Pillows of Heaven: Macaroons

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You may or may not have noticed that I am a little bit obsessed with macaroons. The macaroon tour of Paris may have given you a hint. While in Berlin recently I detoured into the nearest Galerie Lafayette to the Macaroon counter to taste the ‘Brazil’ macaroon (Curacao, lime and mint).  My next challenge will be savoury macaroons, watch this space.

This could be the reason why I’ve shied away from making macaroons, I always worry that I would fail to live up to my expectation. But given the time on my hands (and the excuse of family friends coming over for a drink in the 24hours my parents are here), plus it would be an excuse to use the pretty cake stand, I’ve bitten the bullet. The greatest compliment I got was ‘I thought they were from Maison Blanc, take that Raymond.

The most important things seem to be:

a) The consistency, how long you mix, exact measurements etc

b) Not adding anything that will change the ratios e.g NO extra liquid

c) Baking for the correct length of time

 

Makes a lot (I split into two different flavoured batches)

4 large egg whites

70g caster sugar

230g icing sugar

120g ground almonds

pinch of salt

gel food colouring (or paste – DO NOT USE LIQUID)

1. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, I found using a kitchen aid mixer the easiest. You should be able to turn them upside down on your head without them falling out. Beat in the sugar to shiny thick peaks, then beat for 2-3mins more. They should be really really stiff. Add the gel food colouring and beat for 40sec more.

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2. Sift the ground almonds, icing sugar and salt into the bowl and fold into the mix with a spatula gently. This should take 30-50 folds, actually count. Too little and the macaroons will be to meringue like and crumble, too much and they will be too dense, I took about 40 folds. The mixture should be thick and shiny but still light and not liquid.

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3. Put into a piping bag (see Baking tips) and pipe small blobs onto a lined baking tray. They should be about the size of a 2p coin. The best way to do this is slowly and gently and pull the piping bag to the side of the macaroon to try and avoid a peak. Drop the macaroon tray from a small height onto the kitchen worktop to get rid of any bubbles, and prevent cracking.

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4. Leave for 20mins to develop a skin on top (make sure the kitchen isn’t too warm). Bake in a preheated oven for 20mins at 150oC, turning halfway through to ensure an even bake. They should easily come off the tray, if not they need to be baked more.

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5. If you can wait that long, the shells work even better if left in an airtight box overnight.

Flavourings and Fillings

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– This time round I made Raspberry, Popping candy and White Chocolate and Pistachio and Dark Chocolate, but you can experiment with buttercream fillings, jam fillings, cream fillings or other nuts in the shell.

– Mostly it is best to leave the shells flavourless and just add colour, leaving the flavour in the filling. However you can flavour with other nuts, or citrus zest or intense powder flavours, as long as you don’t alter the ingredient ratios too much.

– For Pistachio macaroons replace half the ground almonds with finely ground pistachios (I just ground them myself in a food processor).

Chocolate and Pistachio Ganache

Pistachio Paste

60g pistachios (weight without shells)

15g ground almonds

30g granulated sugar

1tbsp water

2tbsp sunflower oil (I experimented and added a drop of truffle oil as well)

pinch of salt

Chocolate Ganache

150g dark chocolate

75g cream (or half cream, half alcohol)

30g butter

vanilla extract, pinch of salt

1. Toast the pistachios at 200oC for 8mins. Meanwhile heat the sugar and water to about 120oC then toss in the pistachios, coat and leave to cool.

2. Place in a food processor with the almonds and salt. Grind to a fine powder, add the oil so the mixture forms a paste.

3. Heat the cream, vanilla and salt to boil. Meanwhile chop the chocolate finely. Pour over the cream as soon as it reaches the boil. Leave for 1min then stir till chocolate is completely melted. Stir in the butter till melted.

4. Combine the paste and the ganache, put into a piping bag and refrigerate till needed. Bring to room temperature before piping.

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White Chocolate and Raspberry Ganache

150g white chocolate

75g cream

2-3 drops raspberry extract

vanilla extract

pieces of freeze dried raspberries

popping candy

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1. Heat cream, raspberry extract and vanilla to boiling. Finely chop the white chocolate. Pour over the cream as soon as it reaches boiling point and stir till chocolate is completely melted. Fold through the raspberries and put in a piping bag.

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2. After piping into macaroons, sprinkle with a little popping candy before putting shell lid on top.

 

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