"We are joined in holy communion of this miracle: sugar and egg white and almond coming together." p69
The Colour of Tea by first time novelist and New Zealander Hannah Tunnicliffe is composed of twenty-seven chapters - each one named after a macaron. Chapter one starts with sweet and smokey caramel with salted buttery cream filling and the last chapter - orange pekoe dusted with gold and a mascapone filling with rose gel insert. For someone like me, who has never dared bake a macaron, the list was both daunting and enticing.
The story line goes like this: Girl (Grace) meets boy (Pete). Gets married. Fails to conceive. Opens cafe. In China. On or around the time of the Beijing Olympics.
Inside the cafe we meet single mum Gigi with baby daughter Faith; Rilla, a Filipino, who is working hard to support her family back home and several spoilt and displaced expats working under contract.
The cafe is called Lillian's after Grace's mother, with whom she had a strained relationship. As is to be expected from this genre, the cafe and the food provides the vehicle for each woman to overcome her individual yearnings and re-invent herself, all the while nibbling on flavours of Wild strawberry with pink grapefruit butter cream, Plum and hibiscus with chocolate ganache and Bergamot and cardamom with white chocolate ganache.
Macarons have become a global cult replacing the cupcake craze. Basically, a macaron is two crisp, sweet shells sandwiched together with a creamy filling. Eating them is easy but baking them is harder than you think! Before I attempted the task I watched countless YouTube instructions and many tips and tricks with one failure after another. My kids even said "Give it up mum". But I thought if the Parisians and Italians could do it in the fifteenth century with basic implements so could I - and I did!
Rosewater with white chocolate ganache.
1 cup icing sugar
3/4 cup almond meal
2 large egg whites (aged)
pinch cream of tartar
1/4 cup icing sugar
4-5 drops pink food colouring
5 drops rosewater or rose water essence
Sift icing sugar with almond meal. Sift. Then sift again.
Beat egg whites until foamy and add cream of tartar. Continue to beat until mix has thickened then add sugar s.l.o.w.l.y. until it is dissolved and the eggs are stiff and shiny. Add drops of food colouring and continue to mix. Then, show no mercy and beat the eggs in to the almond and icing sugar mix until well combined.
TIP 1. Make sure the egg whites have been aged. I left mine on the bench top for 24 hrs. Although overnight is okay if the weather is warm.
TIP 2. Sift. Sift. Sift the dry ingredients.
Pipe mixture on to a baking tray, in small mounds the size of a 50 cent piece. Some recipes say 20 cents but I found this is too miserly.
TIP 3. Place piping bag inside a tall glass and fold the edges over the top of the glass. This will make it easy and mess free to fill.
TIP 4. Allow the piped macarons to dry out slowly to form a skin. Some recommend leaving them on the bench for several hours, but the best tip I came across was to leave them in a slightly warm oven (turned off) with the door open for half an hour. Once they are firm to the touch remove from the oven.
Set the oven temperature to 150 degrees. Then bake for 20 minutes. I always get "feet" when I do it this way.
Cool. Store in an airtight container and fill with ganache before serving.
1 cup thickened cream scalded and poured over 7oz chopped white chocolate. Once melted place in refrigerator to firm up, then fill macarons.
Tip 5. Serve with fresh fruit such as strawberries or raspberries to break the sweetness.
Butter Cream Filling
1 cup unsalted butter (soft)
1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons mandarin rind
2 tablespoon orange blossom water or a few drops of orange essence
Few drops yellow food colouring
Raspberry and Rosewater Flavouring
2 tablespoons chopped raspberries
2 teaspoons of rosewater or few drops of rosewater essence
few drops of green food colouring
Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the icing sugar until well creamed. Divide the mix in half and flavour as required or better still, make up your own! Sandwich the macarons with cream filling. Macarons are best eaten after a "curing" time of say 24 hours (if you can wait that long!) Several YouTubers say they can be frozen 3-6 months. As if...!
©2011 My Novel Idea by Ann Etcell-Ly/All Rights Reserved