Sunday, April 19, 2009
Salty+Sweet Series 2: Raisins
I have a confession to make: I don't like macarons. I find them cloyingly sweet as a whole, and the shell, traditionally made of almond meal, leaves quite a lot to be desired in the taste department. Maybe it is owing to my unrefined palate that I was unable to rave about macarons in the frenzy that some of the other baker-bloggers could and had. Or perhaps you can blame it on my lack of appreciation for the subtlety and elegance of the French almond-based confection. But before you flog me, I want to tell you something. First, I know I am not the only one. Second, I have finally found a macaron I am in love with.
I cannot remember my first introduction to the walnut, probably because it was so forgettable--I could almost be certain it was out of a supermarket pack; in other words, bitter, stale and of poor quality. Because otherwise, how could the memory of popping a fresh walnut along with a plump raisin into my mouth, one Saturday morning a few months ago, be etched so distinctly in my brains and my palate? I could not even remember what compelled me to buy those walnuts and raisins that day, or why I chose to go to that Iranian vendor to purchase them, instead of the other places scattered across the market.
Ever since then, I have been dreaming up things I would make with walnuts and raisins. Maybe it was why I suggested to Mallory that we pick raisins as the theme of the second Salty+Sweet series. Or maybe it was because no one ever does give the poor raisins any credit at all, despite all that they contribute to mankind. I was in pre-school the first time I ate raisins;my mother bought one 6-pack Sun-Maid Raisins for my after-school snack. They were oh-so-small, perfect for my (then) tiny hands and fingers and mouth. But I liked them because they were sweet. Enough said. Then I stopped eating them for years, until I bought a bag of them at the same time I bought those walnuts from that Iranian vendor. So it seems a shame to break up such an excellent marriage.
I made two batches of macarons---one where I completely replaced the almonds with walnuts, and another where I went half and half. Not that I have anything against almonds, but the all-walnut macaron won hands down, due to having a more pronounced walnut taste, but with none of the astringent undertones which came from the tannins.
But a macaron is not a macaron without its filling, is it? I wanted to feature the raisins prominently in the filling, and Mallory happened to mention rum and raisin ice cream. So rum and raisin ganache it is! While they tasted really good separately, I got a little anxious about how they were going to fare together. Turns out I had nothing to worry about.
As with the first Salty+Sweet Series, there is a prize to be won. My partner-in-crime Mallory chose this cheeky gift as a tribute to this month's theme. To stand a chance to win, you have to comment on both mine and Mallory's blog. The winner will be announced in one week, so you have until then. Good luck!!
Walnut Macarons with Rum and Raisin Ganache
170g icing sugar
3 large egg whites
50g caster sugar
In a food processor, pulse together walnuts and icing sugar. Sift into a clean bowl. Whisk egg whites in a stand mixer until foamy, then add the caster sugar in three additions until a shiny meringue is achieved. Fold the icing sugar/ground walnuts mixture in 3 batches, and be very careful not to overmix, otherwise the batter would spread too much when piped.* Pipe the batter onto a baking paper/silicon mat-lined baking tray, leaving a 5cm gap in between each macaron. Gently rap baking tray on the counter to get rid of air bubbles. Leave to dry out for about one hour, or until macarons form a skin and are no longer sticky to the touch, before baking at 150 degree Celsius for 15 minutes.
Rum and Raisin Ganache
60g raisins (I used a mixture of raisins and sultanas), pureed with 75g of water
180g white chocolate
Heat rum and raisin puree in a saucepan until boiling. Add white chocolate, leave to stand for 1 minute, then whisk to obtain an emulsion. Transfer to a shallow bowl, cover surface directly with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight. Before using, heat ganache in microwave in 2 5-second bursts. Transfer to a stand mixer, and whisk on high speed for 30 seconds.
*I am by no means an expert in macaron making. For more detailed instructions on making macarons, please visit macaron goddess Helen's website, where I myself went to learn the dark arts of macaron making. I also emailed my lovely friend /uber pastry chef Y for some guidance during the creation of these deviations. As long as you ask nicely, I'm sure she wouldn't mind helping you out with your macaron problems.