The last time I saw Adriano Zumbo before today was at the Masterchef Live event in Sydney. My friend Gina and I were wandering around the hall and suddenly we noticed that there was something in the air that changed. Immediately there were heaving chests, girls flicking hair and giggling and whispering and pointing at someone. One girl stage whispered to another "I can't believe he's so close to me and that I'm going to get to meet and touch him!". And this was perhaps even before she saw the Willy Wonka tattoo on his arm!
Photo by Nadine Saacks Photography
My how life has changed for Adriano Zumbo.
Today, he is now making between 4,000 - 5,000 macarons a day, he is being flown all over the world to demonstrate the methods to his madness and he also has a new television show coming out called simply "Zumbo" for SBS which is a 6 part series observational documentary that starts this Thursday night, February 10th, 2011.
I was lucky enough to see some of the new series and it is fascinating how it takes us through the creation of the 60 flavours for macaron day including the pig's blood macaron, the 23 carat macaron and the infamous hamburger macaron which is where whole hamburgers were infused with cream blended up and used in the filling. Feeling that this wasn't enough, he then added more patties, cheese made using agar and other bits and pieces to arrive at one of the hits of the macaron day. During the series he also goes home to Coonamble for his father's birthday and it covers the reveal of his catwalk parade called "Summer Love".
?Today we are having a macaron class with Zumbo to celebrate the start of the series. We are not making the hamburger macaron or the pig's blood and chocolate macaron (yes real pig's blood that apparently tasted incredibly smooth and buttery) but a more stately sounding but still slightly unusual passionfruit, basil and white chocolate macaron using a recipe that Zumbo claims as "foolproof" and guaranteed to produce perfect macarons every time.
He starts off with a bag of Callebaut velvet chocolate which is a new type of white chocolate which he uses because it is less sweet than other white chocolate as he figures that macarons are sweet enough as it is. We take a taste and it is very milky although still quite sweet. He pairs this with leaves of fresh basil which he vacuum packs at home. He simply simmers this so that the chocolate melts.
The caramelised sugar syrup (with yellow food colouring)
He makes a syrup to whip with the egg whites and he always advises to add the water first to the saucepan and then the sugar so that the sugar doesn't sit on the bottom which means that it is more prone to burning. Doing it this way also means that there is less stirring necessary and stirring sugar deposits the crystals on the side of the pot which means that it is more prone to crystallisation (that horrible thing that happens when your sugar seizes to the point of no return). He also adds the liquid colouring at this point so that the water will evaporate off from the colouring which may otherwise change the consistency of the macarons.
Adding the syrup to the egg whites
He shows us the Tant Pour Tant (TPT) which is an equal parts mixture of almond meal and icing sugar. The TPT here is 1200grams but a typical batch of macarons uses a TPT six times larger at 7.2kgs. To this he adds half of the egg whites and then he whips the other half of the egg whites with the caramel slowly pouring it into the egg white mixture in a steady stream until the mixture reaches 50C and it becomes...well the colour of Big Bird!
Testing the mixture after slapping it against the sides of the bowl
We empty this out into the TPT mixture and he mixes it so that it become amalgamated. The key now is to slap it against the edge of the bowl to deflate it of the air (which is admittedly against instinct). He tests the mixture to see whether a trail or point holds and if it does, it needs to be deflated even more. He fills up a piping bag and it's off we go with piping the macarons. He show us how to pipe the macarons where the key is to:
Holding the tip close to the baking tray
Step 1 - Hold the tip down near the paper and don't move the tip, just squeeze it and it will expand.
Step 2 - If the macaron was a clock face you start at 12 o'clock and "cut" the end at 6pm.
Step 3 - Once they are piped, hit the bottom of the baking sheets so that any air bubbles disappears and the points from the tip of the piping tip disappear.
My piped shells-and yes that's a major oopsie on the top rows :P
The now piped shells are stowed away to form a skin. How long this takes is up to the weather conditions-in dry cold weather it takes less time but in humid, hot weather it takes longer. He tells us a good tip to do this in hot weather and that is to set your oven at 200C/400F and then place the tray of macarons in the oven and then turn off the oven to zero and leave them there for 10 minutes and a skin will form. This means that the macarons will then only require 6 minutes of actual baking at 160C/320F but only in this case.
Sieving the liquid chocolate and passionfruit mixture
Onto the ganache filling (which is actually a ganache that is made without cream). The chocolate has melted and is added to the Thermomix to blend up the basil. He tells us that this can be done in a home food processor too although it may take a bit longer. He also heats up the passionfruit juice and adds this to the white chocolate mixture to loosen it as he will be passing this through a sieve to get rid of the basil leaves as they will start to ferment as the mixture can keep for up to 10 days.
Cutting in the butter pieces
To this he adds pieces of butter when the mixture reaches 55C temperature which means that the butter doesn't separate and become grainy which affects the texture. This is placed in the blast freezer to set.
A crowd gathers
By now a crowd has gathered and are peering through the glass eager to see him at work. Some take out their phones to take photos of Zumbo. He is here every day that he is in Sydney with his staff.
Touching the shells to test for the skin
We touch the macaron shells and they are no longer sticky to the touch and so we take them to the huge oven where we bake them for 18 minutes at 150C/300F and place them on top of another baking sheet.
The $48,000 macaron piping machine
Speaking of macarons, his most popular flavour is the salted caramel and they make so many that he used to have four girls piping macarons all day. He has now invested in buying a $48,000 machine to pipe them. Then along the same salty sweet vein there was the Vegemite on toast where they used the "mother" from a sourdough and added crumbs for texture and a lot of butter. The failures? Chocolate eggplant which only went out for a day before he decided that it just wasn't good enough. Sometimes they can nail the macaron combinations straight away (the hamburger was perfected on the first go) whereas others require copious testing. Other popular flavours are salted popcorn and rice pudding and on Australia Day and Valentines Day customers will see new flavours pop up to celebrate the day.
The Hubba Bubba macaron cake
I look around the kitchen curious to see what else he has lying around and spot edible musk oil which are used to make the musk macarons (which is used in the sex industry!), licorice, wasabi peas, popping corn, sticks of Hubba Bubba chewing gum, a gunpowder and strawberry ganache (gunpowder tea, don't worry he hasn't gone crazy) and a wasabi and pickled ginger ganache which is distinct in wasabi without that sinus clearing property.
Gunpowder tea and strawberry ganache
Ping! The buzzer goes off to tell us that the macarons are ready. We take them out of the oven and then begin the task of matching the macaron halves according to size. Once this is done, we fill them with the ganache and sandwich the halves together. I usually prefer macarons when they've been sitting in the fridge for a couple of days and they absorb the flavour of the filling as the shell itself has no flavour to it apart form a light sugar almond flavour. We take a bite and there is the unmistakeable flavour of passionfruit and basil and the sweetness and creaminess of the white chocolate.
Piping the filling onto the macaron shells
See didn't that sound so hard did it? If you are game enough, here is Adriano's recipe with instructions that I've written out from attending the masterclass.
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever tried a macaron and if so, what is your favourite macaron flavour?
And don't forget, Zumbo the documentary premieres at 7:30pm this Thursday the 10th of January on SBS!
Passionfruit, Basil and White Chocolate Macarons
For macaron shell
220g egg whites
500g caster sugar
1200g Tant Pour Tant (600g almond meal, 600g sifted icing sugar)
200g egg whites
food colouring (optional, Zumbo uses Americolor food colouring)
For passionfruit, basil and white chocolate ganache
1500g white chocolate
85g basil leaves
665g passionfruit juice
You will also need a food processor, saucepans, electric mixer, baking parchment, sugar thermometer, piping bag and 1cm tip, baking sheets (this recipe makes about 120 filled macarons) and you double up the baking sheets
Step 1 - A day or two prior to making the macarons, you may want to infuse the white chocolate with the basil leaves by vacuum sealing them in a vacuum or zip lock bag together.
Step 2 - Make a sugar syrup to add to 220g of the egg whites. Add water to a saucepan and then add 500grams of caster sugar on top and food colouring (if using) and then boil without stirring until you reach the soft ball stage at 112C/234F degrees. Start whipping the egg whites until you get soft peaks and then carefully pour in the syrup and whip until the temperature reaches 50C.
Step 3 - Mix the other lot of egg whites (200g) with the TPT and mix the meringue mixture with the TPT mixture slapping it against the sides of the bowl to deflate it. It is ready when any peaks or lines do not hold. Using a plain 1cm tip, pipe 1 inch circles onto a lined baking sheet (ensure that the baking parchment sticks to the baking sheet by spraying it with non stick spray). Allow to rest and form a skin * see tip above about doing this in humid weather.
Step 4 - Meanwhile make the ganache filling. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler (i.e. in a heatproof proof over a saucepan of simmering water ensuring that the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl). Heat the passionfruit juice in a saucepan. Process the melted white chocolate in a food processor so that the basil leaves become shredded. Once the chocolate is blitzed and the passionfruit juice is hot, add the juice to the chocolate in the food processor to create a more liquidey mixture.
Step 5 - Pass this chocolate and passionfruit liquid through a sieve catching all of the basil pieces. Once the ganache has reached 55C add it into the chocolate mixture ensuring that they are thoroughly mixed in and the mixture is smooth. Refrigerate.
Step 6 - Preheat oven to 150C/300F. Check that a skin has formed on the macaron shell so that when you touch it, it doesn't stick to your fingers. Slide an additional baking sheet under the one with the macarons on it and bake in the oven for 18 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Then pair similarly sized macaron halves.
Step 7 - Place the buttercream in a piping bag and pipe onto one half of the macaron and sandwich the other half together. Place in fridge to allow the flavour from the buttercream to absorb into the shell (about 48 hours approximately).
Photo by Nadine Saacks Photography