Hazelnut dark chocolate flavour was requested. The easy way is to use Nutella but it is not the best way to go if you don't have a sweet tooth as Nutella and other hazelnut spreads you find at the supermarket already have sugar and other additives added. I made the hazelnut dark chocolate ganache from scratch with premium ingredients. You may make your own hazelnut butter but I didn't want to add in extra work for what is already quite and involved bake. I baked some Miffy and rainbow macarons along with the Meeples. Keep a lookout for those in the near future.
Here's the hazelnut butter I used. I must warn you that a small jar like this costs a lot. Thankfully my friend is willing to pay for it :p.
Recipe for macaron shells (makes about 45 Meeples, 90 shells)
200g almond meal/flour (preferably superfine)
200g icing sugar
200g caster sugar
160g egg whites divided into two equal portions
Gel food colouring
1/4 tsp red yeast powder (for red colour, optional)
1 tsp carrot powder (for orange colour, optional)
1 tsp natural yellow powder food colouring (optional)
1. Prepare baking trays with Meeple template under baking paper. Stick the corners of baking paper with Italian meringue when you have made the meringue.
2. Make the mass. Sift almond and icing sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add 80g egg whites and mix well to form a thick paste. Divide the paste into as many equal portions as you would like for the different colours. Add food colouring until desired shade is obtained. I prefer natural sources of colouring but they tend to be dull and insufficient when you need strong and bright colours.
3. Prepare the Italian meringue. Boil caster sugar and water in a small saucepan until 115°C. Use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. In the mean time, beat the rest of the egg whites in a clean metal bowl at medium low speed until soft peaks form. Do not beat past this stage. Reduce mixer speed if necessary. Once temperature of syrup is reached, remove from heat, turn up mixer speed to medium high speed and carefully pour syrup into egg whites, avoiding the beaters. Continue beating for another 10 minutes until cool, stiff and glossy. Divide the Italian meringue into the number of portions of coloured masses accordingly.
4. Macaronage. Fold the Italian meringue into the mass in two additions until the consistency is like slow-moving lava, with the first addition about a third of the meringue. You may refer to this post for video tutorials of the macaron basics.
5. Transfer the batter into piping bags fitted with a Wilton #10 tip (around 5-6mm diameter will do). Pipe the Meeple figures onto baking trays. Use a toothpick to nudge the batter into place where necessary. You may refer to this post for video tutorials on how to pipe complex shaped macarons. Bang the tray hard on the table top a few times to release trapped air bubbles.
Notice how the piped figures look smoother for red and rougher for green because I piped the red ones earliest.
6. Let the shells dry under a fan or in an air-conditioned room until no longer sticky to touch. About 1-2 hours, depending on humidity. Preheat oven to 135°C towards end of drying time. Set oven rack to second lowest position.
7. Bake for 17-20 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through baking. If the feet of the shells still appear wet, bake for another 5 minutes at 120°C. Cool completely before peeling the baking sheet away from the shells. Shells that are stuck to the baking sheet are underbaked.
A closer look at the feet!
You may prepare some royal icing to personalize the Meeple game pieces if you like. Let the icing dry completely before filling the shells.
Hazelnut dark chocolate ganache (recipe adapted from here)
130g dark chocolate, chopped
90g hazelnut butter*
80g heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/8 tsp salt
All good stuff! Smells heavenly already!
*You may substitute with other nut butters like peanut, cashew and almond butter. These are cheaper than hazelnut butter :p.
1. Place dark chocolate and salt in a microwave safe bowl. Heat on medium heat in 20 second bursts, stirring in between heating cycles until chocolate is melted and smooth.
2. Heat cream in a small saucepan over low heat until it starts to bubble. Add hazelnut butter and stir until well combined over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla bean paste.
3. Gradually add hazelnut mixture into melted chocolate and whisk until well combined and the consistency of the mixture firms up. Unlike normal chocolate ganaches that firm up when you let it sit untouched, this hazelnut chocolate ganache firms up when you stir it. You may choose to use an electric mixer to beat at low speed for couple of minutes if you like. The resulting consistency should be a like toothpaste.
4. Transfer to piping bag and pipe onto shells. Refrigerate for at least 24h before serving.
The Meeple fan was thrilled to receive these macarons! I will definitely use this delectable filling again as it is way better than Nutella! If the recipient is willing to pay for it :p
Pre-orders for Creative Baking: Macarons is now open from 10-21 Feb! Don't miss the dates!