Everyone who knows me well knows that I absolutely hate packet mixes and am fairly scathing of most people who use them to bake a cake. Let’s face it. It’s not that difficult to mix some flour, milk, sugar, egg and butter in a bowl to get a cake. With real ingredients that taste great. Not much different from adding a few ingredients to a packet mix and, yes, you guessed it, mixing it in a bowl. Usually with added preservatives, and often a substandard taste.
So when I was asked to trial acclaimed chef Adriano Zumbo’s new bake at home packet mixes, my instant reaction was to say no. But I was intrigued. I, too, had marveled at the macaron tower on Masterchef. Stared in awe at the V8 cake. Winced in pain with Julie when she kept scalding her fingers on the caramel for the ginormous croquembouche.
So why not I thought.
His range of four includes two macarons (passionfruit and salted caramel), chocolate brownies and the chocolate mirror cake. Now I love to bake, and consider myself to be quite competent [we don’t mention the forgotten butter incident much these days…], but as I’m not the target market for these goodies [did I mention I really don’t get the fuss about macarons?], I invited a few friends over to help. By which I mean bake. While I swanned around drinking champers and taking photos.
So a huge thanks to Fiona, Sherryl, Cathie and Brad for agreeing to take on the Zumbo challenge.
I must say, as someone who has never made macarons, but who has heard loads of horror stories, these seemed quite easy. We did have a few glitches, generally due to the cooks not reading the instructions properly before starting to bake (not naming names here…). And the other main thing I would suggest is to whip that meringue mix to within an inch of its life. Just when you think it is finished, whip it some more. And maybe a bit more. Otherwise you might end up with something that looks a bit flat. Like a pancake. Which you don’t want.
|Piping out the macarons. This technique was excellent. Maybe next time turn the paper over so you don’t eat red pencil…|
|A bit pancake like – needed more whipping 🙂|
|These were an almost perfect first effort – check out the little “feet”|
The other key step is to leave the meringue mix to stand for 10 minutes. The whole 10 minutes. VERY IMPORTANT. But in the end they looked great and got 2 thumbs up from everyone – if you love sweet you will love these.
|The finished macarons – the darker yellow were the salted caramel, paler yellow the passionfruit.|
One of the things I liked most about these packet mixes was the helpful “Must do’s from Zumbo” tips on the back of the box. If you are a baking novice, check out the videos on his website – they are excellent. The box also has a QR code to scan for video instructions. This impressed me more than anything and is a great tip that many other companies can learn from.
We also baked the brownies. Extremely easy, and surprisingly, very tasty. My only gripe with these was that I almost fell into a sugar coma after eating a tiny piece. Very, very sweet. I should add that I am the type of baker to reduces sugar in recipes by 25-50%, something that can’t be done with a packet mix.
|The finished brownie. Loved the chunks of chocolate. Next time I’ll add some pecans. mmmm|
So the overall verdict? Not something I would buy or rush to eat. Far too sweet for me, and a few too many preservatives in the pack for my preference (they make me go a bit loopy), but necessary for this type of product. BUT a GREAT idea for novice bakers who want to try the macarons in particular.
If you are keen to try these, I’ve been given a great Adriano Zumbo hamper to give away to one lucky reader (in Australia only please). The hamper includes each of the packet mixes and a copy of Adriano’s latest book Zumbarons.
To be in the running, let me know what your favourite flavour of macaron is in the comments below. Please also pop me an email so I can get in touch easily if you win.
The competition closes 5pm Brisbane time, Monday 12 November 2012.
Disclaimer: These products and the prize were provided to me by thesoup.com.au on behalf of Zumbo Baking.