Saffron, Cardamom and White Chocolate Macarons (Rasmalai Macarons)
We don’t really divulge a lot about our personal lives since food really is the focus on this blog. But life and food are so intertwined that sometimes they form part of our memories. Like the vivid pink strawberry cream cake I had on my fourth birthday, the fried breaded prawn balls Mama used to make for reunion dinners, or the fresh crunchy prawns we had for our first supper in China. This time, I celebrated a transition in my career with a few culinary additions.
I will only say that I worked in a fine-dining Indian restaurant for the past three years. (There aren’t many in Singapore, so make a guess.) It was in this place that I was given plenty of opportunities and met amazing people whom I can keep as friends. This was also where I learnt so much about Indian cuisine and fell in love with it. (And was so spoilt after, no other restaurant can do Indian better.) So what better way to show my appreciation and respect than to present Indian-inspired macarons to the very people who made work a bliss?
N and I went to the storyboard to recreate three of my favourite Indian desserts (or drinks). One of them was Rasmalai, a cottage cheese dumpling steeped in cream flavoured in saffron and cardmom, and then sprinkled with pistachio. The beauty about the snow white dessert is that the pure simplicity of it; the ingredients came together to create a complex and rich aroma and texture. The cottage cheese is like a sponge, soaking up the spiced milk – bursting and crumbling in your mouth.
To capture the essence of Rasmalai, we decided to put the milky soup as the forefront of the macaron. Saffron and cardamom are the two main spices used, and they were infused into white chocolate which acts as a great substitute to the clotted cream. The paneer (cottage cheese) was a little tricky. With two powerful spices alongside the cloying buttery white chocolate, there might be a battle of flavours with the cheese. Perhaps one day, we might try this macaron again, but with cheese. Like the Rasmalai, the macaron was kept white and showered with chopped pistachio nuts. It tasted so much like the actual dessert so success!! In fact, this was probably my favourite out of the three.
Fun fact: N loved sprinkling the pistachio so much, she accidentally had the nuts on all the shells. Well, they were still pretty though.
Saffron, Cardamom and White Chocolate Macaron (Rasmalai Macaron)
By Thom and Aimee
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
pistachio nuts, chopped
For the Saffron, Cardamom and White Chocolate Ganache
180g liquid creme fraiche (35% fat)
160g Valrhona Ivoire couverture
1/2 tsp saffron
7 cardamom pods, cracked
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.
Sprinkle chopped pistachio nuts on half of the shells and then 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 160 to 180C and bake the shells for 12 to 13 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 ganache, heat the cream till it is near boiling. Take off from the heat, add the saffron and cardamom and cover with a lid. Allow it to infuse for 20 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.
As you add the cream to the melted chocolate, you’ll experience the mixture separating, as if it is curdled. Do not worry; this is caused by molecules of fat in the cream and chocolate separating. Continue to mix energetically, drawing small circles to create an elastic, shiny “kernel”; work your way out to the sides of the bowl in widening circles. I find placing the bowl on a bain-marie that has barely simmering water for 3 to 5 seconds helps to incorporate it.
Pressing clingfilm over the surface of the ganache ensures that no condensation will find its way to the chocolate.