Tuesday 3 May 2016

Cheery Bear and Panda Macarons (Mother's Day Special, reduced-sugar shells and filling!)

When I was approached to bake something for Mother's Day for the mums in my church, I was hesitant at first but thought that it would be possible with God's help and the help of others where logistics are concerned. So here is my first mass bake of 750 cheery bear macarons!

Some pandas sneaked in too!

The pandas were unplanned but since I had excess black batter from another bake, I thought why not make use of it! I must confess that the original design was simple pink heart shaped macarons. But after doing one round of baking, I realised it isn't as easy as it seems to make them all pretty. ALL 750 of them! As hearts are symmetrical shapes, any loss of symmetry would make the end product look odd. I needed to pace myself and pipe hundreds of them beautifully, which I realised after the third or fourth tray, that it isn't going to happen without a silicone mat with raised heart shaped imprints. And so I decided to ditch the idea and stuck with the all-too-familiar cheery bears. They can be piped out of shape and still appear cute. That's why you see two heart macarons in the picture.

I am aware that nowadays people are health conscious and prefer less sugar in their diet so I have taken pains to reduce sugar in both macaron shells and filling for this Mother's Day bake even though feedback for my macarons have consistently been "yummy and not too sweet". You may revert to the traditional recipe for the shells if you are a macaron purist or don't want the hassle of having to buy more flours to store at home. For the traditional shell version you may use the following and scale accordingly to the number of macarons you intend to make. This recipe has always worked for me and has been used by many bakers.

200g superfine almond meal/powder
200g icing sugar
80g egg whites
A pinch of salt (optional)
Any powder or gel food colouring

Italian meringue
200g caster sugar
75ml water
80g egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (optional)

Follow the steps below for macaron shells. The reduced sugar and non-reduced sugar version of the filling is also highlighted in the section for filling.

Please refer to my video tutorials for macaron basics, how to pipe fancy shapes and my Creative Baking: Macarons book for more technical details, troubleshooting guide, template and step by step instructions for making these bear macarons. You may refer to this post for some notes on reduced-sugar macaron shell recipe. Feel free to half the recipe as I was making a huge batch.

Reduced-sugar macaron shell recipe
Ingredients (makes about 100-110 macarons, 200-220 shells):
300g superfine almond powder
280g icing sugar
5g (2 tsp) cornflour
15g (2 tbs) rice flour
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp white powder food colouring (optional)
117g egg whites

Italian meringue
280g caster sugar
112g egg whites
104g water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (optional)

1. Prepare baking tray with template and baking sheet. Make the mass. Sift together all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add egg whites and mix well to form a thick paste.

2. Prepare Italian meringue. Place caster sugar and water in a saucepan and heat it up until syrup reaches 115°C (measure with candy thermometer). In the mean time, beat egg whites with cream of tartar (optional) at medium-low speed until soft peaks are formed. Reduce mixer speed if necessary if syrup temperature has not reached 115°C. Once syrup is ready, increase mixer speed to medium-high and carefully pour the syrup into egg whites in a thin stream, avoiding the beaters. Keep beating for another 10-15 minutes (depending on the volume you are working with) until meringue is stiff, glossy and cool (50°C or less. I bring mine down to about 37°C).

Took this photo of Italian meringue for fun!

3. Fold the meringue into the mass in two or three batches. The first batch is added to lighten up the batter so there's no risk of overfolding. Fold until batter flows in a lava-like manner.

4. Transfer batter into piping bag fitted with 6-7mm tip for base shells and 3mm tip for fine details. Pipe the body on baking tray first and dry for 15-30 minutes until a sticky membrane is formed. Note that actual drying time is not as important as the formation of the sticky membrane. Pipe on the fine features when membrane is formed. Pipe and bang tray on table to release trapped air. If you piped the fine features on too early, the pop-up features will not be clear.

5. Dry the shells in aircon room or under a fan until dry to touch (1-3h depending on humidity. Note that rice flour replacement of icing sugar tends to extend drying time. Cornflour helps the shells to dry faster but may cause the shells to be chewier). Bake at 130°C for 18 minutes and 120°C for another 7 minutes at bottom rack, rotating tray halfway. Cool completely before removing from baking tray. If the feet appear wet, bake for another few minutes. Use the temperature and time as a guide as each oven is different.

Decorate the bears with black edible marker and peach coloured lustre dust.

Both photos are taken by hubby!

Stick on ready-made sugar flowers with some royal icing.

Looking cute! It helps that they look so cheerful when I have to make so many of them!

Here's a tray of them! All so eager to give the flowers!

Whipped tea flavoured white chocolate ganache

I used a ratio of 3:1 for white chocolate : butter + cream, with butter : cream = 1:3. You may play around with the ratio if you want a softer ganache. I am catering for Singapore's hot climate and I find this ratio works for a white chocolate based ganache that is firm enough to withstand storage out of the fridge for 2-3 days at aircon room temperatures. Perfect for gifts. If you are serving the macarons at an indoor party with refrigeration handy, you may use a higher ratio of cream.

Ingredients (fills about 120 macarons):
330g white chocolate, chopped (or white chocolate chips)
30g vegetable shortening*
30g unsalted butter
90g heavy cream
3-4 tbs Matcha or Earl Grey tea powder, sifted
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

* you may replace with white chocolate for non-reduced sugar version or pure cocoa butter. I replaced white chocolate with shortening to make it less sweet overall while remaining firm enough to withstand Singapore's hot weather. Pure cocoa butter is expensive and I find it hard to work with although that would be the ideal substitute.

1. Place the first 3 ingredients (or just white chocolate and butter if you are not substituting with vegetable shortening) in a microwave-safe bowl and heat at medium power for 20 seconds. Stir and mix well. Repeat until mixture is fully melted and well mixed.

2. Place cream in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until it starts to bubble. Pour into melted white chocolate mixture. Stir in one direction with a spatula or electric mixer on low speed until well combined. If you have difficulty incorporating the two with a spatula, switch to electric mixer.

3. Gradually add in sifted tea powder and mix well. Note that the portions I prescribed here are pretty strong so the filling may taste a little bitter on its own but paired with the macaron shells, it's just nice.

4. Add vanilla and salt and mix well.

5. Chill in fridge for 5-10 minutes. Whip the mixture for 1-2 minutes with electric mixer on low speed. Return to fridge for another 5 minutes. Whip the mixture again at medium-low speed until smooth, creamy and glossy. About 1-2 minutes.

Earl grey white chocolate ganache! Yums!

Matcha white chocolate ganache! Yums too!

6. Transfer filling into piping bags and pipe onto bottom shells. Sandwich with top shells. Refrigerate in airtight container until ready to serve. At least 24h. Let it sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before consuming. If you are giving away the macarons as gifts, do make sure that they are consumed within 3 days if not stored in fridge as the filling contains dairy products. If stored in fridge, you may keep up to two weeks.

Filling and packing hundreds of macarons was a first for me too. I had to find creative ways of stacking them up and storing in airtight conditions with limited resources. I used aluminium foil to place between layers of macarons in rigid cupcake cases so that they stack easily without risk of crushing. Jumbo ziplock bags serve as handy airtight "containers" too. Thankfully I have help for packing them individually so I only needed to pack these in larger batches to be sent off.

We are ready to go!

To all mothers, Happy Mother's Day! Continue to press on in loving the children God has blessed you with! I would also like to thank my hubby and kids for being understanding during this unprecedented baking marathon, and the ladies who have kindly helped to transport, pack and store the macarons in fridges until they are ready to be given away.

Update: thank God that the macarons were very well received! Even people who don't have a sweet tooth don't find it too sweet! Quite a feat for a confectionary item that has a reputation of being too sweet!

With lots of love,
Phay Shing


  1. can you double this macaron recipe? the basic one, not the sugar reduced recipe :)

  2. Hi Sarah, you may double the basic macaron recipe but take note that big volumes of batter may be harder to fold and incorporate properly. I find the 200g portion just nice to work with. You may want to split your mass and meringue into two if working with a 400g almomd meal recipe when you fold the meringue into the mass. Do beat your Italian meringue for at least 15 minutes too if you are doubling the recipe. Otherwise the Italian meringue may not be cool enough

  3. my candy thermometer cant reach the 200g sugar syrup thats why :( but i plan to make diff colors! so i guess it should be okay.. ive read your blog on how to make diff colors in one batch, the 0.55 ratio. anyway thank you!!

    1. I see. All the best :). I switched to another thermometer that is able to read the temperature from the smallest saucepan I have. I also had a candy thermometer that could only read larger volumes of syrup which I gave up using :p

  4. Hi Phay Shing
    Love looking at your macaron. Can I know what type of white chocolate do you use for the filling?

  5. Hi Flora,

    I use compound white chocolate as they are less prone to seizing although taste wise it may not be the best. You may use your favourite white chocolate for eating and chop it up very finely. I compensate by using good ingredients for the rest of the stuff ;).

  6. Hi Phay Shing,

    Is it possible to bake the reduced sugar recipe macaron in french method? I just add up the egg white?


    1. Hi,

      Please refer to the blog post below for reduced sugar French method. Thanks :)

    2. Thanks dear ��


  7. Hi Phay Shing
    Thanks for this detailed explanation on how to make macarons. Was wondering how long can the batter "wait" while one batch of the macaron is being baked? Cos my oven is not big enough so I often have to bake them in batches.


    1. Hi Cynthia,

      I am assuming you are referring to resting time of piped shells on baking trays. As soon as a nonsticky membrane is formed, you should bake but I can understand if you can't. I can't specify timings for you as it really depends on the humidity of the environment where you are drying your shells. When I had to bake this huge batch of bear macarons, I had two different drying areas. One in an air conditioned room (about 45%relative humidity) and another out in the open (about 70-80% relative humidity) without a fan. When I need the shells to dry faster or slow down the drying, I just let the trays rest in the respective locations until they are ready to be baked. It is generally safer to rest for too long (perhaps a few hours) than too short. I hope this helps :)

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