UNLESS you’ve been living under a rock the past year, you couldn’t have missed these little bite-sized luxuries popping up at patisseries all over Melbourne.
And for 23-year-old masters student Celine Tan, it was a “really bad sweet tooth” and love for food that serendipitously led her to start her own macaron business, Peek!
From Singapore, Celine moved to Melbourne four-and-a-half years ago to pursue an undergraduate degree in Science at Melbourne University, and recently embarked on a postgraduate program to study Applied Science, majoring in Exercise Rehabilitation.
Outside of school, Celine spends her free time baking, sewing, and taking pictures – and a friend’s birthday gave her the perfect excuse to try her hand at making the delicate French confections that have been known to be notoriously hard to get right.
“I figured it was the perfect time to try and make some as a surprise,” Celine tells us.
It was a huge hit, and from then on her little homemade production line began, as she turned out tray after tray of macarons for friends, their birthdays and dinner parties.
She experimented with new flavours and recipes, and tested them on (willing) friends who supported her through her successes and failures.
“It is a very delicate process, mainly because you are dealing with egg whites,” she says.
“Anything can go wrong at any point in time. Not only do you have to be wary of your oven temperature and baking time, you also have to take into account the environmental factors such as the humidity and temperature of the kitchen.”
Those who’d like to try their hand at making macarons should look out for two main things, says Celine.
“Don’t overbeat your egg whites, and don’t overmix the dry ingredients into the egg whites, because that will result in flat-looking macaron shells.”
So how do you know you’ve got a gem in your hands?
You can tell a good macaron apart from the rest of the competition by looking at its “feet” – that is, the ruffly-looking circumference at the base of each macaron shell, says Celine.
“Check for a smooth cap too. And there should also be a slight chewiness when you bite into the macaron.”
Traditional macaron flavours include chocolate and raspberry, but patissiers have not been shy to innovate with bold and new flavours. Celine has developed a few of her own signature flavours as well.
“My favourite ones are Earl Grey, Cookies and Cream, and White Chocolate Lavender,” she says.
Celine’s Basic Macaron Recipe
(Makes about 30 macaron shells)
You will need:
- 65g of almond meal
- 80g of icing sugar
- 40g of caster sugar
- 50g of egg white
Preheat the oven at 155 degrees Celsius (135 degrees Celsius fan-forced). Grease two oven trays and line with baking paper.
Using a food processor, blend almond meal and icing sugar together for about a minute or so. Sift the almond meal and icing sugar mixture.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on low speed until soft peaks form. Add half the caster sugar and beat together on medium speed for about a minute before adding the remaining caster sugar. (You can choose to add a few drops of food colouring at this point to give some colour to your macarons.) Continue beating until glossy and stiff peaks form.
Fold in the sifted almond meal and sugar mixture to the egg whites in two batches. The final mixture should have a molten lava-like consistency.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and pipe 2 to 3 cm rounds, about 2 cm apart from each other, onto the baking tray. Tap tray on benchtop to remove air bubbles and to allow the macarons to spread slightly. Let the macarons stand for about 15 to 20 minutes before putting them into the oven.
Bake the macarons for about 10 to 12 minutes. Allow the macarons to cool on the trays for about 10 minutes before removing.
Celine’s Basic Ganache Recipe
You will need:
- 80g of dark chocolate
- 80ml of thickened cream
Combine chocolate and cream in a small heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted. Remove mixture from heat, cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours or until ganache is of spreadable consistency.
Pipe a small amount of ganache onto one macaron shell, and sandwich it with another shell.
To ensure your macarons remain fresh, keep the shells in an airtight container and only fill them when you are going to eat them. Alternatively, you can fill your macaron shells with the ganache and then refrigerate them.
You can find Peek! macarons at Guava Bean Freshwater Place, Southbank, or order them direct from Celine. There is a minimum order of 10 macarons and orders need to be placed at least two days in advance. Visit Peek!’s Facebook page for more information. You can also follow Peek! on Twitter.