Have you noticed how macarons have suddenly become über cool and fancy? You can now buy them in exotic flavours such as white truffle with hazelnut and Lilly of the Valley! They are packaged up like expensive perfumes in pretty boxes with silky ribbons and tissue paper in soft pastel hues. Move over Belgian chocolates, Macarons are the gift du jour for the dinner part host.
The one thing that always shocks me about macarons though is how expensive they are. They are composed of four basic ingredients. Surely, someone out there must be making a packet out of them? Or so I thought! Last weekend was the first time I actually made macarons and I learned that there is a definite art and skill to making the perfect glossy, chewy and delicate macaroon. My home–made macarons, though imperfect, tasted delicious. Everyone did enjoy them, however I doubt the master baker at Ladurée will be knocking down my door anytime soon. Macarons are definitely something that I will make again and they’ll be even better next time. I’ve already learned a few valuable lessons in the art of macronage. I just found out today that chocolate macarons are actually the hardest to make as the cocoa causes them to crack.
Makes about 15 macaroons
- 70g of ground almonds
- 135g of icing sugar
- 10g of cocoa powder
- 2 free-range egg whites
Place the almonds, icing sugar and cocoa in a food mixer and blend until they become a fine powder. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Be careful not to under or over-beat. Carefully fold the egg whites into the powder. Place the mixture into a piping bag and pipe 1 inch circles onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Tap the bottom of the tray to remove any air bubbles. Leave to set for an hour in a dry, reasonably cool place. Some experts say that you should leave the macarons set for up to four hours before cooking to ensure a smooth, glossy coat. The general tip is that there should be a slight crust on the mixture, so that when you touch it, no mixture is left on your hand. As you can see I should have left mine to set for a bit longer as there are a few cracks on the surface, however they still tasted amazing. Lesson learned for next time
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Place the set macaroons in the oven to bake for 7-8 minutes with the door slightly ajar. I used an oven proof spoon to keep the door slightly open.
Remove the macarons from the oven. The macarons will stay pretty stuck to the parchment paper. To remove them without tearing, lift one corner of the parchment paper and pour some just boiled water onto the tray under the paper. The hot steam seems to lift them off perfectly.
For the fillings I used a coffee cream, which is just whipped cream with a teaspoon of cold espresso. For the plain chocolate filling, I used a small spoonful of Nutella. See below the recipe for the peanut caramel filling. These were the best and reminded me of snickers bars. See recipe for this yummy filling below.
Peanut Caramel Filling
- 60g of peanut butter
- 30g of icing sugar, sieved
- 10g of softened butter
- 10g of milk
- a drop of vanilla extract
- a pinch of fine sea salt
Mix all the ingredients in the blender until it forms a smooth paste. You might need to add a drop more milk depending on the consistency of your peanut butter.