Rachel does the baking while her husband does the cooking. This newly married pair's affection to each other is so endearing. I am fortunate to know Rachel, a mesmerizing foodie, who just received her PhD, taking us on culinary journeys through London. I was once a stubborn molecular gastronomy doubter, but now she convinced me I would love The Fat Duck and Heston Blumenthal. I so badly want to revisit England. Rachel's post below speaks volumes of her immense talents. No words will prepare you for what you are about to encounter.
When the very talented and prolific Shulie approached me on Twitter to do a guest post for her tree-nut free macaron series, I was, first and foremost, starstruck and busy thanking the high heavens that I was hiding behind a Twitter profile in my unkempt getup so Shulie wouldn't be able to see how flabbergasted I was. Within two seconds of losing my cool, I realised the dangers of crossing into tree-nut-free macaron zone......and right about 3 seconds later, I grew acutely aware of the itch in my hands to experiment in the kitchen again. Just so you know, the adrenaline rush did the trick and I said yes. Of course I would say yes, it's Shulie, and we're talking about macarons here!
You see, I am the biggest fan of macarons and I would do almost anything, legal or not, to get my hands on these delicate gems. I will never forget the first time I sank my teeth into these babies when a dear friend treated me to afternoon tea at Ladurée for my birthday; I kid you not when I say that my life was changed forever. And then, the revered pastry chef Pierre Hermè waltzed into my life with his achingly beautiful macarons; like a sinusoidal, my life was changed yet again.
Fans of macarons would agree with me when I say that there's something criminal about the smooth, poreless, frightfully thin and crispy skin that yields to a melting core, finally giving way to luscious creams of the most wonderful textures and the most imaginative flavours. All this pleasure in one bite...a bite that I took for granted until Shulie's invitation made me conscious of the perils of tree nut allergy.
Sunflower seeds are a good source of nutrients and impart a distinctively nutty flavour with a sweet-ish aftertaste to the shells. When toasted and ground, the texture of the flour resembles that of almond meal, and I'd go as far to say that the layered nutty aromas are so much better than that derived from almonds. I've paired the shells here with white chocolate ganache that has been infused with deep earthy flavours of black truffles, and even added a touch of salt to give it a little edge, much like what salt does for caramel.
I hope you enjoy these flavours as much as I have enjoyed making them. Most of all thank you, Shulie, for having me here and for inspiring me to push the boundaries with traditional recipes. You have opened my eyes to a whole new world of cooking and baking, and I can't thank you enough for that. Here's to tree nut-free macarons, and more to come!
For the macaron shells (makes 24 shells):
50g egg white, aged
1.5g egg white powder
45g caster sugar
75g sunflower seeds
80g icing sugar
1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius (fan). Roast sunflower seeds on a baking tray that has been lined with aluminium foil for about 10 minutes and let cool completely. Turn the heat down to 140 degrees Celsius.
2. Blitz cooled roasted sunflower seeds and icing sugar in the food processor until you get a finely ground mixture. This took about 1 minute for me. Sift this sunflower seed flour into a bowl. At this stage, you will have some residue that is not finely ground, so just pop that back into the processor and blitz for another 30 seconds. Sift this mixture again into the bowl. It is crucial to not over-blitz them, as the heat will cause oils to be released; this wets the mixture and creates tiny lumps, something that you don't want when you make macarons. I had about 20g of mixture that was not finely ground, and I simply chucked these away.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites and egg white powder till soft peaks are formed. Whisk in caster sugar until stiff peaks form.
4. To the egg white mixture, fold in dry ingredients from Step 2 in 1/3 portions to combine. Once the last portion of dry ingredients are added, fold in the mixture more vigorously. Test the consistency from time to time by lifting a generous dollop of macaron paste and dropping it into the mixing bowl. If the macaron paste does not settle smoothly after 30 seconds, continue folding the paste. If the macaron paste smooths out too quickly before 30 seconds are up, you’ve gone too far.
5. Pipe out the shells onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and leave them to rest for 15 minutes before baking.
6. When a 'skin' is formed (touch the shells and the batter should barely stick to your fingers), bake for 15 minutes. You might need to turn the tray around halfway through baking, if your oven has hot spots.
7. Cool parchment of baked shells on cooling rack. Unmould when the shells are completely cooled.
For the Black Truffle Salted White Chocolate Ganache:
70g White chocolate
40ml double cream
1/3 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoon chopped black truffles (Salsa del Tartufaio: Truffle gatherer's sauce)
1. Place white chocolate and cream in a double boiler and heat over barely simmering water till chocolate melts. Stir continuously as you melt the chocolate.
2. Let the ganache cool slightly and stir in the salt and chopped black truffles.
3. Refrigerate ganache till it sets to a pipe-able state and fill the cooled macaron shells.
It is very tempting to have the macarons once you've filled them, but be patient, refrigerate the filled macs to allow flavours to mature, trust me on this. Then let them come to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!
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Tree Nut Free Macaron Series:
1. Mocharons, Chocolate-Coffee Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache by The Daily Palette.
2. Pumpkin Seed and Matcha Macarons with Coconut, Dark Chocolate Ganache by Brave Tart.
3. Cocoa nib Macarons with peanut butter ganache by eat.live.travel.write.
4. French Fridays: Peanut Macarons with Cacao Nibs by The daily Palette.
5. Black Sesame Macarons with Cherry Chocolate Ganache by Passionate about Baking.
6. Sunflower Seed Macarons with Black Truffle Salted White Chocolate Ganache by The Pleasure Monger.