Monday, 17 September 2012

Kaffir Lime and Coconut Macarons

Dear readers,

After over two years of blogging, I thought that it was about time for me to try making macarons. I've heard that they are challenging, and that they were; I baked five batches at various baking conditions. The main problem that I experienced was the cracking of the shells. I have read pages and pages about the making of macarons and I think that I have finally (not) cracked it!

Kaffir lime leaf is one of my most favourite flavours in the world. It is so fragrant, aromatic and invigorating. I believe that kaffir lime leaves are the one ingredient that captures the essence of Thailand - a Thai curry is nothing without them! I searched the internet for kaffir lime leaf flavoured macarons and, to my surprise, I couldn't find one recipe. I decided that this situation needs to be changed.

Kaffir Lime and Coconut Macarons
8 kaffir lime leaves finely chopped
 45g egg white (aged for 2 days at room temperature)
70g + 100g icing sugar
50g ground almonds
22g caster sugar
Green food colouring (powder or gel - the amount will vary depending on the type used)
30g coconut cream

This recipe will make 16 macarons (32 shells).

Sieve the almonds and 70g icing sugar. Whisk the egg whites until they become stiff, then add the caster sugar and food colouring and whisk until stiff again. Fold in the kaffir lime leaves and sieved icing sugar and ground almonds. Stir a few times until the batter has a runny consistency. Pour the mixture into a piping bag and pipe circles of the mixture onto silicone baking sheets. Leave to rest for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Place the macarons in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 140°C. Place a wooden spoon in the door of the oven to hold it ajar for the duration of the cooking. Bake for 15 minutes, then set aside to cool before removing from the baking sheet.

Sieve 100g icing sugar and mix with the coconut cream. Pour into a piping bag and pipe onto the bottom of the shells to glue them together.

In most meringue recipes, minimal folding is required in order to keep as much air in the mixture as possible. I learned (many cracked macarons later) that macaron batter requires a lot of the air to be stirred out before it is piped. This is tricky, since not stirring enough will ruin the macarons and so will stirring too much! About 10 stirs will leave the batter runny enough so that once it has been piped, it spreads out and flattens a little to yield flat surfaces.

Baking times and temperatures may vary - it depends on your oven and also the weather! This is the recipe that (finally) worked for me.

In winter, rest the macarons near a radiator.

To those who sampled these without knowing the flavour, limey and herby flavours were described. I agree that kaffir lime leaves have lime and herb-like flavours. I think that it was difficult to identify the kaffir lime leaf flavour alone as people are generally used to eating them in savoury dishes with lots of other flavours. Some friends actually said that these macarons remind them of Thai curry! The aromatic kaffir lime leaves and the smooth and creamy coconut do make a fine pairing and are very much associated with Thai cuisine. I think that they make quite a fine pairing in macarons, too!

I am glad that I have now accomplished the "macaron challenge". I think that I will put them to one side for now, but hope to try out a different flavour combination in the future! Has anyone else found these as tricky as I have?