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sexta-feira, 27 de janeiro de 2012

#GASTRONOMIA : Chinese Lantern Macarons with Jackfruit Buttercream

Happy Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year) everyone! I hope everyone who was celebrating with a big dinner last night had a great time and lots of delicious food. I definitely did, we prepared our usual masses of dishes including my favourite, the yee sang (I wrote about it a couple years ago if you have no idea what it is). As an extra treat I decided to make a little Chinese New Year-themed sweet, these Chinese Lantern-shaped Macarons with Jackfruit Buttercream. I have yet to try to master any of the traditional biscuits and sweets that are usually served during Chinese New Year, but I thought it might be fun to do something with my own spin instead.
In case it's not immediately obvious, I was attempting to make my macarons look like the red paper laterns that are usually hung up as decoration during Chinese New Year (something like this) It was pretty easy to pipe the basic shape of the lantern, but originally I had wanted to put a bit more detail on them by using gold glitter sugar, but that just made them look ugly and messy. So I kept them plain, and stole a bunch of little gold strings off my old Christmas ornaments (I knew they would come in handy eventually!), and some little red tassles from some other Chinese New Year decorations. I'm pretty satisfied with the result; they're quite cute and very festive, if a little plain.
I struggled a lot with choosing an appropriate flavour for these macarons. Something orange seemed like the obvious choice but it was little too boring for me. I was tossing up between lychee, mango or jackfruit and finally decided on jackfruit because it was the most unusual and strongest flavoured fruit. I have no idea if jackfruit is a good or bad fruit to serve during CNY (I've only heard that pears are a nono), for all I know I've just given myself 444 years of bad luck. But jackfruits are something that I strongly associate with going back to Malaysia to visit all my relatives, so it seemed appropriate for me. The flavour of the fruit is something that not everyone will like, it has a very strong smell that's nowhere near as pungent as durian but definitely still distinctive. I used the canned jackfruit in sugar syrup which isn't quite as strong smelling/flavoured, and I think it worked beautifully.
I added the jackfruit puree and some of the sugar syrup to my usual Swiss Meringue Buttercream, since it is capable of taking up quite a lot of liquid while still staying thick and creamy. Overnight the flavour matured well and you could really taste the jackfruit in the macaron. If that flavour of filling doesn't appeal to you or you have no idea what the heck a jackfruit is, I mention in the recipe below that you can replace it with lychee or mango. You could completely switch it up and make this pineapple jam as the filling instead. I would have loved to make the jam but I didn't have enough time, or the patience to carve the pineapples :P Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous new year, and sending my love to my parents and all my other relatives overseas. I would love to be in Malaysia right now eating all kinds of yummy things and receiving red packets, it's the last year I'll be able to receive them!
Chinese Lantern Macarons with Jackfruit Buttercream
(makes approximately 10-12 macarons)
100g aged egg whites (you can use fresh eggs too, just make sure they are room temperature. I always use fresh these days, and zap it in the microwave on defrost for 10 seconds)
110g almond meal, at room temperature and well sifted
200g icing sugar
50g caster sugar
Optional: 1 tsp powdered egg whites (available from The Essential Ingredient), helps to stabilise egg whites but is not necessary
To decorate: red and yellow food colouring (powdered or gel), gold string

For the jackfruit buttercream:
2 egg whites
1/2 cup caster (superfine) sugar
150g unsalted butter
1/2 cup canned jackfruit puree (about 3-4 pieces of canned jackfruit) + 1/4-1/3 cup jackfruit sugar syrup from can to taste
Note: if you don't like jackfruit or it is unavailable, you can replace with canned lychee, fresh mango or even durian if you're feeling adventurous
(If you're new to making Swiss meringue buttercream, these wonderful tutorials from two of my favourite bloggers will help)

Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Place icing sugar in food processor and pulse for a minute to remove any lumps. Stir in almond meal and pulse for about 30 seconds to combine. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and egg white powder in a medium mixing bowl until the egg white powder dissolves and it reaches soft peaks. With the mixer on high speed, gradually add sugar and beat until it reaches stiff peaks.

Add meringue to your dry mixture and mix, quickly at first to break down the bubbles in the egg white (you really want to beat all the large bubbles out of the mixture, be rough!), then mix carefully as the dry mixture becomes incorporated and it starts to become shiny again. As it just comes together, place about 1/4 of the mixture in a separate bowl. Add yellow food colouring to the smaller amount and red colouring to the other and continue mixing until it is the right consistency. Take care not to overmix, the mixture should flow like lava and a streak of mixture spread over the surface of the rest of the mixture should disappear after about 30 seconds. Place red and yellow mixture in separate piping bags, the red with a wider 1cm tip and the yellow with a much narrower tip (see photo). Pipe fat oval shapes with the red mixture, and then carefully pipe smalls strips of yellow on the top and bottom of the ovals. Tap baking sheets carefully and firmly on the benchtop to remove any large bubbles.
Leave to dry for at least half an hour to an hour, so that when you press the surface of one gently it does not break. This will help prevent any cracking and help the feet to form on the macs. Preheat your oven to 140-150°C (285-300°C), depending on your oven. Place on top of an overturned roasting tray or another baking sheet if your sheets are not professional grade, for better heat distribution. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your shells. Carefully test if the base of the shell is ready by gently lifting one and if it's still soft and sticking to the baking paper, then it needs to bake for a few minutes longer. Remove from the oven and cool on the tray for a few minutes, then gently remove from the sheet and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Prepare the buttercream; whisk together egg white and sugar in a large heatproof bowl. Clip a candy thermometer to side of bowl. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk until mixture reaches 70°C (160°F) and sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.

With a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg white mixture on high speed until cooled and thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. If mixture is runny at this point, refrigerate for 10 minutes and then continue beating until it starts to hold its shape (this can take a while). Mix in jackfruit puree and then gradually add the jackfruit sugar syrup from the can depending on how strong you want it, taste testing as you go. Spoon or pipe buttercream on to macaron shells, sandwiching them together and adding a gold string sticking out of the top of each one if you wish. Refrigerate overnight in an airtight container to allow the flavours to mature, serve at room temperature.


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