Macarons Confused!

I told my husband the other day that I should maybe set up a Macaron Club where people pay a token sum of £2.50 or £3 (to cover cost of ingredients/electric/gas) and get 5-6 different flavoured macarons. Unfortunately, good quality ingredients don’t come cheap, especially when I have to source my almond flour from specialist stores (grocery store ground almonds are too grainy for macarons) and stuff like pistachio nuts are very pricey, which is why I’ve scaled back my baking a lot.

I haven’t really bounced this idea to anyone else yet though as I’m not sure how popular this will be.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Does anyone remember the Skittles Confused?

I had a request for pistachio macarons and toffee apple macarons some time back, so I’ve put on my macaron-making hat again for this month. The catch for this particular bake is she wants the pistachio macarons to be blue and the toffee apple macarons to be purple… just to keep people guessing. Just like Skittles Confused, but in macaron form.

I’m a firm believer that eating is not only down to taste, texture and smell, but also the look of it. I’m not convinced a blue pistachio macaron will taste as nice, or a purple toffee apple macaron will taste quite right. However, if this is what she wants…

Macarons confused!
Macarons confused!

The blue ones are filled with pistachio buttercream (made with homemade pistachio butter) and the purple ones are filled with toffee and apple buttercream (made with toffee sauce and freeze-dried apples).

Here’s the basic recipe I used for the pistachio buttercream:

Cheat’s (Egg-free) Pistachio Buttercream
Makes: Enough to fill 40+ medium-sized macarons!
Ingredients:
200g unsalted, shelled pistachios
250g butter, softened*
250g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
Method:
  1. To make pistachio butter, preheat oven to 175 degrees C. Spread pistachios onto a baking tin in an even layer. Bake for 6-8 minutes until lightly toasted. Be careful not to burn them!
  2. Place toasted pistachios into a blender and process until smooth. Remember to scrape the sides regularly. When it is the texture you desire, place aside for now.
  3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, place softened butter and icing sugar into the bowl. Cream together until fluffy and the yellow butter colour turned into an off-white colour. Feel free to put it at a higher speed to get there.
  4. Mix in pistachio butter until well incorporated. Taste test to see if the taste is to your liking – you can add salt, more icing sugar, or honey to alter the taste to your preference.
* To aid the creaming process, the butter needs to soft enough to pass through with a knife easily without using any force.

 

The toffee and apple buttercream is more of the same, except using 75g blended freeze-dried apple (bought from a whole food store) and 200g toffee sauce in place of pistachio butter.

I used different brands of gel colours for each colour, and I am a bit disappointed with the result of the purple ones, considering how the batter looked like initially! More about that below, if you are interested in that kind of thing.

All packed up and ready to go!
All packed up and ready to go!

I bought some food-safe cellophane and wrapped them up. That took a lot of practice, trying to wrap up five delicate macarons without crushing them or dropping them. Erk. And also, seeing that I don’t do this on a regular basis – I had to liberate a cardboard box from my hoarder’s supply to place the wrapped-up macarons in to save them from being crushed in the fridge.

I pretty much spent most of my day (10.30am to 4.30pm) buying the ingredients I forgot to stock up on (icing sugar!), making these babies (shells and the respective buttercreams), packing them, and washing up. I was so busy I actually forgot to eat lunch! This is momentous, because I’ve never forget to eat lunch. I am a huge grump when I am hungry.

Let’s hope the recipient likes them.

Anyway, as I was saying earlier, the Sugarflair Spectral Grape Violet was a disappointment in macaron-making. It didn’t turn out too badly in cake-baking as I used it for the purple layer in the rainbow cake as well as the purple frosting. It is entirely possible that the cake crust protects the internal colour. Macarons don’t have that protection, so the outside is for all to see.

Here’s a comparison of before baking and after baking.

Colour degradation with Sugarflair Spectral Grape Violet. Pretty disappointing.
Colour degradation with Sugarflair Spectral Grape Violet. Pretty disappointing.

Huge difference, right? It faded from a really vibrant purple to a pale, lavender colour. Nothing against lavender, but I hate how little control I have over how the colour will turn out. At least the blue (Home2bake from Asda – but I don’t think they do them anymore!) was better once I made sure the batter was vibrant. The first batch of blue macarons only had the teeniest hint of food colouring to make a pastel blue and ended up pastel teal!

As you can see in the photos, I have caved and started using silpats. I used to be very much against the usage of silicon in baking (after a disastrous affair with a cake that got stuck in a silicon baking “tin”), but after spending a lot of money on baking parchments and wasting a lot of time cutting and trying to flatten aforementioned parchments against the baking pan (and ended up with lopsided macarons sometimes!), I have begrudgingly spent some money on silpats – and I frickin’ love them!

Yes, yes, the feet on the macarons are not as high or as straight as baking parchment ones (I think it’s because the feet spread a little when baking on slippery silpats, so you end up with shorter, “ruffled” feet), but for the ease of lining, piping, cleaning, and not wasting a lot of money or killing a lot of trees, I think it is worth it.

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