Friday, November 5, 2010

Day of madness

Macaron Day, 6 November 2010
Tomorrow, according to the gospel of Zumbo, is Macaron Day. Brace yourself for the queues that are sure to form in Balmain first thing on Saturday morning for the crazy selection of Zumbo macarons. I wonder what new flavours there will be, and if there will be a reappearance of favourites like Vegemite and sourdough.

Adriano Zumbo greets competition winners at Caffe Dante at
MidCity Centre, Pitt Street Mall, Sydney
About a month back in a promotion for the new MidCity Centre, Zumbo and his sous chef Rhian conducted a macaron masterclass for 12 competition winners to learn the art of making the fiddly, time-consuming, sweet bites of obsession. I was excited to be an observer, having once before attempted to make macarons at home to disastrous results.

Sous chef Rhian
In the kitchen of MidCity Centre’s first level Caffe Dante, niceties are short and the 14 get into the kitchen hastily – there’s a lot to be done. They were making three different macarons; each with a different filling plus one surprise filling too. In groups, the kitchen started on the fillings and macaron shells simultaneously (note to self: need 13 helpers including Adriano and Rhian).

Venezualan dark couverture chocolate
First task was the ganaches: a milk chocolate mixed with (seedless) passionfruit juice, and a dark chocolate and Venezualan tonka bean.

Adding hot cream to milk chocolate buttons
Mixing through ganache
Adding hot cream with tonka bean mix to dark chocolate buttons
Adding passionfruit juice to milk chocolate ganache
I noticed that they used butter in addition to heated cream for both ganaches, which were whisked till completely combined and let to rest, covered, at room temperature.

Whisking butter into ganache
There were two components for the third filling: a carrot – yes, carrot – buttercream and an orange jelly. The latter was simply orange juice and two seaweed gelling agents dissolved, then set into hemispherical moulds.

Orange jellies in the mold
Orange jellies out of the mold
These jellies would then be ensconced within the carrot buttercream made with the addition of raw eggs and additional yolks, as well as a nifty carrot powder.

As for the macaron shells, there was also going to be three types - meaning three lots of sugar syrup, three lots of meringue and three lots of tant pour tant (half-half mixture of icing sugar and almond meal).

Meringue goes into the TPT
Mixing the meringue and TPT for basic macaron
Meringue goes into the chocolate TPT
Thoroughly mixing the chocolate macaron mixture
Meringue goes into the shimmery gold TPT
Shimmery remnants
With the thick, glossy Italian meringue, it seemed one could be quite boisterous in mixing it into the TPT. Indeed, Rhian recommended "slapping" the mixture after it was thoroughly combined.

Rhian gives the mixture a slap around
The first was a plain shell but jazzed up with a dusting of red shimmer powder, which was really more pink through my eyes.

Basic macaron shells piped
Red shimmer powder on the basic macarons
The second macaron shells were milk chocolate, and by this stage, people were really getting the hang of the piping motion (the unacceptables were simply scraped off by Zumbo). Eventually, there was a near consistency of sizes, with the sometime-appearing peaks later eliminated by lots of banging of trays.

You do not want to compete with this man in a macaron piping contest
Piping the chocolate macaron shells
The third set of macaron shells were the most exotic in my eyes; not just for the addition of some tonka bean solution that Zumbo had prepared earlier but the liberal input of gold shimmer powder – so much that the entire shell was glittery and sparkly like a toy jewel.

Shimmery gold tonka bean macaron shells
Shimmery remnants
Kitchen action
There was a lot of multi-tasking but also lots of waiting: for the piped shells to rest and form a skin that withstands a light touch; for fillings to cool and set; for oven space – so there was a bit of small talk in between.

Adriano has a taste of the macaron mixture
Zumbo chatted, almost shyly, about his upcoming classes (scheduled for December) and book (how exciting) – both of which are sure to be hit successes and a great way to capitalise on his Masterchef popularity.

(Centre) Ed Rock the Cradle
The guys also brought in miniatures of some of Zumbo's current, quirky-named, in-store desserts, presumably for us to devour in the downtime. ‘Ed Rock the Cradle’ was a milk coffee cheesecake with a chocolate base and coffee mousse, garnished with a milk bottle lolly which was best eaten separately given its completely different texture. It was meltingly good and rich, especially in the one mouthful.

(Centre) Storm Cloud
The picturesque Storm Cloud was a blueberry blue-dusted Italian style meringue atop a citrusy lime tart, with blueberry powder – my favourite of the lot despite the danger of loose blue shimmer powder on a white top.

(Centre) Houdini macaron
I sadly didn’t get to try this eye-opener: a vivid green macaron shell holding fresh berries, and a lime and basil filling. Judging by the reactions on the faces of those who did have it, it was impressive.

Macaron shells coming out of the oven
As the first batch of the baked macarons came out of the oven, the next ones went in as preparations commenced for what I would consider the fun part – filling and constructing the macarons.

Basic baked macaron shells
Impressively, every macaron shell had feet – the lightly bubbly, frill around their bottoms – and were matched up in size ready for filling.

Matched macaron shells
Filling the basic macaron with buttercream
A generous amount of the buttercream was piped into the cooled shells, then an orange jelly pushed into the buttercream, and then topped with a smaller blob of buttercream for attaching the top macaron shell. All this buttercream renders the jelly invisible and an amusing surprise for the eaters.

Pushing orange jellies into the buttercream
On taste, the carrot flavour was completely lost on me although the buttercream was of a lovely and fluffy texture. I was rather torn on the jelly – I liked the textural contrast and playfulness but again, the flavour of the jelly was subtle, if not a little affected by the gelling agents.
Macaron with carrot buttercream and orange jell
Next out of the oven are the milk chocolate macaron shells, looking a lot like chocolate cookies.

Adriano removes the chocolate macarons
Chocolate macaron shells out of the oven
They get the same treatment: cooling, removing from trays, matching with similar tops and bottoms, and then a filling of the piped milk chocolate and passionfruit ganache – which could have done with more setting time.

Chocolate macaron shells ready for filling
Adriano watches over the macaron filling
Filled and being topped
Many hands makes light work
Chocolate macaron with passionfruit and milk chocolate ganache
After piping and topping the chocolate ones, Zumbo puts these into the cold for further setting – blast freezer only recommended.

Shimmery macarons out of the oven
Finally, the tonka bean macaron shells – all shining, shimmering, splendid. The last tray, which Zumbo piped himself in a matter of seconds it seemed, were near perfect; albeit a little delicate coming off the trays.

Macaron perfection
Matched and ready for filling
These golden pieces were filled with its respective tonka bean ganache and made for a stunner of a macaron.

Filling the macarons with tonka bean ganache
Tonka bean macaron with tonka bean ganach
This was my favourite macaron: I almost felt a tingle as I ate it, which could have been from the tonka beans, the large dose of gold shimmer or perhaps just the sheer beauty of the macaron. The dark chocolate ganache is definitely the way to go.

Adriano goes all food blogger
With the hard work all done and being cleaned up by someone else (always good), it was time to stand back and admire the handiwork. Zumbo gets in on the action with his corporate coloured (hot pink) iPhone - he says he hardly ever takes photos of his work, so he must be real proud of his new apprentices.

The close up shot
Everyone gets in on the photo action
Before we all knew it, three hours flew by and most of us were on sugar highs for the rest of the night. For the competition winners, the high would continue with take-home packs of the pre-made goodies and the freshly made macarons, and for some, Zumbo-written recipes.

Take home goodies for the competition winners

  • For the ganache, cover with plastic wrap directly on the chocolate to avoid a skin forming on top.
  • When pouring sugar syrup into egg whites in mixer, add syrup from both sides of the mixer bowl to ensure a more even distribution.
  • Pipe from above, perpendicularly straight down on the baking tray.
  • Double tray – something to do with heat distribution or retention.
  • Macarons are ready to come out of the over when you can move them without breaking them - tricky one.
  • Helpful if you can get smiley sous chef Rhian to explain every minute detail of macarons, ingredients and problem areas. Otherwise, practice makes perfect?

Cooling chocolate ganache
Rhian shows how to pipe the shells
Banging the tray removes the pointy tips and air bubbles
Macarons with Adriano Zumbo in the background

Thanks to Adriano and Rhian for the fun evening, and also Caroline from Cav Con for the invite and MidCity Centre for hosting.


Ellie (Almost Bourdain) said...

Lucky you to be able to attend Zumbo's macarons masterclass!! Great post, Tina!

Gianna said...

Hey Tina! Awesome post, but after reading it i dont think ill ever be able to muster up the courage to make them! one day...

Tina said...

Hi Ellie - Thanks, was good fun too..!

Hi Gianna - Thanks. Actually, I've been motivated to try... now to get a sugar thermometer, more baking trays, pastry scraper, proper nozzles...

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Thanks for the coverage. Such a shame I couldn't go but I felt like I was there!


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