combine sugar, water, vanilla and any other liquid flavour (subtracting an equivalent amount of water) in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Continue to cook, without stirring, until syrup reaches 125 degrees C.
While the syrup is heating, begin to whisk egg and yolk at high speed until pale and foamy. Once syrup is at the correct temperature, reduce speed to low and slowly pour syrup into bowl. Raise speed to medium-high and continue beating until thick and satiny and mixture is cool to touch.
Mash butter until soft and creamy. On medium speed, add the butter in two-tablespoon chunks. Once all butter has been added, raise speed to high and beat until thick and shiny. Add flavour and beat for an additional minute or so.
AssemblyTo assemble, pair the macarons with similar sized shells. Pipe a small mound of buttercream onto one half then gently press together. Refrigerate to firm the icing (and store refrigerated) but serve at room temperature. The macaron cookies (unfilled) can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week before filling, or can be frozen. The whole cookies can also be frozen.