Wednesday 11 March 2020

Nut-Free, Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Earl Grey Macarons (French method)

I have an upcoming request that requires me to make nut-free version of macarons. I thought it was as simple as making a one to one substitution for almond meal with nut-free alternatives but it turns out that is not the case. I did a quick search on the internet and all the recipes I found had significantly higher sugar content than what I normally use. This one to one substitution would have worked if I had been using higher icing sugar content recipe as my base. Being the rebel baker that I am, I refused to follow because I don't like to use lots of sugar in my bakes unless absolutely necessary. After a few attempts and some advice from chef Michelle Blaine whom I follow on Instagram, I admit defeat and settled for a recipe I am satisfied with 😅. Presenting my nut-free bear macarons filled with dairy-free Earl Grey ganache!

I began my experiment by using rice flour to substitute all of the almond flour. It made the batter really thick at the beginning of macaronage for french method but adding a tsp of unbeaten egg white towards the end of macaronage fixed that. I still could work with it but it took getting used to. The resulting macaron has texture that resembles meringue cookies. This is to be expected because of the lack of protein and fats. I tried substituting with pumpkin seed flour using my regular swiss and french method recipes. The batter had a consistency that became runnier more quickly than usual with folding. The batter was also stickier and took a longer time to dry than almond. I used a combination of rice and pumpkin seed flour and had a result that has a texture very close to almond based macaron shells but lacking in the almond aroma. This isn't too big a deal since macarons are supposed to take on the flavour of the filling. The batter was still stickier and runnier than usual.

Chef Michelle kindly shared with me the ratio of ingredients she uses for both Italian and French methods. The icing sugar content is higher than regular recipes for the dry ingredients portion. I had been avoiding using more sugar right from the start but it looked like these flours really needed to be balanced by higher proportion of icing sugar. I reduced the sugar content in the meringue portion a little to compensate for the increase in icing sugar content in the dry ingredients.

Pumpkin seed flour that I bought from a shop selling Traditional Chinese Medicine

I am sharing the French method recipe in this post.

Recipe for nut-free macaron shells
Dry ingredients
19g pumpkin seed flour
19g rice flour
62g icing sugar (with cornflour added)
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp charcoal powder

40g egg whites
30g icing sugar
1/2 tsp cornflour
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp fine salt (optional)
1 drop espresso gel colouring
1 drop egg yellow gel colouring

1. Sift all the dry ingredients together. Omit the charcoal and cocoa powders if making plain shells. Set aside.

2. Make the meringue. Whisk together icing sugar, cornflour and salt in a small bowl. In a clean metal bowk, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually add icing sugar mix and beat until stiff peaks form. Add gel colouring and continue to beat until colour is evenly mixed and the meringue is able to ball up in the whisk, able to form really stiff peaks but appears smooth and not clumpy.

3. Scatter half of dry ingredients into meringue. Gently fold in with spatula until homogeneous. Scatter the other half of dry ingredients into batter and fold until combined. Then fold and press the batter against the sides of the mixing bowl to deflate the batter. Keep folding and pressing until batter is able to fall off spatula in a continuous manner. You may refer to this post for video tutorial of the basics of macaron making.

4. Transfer into piping bag fitted with wilton #8 or 10 tip and pipe the bear heads. Pipe bear heads on prepared tray with template and parchment paper (or teflon sheet or silicone mat if you prefer). Bamg tray on table to pop air bubbles.

For these bears, I used a method of drying and baking that I don't normally use because I was in a rush. Do what you are comfortable with when it comes to baking temperature and time. Just take note that the boundary between head and ears will be a weak one so allow for membrane to be formed before baking. Usually I would dry the piped batter in aircon room until
I am able to run a finger across the surface. I would preheat the oven to 170°C then redice the temperature immediately to 145°C and bake for 12 min, reduce temperature to 130°C and bake for another 5 to 10 min or until feet doesn't appear wet.

5. Put tray in middle rack of oven preheated to 70°C for 5 min. Check with finger if membrane is formed without taking macarons out of oven. If the batter still sticks to your fingers, wait for another 5 min and check again. Once membrane is formed, turn the temperature up to 130°C and bake for another 15-20 min or until feet no longer appears wet. Cool completely before removing from parchment paper.

I wanted to test out water based tea ganache as tea flavours and aroma are best brought out with boiling water and not milk or cream. I was really pleased how the ganache tasted especially after maturing! So full of Earl Grey aroma! Feel free to scale up the recipe for a larger batch.

Water-based Earl grey ganache
Chocolate base
30g dairy-free white chocolate, finely chopped or use chips (use regular white chocolate for dairy version)
6g cocoa butter (replace with white chocolate if you wish. I used this to reduce sweetness level imparted by white chocolate)
6g bitter dark chocolate couverture (73.5%, I added this to temper the sweetness of the filling. Replace with white chocolate if you wish)
10g vegetable shortening (use butter for dairy version)
1/8 tsp salt

Tea flavouring
5 Earl grey teabags (or 10g loose tea leaves, finely ground)
3 tsp (or 8g) Earl grey tea powder (this is different from tea leaves as it can be dissolved. Replace with some Earl grey tea leaves if unavailable)
45g boiling hot water

1. Steep 8g or 4 teabags worth of tea leaves in freshly boiled water. Let it steep for 5 min.

2. In the mean time, place all chocolate base ingredients into microwave safe bowl and melt together using medium-low heat. Chill in freezer for 2 min and whip/stir with spatula. Repeat freezing and stirring until it resembles buttercream texture.

3. Strain the tea leaves out and measure out 12g of concentrated tea. Dissolve 3 tsp of Earl Grey tea powder in the concentrated tea to form a paste in a small microwave safe bowl. Heat the paste for 10 sec using medium-low heat. And stir well. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Add it to the whipped chocolate base 1 tsp at a time and fold until combined.

4. Add 2g or 1 teabag of dry loose tea leaves/tea dust into the filling and mix well. Add 2g or 1 teabag worth of tea leaves that was previously soaked in hot water into the filling and mix well. Be careful to make sure the excess water had been squeezed out of the leaves before adding to the ganache. Do a taste test. If this is still not strong enough for you, you may add more soaked tea leaves that have been drained.

Fill the macaron shells and refrigerate forat least 24h before consuming.

I did a test to see how well the ganache holds up in a hot kitchen.

Not too bad 😊. You can't really pipe rosettes with it at 32.3°C ambient temperature but it shouldn't melt into a puddle.

With love,
Phay Shing

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