Around this time last year, I thought I was at the lowest place I could possibly be. I made myself a birthday cake, which turned out to be the happiest thing I've ever made. It was just the thing I needed to lift my spirits at the time, and it still makes me smile to look at that cake. It's been an incredibly year since then, and it's crazy to think about everything that I've gone through. Sorry there wasn't a post last week, somehow this particular time of year seems to bring out all the drama and this time around baking was not the coping tool that I needed.
After my last batch of animal macarons, I swore to myself that I would take a step away from doing cute shaped macarons because it seems like everyone is doing them these days! But this weekend was Betty's baby shower and I couldn't resist pulling out one more weird macaron shape for the occasion. I tried my best to make them look like little baby milk bottle macarons, with blue tops because she's having a boy :) Unfortunately it seems that the funkier I made the shapes the more bumpy and uneven the macaron shells turn out. They are far from perfect but I think you could still tell what they were supposed to be, or at least I hope you can!
I added a few white sprinkles on the side of each bottle to look like the measuring lines on a bottle, which I think worked quite well. It was a bit of a pain to sift through my rainbow sprinkles to find the right length of white sprinkles and carefully place them on each shell. I filled the shells with a simple white chocolate and vanilla bean ganache. After this, I swear I'm going cold turkey on the funky shaped macarons, I really want to focus more on making some beautiful smooth shells with some intense, lovely flavours. This time around I did try out a tip I learnt from BraveTart, I added a small amount of salt to the shells to help balance out the intense sweetness and I think it's genius. Will definitely be using salt in my macaron recipe from now on.
Baby Milk Bottle Macarons
(makes about 15 macarons)
For the macarons: (if you are a beginner with macarons, read up and practice plain macarons first. BraveTart has lots of useful advice and info on the subject)
100g aged egg whites (you can use fresh eggs too, just make sure they are room temperature. I always use fresh these days, and zap it in the microwave on defrost for 10 seconds)
110g almond meal, at room temperature and well sifted
200g icing sugar
50g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Optional: 1 tsp powdered egg whites (available from The Essential Ingredient), helps to stabilise egg whites but is not necessary
To decorate: blue or pink food colouring (I used Wilton's gel icing colour), white sprinkles
For the ganache:
200g white chocolate, finely chopped
120ml (about 1/2 cup) pure/pouring cream (or heavy whipping cream in the US, min 35% fat unthickened)
1 vanilla bean pod, split and seeds scraped (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/pure vanilla extract)
Prepare the macarons first; line two baking sheets with baking paper. Place icing sugar in food processor and pulse for a minute to remove any lumps. Stir in almond meal and pulse for about 30 seconds to combine. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites, salt and egg white powder in a medium mixing bowl until the egg white powder dissolves and it reaches soft peaks. With the mixer on high speed, gradually add sugar and beat until it reaches stiff peaks. Add meringue to your dry mixture and mix, quickly at first to break down the bubbles in the egg white (you really want to beat all the large bubbles out of the mixture, be rough!), then mix carefully as the dry mixture becomes incorporated and it starts to become shiny again. Take care not to overmix, the mixture should flow like lava and a streak of mixture spread over the surface of the rest of the mixture should disappear after about 30 seconds.
Place about 1/5th of the mixture in a separate bowl and add blue/pink food colouring to it. Place blue mixture and white mixture in two separate piping bags. I attached a 0.5 cm round tip to the white bag and a narrower tip (about 0.25cm) for the blue. Pipe the white mixture in rectangles to form the base of the bottle. Pipe a narrow line of blue above each rectangle as shown in the picture above, then pipe a small triangle of white on the top of each blue line. I find it is easiest to use a wooden skewer dipped in warm water to help neaten up the edges. Additionally, you can place white sprinkles along the side of each rectangle to look like measuring lines.
Leave to dry for at least half an hour, so that when you press the surface of one gently it does not break. This will help prevent any cracking and help the feet to form on the macs. Preheat your oven to 140-150°C (285-300°F), depending on your oven. Place on top of an overturned roasting tray or another baking sheet if your sheets are not professional grade, for better heat distribution. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your shells. Carefully test if the base of the shell is ready by gently lifting one and if it's still soft and sticking to the baking paper, then it needs to bake for a few minutes longer. Remove from the oven and cool on the tray for a few minutes, then gently remove from the sheet and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
Prepare the ganache; place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and gently heat cream and vanilla bean & seeds in a small saucepan until it just comes to the boil, then pour hot cream over the chocolate and set aside for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to melt. Remove vanilla bean pod. Using a whisk, gently combine mixture until it is smooth (if there are still lumps, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir until they are gone). Set aside to cool (or chill if you want to speed it up), until has returned to room temperature and is thickened enough to hold it's shape but still pipable. Sandwich macaron with the ganache (by piping it or using a spoon to spread it). Chill in the fridge in an airtight container overnight, serve at room temperature.