Chocolate-basil macarons with passion fruit cream cheese filling for the McCormick Flavor Forecast
Last month, I had the chance to preview The McCormick Flavor Forecast for 2013. In that post I mentioned I was interested in looking further at the Global My Way and Empowered Eating trends, and those will certainly be important avenues for me to investigate this year. These two ideas are more than “trends” for me – they are definitely ideas that I feel I can (and should) incorporate into my everyday eating and cooking. I’m all over the idea of bringing global flavours home (I’ve got SO many ideas from our recent Burma trip…) and of course, creating a “more thoughtful, personal and connected” approach to eating and health is something I believe many of us can relate to in this, the first month of the new year.
I have to say, though, when contemplating a flavour combination to explore for my second Flavor Forecast 2013 post, I simply couldn’t get past the idea behind the No Apologies Necessary trend. Its description:
In a rational rebellion against the “always-on” mindset of modern life, food lovers are making the conscious choice to stop and enjoy the moment. This unapologetic escape from everyday demands is a necessary break, a chance to savor each detail of the eating experience. Diving headfirst into sumptuous flavors, we are staking our claim to the pleasures we crave and the satisfaction we deserve until, finally, all seems right with the world.
very much struck a chord with me in the fray of the holidays last month. An “escape from everyday demands” that allows us to “savor each detail of the eating experience”? Sounds like what we all need a little more of everyday, and especially when we’re busy and stressed (like during the holidays!)
Nor could I get past the idea of the Bittersweet Chocolate Torte with Passion Fruit Cream, garnished with Candied Fresh Basil Leaves. Chocolate and passion fruit is a combination I totally understand. But with basil? Definitely a combination worth exploring and what better form to explore new flavours than in a macaron? Having lugged a fair bit of passion fruit gelée and jam home from France this past summer, as soon as I saw that recipe I knew it was one I wanted to “macaronify” 😉
I knew immediately that I wanted to use the passion fruit gelée in the filling. And rather than use mascarpone as per the chocolate torte recipe garnish, which I thought might be a little too rich, I chose cream cheese which I find works really well for filling macarons. The basil now…. Hmmmm…. I wanted a subtle flavor here (none the least because macaron shells are delicate beings and don’t take too kindly to too many add ins) so I opted for dried sweet basil as opposed to candied fresh basil leaves. Dried herbs are easy to incorporate into the dry ingredients for macaron shells as you can simply blitz them together in the food processor.
I used the Italian meringue method to make the shells (it’s something of a work in progress with me, now I have more or less mastered the French meringue method) and found that my usual quantity of cocoa powder didn’t make them quite chocolatey enough so I opted to sprinkle the tops with unsweetened cocoa powder just before serving. It was the perfect touch, playing of the sweet of the passion fruit cream filling. I also realised that the Italian meringue shells can take more flavour than I am used to adding with French meringue and hence, the basil flavour was not quite as pronounced as I would have liked but it was definitely there. My colleagues (aka taste testers), could all identify ‘something’ they couldn’t put their finger on in terms of the taste. A flavour that makes people stop and reflect and really think? I believe this is the goal of the No Apologies Necessary trend. So, success!
- 150g ground almonds
- 150g powdered sugar
- 20g unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons (increase if you want a more pronounced basil flavour) dried sweet basil
- 55g egg whites
- food colouring (about 2 teaspoons powdered colour)
- For the Italian meringue
- 150g sugar
- 38g water
- 55g egg whites
- For the cream filling
- 250g cream cheese, at room temperature
- 125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup icing sugar, sifted
- 3-4 tablespoons passionfruit jam or gelée (seeds strained out)
- To serve
- Unsweetened cocoa powder (to dust)
- First make the cream filling
- Combine cream cheese and butter with an electric hand-held beater or a stand mixer until soft and creamy.
- Gradually add the icing sugar (to taste – I like mine on the tart side) and then add the passion fruit gelée/ jam
- Continue to mix to combine well.
- Line two heavy baking trays with Silpat.
- Prepare a 14” piping bag with a plain tip (I use Ateco 803), twist the bag at the tip end and place inside a glass to facilitate filling the bag.
- Weigh the ground almonds, powdered sugar, cocoa and basil into a food processor bowl placed on a digital scale to ensure the correct weight.
- Pulse the almond/ sugar/ cocoa mixture a few times.
- Sift the almond/ sugar/ cocoa mixture into a large bowl.
- Add the first 55g egg whites and food colouring.
- Mix vigorously to form a stiff paste with a wooden spoon. Set aside.
- Place the other 55g egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Meanwhile, place the water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Once the liquid starts to boil around the edges (bubbles forming), place a digital thermometer in the liquid and when the liquid reaches 112˚C (234˚F), start whisking the egg whites at a high speed in the stand mixer (about 8).
- Once the sugar syrup reaches 118˚F (244˚F), remove the saucepan from the heat and reduce the speed of the stand mixer to the lowest speed.
- Carefully pour the sugar syrup into the egg white mixture and once you have added it all, turn the speed up to maximum.
- Beat the meringue mixture until the bowl is *just* warm to the touch (if you want to check with a digital thermometer it, it should be around 50˚C (122˚F).
- Add about ⅓ of the meringue mixture into the ground almond paste, mixing vigorously until you cannot see any white streaks of meringue.
- Add about another ⅓ of the meringue to the almond paste mixture.
- Using a large rubber spatula, gently lift some of the mixture and, as you are turning the bowl about a quarter turn, allow the mixture to drop back gently into the bowl.
- Continue like this until all the meringue is incorporated and you can’t see any more white streaks. It will take a while, be patient and certainly don’t beat the mixture vigorously at this stage.
- Add the last ⅓ of the mixture and continue to incorporate the meringue gently using the lift and turn the bowl method until all the meringue is combined.
- The mixture should fall smoothly off the spatula (it might still look a little grainy at this stage – that’s ok) when it’s ready.
- Transfer the mixture to the piping bag, sealing the open end with a twist and holding firmly with the hand that will not be actively piping.
- Pipe your macarons, holding the piping tip at an angle touching the baking sheet, about 3cm in diameter (they will spread during cooking), and quickly removing the tip when you have finished piping, making a shape like a comma.
- REST the tray of macaron shells for 30 minutes before baking. At this point you should pre-heat the oven to 320˚F.
- Bake for 14 minutes at 320˚F, turning the trays from back to front halfway through.
- A better test to see if they are cooked than simply watching the clock is to place a finger and a thumb on opposite sides of a macaron shell and slightly move it from side to side. If it jiggles, it’s not cooked, if it stays put, it’s cooked.
- Remove from oven and let the tray sit for a few minutes.
- Remove silpat from the tray and place on a cool surface and allow to sit a few minutes longer, then remove macaron shells to a cooling rack.
- Pair up like shells to facilitate the filling process.
- Once completely cool (preferably the next day), fill with the cream filling.
- Best enjoyed 24 hours after filling. Seriously. Dust some cocoa powder over the shells before you serve them.
- Macarons will keep in the fridge for about a week (right!) - just make sure to bring them to room temperature for about 15 minutes before you eat them.
The other flavour combination in the No Apologies Necessary trend was charred orange, like in this Charred Orange Sorbet with Warm Rum Sauce and Spiced Cookie Bars or this Charred Orange Colada. Now there’s some food for thought (as I put on my thinking cap to ponder a charred orange macaron…). Definitely one of my goals in 2013 is to slow down and appreciate food more. Both the food I eat as well as the food I create. To that end, I look forward to exploring more of the McCormick Flavor Forecast combinations in my kitchen this year.
Disclosure: I am being compensated for my participation in the Mc Cormick 2013 Flavor Forecast, however, all ideas and opinions are 100% my own.