Hi folks - I thought I would share with you a bit of a test kitchen experiment that I did this week with something that caught my eye at the supermarket recently. Normally I'm not a fan of packaged mixes, preferring to make things completely from scratch - but when I saw this Adriano Zumbo macaron kit when out shopping the other day I was really curious to see if they actually worked. Living where we do in the Inner West of Sydney, we are pretty close to Zumbo's flagship Balmain patisserie and sometimes pop over to indulge in something from his sweet treat wonderland. One of our favourites is the delectable salted caramel macaron. The Zumbo macaron kit in the salted caramel variety was the obvious choice for my experiment. The kit comes in a passionfruit variety too if you want something fruity and less rich.
The kit sells for $8.50rrp and contains pretty much all you need to make about 15-20 macarons. For a price comparison, a single macaron from Zumbo's patisserie costs $2.50. Apart from the kit, the only extras you will need are baking paper and a little butter for the filling but everything else is included. As well as the mixture components, there is also a template for when it comes to correctly piping the macaron mixture and two piping bags for the base mixture and the filling. The instructions are very straightforward and I was careful to follow them to the letter, despite my usual tendency to not follow instructions at all and do my own thing. I did as I was told this time I promise!
The Zumbo Salted Caramel Macaron Kit- it also comes in a passionfruit variety
So, how did I go? The process of making up the two components - the meringue part and the filling - was pretty straightforward and I was happy with that side of things. When it came to piping the macaron mixture onto the baking trays, I found it quite fiddly and I imagine that any self respecting pastry chef looking over my shoulder would have been mortified at my technique - but hey, these kits are pitched at home cooks like us, right? I did notice that the mixture was looking very smooth and glossy, which I knew was how it is meant to look at that point in the proceedings (that Masterchef episode with the Zumbo macaron tower challenge was all coming back to me!) Despite my clumsy piping technique, all was looking good.
The moment of truth, and I took the first tray of macarons out of the oven. Most of them looked pretty good but a few had cracked a little here and there. I don't have the best oven in the world, so I suspect that this may have been the cause of the cracking on some of the macaron shells, as I really was careful to follow the instructions on the box exactly.
Piping the filling and assembling the final product was fun (I think I perfected my piping technique by then and was more confident with it) and for the most part, I was reasonably happy with how the batch turned out - notwithstanding the odd crumbly macaron here and there.
Salted Caramel Macarons - the finished product
Taste wise, the macarons were sweet and tasty with a decent salted caramel flavour - but I have to be honest here, they aren't in the same ballpark as the genuine Zumbo article from the patisserie. The filling they make in the shop is a lot deeper and richer in colour, with that slight touch of bitterness that a good salted caramel should have. The kit filling lacked that bitter/salty counterpoint to the sugar/meringue, resulting in the macarons being far too sweet for my taste.
The Zumbo Macaron Kit certainly makes whipping up a batch of macarons pretty easy, with all the equipment the home cook needs. The end result is a very sweet (perhaps over sweet for some) macaron that you would be quite happy to serve. For me though, they lacked the perfect texture and extra salted caramel punch of the genuine article. I guess the real test is, would I buy the kit again? For me, the answer is no. I wasn't completely won over - maybe I'm too aware of how different they are to what Adriano sells in his shop and it was impossible not to compare. Overall I give the kit a score of 6.5/10.
The kits are available from some supermarkets and from Adriano Zumbo stores. For more info, head to the website: http://adrianozumbo.com/
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