It’s a quiet Christmas here at Chocolate Chilli Mango this year. Almost a non-Christmas, you might say. There is no tree, no decorations, no special baking for Christmas Day, no gatherings with relatives. My mother and I will be having a quiet day doing our own thing and remembering the musketeer that is no longer part of our troupe. If my father were a musketeer he’d probably be Aramis. Dashing and brave, but also quiet, spiritual, and a profound thinker. He is thought of and missed every single day.
But life goes on, and I have many people to thank this year for supporting me during some hard times over recent months as well as supporting me as I start-up some new business ventures for the new year. There are lots of plans for Chocolate Chilli Mango for 2014 that are finally taking shape, and which I will reveal as they do!
Christmas gifts that you make yourself are considered by some to be a frugal option. I disagree. The gifts you make yourself require time, dedication, and love as well as financial investment. They come from the heart and are rarely the result of a casual afterthought. In that sense, they make the best gifts, don’t you think? So I have been busily making chocolates and small sweet things to give as gifts this Christmas. I hope they bring some joy this year!
As I sit and write this post I am munching on a macaron … or perhaps I should say biting delicately into … Macarons are much too refined for munching, non?
They were one of my father’s favourite things and he could wax lyrical about them for hours. I had so many ideas for a Christmas recipe post but really … how I could I make anything but macarons? I know he would have loved these with their nougat buttercream centre and shells flavoured with blood orange. A Christmas macaron that is a play on the European traditions of oranges and nougat at Christmas. They also make lovely gifts at this time of year.
These macarons would be perfect to serve after Christmas lunch is done and you kick back with a cup of coffee or maybe something a little stronger. A glass of Amaretto liqueur might not be out of order, in fact.
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and festive season. Stay safe, spend time with those you love, and find the joy in every day … and enjoy a macaron or two, as you do.
Merry Christmas, friends ♥♥♥
Blood Orange Macarons
I love the beautiful colour and flavour that freeze dried blood orange powder gives these macaron shells.
If you cannot find freeze dried blood orange powder, substitute a few drops of a good quality terpenless orange extract. Add the extract to the almond meal, food colour, and egg white mixture before mixing to a paste.
If you are using the blood orange juice powder, you only need a few drops of orange food colouring to tone down the redness of the powder. If using the orange extract instead, add a little red colour to the orange to give a slightly deeper colour reminiscent of blood oranges.
150 grams almond meal
150 grams icing sugar
30 grams freeze-dried blood orange juice powder* (I use Fresh As)
55 grams egg white
orange and red colour food colouring q.b.
135 grams sugar
40 grams water
55 grams egg white
pinch cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 140°C. Line 2 large baking sheets with silpat sheets or baking paper. Set aside.
Place the almond meal, icing sugar, and blood orange juice powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is very fine and silky in texture. You can test it between two fingers. I do this before sifting the mixture, but if you prefer, just sift the almond meal, icing sugar, and blood orange powder together. Once done, place in a large mixing bowl. Mix together the 55 grams of egg white and the food colouring, if using. If you are using orange extract instead of the powder, add it to the egg white mixture. Add the egg white to the almond meal mixture and mix well with a spatula or pastry scraper until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.
Place the remaining 55 grams of egg white and cream of tartar into the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer and start whisking at low to medium speed. Place the water into a saucepan and add the sugar. Dissolve the sugar, in the water, over a low heat. Bring to the boil and cook until the sugar reaches 118°C. By this stage the egg whites should have reached a soft peak stage. Continue whisking at medium speed as you pour the syrup into the egg whites in a thin, steady stream. For best results, pour the syrup down the side of the bowl directly on to the egg white, but stay clear of the whisk. Keep whisking until the bowl cools to just warm. I usually whisk the meringue for about 10 minutes or so and turn up the speed for a minute or two at the end. The meringue should be fairly stiff but not dry. When you lift the whisk, there should be a solid clump on the whisk. It should be able to look you in the eye without flinching.
Scrape a small amount of the meringue into the bowl with the almond mixture and work it into the mixture to lighten it, using a spatula or pastry scraper. I prefer the scraper. Scrape the remaining meringue into the bowl and fold it into the almond mixture, flipping it over on to itself, and turning the bowl with each fold. Scrape any mixture down the bowl to make sure the whole mixture is homogenous, and there are no streaks of meringue or almonds. Continue folding until the macaronage is at the stage where a little mixture, lifted, will fall back into itself slowly. Be careful not to overmix the macaronage.
Fit a large piping bag with a plain tip and pipe small mounds on to the baking sheets. Rap the baking sheets hard on to the bench to expel any air bubbles. Rap it again, harder, if you’re not sure. You can pop them straight into the oven or leave until the mixture forms a light crust. It’s up to you. Won’t matter either way. I like to leave them for about 30 minutes or so. In the event that you have over mixed the macaronage, allowing a skin to form on the shells before baking can help them to rise and have proper feet as they will not be spreading out while also trying to rise!
Bake for about 15 minutes or until done. Depending on your oven, they may need another minute or so.
Nougat Italian Meringue Buttercream
This is a gorgeous buttercream that is not overly sweet and is quite light in texture. The nougat gives a little crunchy texture and a subtle flavour.
If you have any leftover buttercream, it keeps well for several days in the refrigerator. Before using, allow to come to room temperature and then beat it again until light and fluffy.
You will need a thermometer for the sugar syrup in the recipe.
66 grams egg white, at room temperature (about 2 large egg whites)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
20 grams caster sugar
28 grams water
75 grams caster sugar
175 grams unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, and at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla powder or scrape the beans of 1/2 vanilla pod
45 grams torrone friabile (crunchy Italian nougat), very finely chopped
extra torrone friabile, finely chopped, for decoration
Place the egg white and cream of tartar into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk until frothy. Add the caster sugar in a steady stream while still whisking. Continue to whisk at medium speed while you prepare the sugar syrup.
Place the water into a stainless steel or copper saucepan. Add the sugar in the centre. Place over a low to medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Do not stir the syrup as it cooks. Raise the heat and cook the syrup until it reaches 130℃.
By this stage, the egg whites should have reached a gloss soft peak stage. As you continue to whisk, add the hot syrup in a steady stream, down the sides of the meringue. Avoid pouring directly down the side of the bowl or on to the whisk. Keep whisking until the meringue reaches stiff peaks and is cooled completely.
Make sure the butter is at room temperature and soft and pliable, or else the buttercream will be lumpy. By the same token, make sure your meringue has cooled so that it won’t melt the butter, making the buttercream runny.
You can swap to the paddle attachment at this stage but I find the whisk is perfectly fine.
Add the butter one-third at a time, beating well after each addition until the cubes of butter have been fully incorporated into the meringue. The mixture will appear to separate a little but just keep whisking and it will become smooth and light and fluffy.
Add the vanilla and the crushed torrone and beat until incorporated.
Fit a piping bag with a pain tip and fill half way with the buttercream.
Pipe the buttercream on to half the macaron shells. Place a matched macaron shell on top and gently twist together.
If you like, roll the edges in some extra crushed torrone for a pretty effect and extra crunch!
If you are not planning to use the buttercream immediately, cover and refrigerate. Let the buttercream come to room temperature and beat until smooth again before using.