Foodie Friday: Macarons

[Sorry about the sub-par image quality in this post. My Photoshop subscription has expired, and I’m holding off on renewing it for the time being.]

I’ve made macarons a few times now. I enjoy it, but it’s pretty time consuming and messy, so it’s hard to get the motivation. So I was nothing if not intrigued when I was browsing the supermarket a few weeks ago and discovered packet mix macarons.

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For any non-Australian readers, Adriano Zumbo’s desserts are a bit of a legend in Australia. He was pretty much responsible for introducing macarons to Australia, so I was keen to see how this product stacked up. I also wanted to know how on earth they got packet mix macarons to work.

The box came home and sat on my shelf for a few weeks. Then, last week was the Mister’s birthday. I was too broke to buy him anything, and didn’t have enough time (or inspiration) to craft him something, so I decided a bit of cooking was in order. Bring on the salted caramel macarons!

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Inside the box was a powdered meringue mixture, a powdered almond mixture, a caramel filling, two piping bags and a circle template. I opted not to use the circle template, instead downloading a printable one.

Making the macarons is pretty simple. You pour the meringue powder into a bowl, add some water and beat for about 10 minutes, until it forms stiff peaks. The transformation was pretty impressive.

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The next step was to sift in the almond mixture. If I made this again, I would definitely give the almond mixture a few minutes in the food processor before adding it – I really don’t think it was fine enough at all. And there was a considerable amount of grit that didn’t fit through the sieve.

At this point, I made my first mistake. I decided to look at the mixing video on the product website to see how their mixture looked at the correct stage of macaronage. I mixed mine to that point, but it didn’t seem right. I decided to trust what I’d seen online, but I should’ve gone with my gut instinct. In hindsight, it was definitely undermixed.

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The next step was piping the shells. The kit comes with two piping bags, and I really liked them. They’re really sturdy, and they have a cutting line that forms the correct size opening, so no faffing about with piping nozzles. If I could buy these piping bags on their own, I would – they made the process a lot easier.

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The shells are then meant to sit for 10 minutes, before being baked one tray at a time (the recipe is meant to make about two trays but I made three and still had some batter left over – but I was getting tired by that stage so I stopped).

I definitely think 10 minutes isn’t long enough. My second set of shells sat for about 30 minutes, and turned out much better. Overall, the first set were cracked, the second looked good but a lot of them stuck, and the third had really uneven feet.

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The final step was to mix the caramel with softened butter until it formed a creamy ganache. It was pretty straightforward to pipe this into the shells and assemble the macarons.

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They definitely weren’t the prettiest macarons I’ve made. I had to pick over a lot to find any good enough to photograph. Flavour-wise, I found them a bit sickly, although the Mister (who is a much bigger caramel fan than me) enjoyed them. The insides were suitably chewy, but I wish the outsides had been crispier.

Overall, I think these would be great for someone who wants to try macarons for the first time. It’s much easier than making them from scratch (especially the Italian meringue method, which I prefer). However, I wouldn’t rely solely on the instructions on the box and the videos on the website – I definitely recommend checking out some other instructions. My favourite resource is Secrets of Macarons by José Maréchel, which has clear instructions with great photos, but there are also a lot of guides online, such as this post over at Kitchen Musings.

So would I make these again? Probably not. Apart from anything else, there are so many macaron variations out there that I shy away from making the same flavour more than once. Next time I’ll be making them from scratch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Foodie Friday: Tonjiru

While we were in Sydney last weekend, we visited my favourite bookstore ever: Kinokuniya. A while ago a realised that I didn’t have a single Japanese cookbook on my bookshelves, so I was on the hunt. I eventually settled on Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara.

It was difficult to decide what to make first, but I eventually settled on tonjiru – miso soup with pork and vegetables. I love the taste of miso soup, and it’s great to add to it for a complete meal. The great thing about tonjiru is that you can really add whatever you want. I picked a mini cabbage, heirloom carrots and a baby leek from my garden.

The leek was left to one side, and I chopped up the cabbage and carrot, together with two potatoes. I reconstituted some wakame seaweed, and sliced some pork. Then the cooking was simple, but apparently fascinating to my cat Kaylee.

First I browned the pork. Then I added the vegetables, and covered with dashi stock (in hindsight, it would’ve been better if I hadn’t added the wakame until the very end, as it went a bit slimy). I simmered this until the potato was tender, then stirred through a couple of spoonfuls of red miso paste. Then it was simply a matter of serving it, topped with the sliced leek and a sprinkling of shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice).

This was such an easy, satisfying weeknight meal. If you’re looking for a recipe to use up any leftover vegetables you’ve got rattling around in your fridge, this is a great option.


Foodie Friday: Jerk Chicken

The Mister was home for the last couple of weeks, before he started his job this week. He works away a lot, so I really appreciate the time I have with him. One of our favourite things is to cook together. We have completely different cooking styles – I’m more comfortable using a recipe, and love baking, while he prefers to freestyle and is happiest cooking Asian. Fortunately this means we complement each other really well in the kitchen.

I was so excited to try this jerk chicken recipe, after I bought the Jamie Oliver 30 Minute Meals cookbook the other week. It was super easy. First you make a jerk sauce with spring onions, chilli, thyme, sugar, garlic and, of course, rum.

Next you brown off some chicken, then pop it in the oven with the sauce, topped off with sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Steam some corn cobs and fry them off to get a nice charred finish.

Get your lovely fiancé to prepare a salad of endive, cos and red capsicum, dressed with olive oil, lime juice, grated red onion and coriander.

And there you have it, a tasty dish of jerk chicken, best served with beans and rice, and a glass of Spanish white wine.

I’ll be blunt, it’s not the best jerk chicken recipe I’ve made. However, the best recipe I’ve made requires marinating, and I’m usually not that organised – this is a great last minute version.