Mactweets : Mac-ing love out of (almost) nothing at all*

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

*apologies to Air Supply. Have I given you an earworm? =)

Well, luuurrvve is in the air, and the wonderful Jamie and Deeba have put the call out to Mac-a-Valentine for Mactweets.

Coffee coconut macaron, eaten with lemon curd ice-cream. Mr. Kitchen Hand likes to get a coffee/lemon gelato combo which sounds odd but works! 

Actually, we don’t do Valentine’s Day over here at the Skewer House. Well, very early on in the relationship,  Mr. Kitchen Hand declared a Sharontine’s day the week after V-day, because I’d chucked a big sulk at missing out on flowers. Then I got over it, and now refuse to play the game and pay the prices they keep asking for roses and reservations. (I’d rather buy pashmak and vanilla beans with that money instead).

But hey, the hopeless romantic hiding inside me could not pass up the opportunity to make heart shaped sweets. Macarons flavoured with coffee and coconut for the bean loving Mr. Kitchen Hand. I tried the Italian meringue method again, and this time I think I’ve pretty much nailed it.

Smooth tops? Check!
Dried bottoms? Check!
Feet? Checkity, check, check. (yes, they do look a bit alligator teeth but hey, they’re still feet)

And all thanks to a simple suggestion by Heavenly Housewife – to cover the macarons during cooking to prevent the tops browning too much. One of those “why didn’t I think of it *slap forehead*” type suggestions. So thank you HH, this batch is dedicated to you.

Coffee coconut macarons with dark chocolate coffee ganache.

(adapted from a recipe by Adriano Zumbo for Candy Cane macarons)

Macaron shells
80g almond meal
40g dessicated coconut
110g icing sugar
160g caster sugar
110g egg whites (roughly 3 eggwhites, best to measure) – divide into equal half portions (I aged mine for three days in the fridge. Not really on purpose though, it just took me that long to get around to making the macarons)
40ml freshly brewed espresso coffee

Sieve almond meal, coconut and icing sugar into a large bowl. (I wasn’t really planning to add coconut but after starting the  process, realised I didn’t have enough almond meal so grabbed the first thing that I thought might work).

Add the coffee to the caster sugar in a heavy based saucepan. Stir over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves, then let it boil and cook until it reaches about 120-125˚C (It’s hard to tell accurately on my thermometer). The coffee did smell scarily as if it was burning but the end result tasted fine so I think the amount of sugar involved helped overcome any overly bitter flavour.

Now comes the tricky part if like me, you only have a set of hand beaters. While the sugar syrup is boiling, whip a half portion of the eggwhites in a separate bowl until soft peaks form. (Because I was curious, I actually used eggwhites straight from the fridge, they worked fine). When the sugar has reached desired temperature, carefully pour it in a thin stream into the eggwhites while continuing to beat. Try to aim for the sides of the bowl otherwise it will just hit the beaters and get flung around a bit. I risked stopping a couple of times to pour the syrup in properly and to scoop the last of the syrup out with a spatula. I’d then quickly start beating again – and kept beating until the bowl was just warm to touch. Overall, it worked quite well apart from a few blobs of hardened sugar around the edges of the bowl.

Next, add the other liquid half portion of eggwhites to the almond meal mixture, then add in the beaten meringue. Fold with a sturdy spatula until a blob of the mixture will slowly settle onto itself (you’ll probably see lots of posts talking about a lava-like flow. Having never seen lava first hand, I find this a hard stage to judge. I would describe the flow as akin to thick paint, the kind that gets squeezed out of a tube).

Spoon into a piping bag, then pipe onto trays lined with parchment paper. I only have two trays, so I pipe the rest onto parchment paper and when ready, I carefully slide the sheets onto the next available tray.

Let the piped macarons sit while you preheat the oven. According to my oven thermometer, the temperature is 150˚C. Arrange one oven rack in the bottom third of the oven, then another rack slightly above that. Place macaron tray on the lower oven rack, bake for about 6 minutes or so until feet appear, then place a sheet of parchment/baking paper on the tray above it and bake until the shells are dry. It took mine about 20 minutes altogether. Carefully try to peel one off, it it comes off cleanly, it’s done, otherwise place it back in the oven. When done, let the macaron shells cool on the tray for about 5 minutes, the remove and cool on baking racks. The easiest way to remove from baking paper is to hold the paper almost vertical to each macaron and sort of “peel” the paper off.

 Look! Look! No cheating - bottoms are on and dry :)

Dark chocolate coffee ganache

For the filling, I made a simple ganache using 1/2 cup cream, 150g finely chopped dark chocolate and 1 tsp finely ground coffee beans. Heat the cream and coffe beans until it reaches scalding point ( I did this in the microwave), then pour over chocolate. Let it sit for half a minute or so, then stir well (I used a spatula) until glossy and ganachy.

I've encountered some issues during my mac attempts, and here's what I've found helpful:

1)    Shiny shells, quick to burn – my hands get very hot when piping, so instead of placing the whole lot of macaron mixture into a piping bag, I do it in three batches so the sugars don’t “melt” too much from contact with my mitts.

2)    Sticky bottoms, brown tops -  I found that lowering the temperature and upping the cooking time helped. And as I discovered with this batch, covering them with baking paper really works. Also, I am currently baking with only the top element of my oven working, so I rely on my oven thermometer to tell me when the oven is hot enough. Positioning the oven rack towards the bottom of the oven also helped me.

I think weighing everything on a set of digital scales is also crucial.

If all else fail, relax, have fun, it’s only egg whites  – I think I may have broken a fair few macaron rules – using defrosted whites, not waiting for whites to warm up etc, but I whipped ‘em good ☺

Here’s to our next passionate mac encounter ☺


Jamie said...

Oh my they are fabulous! And so pretty! Why can't I make heart shapes like you? They are so perfect! And wow wow coffee and coconut with that dash of chocolate? Yum! My perfect flavor combo! Stunning! Thanks so much for baking these wonderful VDay (or SDay) macs for Mactweets!

Deeba PAB said...

Oh Shaz...I love the Skewer home, and I HEART the coffee macs. Checkity checked, up, down & all around. Yes ma'am...a 10/10 apgar for yours!!
Brilliant stuff these. Hearts arenot easy to get right (ask moi #$%$#$*&^) ... you are the mastah!!
I loved the checking out from below...har har har!!
Thank you for joining always!! {HUGS}

Mamatkamal said...

I wanted to make coconut macarons last time but was not sure about it. Thanks for the recipe, I will absolutely try my next macarons with coconut. Lovely shape, I love it!.

shaz said...

Thank you for your wonderfully kind comments Jamie and Deeba - you ladies are definitely hostesses with the mostest(ess)! I love taking part and look forward to next month :)

Thanks Mamatkamal - I've used coconut before (made a coconut and lime version) and also ground rice (and cardamom - my fav so far). The end result has a slightly "gritty" mouthfeel, so do remember to cut any additions with some almond meal as well otherwise you may end up with macaroons instead :) Good luck!

Stella said...

Oh NO! Coffee and lemon does not sound odd to me. I'm always extra happy to get lemon scented baked goods when it is coffee/tea time. It's the best, and this combination looks really good.

MaryMoh said...

Very beautiful heart-shaped macaroons....perfect for Valentine's Day!

Barbara said...

Perfect macarons, Shaz! Congratulations! And I love your flavors.
I have been following HH's experiences with macaron-baking; she is such fun to read!

Barbara Bakes said...

Perfect Valetine macs! I struggled with the Italian method. Sounds like you've got it all figured out!

penny aka jeroxie said...

heart shaped macs... sweetness and cuteness

Julia @Mélanger said...

I'm loving your shaped macarons. You must have such a steady hand. The flavour combination is fantastic, too. Perfect for a special day, or any day of the year, really!

megan said...

Ohhh, they look lovely and sound delicious! I so wanted to get in on the Valentine Macs but ran out of time. :(
You did a lovely job!

grace said...

i'm sure air supply doesn't take offense. :)
meanwhile, coffee and coconut? what an interesting combination! your hearts are gorgeous, shaz--positively perfect. excellent work.

Ellie said...

Wow! Your heart shaped macarons are perfect!!

shaz said...

Thanks Stella - I didn't think of it (coffee combo) that way! It does make sense now.

Thanks MaryMoh :)

Thanks Barbara - isn't HH a scream !

Thanks Barbara (B) - your macs worked so beautifully this time too.

Thanks Penny - very yummy too.

Thanks Julia - not sure about steady hand, not all the macarons were the same size but once I paired them up they looked ok :)

Thanks heaps Megan, maybe next month ?

Thanks so much Grace, hmm, are air supply even around still?

Thanks Ellie!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Your hearts are perfect Shaz! I squealed when I saw the first pic and I saw the heart shape. Amazing job! :D

Trissa said...

Mr Kitchenhand is so sweet! Sharontine's Day! tee hee... and those macarons - well - when you make something as gorgeous as those - you tend to be silent and in awe!

Hungry Dog said...

These are just ridiculously cute. Remind me again why you are not a professional baker? You are so talented!

Lisa Michelle said...

OMG, Sharon..gorgeous hearts and the coconut coffee flavor sounds outstanding. Fantastic job as always!!

Juliana said...

Shaz, your macs are so cute...adorable...I still do not have the courage to try to make them...although absolutely love them ;-) One of this day will the way, you did not use 110 egg whites right? The pictures are great as well!

Esi said...

These came out GREAT!! I love the little heart shapes. I have only ever been able to do (semi) circle macarons.

shaz said...

Ha ha, I can just imagine you squealing Lorraine! Thank you :)

Shucks thanks Trissa - high praise coming fom you dear.

Thank you so much Hungry Dog - I'm still too slapdash to do anything professionally i think! Plus I got bored of doign hearts so the other half of the batch was just the usual circle shape :) No staying power, that's my problem.

Thanks Lisa Michelle

Thanks for pointing that out Juliana - will change it! No, not 110 eggs, just 110 grammes of egg whites (about 3 eggwhites) :)

Aww thanks Esi :)

3 hungry tummies said...

They look fantastic! I think this recipe is truly beyond my ability!

shaz said...

No, no, never say never 3HT! Give it a try, I think you'll defintiely be able to do it :)

Kitchen Butterfly said... the hearts..........well done, croc feet or not!!!!!

shaz said...

Thanks Kitchen Butterfly! Next time maybe I'll try croc head shaped macarons ;P

Vanille said...

Shaz, did you intentionally made this heart-shape shadow on your first picture ? Cause I really like the effect !
And your macarons are cute !

shaz said...

Thanks Vanille - glad you noticed - the heart has actually been manipulated from the glass's shadow in photoshop.

Cristie said...

Your heart shaped macs are nothing short of fabulous!