Macarons must be one of the ultimate naturally gluten free indulgences…… Rich with ground almonds, they come in a rainbow of colours and flavours, delectably sandwiched together around mouthwateringly creamy fillings. They should be crisp, with an eggshell-like outer coat, but perfectly moist and chewy on the inside, so that your teeth sink into them with a slight stickiness and they melt across your palate, mingling with a perfectly complemented, equally decadent filling.
After our Paris holiday in the summer, I resolved to learn how to make them. I had bought a box of Laduree macarons when we were there, which were so pretty and so yummy that they have been playing on my mind ever since. They are ridiculously expensive to buy, which seems a good enough reason (apart from the sheer creativity of learning) to master the art of making them.
I had heard that they were also ridiculously difficult to make, but as luck would have it, I was fortunate enough to win a copy of Perfecting Patisserie by Dr Tim Kinnaird in July’s Alpha Bakes challenge, which seemed the perfect starting point for my mission! I’ve had this recipe earmarked ever since. Interestingly, Tim describes macarons as ‘the supermodels of the cake world. At their best, elegant and indefinable delights; at their worst, temperamental divas.’ Sounds a bit like my daughter!!
Maybe it is beginners luck, but with Tim’s step by step instructions, accompanying photos and explanations for the processes being undertaken, I actually found these macarons relatively easy to make……. maybe I should keep quiet about that……. I don’t want to jinx my next attempt. Sure, they are slightly imperfect in the equality of their sizing (not having anticipated exactly how many sheets to baking paper I would need to draw circles on and deciding to go for the more random, unmarked piping technique about half way through), but for taste and texture, they are exactly as they should be……. amazingly good……… Perfectly crisp yet soft and chewy……… delicately but decidedly flavoured with raspberry……. prettily pink………. rich with white chocolate ganache which mingles in happy partnership against the fruit……… dangerously addictive…….
I am totally overjoyed with them! My husband says they are better than the ones he had from Laduree….. bless him…. I think memory can become quite deceptive as you get older.
Although there wasn’t actually a raspberry macaron recipe in Tim’s book, I used his basic macaron shell recipe and added some freeze dried raspberry to the mix. I know I’ve banged on about it many times before, but I have a total love for using freeze-dried fruit powders. The process of freeze-drying seems to lock in an amazing intensity of natural fruity flavour and because of their powdered form, they are amazingly versatile for use with so many cooking processes, be it making cakes, tray bakes, ice creams, icings, mousses or biscuits….. even adding to breads and some savoury dishes. It worked perfectly in these, ensuring that the flavour was achieved without adding any extra moisture.
The white chocolate ganache recipe was taken from Tim’s filling for Jasmine Tea Macarons, but without the infusion of tea to the cream.
I confess that whilst I followed the instructions rigidly for making the batter, I did wing it slightly for the baking process. Although Tim advised against the need to leave the macarons to form a skin before baking (as this apparently can be inconsistent in result due to the varied temperature and humidity from one kitchen to another), by the time I had finished piping the whole batch of ingredients (I am not a confident piper) the skin had formed anyway. So I went with a more traditional method of baking them at a steady heat and just watched them very closely to ensure they didn’t go ‘over’.
I am so pleased that my first attempt at making them was a success. I tend to be one of those people who can be easily put off by failing at stage one……… I set myself very high standards and can be reluctant to set myself up for a second failure in a hurry. It never seems so bad if I mess up at a later try, because I know that I can do it and just put it down to a bad day.
One thing’s for sure…… macarons are now going to be a regular feature in my kitchen, successful or not. I can see a whole paintbox of colourful almondy inventions ahead of me, flavoured with a whole array of aromatic additions.
I am sending a few (but only a few, as most of them have been greedily devoured) to a handful of foodie challenges this month :
Raspberry & White Chocolate Macaron (makes about 30 to 35 sandwiched macaron) – (slightly adapted from Dr Tim Kinnaird – ‘Perfecting Patisserie’ (2013))
Ingredients (Italian Meringue Method)
- Macaron Shells : Prepare 3 to 4 baking sheets by lining with baking paper. The baking papers should have circles drawn on the underside about the size of a 2 pence piece and spaced about 2.5 cm/1 inch apart.
- In a large bowl, combine the icing sugar, almonds and 75g egg white. Beat with an electric whisk until fully combined
- Add the raspberry powder and food dye and beat again.
- Preferably using a free-standing mixer, put the rest of the egg white (75g) into the bowl.
- In a very small saucepan, mix the caster sugar and water and heat very slowly. Use a cooking thermometer to check the temperature accurately. You want the temperature to reach exactly 117 C/242 F.
- Whilst the sugar is heating, gently whisk the egg whites in the mixer bowl until frothy and airy.
- When the sugar syrup has reached the required temperature, remove from the heat and add to the egg whites whilst continuing to whisk slowly.
- Turn up the speed of the mixer a little (not to high speed) and continue to whisk until the mixture is stiff enough to form stiff peaks. You now have Italian meringue.
- Preheat the oven to 150 C / 300 F/Gas 2.
- Add the raspberry almond mix that you made earlier to the Italian meringue and beat slowly for about 30 seconds.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again for about 30 seconds until combined. The consistency of the mix is important at this stage and should ‘flow smoothly’ when tipped from the spoon back into the bowl, yet ‘spread back into a flat, even surface’.
- Transfer the mixture into a piping bag with a 1cm plain round nozzle.
- At right angles to the tray (upright), pipe small mounds of batter into the centre of the marked circles on the baking paper, until the batter almost fills the circle. Swirl the nozzle to separate, before moving on to the next circle.
- Leave the piped batter circles to stand for 15 to 20 minutes until they have the appearance of a slight skin forming across the surface.
- Bake for about 7 minutes and then swap the trays round and bake for a further 4-5 minutes. Watch very closely in case the edges begin to catch. The macaron are baked when the top is smooth and dry and they are firm to the touch.
- Remove from the oven and as they begin to cool, very gently transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- White Chocolate Ganache Filling : Break the chocolate into small pieces in a heat proof bowl.
- Heat the cream in a saucepan until it is just beginning to start to simmer, then remove from the heat and immediately pour over the chocolate. Leave to sit for 4 to 5 minutes and then stir until the chocolate has completely melted and the ganache mixture is smooth. If any lumps of chocolate remain, place the bowl over a saucepan with a small amount of simmering water and gently heat and stir until smooth.
- Add the butter to cooled ganache and beat with a whisk or hand blender until smooth. If the mixture is still quite runny, place in the fridge for about 10 minutes to cool completely and stiffen very slightly.
- Pair up the macaron shells in a row one top side up, one top side down.
- Transfer the ganache to a piping bag fitted with a 1 cm plain round nozzle.
- Pipe a blob of ganache into the centre of each of the flat-facing macaron shells and sandwich together with the second shell, gently squeezing together until the filling can be seen at the edge.
- Sprinkle with a little freeze-dried raspberry powder on top for decoration.
- Store in the fridge, but bring back to room temperature to eat and enjoy at their best.