I mentioned the School of Biology baking competition in my last Sunday Smiles. We later found out that it was actually a pretence to lure us all into the tea room so that we could get ambushed by a Health & Safety lecture. The theme of the baking competition was ‘Health & Safety,’ so perhaps we should have actually seen that coming… Anyway, when the theme was announced, for some reason the first science-related H&S thing I thought of were hazard symbols. Possibly because we have a variety of them all over the various cabinets in the lab. Plus a lovely biohazard sign on each door to the lab.
Now I could have done hazard symbol-themed cupcakes or something, but I figured that a rather flash entry was in order – it was a baking competition after all… I decided on macarons with little hazard symbols drawn on top, because macarons tend to look rather fancy-pants and thus seem impressive. Most of the hazard symbols are black on a yellow background, so I needed yellow shells, and since I like to match a macaron’s colour to its taste, I had to think of a yellow flavour. Lemon seemed a little obvious, but I was rather stumped for alternatives.
I needn’t have worried though, because I ended up winning “Best Tasting.” Yay! To draw the hazard signs I used a handy edible food colouring pen. I initially thought of doing the biohazard symbol, but my drawing skills aren’t quite up to that, so I limited myself to the radioactivity sign. Halfway through drawing the radioactivity symbols on the shells, I realised the irony of a French person presenting radioactivity-themed French baked goods at a baking competition in New Zealand… Awkward.
Several of my labmates missed the competition and were upset that they didn’t get to try the “award-winning” macarons, so I made them a second batch (but with swirly shells this time) since I had plenty of the lemon curd filling left over. I’m nice like that. Plus these are just so good that everybody deserves to try one – not only are they fantastically lemony, but the zingy filling perfectly cuts through and balances the sweetness of the shells. Of the people that I’ve spoken to who aren’t really fans of macarons, most say that they find them too overwhelmingly sweet, which I can totally understand. If you’re one of those people, these might be the macarons for you.
Makes about 60 small macarons (so about 120 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!
The lemon curd recipe makes more curd than you’ll need, but there are plenty of other uses for it (including just eating it out of the jar…), so don’t worry about that. Make sure you leave the macarons at least 24h before eating them, in order to allow the curd to soak into the shells a bit. They’re best stored in an airtight box in the fridge – just remember to bring them out at least 30mins before eating them, so that you can appreciate the flavour fully!
For the macaron shells:
Yellow food colouring paste or gel (optional)
100g room temperature egg whites (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar
Raw sugar or golden granulated sugar, to decorate (optional)
Black edible food colouring pen (optional)
For the filling:
About 150g lemon curd (you won’t need the whole recipe)
To make the macaron shells:
1. Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside. Prepare a piping bag with a plain round piping tip. If you’re planning on making swirly shells, brush three lines of food colouring up the inside of the prepared piping bag (this might be a bit messy).
2. Blend the icing sugar and ground almonds together (don’t skip this step!). Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl. Sift them again if necessary.
3. Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites into glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar. Add three or four of drops of yellow food colouring gel or paste to get a pale yellow colour just before the end and mix well. If making ‘radioactive’ macarons, add a few more drops to get a stronger yellow colour.
4. Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well. Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture. Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes. The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.
5. Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 1.5-2cm in diameter). Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round. Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.
6. Sprinkle the shells with the raw sugar (only if you’re not planning on drawing on them later) and leave the shells to set for about 30 mins (this helps to produce the feet). Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C. When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.
7. Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10 mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3 mins longer). Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair them up by size. If making ‘radioactive’ macarons, draw the symbols on the shells using the edible food colouring pen (if any of the shells are looking a little less-than-perfect, they make good practice runs).
8. Once the shells have fully cooled, use a teaspoon to deposit a good dollop of lemon curd onto one shell of each pair. Then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to push the shell down onto the filling evenly.
9. Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult! But so worth it!!)
PS – This is the marine H&S-themed cake baked by one of our technicians that won the “Best Looking” prize. Isn’t it amazing? She even made the little chocolate decorations. Between the two of us, the Marine Lab cleaned the competition up. Not that we’re competitive or anything… Ahem.