Thursday, 27 February 2014

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Macarons

The craze for macarons has been around for some time and for a long time, I was afraid to attempt making them because I have heard of how hard they are to make. I finally mustered some courage to try and after some failures, I came up with something decent for a bride-to-be who is a fan of Reese's peanut butter cups :).

I took the liberty of decorating these peanut butter and chocolate macarons with chocolate flavored royal icing sugar and some heart and flower shaped cupcake toppers. Don't they look sweet :)?

I have tried both Italian and French methods of making macarons. Having no stand mixer as a kitchen tool meant that my dinky handheld mixer was threatening to overheat with the thick Italian meringue. I was left with the French method, which supposedly has higher chances of failure. I went ahead to make macarons with the French method anyway because I didn't want my handheld mixer to die and I prefer to use less sugar (Italian macarons have very high sugar content!).

Making macarons has taught me patience. It is extra challenging to make them in Singapore because the weather here is perennially hot and humid. I have to use a longer drying time and a firmer ganache filling after taking into account the climate here. After a few attempts, I am better at watching the consistency of the batter -- to know when to stop or continue folding, and when the shells are dry enough to be sent into the oven. These two, I think, are the key things newbies have to look out for to ensure a successful attempt at making macarons. Don't be too discouraged if yours don't turn out pretty. They should still be nice to eat!

The French method also has the advantage of letting you work with small batches. So here's the recipe that I used (makes 20 macaron shells):

Macaron shells
44g almond powder
80g icing sugar
36g room temperature egg white (aged for 3 days*)
10g caster sugar
A pinch of cream of tartar
Orange and yellow gel food coloring, one drop each

 Milk chocolate ganache
40g milk chocolate chips
25g whipping cream

Peanut butter filling
40g white chocolate chips**
25g whipping cream
30g peanut butter

Cocoa powder
Royal icing sugar
Heart and flower shaped cupcake toppers

1. Bring the aged egg whites to room temperature.
2. Sift almond powder and icing sugar together. Set aside.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add granulated sugar and coloring until stiff peaks form. You should be able to turn the bowl upside down and the meringue should not fall out.
4. Incorporate the dry ingredients in 3-4 additions into the meringue and fold in until you get a smooth moving lava. To test, let some batter fall into the bowl to form a streak and the streak should disappear back into the batter after 30 seconds. The batter should also flow when you tilt the bowl.
5. Spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a round tip that is about 5mm in diameter. Pipe round shells of about 3cm in diameter onto a baking sheet. I drew a template on the reverse side of the baking sheet to help.
6. Leave the shells to dry until they don't stick to your finger when you gently use your finger to brush across the surface of the shells. Due to the humid weather here, I had to dry the macarons in an air conditioned room for 2 hours before the shells were really dry to touch. Do not be too quick to send them into the oven! I had a couple of failures because I was too impatient to wait for them to dry completely.
7. Bake at 140-150 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes, or until the shells are dry enough and come off the baking sheet easily. Cool completely before assembling with filling.
8. Prepare the milk chocolate ganache by boiling the whipping cream, while melting the chocolate chips in a double boiler at the same time. Pour the boiling cream into the melted chocolate and stir until combined. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before piping onto the shells.
9. Similarly, prepare the peanut butter filling by first melting the white chocolate chips in a double boiler while boiling the cream. Pour the boiling cream into the melted white chocolate and mix well. Add the peanut butter in and stir well. Refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the shells.
10. Assemble the macarons by spooning some milk chocolate ganache on one shell and peanut butter filling on another shell. Put the 2 shells together. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. Best eaten after 24-28 hours to let the flavors mature.
11. If you would like to decorate them like I did, prepare some royal icing sugar with cocoa powder mixed in. I used the just-add-water type of royal icing sugar so it was rather convenient for me. My apologies for not taking note of the quantities used as I was experimenting with this technique. I added water to the icing sugar and cocoa powder mixed until the desired piping consistency is reached. I use the icing as "glue" to stick the cupcake toppers onto the macaron shells, and added some floral features.

Much as it is challenging to make macarons (I know some of you experts will find it a breeze to make them :P), there is a certain amount of satisfaction when the bride-to-be said that the macarons were really well made and they tasted good!

With love,
Phay Shing

*You may just want to age it overnight in the refrigerator but I happened to use it after 3 days. Place the egg white in a clean bowl and cover it with a piece of paper kitchen towel.
** I was unable to get hold of peanut butter chips. Those would have been ideal so I just settled with white chocolate chips.

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