Tuesday 10 May 2016

'Kenji the Fluffy Dog' Macarons with Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

My cousin sent me a photo of another cousin's pet dog with the same "breed" of doggie cushion in the background and asked if I could make macarons that look like that cushion. Answer is yes :). Here they are!

My cousin B wanted me to make these for his sister, C's birthday. Vanilla swiss meringue buttercream filling was requested. Matches the colour of the macaron shells too! I have met Kenji the white fluffy Samoyed on a few occasions and was always greeted with a good dose of white floof and an inquisitive lick. So I had quite a bit of fun making macarons of "someone" I know :).

You may refer to this post for video tutorials for macaron basics and this post for video tutorials on how to pipe complex shapes. If you are able to, do grab a copy of my Creative Baking: Macarons book as the techniques are presented in a more systematic way.

The basic recipe I use is the same for all macarons, with variation in flavouring and colouring ingredients. I did not make a big batch of these as I was baking other macarons at the same time but will still type out full recipe here. Feel free to use half or three-quarters of the recipe. You may also refer to my reduced sugar macaron shell recipe if you are interested. Briefly, here's the basic recipe.

Basic macaron shell recipe
Ingredients (makes about 40-50 macarons):
200g almond meal (preferably superfine)
200g icing sugar
200g caster sugar
160g egg whites, divide into two equal portions
75ml water
1/2 tsp white powder food colouring or several drops of white gel food colouring. (Optional)

1. Prepare mass. Sift almond, icing sugar and white powder together. Add half of egg whites (80g) and mix well with spatula.

2. Prepare Italian meringue. Beat remaining egg whites in a clean metal bowl on medium low speed until soft peaks while boiling caster sugar and water until 115°C without stirring. Increase mixer speed to high and carefully pour syrup into egg whites. Beat for another 10 minutes or until cool and stiff glossy peaks form. Reserve 3-4 tablespoons of meringue and use some of it to stick the baking paper onto the baking tray.

3. Fold Italian meringue into mass in two additions until batter flows in a slow moving lava-like manner. Check the video on how to fold and check consistency.

4. Transfer to piping bag fitted with a 6-7mm diameter round tip and pipe the heads onto baking tray with dog head template under baking sheet. Use smaller tip with 3-4mm diameter to pipe the ears and use a toothpick to pull the batter to make the ears more pointy. Bang the tray hard a few times to release trapped air.

5. Rest the shells until dry to touch (about 1-2 hours). Bake in preheated oven at 130°C on lowest rack for 17-22 minutes or until feet no longer wet, rotating tray halfway. Cool completely before removing shells from baking tray.

Just to share some pictures of the process..

Piping the dog head

I find it helpful to make a template for marking the positions of the facial features. Use cheap clear plastic files for making the template. I use the same plastic for making cookie templates too.

Marking out the facial features with edible marker and ice with charcoal coloured royal icing.

See the macaron template head figure at the top right corner? I used Microsoft Word to trace the outline of the Samoyed head cushion, copy and paste many times to make the macaron template. Here are the shells that are fully decorated!

Let the icing dry completely. In the meantime, make the vanilla swiss meringue buttercream.

Reduced Sugar Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
2 egg whites (74g)
52g caster sugar
1/16tsp salt
134g unsalted butter, cool but softened, cut into tablespoon sized cubes
1 tbs vanilla bean paste
2 tsp lemon juice (added to counter the sweetness)

1. Place egg whites, sugar and salt in a heatproof mixing bowl. Heat about 1" worth of water in a deep saucepan whereby the mixing bowl is able to sit comfortably over without the base touching the water. Use a hand whisk to whisk the egg whites and sugar over simmering water until all sugar is dissolved and the foamy egg whites are 71.1°C.

2. Remove from heat immediately and use an electric mixer to beat on high speed until cool, firm and glossy. About 10 minutes.

3. Reduce mixer speed and add butter one cube at a time and continue beating. Don't worry if it starts to curdle. Just keep beating and gradually adding butter and it will all come together in the end.

4. Beat on high speed again for a couple of minutes until pale and fluffy (like Kenji haha). Add vanilla and lemon juice and beat until well incorporated.

I use the good stuff!

5. Transfer to piping bag and pipe the cream onto the bottom shells. Sandwich the top shells and refrigerate in airtight container for at least 24h before serving. You may freeze unused buttercream in freezer bags.

Filling the shells!

All packed! 

I couldn't resist putting these photos of Kenji with Kenji macarons here that my cousin sent me. Too cute!!

I was a little apprehensive that the macarons might be too sweet but thank God the sweetness level was just nice according to my cousin!

With love,
Phay Shing

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