To complement the other macaron, we decided to go with Jasmine for its light and gentle fragrance. Strangely, I do not associate Jasmine with sweets very much. My weekend dim sum breakfasts usually consist of savoury petite dumplings, and I usually wash the oil down with xiang pian cha (jasmine tea).
The beauty of tea is that it can be enjoyed in the most simple of ways. In fact, the Chinese usually appreciate tea on its own – leaves and water. Our family gatherings usually end with a tea-drinking session. Everyone would crowd around the little tea table and observe my cousin’s little performance of preparing tea. It’s a time of laughter and bonding. If inspired, some of the kids would try their hand on poetry, often with hilarious outcomes. (Chinese poetry is extremely deep. I don’t get it 90% of the time.)
I would love to go on about tea but let’s go back to the macarons. (Perhaps one day we might do a separate post just about tea.) To allow the presence of Jasmine to be felt, we used black tea leaves. They might not be the best for drinking alone, however, in baking; they come through a lot more. If in doubt, visit a local tea boutique and learn about the many different varieties.
By Pierre Hermé
Makes 36 macarons, 72 shells
For the Macaron Shells
150g ground almonds
150g icing sugar
55g liquefied egg whites
7.5g titanium oxide powder
5g warm mineral water
150g caster sugar
38g mineral water
55g liquefied egg whites
For the Jasmine Ganache
180g liquid creme fraiche (35% fat)
160g Valrhona Ivoire couverture
13g Jasmine tea
Prepare the template for macaron shells by cutting a sheet of baking parchment that fits inside a baking tray. Draw circles measuring 3.5cm in diameter and space the circles 2cm apart.
To make the macaron shells, sift together the icing sugar and ground almonds.
Dilute the titanium oxide powder in a bowl of warm mineral water and stir it into the first portion of liquefied egg whites. Pour them into the mixture of icing sugar and ground almonds. Do not stir.
Place sugar and water to a large saucepan under low heat. Dissolve sugar before bringing it to a boil over medium heat at 118C. Do not stir the sugar mixture when it starts bubbling as it will create sugar crystals. Have a pastry brush with a bowl of cold water at hand. When the sugar boils, clean the sides of the saucepan with the damp brush.
While sugar is bubbling, simultaneously start whisking the second portion of egg whites to soft peaks. When the sugar reaches 118C, take the saucepan off the heat and pour the hot sugar in a thin stream over the egg whites. Whisk egg whites at high speed for 1 minute before reducing to medium speed. Continue to whisk for 2 minutes then allow meringue to rest until it cools down to 50C.
Tip meringue into the mixture of icing sugar and ground almonds. Fold the batter and stir outwards from the middle to the sides, rotating the bowl as you stir. Continue stirring until the batter is just starting to turn glossy, like slightly runny cake dough.
Scoop a little batter and scrape into a piping bag, fitted with a plain nozzle. Fill the bag with half of the batter by scraping it on the side of the bag. Squeeze batter into piping bag so it ends up to the end of the piping bag, to prevent any space or air bubbles in the batter. Twist the end of the piping bag several times and start to pipe the batter out.
Lay the macaron template on the baking tray and cover it with a sheet of baking parchment. Hold the piping bag vertically, about 2 cm above the baking tray. Squeeze the top to pipe out the first shell. The shell should be smaller than the template circle, just short of 3.5cm in diameter as the batter will spread during baking.
Continue to pipe the shells out onto other baking trays with the template until all the batter is piped out. Flatter the points that have formed on the shells by rapping the baking tray on a work surface with a moist kitchen towel.
Allow the shells to stand at room temperature (or in an air-conditioned room) for about 30 minutes until a skin forms on the surface. To test when it’s ready, gently touch the shell; the batter should not stick to your finger.
Pre-heat oven to 180C and bake the shells for 12 minutes. Open the oven door after eight minutes and after 10 minutes, to let out steam. Once baked, slide the macaron shells out of the baking tray and onto the work surface to prevent the shells from baking further on the baking tray. Allow the macarons to cool on the baking parchment as taking them off when it’s warm will tear the bottom.
When cooled, carefully unstick the shells from the baking parchment. They are now ready to be filled. You can store them for 48 hours in the refrigerator or freeze them.
For the tea ganache, heat the cream to 85C. Off the heat, add the jasmine tea and cover with a lid. Allow it to infuse for no more than 3 minutes. Strain.
Chop up the chocolate and melt it in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Pour cream over the melted chocolate a third at a time. Transfer the ganache to a gratin dish, press clingfilm over the surface of the ganache. Place it in the refrigerator to allow ganache to thicken.
Spoon the cooled ganache into a piping bah fitted with a plain nozzle. Pipe a generous mound of ganache on half of the shells and top with the remaining shells. Store the macarons in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.