Friday, 16 March 2012

Celebration Time - Orange Macarons with Cream Cheese Frosting and Marmalade

Yet another year passes by and Shab's Cuisine turned four on March 11. This post comes tad late as I am caught up with my son’s upcoming birthday celebration. Apart from my family and friends, my blog is something thing that I love spending time with and look back for some leisure and to get rid of my boredom. It has become my adorable companion over the years. This blog has taught me many things including fine details of cooking, complicated techniques, baking and photography which without this blog would have been just impossible. I also created a small cyber empire of mine where I have loads of amazing people both bloggers and non bloggers alike.I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your continuous support, motivation and inspiration.

For me blogging is one of the simple pleasures of my life. It gives me lot of love, respect and inspiration. It is one of my ways to connect to the outside world, a way to learn and create new things and to document my favourite recipes. One may think food blogging as an easy task. But if you are serious about food blogging, lot of effort and passion goes into making each post. Cooking, Styling , choosing the right props, co-ordinating the colours of props, setting up the camera, shooting loads of pictures, sorting the pictures, resorting them again to blog, typing out recipes and extra washing up to add to it. But it’s all part of fun and if you are passionate about cooking, have plenty of time in hands and are bored at home. It really keeps you busy in a good way, brings out the creativity in you and you get to learn a lot in your leisure time at your own pace.

When I started blogging, I was fairly a new cook. As with many others, I used to live with my parents and my mom did all the cooking. She is an excellent cook; her foods are finger licking good. I think it is my sister who got that trait down from mom, she prepares great dishes too. I have always loved baking but regular cooking was not my cup of tea. But when I joined my husband back in 2007, I was obliged to cook with my meagre cooking skills. Thanks to the youtube videos, cookery books and blogs that help me throughout my cooking journey. They were and still are my main source of help and inspiration. I browsed day and night, watched lot of cookery shows, had many disasters in kitchen, but that’s where it all started. Slowly I started showing progress and started presenting better food. It improved by time and I started getting the knack of basic cooking. Initially I used to follow a recipe blindly without making any changes and the end result was not always great. It taught me that every recipe is just a guideline and it should be modified and tweaked to suit ones palette. It did take me a while to get the hang of adding right amount of ingredients in, but eventually I think I am almost there. Even now disasters strike, but it has become less often than not. Cooking and baking became delightful as more successful results evolved in the kitchen. And I believe, if there is a bit of patience and love for cooking anyone can conquer the kitchen.

Somewhere along the line I also developed an interest in photography and started learning more of it to take better pictures to make the food more appealing. Even though I dint know anything about photography, I have always enjoyed a well composed, well shot picture. I used to spend hours of late night browsing enjoying beautiful foodie pictures shot by great bloggers and probably that was when I thought I might need to improve my pictures too. I am a self taught photographer and I spend quite a bit of time shooting my food pictures until I am somewhat happy with the outcome. I shoot a minimum of 30-40 pictures for a dish, unless until I am really happy with the picture it might be 10-20. Even though it could be a bit frustrating at times with the amount of time I spend on shooting, it teaches a lot. I started off with a point and shoot camera and later on switched to a DSLR. We were awestruck with the quality of pictures our friend produced with his DSLR few years back, we simply had to get it. Point and shoot is a great little camera and you can create wonders with it. But nothing is like a SLR, it simply is awesome. A well composed, a well balanced picture is always an eye candy. There is still a lot more to learn and a lot more to discover. But as long my love for the blog and photography persist, I would provide you with hearty home-made goodies that I prepare for my loved ones.

To celebrate this milestone, I am sharing my favourite Macaron recipe with you. It is Orange flavoured macaron shells sandwiched using cream cheese frosting and orange marmalade to add more orangey flavour. I love macarons by all means. I love making them and make them just to see the feet. It’s one of the best desserts I have ever eaten. We love the hint of citrus fruits like lemon and orange in our desserts, whatever it may be. I add grated zest of orange and lemon to many of my baking and it pairs well with most cakes, cookies and desserts. It uplifts the flavour a notch higher and brings a well pronounced summery note of orangey goodness. Basic ingredients for these macarons are all the same being egg white, almond flour and icing sugar. By adding a little bit of flavouring and colour makes it all different. It gives birth to a new macaron with completely new flavour and look. Here I have used zest of clementines to flavour the shells. You can use zest of orange, Satsuma, mandarins etc instead. The zest of orange and lemon have very strong aroma and flavour. It’s quite strong and fragrant enough that a small amount can impart a well pronounced note of its flavour to any dish. I always have a little stock in freezer just in case. You can use them in simple sponge cakes, custard, cookies etc. Check out the step by step illustration an Orange macaron recipe here.

Orange Macarons with Cream Cheese Frosting and Marmalade 
Makes around 15 medium sandwiched cookies


For shells:
65g Almond (slivers, blanched or powder)
100g Icing sugar
25g caster sugar
50g aged egg whites
1 tbsp (5g) grated zest of orange/Clementine, Satsuma etc (I used Clementine here)
Few drops of Orange food colouring (I mixed yellow and red to get orange)

40g soft butter
75g icing sugar, sifted
100g cream cheese
¼ tsp vanilla essence


**For an elaborate macaron post with my tips and links to other helpful sources, check out my first macaron post here.

For the cream cheese filling:

Beat butter and sugar until soft and well combined. Gradually add in cream cheese and essence and beat again until soft and fluffy. Keep aside.

For shells:
1.  Powder almonds and icing sugar in a food processor or a grinder into very flour-like fine powder. Transfer them to a large bowl and sieve 2-3 times to break up the lumps. Discard the large grains of almonds if any. Transfer them to a large mixing bowl and keep aside while you work with meringue.

2. For making meringue, whisk aged egg whites in a squeaky clean bowl on high until it starts to form soft peaks using an electric blender. Add in caster sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. It should be like a smooth, glossy shaving cream like form. If adding any colour, add once stiff peaks are formed and then beat again to bring back to peaks. Make sure it is not over beaten and dry, which would result in dry shells

3. Add meringue to the dry mixture in 2-3 portions and start folding it until everything is just combined and no more of dry mixture could be seen. Use a flexible spatula for this and mix until you get a smooth, shiny batter that ruggedly drips down the spoon once you lift it. DO NOT over mix once you have reached that thick batter stage. For testing, place a teaspoon of batter in a plate and you see it spreading flat, then the batter should be ready. If it has a peak on top, give couple more folds and check again.

4. Line your baking sheet with baking paper or silpat. Fit your piping bag with a round tip nozzle and pipe small rounds of about 2 cm diameter on your baking paper leaving about 2 inch in between. The macaron batter will spread and then join hands with the next one if they are piped too close, so make sure leave atleast 2 inches. Rap the baking sheet few times on a table to remove any bubbles trapped in the batter. (To help you with the round shape, you can use this template).

5. Let the macarons sit to dry for as long as it forms a skin on top or is dry and leaves no indentation once touched. It depends from place to place depending on the weather and humidity. It can take anywhere from 15-20 minutes to 2-3 hours.

6. Preheat the oven to 140 degress Celcius. Bake the macaron for 11-13 minutes. Do not open the oven until they are completely done. Take them out and let them cool down for half an hour or so. Peel them out gently and pair the macarons according to their matching size.

7. Place a blob of cream cheese filling on to one shell and place a small amount of orange marmalade or jam on top cheese filling. Cover the filling with a similar sized shell. Let it sit in the fridge for 1-2 days for the flavours to combine and mature and enjoy. It is always best after a day or two and the flavour of the filling steep into the shells.

Note: If not filling immediately shells can be stored in air tight container for up to 1 week.

And Last, but not least this post also goes to MacAttack challenge 27 at Mactweets Blog.They are celebrating Macaron day on 20th, So make sure you have a peek there.

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