Monday, 5 December 2016

Matcha Azuki Bean Macarons (French method plus tips on speeding up drying of shells)

I have always wanted to do a macaron item for Culinary Arts Ministry hosted by our church but couldn't do so as I had to find a way to overcome the long resting time of the shells prior to baking. This waiting time typically takes about 1.5-2.5 hours in an air-conditioned room in humid Singapore. The time allocated for prep is an hour and total time including baking and assembly should be 2 hours or less. Now that I have found an effective way of shortening the drying time significantly without ending up with warped shells that can happen with oven drying, let me share that with you :).

So here's the item I hope to share at my first macaron baking class: Matcha French macarons with whipped Matcha white chocolate ganache and Azuki beans!


Macarons have the reputation of being one of the most difficult things to bake well despite needing only 4 basic ingredients, namely, egg whites, icing sugar, caster sugar and ground almond meal. I hope to be able to share the basics in this session and hopefully those of you who have not been able to master the French macaron will be able to do so :).

I have chosen to use the French method instead of my usual Italian method as it is logistically much easier. There is no need for a candy thermometer or messing around with boiling syrup (which requires a stove). The French method is very suitable for small batches of macarons too. As for why I always use Italian method is because the results are more consistent and it suits my needs of working in large batches with many colours of batter.

Let me include some notes on the basic ingredients used for French macarons here. Newbies may find this helpful as you try this out at home.

Egg whites:
Always use aged egg whites for the French method. You age egg whites by leaving them in a clean bowl in the fridge for 3-5 days with a paper towel covering the bowl secured by a rubber band. This is to allow the water from the egg whites to evaporate over time. Egg whites from freshly separated eggs have too much water content and the resulting macaron shells may be too wet.

Icing sugar:
You may use those with or without cornflour added. I always use pure icing sugar but it's not necessary if you can't find those without cornflour added. Those with cornflour added may result in shells that dry faster after piping (which is good!) but texture may be less delicate.

Caster sugar:
Not much has to be said about this. It can be easily found in supermarkets and baking supply stores.

Ground almond:
Some people grind their own almond for macarons but I am lazy and don't want to risk doing it wrongly and waste a batch of perfectly good nuts :p. If ground wrongly, you end up with almond butter instead or almond meal that is too oily (you will end up with patchy shells). I always buy the "superfine almond powder" version of ground almonds from Phoon Huat. Their "finely ground almond" version is not fine enough for me. It still takes a long time to sift.

Matcha powder:
This is used only for Matcha flavoured shells (duh...of course). But I thought of including some notes here that some of you may find helpful. I use the bakeable version of Matcha powder that can be found from baking supply stores for aesthetic reasons. If you want the best tasting macarons, use the high grade expensive versions for drinking. The only drawback about using those for drinking is they tend to turn duller with time after baking due to oxidation. If looks are not a concern for you, go ahead and use high grade tea powder for baking.

Basic ingredients: clockwise from top left, caster sugar, almond meal, egg whites and icing sugar. Matcha powder in the middle.

The recipe I am using here is not one of the most low-sugar versions so it may tend to be sweeter but it's definitely more foolproof, mainly because of the higher sugar content that gives the shells better structural stability. Once you have mastered the technique you can use recipes that have lower sugar content. You may read from this post my analysis on why this recipe works so well.

Recipe for Matcha French macaron shells (makes about 12-13 macarons or 24-26 shells)
Ingredients:
40g aged egg whites (about one large egg, brought to room temperature)
36g caster sugar
43g superfine almond powder
57g icing sugar
1 and 1/4 tsp Matcha powder
A pinch of salt (optional, to balance the sweetness)
1/8 tsp cream of tartar (optional, for stabilizing meringue)
Extra matcha powder for dusting (optional, for decoration)

Steps:
1. Prepare a baking tray with an array of 4cm-circle template. This template is optional if you are able to pipe shells of roughly the same size. Line the tray with baking paper.

2. Sift almond, icing sugar, matcha powder and salt (if using) together into a bowl.


3. Place egg whites in a clean, grease-free metal bowl with cream of tartar (if using). Use an elextric mixer and beat on medium speed until frothy. Gradually add caster sugar while beating. Continue to beat until stiff peaks are formed. When stiff peaks just start to form, you will be able to turn the bowl upside down without the meringue slipping out. You may be tempted to stop beating at this point for fear of over-beating the egg whites. Don't be shy, continue to beat for about several seconds more until the meringue is really stiff.

Stiff glossy peaks!

4. Scatter about 2tbs of almond mixture over the meringue and fold in gently with a spatula in one direction.


5. Continue by repeating step 4 until all the almond mixture is incorporated.


As more and more almond mix is added in, you may fold a little less gently to make sure everything is homogeneous.


6. Test the consistency of the batter at this point by scooping up a generous amount of batter and letting it fall back into the bowl. If the batter flows smoothly and slowly in a continuous ribbon, it is ready. But if it breaks off at a few points or doesn't flow well, continue to fold a couple of times and check again. This is perhaps the trickiest part of macaron making as newbies may find it hard to gauge when is the batter ready. You may refer to my video tutorials for macaron basics over here to have an idea of the consistency. Do not overfold the batter. If it is very runny (like thick sauce or some cake batter), chances are you have overfolded and you have to start over. The French method is less forgiving than Italian method when it comes to overfolded batter.

Testing batter consistency

7. Transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a 6-7mm diameter round piping tip. If you don't bake often and don't have such baking supplies lying around, simply use a ziplock bag with a hole cut at one corner. Your macarons won't turn out nice and round but will still taste the same.


8. Stick the 4 corners of the baking sheet to the tray with a little batter (I forgot to do this in the picture). Pipe circles on the prepared baking tray. To do so, place piping tip at the center of the circle, perpendicular to the tray and about 5mm away from the surface. Squeeze the bag and release pressure when the edge of the batter is about 3mm away from the edge of the circle. Give the tip a little twirl as you lift off.


9. Bang the tray on the table to release trapped air bubbles as well as flatten the peaks in the middle that you see in the photo above.


10. Dust the shells with some Matcha powder if you wish.


11. Preheat oven to 160°C. Set oven rack to lowest position. Note: use top and bottom heating elements only. Do not use the fan mode in the oven. Some people get good results with the oven fan on but I see more cases of uneven feet, warped shells, cracked shells and browning when the fan is on. Always use an oven thermometer! Actual oven temperature may be 10-20°C off from the temperature you set.

12. Dry the shells by leaving them under the fan or in an air-conditioned room until the surface is dry to touch. The shells must not feel sticky at all before going into the oven or they will crack. This may take 1-2.5h. I found that using the hairdryer works really well to speed up the drying. It took only 20 minutes for me to dry this tray of shells! An important note on using hairdryer, try not to use the maximum heat/strength. Try to give each shell an equal amount of blowing time or some shells or parts of the shells will dry faster than others. You may end up with uneven feet that way. Check for dryness with a finger after the first 10 minutes of blowing, and at every 5 minutes interval subsequently.


Shells are ready to be baked when you can slide a finger across the tops and not feel any stickiness.

13. Put tray of macaron shells in oven. Turn the temperature down to 140°C. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until the feet no longer appear wet. Let the shells cool completely on the tray before gently peeling the baking sheet away from the shells. Do not peel the macaron away from the sheet as parts of the shells may remain stuck on the sheet. If the shells are really stuck, chances are they are underbaked. Dry them out in the oven for another 5 minutes and try again. Repeat if necessary.

Perfectly baked shells should have no hollows, not stuck to baking sheet, have crisp outer shell and soft chewy interior. It's ok if the freshly baked shells are a little more on the crispy side. Simply store assembled macarons for a couple more days before consuming.

Don't be discouraged if you don't get it right the first time. Practice makes perfect!

Filling
Ingredients:
60g white chocolate, finely chopped
6g vegetable shortening (you may replace with butter)
6g unsalted butter
18g heavy cream
1/16 tsp fine sea salt
1/8 tsp vanilla bean paste (optional)
2 tsp high grade matcha powder
3-4 tbs canned Azuki beans, drained

Steps:
1. Place white chocolate, shortening and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat at medium power for 20 seconds. Mix well. Repeat until mixture is homogeneous and melted.

2. Place cream in small saucepan. Heat on low heat until it starts to bubble. Pour on melted chocolate mixture. Stir in one direction with a spatula until well mixed.

3. Add salt, vanilla and sifted Matcha powder gradually while stirring.


4. You may allow the ganache to firm up at room temperature for about an hour, or whip it to make it lighter in texture. To whip it, place the bowl of ganache in freezer for 2 minutes. Use a spatula and beat the mixture until even. Return the bowl into the freezer for a minute and beat it with the spatula again. Repeat the freezing for one minute and beating until mixture is smooth and creamy.


5. Transfer the whipped ganache into piping bag/ziplock bag with a hole cut at the end. Mash the Azuki beans slightly if you wish.


6. Pipe some ganache on the bottom shell. Carefully add some Azuki beans in the middle with a teaspoon. Cover the beans with more ganache. Sandwich the filling with the top shell. Refrigerate in airtight container overnight or 24 hours before serving. Leave the macaron at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before eating.


My family and I had a taste test and everyone loved it! My mum shared with her colleagues 6 days after assembly and all of them loved the taste!

The texture was perfect! Soft and chewy but not too chewy. Still very delicate! 

You may store these macarons for a week in the fridge.

Update 14/1/17: check out this post for the recipe for reduced sugar macaron shells using the French method!

With love,
Phay Shing


4 comments:

  1. I can just imagine the sound of multiple hairdryers humming in church! Hahaha 😃

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lol! Hopefully that will become a reality ;)

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  2. Hello, just wanted to ask if I were to make plain macarons, can I just remove the matcha powder or would I have to substitute with something else :)

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