I can already hear all the Asian grandmas collectively groaning that macarons are not traditional Lunar New Year treats and also that they are too sweet. Well, dear grandmas, give them a chance! These mandarin orange macarons take one of the quintessential Lunar New Year fruits and stuffed it into macaron form for those who prefer something a little sweeter.
Lunar new year traditions
You can find cute little mandarin oranges in pretty much all Asian households around this time of year because they represent fortune and luck. The literal translation of its Chinese name "gum" is "gold" in English. Historically, they were little luxuries enjoyed by the upper class Chinese. So eat up to attract good fortune for the rest of the year.
In case you don't want to get scolded again by Asian grandmas, other (stranger) lunar new year traditions and superstitions include:
- Don't wash or cut your hair on New Years Day. The Chinese word for hair sounds similar to 'prosper' so this is seen as washing or throwing your riches away.
- Do your spring cleaning before New Years Eve to rid your home of bad luck. Conversely, do not clean anything after that until the day after New Years Day so as not to rid your home of the good fortune that remained.
- Don't buy books for the entire duration of the Spring festival. The Chinese word for book sounds similar to 'lose' and no one wants to lose at life.
I always gave quizzical looks to anyone who told me not to shower on New Years Day and I'm pretty sure I didn't ever listen to them (aka my mom). But maybe that's why I'm not very lucky! Here's to hoping these mandarin orange macarons this year bring fortune, good luck, and happiness to you and me!
How to make mandarin orange macarons
This recipe is essentially a regular plain macaron shell with the mandarin orange part added into the buttercream filling. If you prefer, you can zest one mandarin orange and leave the zest out overnight to dry out before grinding into a powder and adding it to the almond flour mixture of the macaron shells. I elected to just add it to the buttercream because I didn't want to run the risk of getting lumpy shells and the orange flavour in the filling is already sufficient.
Tips for making macarons
As with all macaron recipes, I highly recommend watching several videos to get a good understanding of the meringue and batter consistency that you need to achieve and the folding "macaronage" technique.
Separating egg whites
I used to separate my egg whites from yolks by tossing it back and forth between the egg shells. You run the risk of puncturing the egg yolk with the sharp bits of the shell when you do this and I learned the hard way from throwing out ruined egg whites that contained drops of egg yolk.
Instead, crack the entire egg into a separate, small bowl. Scoop up the egg yolk with your entire hand and gently pass it to your other hand a couple times, letting the egg whites slip through your fingers and back into the bowl. Then pour the egg whites into your mixing bowl before repeating with the second egg. This ensures that even if you break the yolk of your second egg, the entire batch of egg whites isn't compromised.
Aging egg whites
I always, always age my egg whites for 24 hours before I start using them. This dehydrates the egg whites and allows time for the bonds to break down a bit so that your meringue whips up quickly and remains more stable. You can do this by separating your egg whites the day before. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and use a fork to poke a few holes on top. Then just leave the bowl in the fridge overnight. Take the egg whites out of the fridge about 15-30 minutes before using them to allow them to come back to room temperature.
Achieving stiff peaks in meringue
Make sure your egg whites come to stiff peaks before adding the almond flour mixture. When you pull the mixer out of the meringue, it should create a point that shouldn't fall over. Be careful not to overmix it after this point though otherwise you'll end up with hollow macarons.
Macaronage folding technique
When folding in the almond flour and powdered sugar mixture into the meringue, stop once you are able to lift the batter up and let it slowly drip off the spatula while drawing a continuous figure 8 motion without the batter breaking apart. You can do this by first folding (scraping around the side of the bowl and then down the middle of the batter) the almond flour mixture until it is incorporated. Then start "smearing" the batter against the sides of the bowl while turning it. The batter should look like a flower with flower petals up the sides of the bowl. Then scrape it all back together by folding and keep doing the figure 8 test when it starts getting thinner. Again, try to watch videos on this macaronage technique to get a better idea of what this looks like.
I'm going to write a more in-depth tutorial on the whole macaron process soon so stay tuned!
More macaron recipes to try
Mandarin Orange Macarons
- 85 g almond flour
- 150 g powdered sugar
- 90 g egg whites (about 3 large eggs), room temperature and aged for 24 hours
- 80 g granulated sugar
- orange gel food colouring
- 115 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 135 g powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp mandarin orange zest
- 2 tbsp mandarin orange juice, freshly squeezed
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, cut to fit into the tray so that it lies completely flat. Set aside.
- With a mesh sieve, sift almond flour and powdered sugar onto a piece of parchment paper, scraping any chunks through with a spatula. Discard any large pieces. Return mixture back to bowl and sift a second time. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, use an electric mixer or stand mixer with whisk attachment to beat the egg whites on medium speed until it resembles cappuccino foam.
- Slowly add in the granulated sugar, ⅓ at a time, while whisking on high speed.
- When the meringue reaches soft peaks, use a toothpick to add in a small amount of orange gel food colouring.
- Continue whisking until meringue reaches stiff peaks.
- Add in half of the sifted almond flour & powdered sugar mixture into the meringue.
- Gently fold in with a rubber spatula until just incorporated.
- Add in the rest of the almond flour mixture and continue folding. Press the batter up around the sides of the bowl and scrape back together in a folding motion to deflate some air out of the meringue. Stop folding when you can lift up the batter and drip it off the spatula in a figure 8 motion without the batter breaking.
- Transfer batter to a piping bag fitted with a round piping tip.
- Holding the piping tip perpendicular to the baking sheet and close to the surface, pipe small 1-inch circles onto the prepared baking sheets by holding the piping bag in the same position and letting the batter move outwards from the tip. Leave about 1 inch space between each macaron.
- Firmly lift and drop baking sheet on countertop a few times to bring any air bubbles to the surface.
- Leave the baking sheets in a cool area to rest macarons for 30 mins to 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- When you can brush the top of a macaron with a finger and it doesn't feel sticky, insert one tray at a time into the oven on the middle rack. Bake for about 15-16 mins.
- Remove macarons from oven when the feet have set and the macarons peel cleanly off the parchment paper.
- Let cool completely before filling.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and creamy.
- Add in powdered sugar and beat on low-medium speed until smooth.
- Add the vanilla extract and orange zest and beat until smooth.
- Add one teaspoon of orange juice at a time, mixing in between each addition until a smooth consistency is achieved. If buttercream is too dry, add another teaspoon of juice. If it's too wet, add more powdered sugar.
- Transfer buttercream into a piping bag fitted with an open star tip.
Assembling the macarons:
- Pair up each macaron shell with another similarly sized shell. Flip one upside down.
- Pipe buttercream into the center of the bottom shell until the almost at the edges.
- Gently sandwich with the other macaron shell.
- Store macarons in an airtight container in the fridge for at least 24 hours to allow the shells to soften and mature. Bring macarons back to room temperature before serving.
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