Happy Chinese New Year

As Chinese New Year approaches, you’ll see a flurry of activities in every Chinese household. We spring clean to rid of ill-fortune and welcome good luck. We deck our homes in red and gold, both auspicious colours for the Chinese, to celebrate the most important traditional Chinese festival. We cook, we bake, we feast and we grow fat with our dear family and friends, all in the name of the new year. It is a time to gather with loved ones, particularly so on the eve of the Chinese New Year when we have reunion dinners with our families. It is a time when we say, out with the old, in with the new. This spring festival lasts for fifteen days, and is so important that even those away from home will endeavour to keep to the traditions of preparing ourselves for a blessed year ahead. Like us.

As we bid farewell to the Year of the Tiger and give a warm welcome to the Rabbit, we find ourselves somewhat wedged in no man’s land for Chinese New Year. This is the 4th year that we’re spending the festival overseas without our families. Nobody kicks up a big fuss over Chinese New Year in London, you don’t feel the excitement in the air, in fact, you wouldn’t even realise that the Chinese are celebrating it unless you set foot into Chinatown. That is where you will see families huddled into crowded supermarkets, peering into baskets and baskets of goodies, filling their trolleys up with groceries and cartons of mandarin oranges, and yes, you might even catch the occasional Chinese New Year song. But once outside of Chinatown, everyone is oblivious to the festival. The only way you’ll experience it is if you step into a Chinese home, such as ours.

Although our home severely lacks decorations, we are on our way to putting up three miserable couplets that we bought years ago. I haven’t managed to get a bunch of pussy willow, and doubt I will have the time to do it. I even contemplated putting up red packets (known as ang baos) on my Christmas tree, which I’ve only taken down last week. We haven’t bought any groceries appropriate for the new year. The only things that hint at the festival are a couple of red packets that we received from our parents, and a heap of oranges and clementines in our fruit basket. Traditionally, tangerines are a symbol of good luck and oranges are that of wealth. You will find that many food items we consume or exchange with family and friends are a symbol of either, or that of good health, happiness etc. These items are chosen as such because their names sound like the respective blesssings in Chinese. We couldn’t get tangerines, but all the same, clementines are a type of mandarin oranges, so that’s good enough for us.

During Chinese New Year, we visit our family and friends to wish them a blessed new year, and to catch up on our lives. No one shows up empty-handed and it’s important to bear gifts as a show of goodwill. These gifts are typically returned in other forms, depending on what the host family has purchased, really. Of these, the most important ones are oranges or tangerines. These are given in pairs, and for the more superstitious host families, never show up four oranges as four sounds like death in the Chinese language. The host families will return the oranges from their own stash to you, and this means that they give their blessings to you too. As you can see, oranges are a staple during the new year, and this, my dears, is the source of my inspiration for the Year of the Rabbit.

With this in mind, I thought it might be interesting to put a twist in the traditional Chinese New Year snacks. Instead of pineapple tarts, kueh bangkit, love letters and what-not, I decided to make some clementine macarons to welcome the new year. In a way, it is a perfect {fusion} representation of our circumstance as we are celebrating Chinese New Year in London. I put a dash of grated clementine zest in the macaron shells and made them a beautiful sunset shade of orange with the wonderful bottle of food colouring that Dad gave me in December last year. I also filled the shells with an orange buttercream that has been infused with orange zest and orange and lemon juice for the citrusy fragrance and tartness. The flavours worked beautifully (although they turned out a little sweet because my oranges were unusually sweet) and I think they make rather pretty gifts. So if you would like to present something different to your loved ones this year, why don’t you make a box of these clementine macarons instead? The possibilities are endless, really. You can make the buttercream however sweet or tart you want, and you could even make pineapple macarons in place of pineapple tarts.

I’m really happy with these macarons and wish I could box them up and give them to our families. But everyone’s 6000 miles away and besides, M and I might just finish the whole stash before our friends come over tomorrow night…..Oh well, there’s always next year, and the year after…..

For now, the plateful of clementine macarons do well to brighten up our currently un-festive home. That, and a bunch of oranges and a couple of red packets. Oh, and the couplets too. Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! I wish you prosperity, good health and happiness for years to come. Have a good one, and eat loads on our behalf!

Here’s the recipe:

Clementine Macarons with Orange Buttercream

For the macaron shells:
(adapted from heavenwildfleur)
Makes 34 shells

66g egg white, aged
2g egg white powder
60g caster sugar
90g almond flour
110g icing sugar
1/3 teaspoon grated clementine zest
A few drops of orange food colouring

1. Preheat oven at 170 degrees Celsius.

2. Blitz almond flour, icing sugar and grated orange zest to combine and make the meal as fine as possible. Sift blitzed ingredients together in a bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites and egg white powder till soft peaks are formed. Whisk in caster sugar until stiff peaks form.

4. To the egg white mixture, fold in dry ingredients from Step 2 in 1/3 portions to combine. Add colouring, then fold in the mixture more vigorously. Test the consistency from time to time by lifting a generous dollop of macaron paste and dropping it into the mixing bowl. If the macaron paste does not settle smoothly after 30 seconds, continue folding the paste. If the macaron paste smooths out too quickly, you’ve gone too far.

5. Pipe out the shells onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and leave them to rest for 25 minutes before baking.

6. When a crust is formed, turn temperature on oven down to 140 degrees Celsius and bake for 15 minutes, turning the tray halfway through baking.

7. Cool parchment of baked shells on cooling rack. Unmould when the shells are completely cool.

For the Orange Buttercream:

100g unsalted butter
250g icing sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice (adjust levels according depending on personal taste)
3 teaspoons orange juice (adjust levels according depending on personal taste)
2/3 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons orange-infused milk (leave 1 tablespoon orange zest in 2 tablespoons of milk in fridge, overnight)

1. Beat butter and icing sugar together till creamy.

2. Add juices and zest and beat till smooth.

3. Add milk and beat till combined. If this is too runny, chill buttercream before piping onto shells.

4. Fill cooled macaron shells with buttercream and sandwich.


If you love macarons, join me on my macaron journey.

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.



54 thoughts on “Happy Chinese New Year

  1. Janine

    ooh the macarons look so dear! and i do love clementines, esp with the peanuts that we chinese so very love to eat during CNY.

    how different was it making your macarons with kate? ;p

  2. Pei-Lin

    Superb idea for CNY!!! Yup, agree with Anne! Indeed a nice change from CNY cookies! This is what I’d call East-meets-West idea!!

    Gong hey fatt choy!

  3. Tina

    I am an expat living in Shanghai and happened upon your site through Tastespotting. I can understand how you miss the festiveness of the CNY celebration as well as family.
    I’ve been seeing the oranges flying off the shelves and was wondering why. Now I know!
    Lovely macarons by the way. Happy New Year!

  4. Lisa

    I am so impressed by the fact that you made your own macarons. I always see them in fancy bakeries and hear about how much skill it takes to make them. You are amazing and they look absolutely delicious and perfect. Great job. I have a linky party going on at my blog called “Sweets for a Saturday” and I’d like to invite you to stop by and link this up.

  5. Simin

    Again you never fail to impress! I can only gawk and envy.
    I failed again with my macarons. 😦 don’t know what is wrong. The only thing I don’t have is egg white powder. Do you think that is the problem? Mine keep turning out like soft, chewy almond cookies. And no feet.

  6. maameemoomoo

    Your macs are gorgeous!!!!!!! Of course, so is your photography.My 16 egg whites.. i’m pretty sure some of it will go to macaron making next week. But if u were here, i’d gladly pass ALL to you in exchange for a cookie or 2 or ALL after u bake them 😉

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  10. Joel

    Had been making macarons for a year already. However your recipe made me feet less + cracked macarons. I really don’t know why. I normally would have almost perfect macarons.

    1. The Pleasure Monger Post author

      Hi Joel, I am not sure why the recipe didn’t work for you. Normally, if my shells have no feet or are cracked, it’s because my oven is too hot. You may want to adjust the temperature stated in my recipe.

      1. Joel

        Haha my temp was at 140 deg, left door ajar and blew into the oven for circulation every minute, doubled baking sheets too. Let it rest for 1h plus cus it was raining and the shells took forever to form a skin even with the fan blowing at them. So i dont see the problem with mine having no feet. Anyways, I tried the macarons today after 1 day of resting for the flavors to infuse and it turned out awesome!! Thanks for the wonderful recipe:)

      2. The Pleasure Monger Post author

        I am not sure what is wrong then, this recipe has worked well for me. Maybe you should use the recipe that has always worked for you to make the shells. Anyway, glad you like the flavour!

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