pure icing sugar
eggwhites (about 7 eggwhites), at room temperature
food colouring (see note)
powdered eggwhite (see note)
couverture white chocolate buttons or finely chopped chocolate
raisins, roughly chopped in a food processor
desiccated coconut, plus extra for rolling
croissant, finely chopped in a food processor
- Grease large oven trays and line with non-stick baking paper or Silpat (see note). Place another oven tray under each lined oven tray.
- Put the almond meal and icing sugar in a food processor and process to a fine powder, then sift into a large bowl.
- Put 110gm eggwhites in an electric mixer with a whisk attachment. Put the sugar and 75ml water in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Use a clean pastry brush to brush down the sides of the pan to avoid any crystallisation. Increase the heat and bring to the boil. Add enough food colouring to tint the mixture pink (see note). Cook until the mixture reaches 118C. When it is getting close to this temperature, add the powdered eggwhite to the eggwhites in the electric mixer and whisk on medium speed until frothy.
- Once the sugar syrup is at the right temperature, add it to the eggwhites in a thin steady stream down the side of the bowl. Whisk until warm (about 8 minutes).
- Add the extra eggwhites to the dry ingredients, then add the meringue and use a large spatula to fold it through until combined. Continue to fold the mixture so it begins to loosen. Working the mixture this way will soften it slightly. When the mixture falls slowly off the spatula it is at the right texture. The texture is important for the next stage, which is piping the macaron shells.
- Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a 7mm plain nozzle. Holding the piping bag about 1.5cm above an oven tray lined with baking paper, pipe straight down to make 4cm-diameter rounds, leaving a 3cm gap between each. As you finish piping each macaron, move the nozzle from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock quickly to finish the piping action. If you have the correct texture, the macaron will soften again slightly and the tip on top of the macaron will drop, leaving a smooth top.
- Leave the macarons at room temperature for 30 minutes or until a skin forms. After 10 minutes, preheat the oven to 135C. To test if the macarons are ready to bake, gently touch one with your fingertip to check that a light skin has formed – the macarons should not be sticky. On humid days this may take longer. The skin is important because it lifts while the macaron cooks, creating a “foot” at the base.
- Bake the macarons for 16 minutes, or until they have a firm outer shell. Remove from the oven and set aside for 2 minutes, then carefully remove one macaron with a spatula to check that the base is also cooked and dry. If it is still slightly sticky, return the macarons to the oven for 2-3 minutes, then check again. Cool the macarons completely on the trays, then pair them up according to size.
- Meanwhile, for fingerbun cream, put the cream and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Put the chocolate in a bowl. Pour the hot cream mixture over and set aside for 2 minutes. Stir until smooth, then fold through the raisins, coconut and croissant. Allow the ganache to cool and become firm enough to pipe. Fill a piping bag fitted with a 7mm plain nozzle with the ganache. Pipe the ganache on the flat side of half the macaron shells, then top with the remaining shells, ensuring the ganache comes right to the edge of each shell. Roll the macarons in the extra coconut. Put the assembled macarons in the refrigerator for 24 hours to set, then bring to room temperature and serve, or transfer to an airtight container.
The macaron man is a hunted man. Pinning down Adriano Zumbo for an interview is quite the ordeal. He’s perpetually busy, and we’re allotted just a brief slice of time while he’s in the back of a cab on his way to the airport, bound for Melbourne’s Fine Food Australia festival. He’s a jet-setting celebrity chef in the purest sense – thanks in part to an acute skill with almond meal and eggwhites, but mostly to a far-reaching imagination, and also to a few stints on MasterChef.
Zumbo spent his teenage years sneaking lollies from his parents’ supermarket in the New South Wales country town of Coonamble, then trained in pâtisseries in France and Australia before opening his first store in Balmain in 2007. His intricate, wildly inventive sweet creations bought him almost instant acclaim, but “it was that break on TV that really changed things,” he says. “Before then, the secrets of baking and pastry had always been hidden, but now it’s all out in the open.” MasterChef helped create a demand for written recipes and information from the cooking pros, and this demand propelled Zumbo to write Zumbarons: A Fantasy Land of Macarons, a cookbook packed with recipes for his extreme Willy Wonka-esque macarons.
Macarons have incited a cultish buzz in recent years. What is it about these candy-coloured biscuits that has the world on such a sugar high? According to Zumbo, the reasons are many: “They’re so beautiful, they’re cute and they’re colourful. It’s their size too – you can eat a few of them. They have a great texture: soft and dry, chewy on the inside, crisp on the outside. And they’re the perfect present.”
Zumbo has often cited French pastry chef Pierre Hermé as an influence; the penny dropped when one of Zumbo’s former bosses gave him a box of delicate Hermé macarons to taste. “Hermé was the first to try different flavours, like balsamic and truffle oil,” Zumbo says. “He changed the world of pastry.”
How does Zumbo rate his own macarons against those of the acclaimed Parisian pâtisserie Ladurée, which recently opened a Sydney store? “We’re different,” he says emphatically. “I don’t think Ladurée is going to do doughnut macarons.” He’s probably right.
Before the release of Zumbarons, fans had to wait for Zumbaron Day to get their fix of unusual flavours in macaron form. At this annual frenzy (this year’s was on 6 October), customers queued around the block to buy any of the 60 flavours made specially for the occasion. The stores in Balmain, Manly, and Pyrmont and the café in Rozelle could scarcely keep up with demand. “People want the experience,” says Zumbo. “We try to be pretty out-there just for that one day, but it’s not viable to do all the time. You wouldn’t want to wake up every day and go buy a fried-chicken macaron.”
But then again, maybe you would. Or perhaps you’d prefer a macaron of wasabi and pickled ginger. Or strawberry bubblegum. Or chocolate mayonnaise. And now that these recipes have been printed in Zumbarons, anyone can make a batch of beetroot-raspberry or satay macarons at home.
Zumbo’s number-one tip for aspiring macaron makers is to be gentle with the meringue. “A lot of people just turn the mixer up to full speed, whisk the eggwhites until they’re fluffy and then chuck all the sugar in – there’s no care,” he says. “Eggwhites are so fragile; in two seconds they can just collapse. An Italian meringue is the best method to use, because the sugar syrup cooks the eggwhites, which makes them more stable, and they form a skin a lot quicker, so you don’t have to let them rest so long before baking them. The French method is a lot harder – not impossible, but a lot harder to get right.”
Is this the peak of the macaron mountain for Zumbo? “I don’t feel like I’ve conquered the macaron yet,” he says. “There’s always more to do. Everyone is making them, so the competition is becoming a lot harder, so we just keep tryin