Sunday, 14 November 2010

Macaron tower attempt

My bro and Jools are big fans of macarons, especially the salt caramel ones from Ladurée! As a birthday present, I decided to have a crack at making a macaron tower for them. This project took a couple of months of planning and executing and not all of that time went smoothly either!!

Of course, the first thing to tackle was to try and perfect an acceptable salt caramel macaron - the recipe which was given to us at school by our chef called for "caramel maison" which I remembered making in class but there was no recipe in our books for this!! Luckily, chef was at hand to sort that out, merci! :)
My first batch of shells (the 1st time I had made macarons since leaving school), turned out perfectly......I literally jumped for joy when I peered into the oven and saw "feet"! :) 
Unfortunately, the filling didn't turn out so great and neither did my Plan B attempt of "salted" dulce de leche. Attempt no. 2 was to make a caramel based on a recipe from one of my resto stints......that was a bit of minor disaster as I managed to completely burn the bottom of my new stainless steel saucepan (luckily, after much elbow grease and scouring I was able to salvage it). I decided to leave the caramel to cool and then use it the following day. However, after a night in the fridge, my caramel had turned rock hard. Things went from bad to worse when I nooked it briefly in the microwave and the whole mixture managed to split on me!! Taste wise it was OK but I also realised that it was overcooked because my new thermometer is inaccurate and useless.........shit basically! Trying to make recipes which call for boiled sugar at exact temperatures with a shitty thermometer is a recipe for disaster!  
A weekend later,  I managed to find another recipe for salt caramel on the net and this time, success! Finally, I was left with something that sort of aspired to the famed Ladurée version :)

I decided to make 2 other flavours and settled for raspberry and chestnut (cos its "seasonal"). My first raspberry macaron shells attempt were completely overcooked and were a terrible colour (NEVER use natural food colouring!!) but my 1st attempt at raspberry ganache was OK. Macaron shells then had to be made again....using pink ARTIFICIAL food colouring and they came out pretty good :)

I have to say my chestnut macarons probably looked the best of the 3 and the filling was pretty yummy but a little time consuming traipsing around London getting all the ingredients (chestnut cream, chestnut puree, marrons glaces and rum).

My next challenge was then to find a polystyrene cone to stick the macarons on....after a bit of surfing on the net, I managed to track down a crafts website who happened to be selling them, woohoo! Of course, presentation is key which meant getting hold of a cake dummy, cake board, royal icing, fondant, acetate and ribbon for the final touches. Covering cone and dummy with royal icing was a pain and then there was some piping to be done.......I was feeling pretty pleased with my effort at first but had misjudged the consistency of my royal icing. It was too runny which meant my lovely teardrop piping started to droop downwards, char!!!

The days leading up to my bro's b-day, I had been worrying about not having enough macarons for the tower (my friend from PH had suggested that more macarons make the tower look prettier) but after all the trials and tribulations, decided against making a 4th batch. I was cutting it fine as I ended up using every last one!! 

Overall, I think the tower looked OK but if I were to make it again, I would definitely tweak a few things:

  • make more macarons and make ones which have a more "solid" filling......raspberry is a disaster and are more prone to falling
  • cover my cake dummy with a 2nd layer of royal icing so that you can't see the dimply effect from the polystyrene
  • make my royal icing more stiff for piping
  • if possible, construct my tower at the final destination......travelling with this baby in the back of a taxi is not ideal........2 macarons managed to fall off......cue expletives in the car!
  • start sticking macarons from the top down.......this prevents a gap appearing at the top of the tower :(
As you can see, I tend to focus more on the negative sides of this project :)
On the plus side, I think my bro and Jools did like it and I got some comments from other people at the party asking if I had bought it? I guess it didn't look as bad as I thought.....

A lot of might be a while before I attempt it again but it was appreciated and I learnt a lot in the process which is the main thing :)

No comments: