A lot of you may not know who Adriano Zumbo is; he's a very famous patissier here in Sydney. He's been featured on MasterChef Australia where contestants had to bake and prepare his wild desserts, including an outrageous croquembouche, a macaron tower of olive, beetroot and raspberry macarons, and an unbelievable gingerbread house. You can even buy these things from his shop, but you'll have be prepared to pay from $105 for the croquembouche and $400 for the macaron tower!
Recently, what Adrian Zumbo has really become famous for is his macarons. He makes such bizarre flavors that he's created a Zumbaron craze. Zumbaron is a combination of his last name, Zumbo, and macaron. If you live in or near Sydney, you can find these Zumbarons in the brand new Zumbaron trucks - sort of like a food truck, only selling macarons! I think this is pretty cool and one day I'll have to get myself into Sydney to stop by one of these Zumbaron vehicles.
Adriano himself looks to be a fun, quirky guy who is a child at heart, but he takes his desserts pretty seriously. I was surprised to see box mixes with his name on them in my grocery store a couple of weeks ago because this just didn't seem like something he would do. At $7.80 per box, I was reluctant to try the macaron mixes, but I snapped up a salted caramel one. The next time I was at the shop I bought the brownie mix. I'll start with a review of the macarons.
I was expecting these macarons to turn out quite well. Despite having issues with Donna Hay's macaron box mix, I had higher hopes for Adriano Zumbo's. What I absolutely love about Adriano's mixes is that there is a video available online at every step of the way. Simply visit his website, or use a QR scanner on your smartphone to scan the QR code that is printed on the box. The videos are high quality, as well as being clear and easy to understand. With the macaron mix, it comes with meringue mixture, almond mixture, caramel filling mixture, 2 large piping bags and a cardstock circle template to trace circles on the baking paper. All you need to add is plain water to the meringue mix, and butter to the caramel filling.
Using Instagram, I documented my time spent making these. Making macarons is usually quite easy, it's just the technique and knowing when to stop mixing that makes macarons so tricky. I watched Adriano's video of the mixing step a couple of times and felt confident about the way I was doing it. I piped the mixture onto the circles I had traced and let it set for 10 minutes, as per instructions. However, I do know that you should be able to touch the macaron batter without having the batter end up on your finger, and after 10 minutes, it was still leaving batter on my finger. I let the trays set another 20 minutes, then put them in the oven.
Here is where I was going against my gut feeling. The instructions said to bake the macarons at 160C. In my experience, that temperature is too high. However, I still had faith in Adriano's instructions, so 160C it was. Within minutes, though, the macarons had risen quickly and the top of each macaron had cracked. None of the shells developed feet. Definitely, the oven temperature was too high. This batch of 24 macaron shells was obviously ruined. The photo of this batch is in the collage below, bottom left. I took this batch out a bit too early as well, so they were a little under-baked.
For the next batch of macarons, I lowered the temperature of the oven by 30 degrees and also stuck a wooden spoon in the oven door (something I've done previously for macarons). This batch did better, although I still got some cracked shells. None of these shells developed feet, either. The photo of this batch is in the collage below, bottom right. I also noticed that the macaron shells were very orange, while the photo of the macaron on the box was a light caramel-color.
I tried to think of anything I could have done wrong, other than the oven temperature. I felt confident that I had mixed the batter properly, though.
I was very disappointed with my shells, but I still prepared the filling and sandwiched the macarons together. I expected them to taste nice, but I wasn't even impressed with that either. The filling tasted more like butter than caramel. I was expecting these macarons to be so delicious; it was a huge let-down.
I am reluctant to give this box mix a thumbs-down because I do know of people who have had success with it, but it just hasn't worked for me. I was thinking I'd give these salted caramel macarons another go a few months down the road, but after tasting them, I think I'll pass. I was so disappointed that I didn't even bother to take photos of them with my real camera!
Now, just to prove to you that I have made macarons before, from-scratch, here are the first ones I ever made - Nutella/coffee macarons, matcha macarons, chocolate/peanut butter macarons, and my favorite were these lemon macarons. I even made these pistachio macarons that I didn't end up blogging about, but posted on Flickr. With the experience I've had of Donna Hay's and Adriano Zumbo's macaron mixes, I think I'll just stick with homemade macarons from now on!
You'd probably think that Adriano's brownie mix turned out just as bad as the macarons, but it was the complete opposite. I really loved the brownie mix. I hate to keep comparing Donna Hay and Adriano, but Adriano's brownies were heaps better than Donna's.
There are also video instructions for the brownies, but I certainly don't need to watch instructions to make brownies; this is like second nature to me! This box comes with the brownie mix, which includes white chocolate chips, and a separate packet for chocolate chunks. I under-baked these slightly and they were so deliciously and sinfully gooey. They became quite hard by the next day and I did not like them cold. I heated up them in the microwave, just until the chocolate was gooey again, and they basically tasted like they were fresh from the oven. I'd definitely make this box mix again.
I would still recommend giving Adriano's mixes a go, if you have a spare $7.80 to spend on a gourmet packet mix. If you're having trouble deciding between Donna Hay's and Adriano Zumbo's, I'd not hesitate in telling you to buy Adriano's!
If you've prepared Adriano's macaron mix - either the salted caramel or passionfruit, please, leave a comment and let me know how they turned out; I'd love to hear about it!