Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Matcha Macarons with Azuki Beans and White Chocolate Ganache

This is a bake that happened because I had leftover cream from making no-bake rainbow cheesecakes with my kids. Although macarons are generally too sweet for me, I thought of giving it a shot again with green tea flavor, hoping that the slight bitter taste of the tea will make the final product less overwhelmingly sweet. I was wondering what to fill it with.... ganache of some sort definitely since I really wanted to use up the cream. White chocolate perhaps, was my first thought. Then I thought why not add in azuki bean paste since matcha and azuki beans are a perfect pair. Then I got all excited about it and couldn't wait to get started! Instead of waiting for the weekend to come so that I can get my hands on good quality azuki bean paste from Isetan, I made my own with some red beans that I have at home. And of course I also couldn't resist the chance to pretty up the macs :P.

As I have a stand mixer at home now (thank you dear hubby!) and I really couldn't wait for the egg whites to age for 2 days, I decided to use the Italian method to make this batch of macarons. There were some hiccups along the way and I thought it was going to be a disaster, but the macarons were very well received and they were being eaten faster than there was time for them to mature! My dad who really can't stand food that is too sweet said that this is good, and so did a friend of mine who used to work as a pastry chef in a hotel. My neighbor who tried it said she would buy some from me next time!

No credit to me actually. From now on I think I will stick with the Italian method although it has a higher sugar content. It seems much more forgiving than the French method. My ex-pastry chef friend also said that there is no danger of over-beating the Italian meringue. Sounds good to me!

I began my adventure by making the red bean paste. I followed the steps closely from Just One Cookbook but used only 150g of beans and 125g of sugar. Here's the result after 2 hours of simmering:

I portioned the red bean paste into 50g packages, kept 100g in the fridge for the ganache and freeze the rest for future use.

I adapted the macaron recipe from here but made quite a few modifications so I will type out my version.

Ingredients for matcha macaron shells (makes about 54 shells):
90g almond powder
90g icing sugar
5g matcha powder
90g egg whites, divided into 2 equal portions (about 2-3 eggs, no aging required)
100g caster sugar
76g water
1/8 tsp cream of tartar (optional)
1 tsp egg white powder (optional)

1. Sift together almond powder, icing sugar and green tea powder in a large bowl. You may choose to grind everything together but I prefer to sift. I bought superfine ground almond from Phoon Huat and it's really fine, much better than the ones I get from regular supermarkets.

2. Add 45g of egg whites into the almond mixture and mix to form a thick paste.
3. Place caster sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring it to boil without stirring. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the syrup. I used a meat thermometer for this. When the temperature reaches about 100 degrees Celsius, whisk the other 45g of egg whites with cream of tartar and egg white powder until firm peaks form. Turn the mixer speed to low if the syrup is still not heated to the required temperature to keep the egg whites moving.
4. When the temperature of the syrup reaches 118 degrees Celsius, slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites down the side of the mixing bowl in a steady stream while whipping at high speed constantly. I didn't turn up the speed of the mixer when I poured the syrup and as a result my meringue turned out lumpy! I went ahead to proceed with the macaronage anyway thinking that it's a learning experience and fully expecting the macs to fail. Continue to whip until thick, shiny and cooled but a little warm. This should take about 10 minutes.
5. Fold the meringue into the almond paste using a spatula in 3 additions in a fold-press-turn (the bowl) motion until your batter is of a consistency of smooth moving lava. To test if your batter is ready, make a ribbon trail with your batter and it should disappear within 30 seconds. If the trail still remains, give a couple of folds and test again. If your batter is too runny, you have overfolded. It took me 33 folds for this small batch.
6. Spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a 5mm round nozzle. Pipe the shells onto two layers of baking sheet. I chose to pipe round and heart shaped shells. A template drawn/ printed on the lower piece of baking sheet helps :).

If you are piping heart shapes, do not pipe according to the outline of your template as the batter will spread, making the dip in the middle of the heart shape disappear. Instead, draw a letter "V" starting from the left and down into the valley of the "V", and then from the right and down into the valley of the "V". Let the batter spread for a while before gently using a toothpick to pull the batter to fill the template or piping a bit more batter to fill larger spaces.
7. Bang the trays on the table a few times to release any air trapped in the batter. Leave it to dry until the tops of the shells are dry to touch. Mine took about 2 hours of drying in an air-conditioned room in hot and humid Singapore.
8. Bake the macarons in a preheated oven at 140 degrees Celsius for 12 minutes. Tent a sheet of aluminum foil over the baking try to prevent the macs from browning and bake for another 12 minutes or until the macarons are able to be lifted off the baking sheets easily. Let the macarons cool before attempting to remove all of them from the baking sheets.

I was fully expecting horrible macarons since my meringue was still grainy at the end of whipping for 10 minutes but they all turned out pretty well! All my macs have feet and none of them were cracked! Surface could have been smoother but I guess it is expected since my meringue wasn't exactly perfect.

I decorated 6 of them with green tea paste (green tea powder mixed with a bit of water) and royal icing sugar. I used the just-add-water type of royal icing, which I used for making iced gems. Small paintbrushes for food came in handy for this arty part of the bake :).

As the designs are drying, you may proceed to make the ganache. Or if you would like to fill the macs earlier, you may prepare the ganache while the macarons are drying out. I wasn't sure that they would turn out well so I waited until they were baked before preparing the filling.

Ingredients for azuki white chocolate ganache:
80g whipping cream
160g white chocolate, finely chopped
100g azuki bean paste (you may use store bought ones)

1. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler while heating the whipping cream in a small sauce pan until it starts to simmer.
2. Pour the cream into the white chocolate and keep stirring until you form a smooth mixture. 
3. Let it cool a bit before refrigerating for 2 hours.
4. Pat the red bean paste dry with kitchen paper towels, letting the paper soak up any excess moisture. I didn't do this for 50g worth of red bean paste and as a result my ganache took really long to set and wasn't very firm.
5. Mix in the red bean paste into the ganache and put it back in the fridge for another 2 hours.
6. Spoon or pipe the ganache onto macaron shells and refrigerate it. Best served after one or two days for the flavor to mature. 

Most of mine didn't last a day! And it's supposed to be even yummier after waiting a little longer! Here's a peek at how it looks like when you take a bite...

You may fill these green tea macaron shells with azuki buttercream instead and it would be great as well. I was trying to finish the cream at home so I experimented with ganache. Really glad that this bake turned out well despite the booboo with Italian meringue and azuki white chocolate ganache.

With love,
Phay Shing

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