Pillows of Heaven: Macaroons

photo 3-5

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.

IMG_2097

IMG_2107

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.

IMG_2098

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.

IMG_2104

IMG_2099

IMG_2108

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.

IMG_2105

IMG_2106

IMG_2109

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

Flavourings and Fillings

photo 3-6

– 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.

IMG_2100

photo 1-6

photo 2-7

White Chocolate and Raspberry Ganache

150g white chocolate

75g cream

2-3 drops raspberry extract

vanilla extract

pieces of freeze dried raspberries

popping candy

IMG_2101

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.

IMG_2102

IMG_2103

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

 

photo 4-4

photo 1-5

Advertisements

Il Tricolore: Red, White and Green

Another one of my favourite courses of the fat duck menu was one of the few seasonally changing ones. Heston has developed an amazing idea for the presentation of this course. A white chocolate picnic blanket with a check transfer which just before serving is gently melted with a blow torch before serving and it looks so delicious. Not only this but it tastes delicious, I’ve already posted about olive oil shortbread which on its own is a really surprisingly good (I would say better than butter….tentatively) but combining it with the strawberry flavours and white chocolate it is even better. Here is my version of the dessert (warning it is addictive and very very sweet) edible flowers are not required for the home version.
Heston’s


Il Tricolore: Red, White and Green


 Ingredients (serves 2)
Freeze Dried Strawberries
400g strawberries
Olive Oil Ganache
150g white chocolate
100ml cream
100ml olive oil
Olive Oil Shortbread
50g butter
50g sugar
100g flour
50g ground almonds
vanilla extract
salt
½ egg yolk
1/2tsp baking powder
50ml olive oil
black pepper
Strawberry Syrup
50g sugar
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
Macerated Strawberries
2tsp Cardomon pods
1tbsp sugar
coriander seeds
To serve
50g shelled pistachios, chopped
micro herbs


1.     For the Ganache, line a 18cm/18cm square tin on the base. Heat the cream on a medium heat, to the cusp of boiling. Chop the chocolate into very fine pieces, mix the cream and oil together and pour over the chocolate, leave for 1 min then combine. Pourinto the tin and place in the freezer for 1-2hours till solid.
2.     For the shortbread, preheat the oven 150oC. Cream the butter and sugar together. Then add the vanilla, salt, flour, almonds, oil, baking powder, egg yolk and a pinch of black pepper. Mix to form a soft dough, adding more oil or more flour depending on the consistency. Line a baking tray wit baking parchment and place the dough on top, cover with a layer of clingfilm and roll the dough out, with the rolling pin above the cling film to approx. 6mm thick.  Bake in the oven for 15mins until hard and golden brown at the edges, place in the fridge.
3.     For the freeze dried strawberries, thinly slice 5 strawberries, removing the husks for a flat edge. Place in a preheated oven at 100oC and leave for 30-40mins.
4.     For the syrup, puree 6 strawberries from the 400g and combine with the balsamic and sugar over a high heat will the mixture reduces and becomes syrupy, drain if possible and pour into a sauce bottle, refrigerate.
5.     For the Macerated strawberries, shortly before serving, cut 5 strawberries in half lengthways, removing the husks so they can stand on a flat base. Crush the cardamom pods and sprinkle over the strawberries with the sugar and leave to macerate for 5mins. Meanwhile crush the pistachios and turn the ganache onto the shortbread. Cut the shortbread and ganache with a short knife into rectangular pieces.
6.     To serve, squeeze a line of strawberry syrup onto the centre of the plate to stick the shortbread. Place the shortbread on top. Lay three freeze dried strawberry pieces on top and sprinkle over the crushed pistachios, pressing into the ganache and place a spoonful of pistachios in the top LH corner just above the shortbread. On the top RH corner above the shortbread position 3 macerated strawberry halves curling around the biscuit and different angles. Squeeze a line of strawberry syrup from the bottom strawberry to the edge of the plate downwards. Position 2 more strawberries along this line. Place a coriander seed on the tip of each strawberry and garnish with microherbs.