Monday, 17 July 2017

Cookies n Cream Macaron Ferris Wheel (complete with moving parts!)

This is a bake that's not requested by anyone but I had the idea since a year ago. I took my time to mull over it and finally worked out how to make it work. Presenting possibly the world's first ferris wheel made entirely out of macarons!

Pardon the poor quality of photo as I was in a hurry when I took this.

Checkout the ferris wheel in motion!

I kept the design simple as I wasn't sure it would work. Future ferris wheels could have cute animals or characters sitting in the cabins and other customizations for birthday boy/girl.

I took the chance to practice Swiss meringue method of making macarons too. You have seen both Italian and French methods on this blog but not Swiss method. Let me take the chance to share it with you here. I was a little ambitious and did a reduced sugar version which you need not follow if you prefer to keep the recipe simple. I also used some natural food colouring to reduce the use of artificial colouring.

My recipe is adapted from Broma bakery method which uses an extremely easy to remember ratio of all ingredients, which is egg whites : caster sugar : icing sugar : almond meal is 1:1:1:1 by weight.

This is my second attempt at Swiss method and I regretted attempting something that was suggested by some people sharing in a macaron group, not to whip the Swiss meringue to stiff peaks but firm peaks only. My shells took really long to dry and I was losing patience so some of them turned out with no feet (the pink cabins). My first attempt dried much faster but I was using a different recipe. Having said that, the shells have no hollows at all and the meringue is more stable than French method as it is partially cooked. The texture if the shells were delicate to bite too. Both French and Swiss method are great if you are making a smaller quantity of macarons and/or working with one, two or three colours. Italian method is still my favourite when working with multicoloured large batches.

Recipe for Swiss method macaron shells
Ingredients:
100g almond meal (preferably superfine)
90g icing sugar
2g cornflour*
8g rice flour*
100g egg whites
95g caster sugar (use 100g if following Broma bakery's recipe)
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (optional)
1/4 tsp white powder food colouring (optional)
1/4 tsp cherry blossom powder (optional)
1/4 tsp purple sweet potato powder (optional)
Tiny drop of pink and purple gel food colouring

* Replace with icing sugar if you wish.

Steps:
1. Sift almond, icing sugar, rice flour, corn flour and white powder together. Divide the powder mixture into ratio of 6:1:1 for white:pink:purple. Add sifted cherry blossom and purple sweet potato. Mix well and set aside.


2. Place egg whites, caster sugar, salt and cream of tartar in a metal bowl that can be placed over the mouth of a saucepan without the base of the bowl touching the water in the pan. Whisk the egg whites over simmering water in the saucepan until all the sugar has dissolved and temperature is 45-50℃. Remove from heat. Use an electric mixer to beat on medium speed until stiff peaks form. The meringue should be smooth and not lumpy but the peaks should be really stiff. Divide the meringue into ratio of 6:1:1 for white:pink:purple. Add gel colouring to the meringue and mix well gently with a spatula.

3. Scatter the dry ingredients over the meringue. Use a spatula to fold until batter flows off the spatula in an almost continuous manner and not in blobs. Please refer to this video tutorial for the consistency you should get.

4. Transfer the batter into piping bags fitted with Wilton #10 for white colour and #7 for pink and purple. Pipe on baking trays lined with baking paper and template under it. I apologise for not being able to share the templates at this point in time. Please refer to this for video tutorials on how to pipe complex shapes. You may refer to my Creative Baking: Macarons book for a more systematic description of the techniques too.

Piping the main frame of the ferris wheel. This is the most challenging part as it requires really steady hands and patience.

Piping the supporting structures

Piping small round stoppers

Piping the cabins and center circles of supports. I decided to use one unfilled macaron shell for cabins as I wasn't sure if the structure would support filled macarons which are a lot heavier. The pink and purple shells have mild flavour of their own so it's great to eat as a cookie on its own.

5. Bang the trays on the table to release trapped air bubbles. Use a toothpick to pop any stubborn bubbles. Dry the shells in aircon room or under a fan until dry to touch. Some suggest that no drying time is required but I prefer to do so. If the meringue is stiff enough, the drying time shouldn't take too long.

6. While waiting for shells to dry, you may preheat the oven to 160℃ and set the rack to lowest position. When shells are put into oven to bake, immediately turn the temperature down to 140℃. Bake for 10 min. Reduce temperature to 110℃ and bake until the feet no longer appear wet. Note that the small round stoppers are baked for only 10 minutes. Bigger pieces take anywhere from 25-30 minutes. Cool completely before carefully peeling the baking sheet away from the shells.

Freshly baked shells!

I decorated the shells with some royal icing.

As the structure has to be displayed at warm Singapore room temperature, the filling has to be firm enough at 27-28℃. I have come up with a recipe for non-refrigerated cookies n cream that's yummy. It can be used for macaron carousels and macaron pops too.

Recipe for non-refrigerated cookies n cream filling
Ingredients:
120g white chocolate, chopped (I used vanilla bean white chocolate)
25g vegetable shortening
30g Oreo cookie, without cream and finely chopped
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/8 tsp fine sea salt

Steps:
1. Place shortening and chocolate in microwave safe bowl. Melt at medium power for bursts of 10 seconds, stirring in between each heating cycle until mixture is smooth. Do not overheat.

2. Add salt and vanilla and mix well.

3. Fold in chopped cookies.

4. Transfer to piping bag and carefully pipe onto the main ferris wheel frame and supporting structures.


Assembly
I have given this baby much thought so I am unable to share too much details at this point in time. Perhaps after a few ferris wheels later. What I can reveal is, just like the macaron carousels, the weight bearing structures need to be given time for the royal icing (glue for all the parts) to fully set before doing the full assembly so some patience is needed.

As macarons are delicate in nature, some reinforcements are needed. I have done so with a few concealed reinforcement supports (easily available from baking supply stores).

Perhaps the tricky or “ingenious” part about this whole thing is how the hinges are created. I used materials that can be easily found in baking supply shops so it's not as difficult as you think :).

And just when you think "Woohoo! The ferris wheel works! It spins so beautifully!" You may wonder, "How am I going to transport the whole thing without the structure collapsing when we encounter a hump on the road??" I figured out a simple edible solution to lock the ferris wheel such that it doesn't rotate until you remove the locking mechanism.

My friend said this is such a timely creation as she was about to attend a friend's baby shower. I did the simplest customization I could since it was quite last minute, by writing the baby's name on the ferris wheel with edible marker.

All ready to go to the party!

The ferris wheel survived the trip to the party without anything collapsing. The kids had fun spinning the wheel (and it didn't collapse too!) and were shocked that this toy is actually edible!

You can't imagine how excited and happy I was to hear that as this whole thing was experimental! Thank God for providing the inspiration right down to the nitty gritty mechanics! I think this experiment also opens up an avenue for different macaron structures with moving parts that work. Hopefully I will rise up to the challenge for future requests. Are you game enough to let me make a customized ferris wheel for you ;) ?


With love and lots of inspiration from God,
Phay Shing

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