Monday, 1 October 2018

Iced Gems Macarons with Ermine Buttercream ( Children's Day Special)

I have a class planned on Children's Day so I decided before hand that I won't be making scones again this year for my kids to share with their classmates, which I have been doing for the past three years because scones have to be made fresh. I need some time to prepare for the class. And that's why I decided to make macarons for them instead. I made neapolitan iced gems a few years ago for Children's Day and thought why not make iced gems again but macaron version. I came up with these :)

I made mini macarons topped with the signature iced gem royal icing but filled with a new type of filling that got me all excited when I first discovered it. It is not a new type of cream. In fact it is rather old school. It's just that I haven't come across it as it isn't as commonly used by homebakers in Singapore as Swiss or Italian meringue buttercreams or dairy cream.

Ermine buttercream, also known as flour buttercream, makes use of cooked dough to provide stability for the cream whereas Swiss or Italian meringue buttercreams use cooked egg whites as the stabilizer. What attracted me to have a closer look at this option is the really low sugar content, lower butter content but still fairly stable at warmer temperatures. Although there is some concern that people allergic to gluten aren't able to consume it, the plain flour used can be substituted with corn flour. If the sugar and butter content are lower then what's in the cream?? Milk! Lots of it. The beauty of this buttercream is you can substitute the whole milk with variations according to your preference, such as partial or full substitution with whipping cream, evaporated milk or even condensed milk. If you want non-dairy options, you may use soy milk, almond milk or coconut milk. And because the butter content is lower, any flavourings that you add to the buttercream will come out more strongly instead of being masked by the flavour of butter. Sounds good? It is!

I will share the recipe for macaron shells and the ermine buttercream I used. Do feel free to scale down the recipe for both filling and shells. I was making enough macarons for two large classes of kids. Each kid gets 3 mini macarons.

Recipe for reduced sugar macaron shells
Ingredients (makes about 240 mini macarons, 480 shells):
250g superfine ground almond
230g icing sugar
15g rice flour*
5g corn flour*
1/4 tsp fine sea salt (optional)
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 drop of orange gel food colouring
100g egg whites

Italian Meringue
240g caster sugar
90g water
96g egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar (optional)

*Replace with icing sugar for non reduced sugar recipe.

1. Prepare baking tray with 1" circle template and line with parchment paper, Teflon sheet or silpat according to your preference. Set oven rack to second lowest position.

2. Prepare the mass. In a large mixing bowl, sift together almond, icing sugar, salt, rice flour, cornflour and cocoa powder. Add egg whites and orange gel colouring and mix well to form a thick paste.

3. Prepare the italian meringue. Heat sugar and water in a small saucepan on medium heat without stirring. Swirl the pan a little to help the sugar dissolve. In the mean time, beat the egg whites on low speed to loosen it up. Monitor the syrup temperature with a candy thermometer. Once the temperature reaches 110℃, you may increase mixer speed to medium to get it to froth up more. Make sure you don't beat past soft peak stage. Reduce mixer speed if necessary. Once syrup temperature reaches 115-118℃, remove saucepan from heat. Turn mixer speed to medium high and carefully pour syrup in a thin stream, taking care to avoid the beaters. Continue beating on high speed for another 10-15 minutes or until cool to at least body temperature.

4. Use some meringue to stick parchment paper to the baking tray. Fold meringue into the mass in two batches until the batter flows in a slow moving lava-like manner. You may refer to this post for video tutorial on how to fold and check for consistency.

5. Transfer batter into piping bag fitted with a 5-6mm piping tip. Pipe the circles. Bang the tray several times on the table and use a toothpick to pop any air bubbles.

6. Let the shells dry in air-con room or under a fan until it is dry to touch. Bake in preheated oven at 140℃ for 10 min and 130℃ for another 5-10 min or until feet doesn't appear wet. Baking time and temperature varies from oven to oven so adjust accordingly. Cool completely on tray before removing.

Freshly baked shells

I decorated the macaron shells with colours that Khong Guan uses. You may refer to this post for the Royal icing recipe.

I wanted to make a filling that has a colour that matches the macaron shells rather closely while still retaining a vanilla based flavour. I replaced the white sugar with brown sugar and used some icing sugar to help with the stability of the buttercream. I also added a little Milo powder to add to the brown colour. I replaced half of the butter with vegetable shortening as these macarons are to be brought home as gifts. I wanted to make sure that the cream was really stable enough to withstand all the transport. You may stick with using all butter.

I have to thank a Facebook friend for generously sharing her recipe and tips for this buttercream. Her recipe contains a lot less sugar than most recipes on the internet whereby butter and sugar content is about the same.

Recipe for brown sugar ermine buttercream
240g milk (I used evaporated milk since I had an opened can at the moment. Original recipe was 200g and calls for whole milk.)
40g plain flour
4g Milo powder
3/4 tsp salt (use less if you are frosting cake)
30g brown sugar
125g unsalted butter (sit at room temperature for 10 minutes)
125g vegetable shortening
20g icing sugar (original recipe didn't have)

1. Whisk together flour, Milo powder, brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Gradually add milk and whisk until no lumps. I find that sieving this mixture into a saucepan helps to get rid of any lumps of flour.

2. Heat the saucepan of mixture over medium low heat and keep whisking until it starts to thicken. Remove from heat and continue whisking to smoothen out the mixture. Bring it back to low heat and keep whisking. Continue until mixture is thick enough to hold it's shape. Remove from heat whenever necessary to keep whisking out any lumps forming. You don't want any roux lumps in the buttercream. Transfer into a bowl and press a cling wrap on top before refrigerating until cool.

Some recipes suggest only heating and whisking until the roux thickens. If you want the buttercream to be really stable at warmer temperatures, continue working on the roux until consistency is much thicker but still smooth.

 3. Beat butter, shortening and icing sugar until pale and fluffy. At least 5 minutes or more. Add the cooled roux one tablespoon at a time and beat until smooth. Continue beating for a couple more minutes after all the roux has been added to get it really creamy and smooth.

Transfer to piping bag and fill the shells

Here's a peek at the assembled shells!

Store in airtight container in the fridge for at least 12 hours.

According to my friend Nur Huda who shared the buttercream recipe, any excess buttercream can be stored in the fridge for a few days and up to a month in freezer. Simply let it soften at room temperature before rewhipping before use. Very much like how you would treat stored Swiss meringue buttercream.

As it is my first time making this buttercream, I had to do a taste test with a macaron that has been matured overnight with this filling.

Nice and fluffy macaron shells with creamy filling!

The macaron was perfect after maturing overnight. Light crisp outer shell with soft chewy interior! I let the kids do a taste test too and they loved it! I was pleasantly surprised that the macaron itself tastes pretty much like the biscuit base of iced gems with its milk and vanilla flavour, just perhaps sweeter than the biscuit version because the actual biscuits don't contain much sugar. All in all, I am very satisfied with this recipe and experiment!

Happy Children's Day in advance!

Update: thank God the the macarons were very well received! My kids feedback to me that their classmates all loved it. Some even wanted second helping but there weren't any 😅. The form teachers got to try too and they also loved it!

With lots of love,
Phay Shing

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