(We interrupt our regular Malaysian Monday programme to bring you this special macaron feature.)
For some of you, the cooler months are approaching, but down here downunder, we eagerly await the days when we can throw off the long sleeves, slip on the sandals and spend time at the beach. Yee-ha! Summer’s on the way and as you can probably guess, I’m a big fan.
But when I read this month’s macattack challenge - to turn our favourite childhood summer memory into a macaron, I was initially stumped. My childhood home is a tropical country with no real seasonal variation except for rainfall levels. We technically didn’t ever have a summer when I was growing up. Or if you look at it another way, we had endless summer, a year long bonanza of warmth.
We took the heat for granted, what we yearned for instead was a touch of coolness. Although we did head to the beach occasionally, more often than not our holiday destinations would be to the hills. To places where we could experience the novelty of having to wear a cardigan outdoors (fancy that!) and where we could watch our breath fog when we breathed out.
So, the question of “what sort of macaron to make ” played on my mind for awhile. And one sunny Sydney day recently, as I sat and daydreamed, I heard a native bird calling outside and the answer hit me in a flash. The drowsy warmth, the lazy birdsong, transported me back more than thirty years, to my grandfather’s house. This was a place where I spent so many happy childhood hours. My father’s family would meet up here most weekends, and as the adults sat around talking, I’d lead the gang of kids off on adventures in the large garden (I was the eldest, therefore the boss).
The grown -ups left us to our own devices and we concocted all sorts of games. Sometime, it was “perfume making” - I’d send the troops out to collect flowers and leaves and then we’d bung it into a metal pail of water, getting ourselves soaked in the process. Other times we’d build hideouts, play “catching” (tip/chaseys), harass the dog or just goof around doing whatever it is kids do.
When it got too hot, we’d head indoors to read, or play board games, or watch cartoons. You could see out into the garden from almost every room, and I remember just flopping lazily in a chair with a book, watching birds flit from tree to tree in the afternoon heat. One of my favourite birds to spot was the (black naped) Oriole (Oriolus chinensis). It is a beautiful bird with a distinctive cry, and I would get a thrill every time I saw the flash of yellow and black plumage signalling we had a garden visitor.
Frequently, the Orioles would land in the rambutan tree, looking for a feed. The rambutan tree also happened to be my favourite perch in the garden. It had a low branch just the right height for hanging off like a sloth, and us older kids could climb its branches quite easily. A sheet of plywood stuck in the fork became a makeshift treehouse.
So I made Oriole macarons (black sesame shell, yellow filling of tumeric and mango buttercream) and rambutan macarons (shaped shells, cream cheese icing for filling, sliver of rambutan in filling) and basked in some nostalgia. How I loved that house (and my grandparents too of course!).
Thank you Jamie and Deeba for bringing back such wonderful memories.
Thanks for joining me and have a great start to the week.
For the black sesame macarons, I used a basic French macaron recipe by Helen of Tartelette, and subbed 50g black sesame powder (from Asian supermarkets) for the same amount of almond meal.
For the filling, I smushed half a mango through a sieve and reduced it (in the microwave) until thick. I let this puree cool, then mixed it with the tumeric buttercream left over from my satay cupcakes. I did have to use some more icing sugar to counteract the liquid.
For the rambutan macs, I made a plain macaron shell, and tinted it red, which turned out to be not quite red enough. I’m thinking of getting powdered colours for macaron making from now on. To make the spikes, I scooped some of the batter aside while I piped the rest out into circles. This allowed the reserved batter to dry out a bit. I then used a small metal spatula to take tiny amounts of the reserved macaron batter and touched it onto the surface of the piped macarons to create tufty bits.
I diced some canned rambutans (drained well), and sandwiched this into the macs using a very simple cream cheese icing (butter, cream cheese, icing sugar).
This batch had a frill foot because I didn’t quite have enough aged eggwhites and had to top up with fresh. Who knew 15gs would make such a difference. Speaking of difference, I also used soft icing sugar mixture this time and found my macs slightly more stable (thanks Hungry Rabbit for the idea). Soft icing sugar mixture contains cornstarch, and apparently most of the icing sugar/powdered sugar in North America contains cornstarch (correct me if I'm wrong?). I still find the nacarons brown a bit too much on top though, so I tried reducing the amount of icing sugar and upping the almond meal – by 10g each. The macarons end up a bit too chewy, so don’t be tempted to do this.
PS - Voting is now open for Project Food Blog (see previous post on Satay Cupcakes). If you would like to vote (pretty please?), either click on the widget at the top left of my blog, or head over to this link. Thank You very much! (Voting closes Sept 23)