I’m not particularly sure when Britain got obsessed with Macarons but I’ve certainly noticed a lot of them about recently. A few years ago the only types of Macaroons I was accustomed to were the coconut English kind that my mum used to get from the bakery, sometimes they were dipped in chocolate and almost always were pressed onto edible rice paper on one side. Soon into gluten free life, these traditional coconut macaroons were presented as the sweet snack alternative that you could pick up at a café.
This blog post however will focus on the up rise of the other French variety: the ‘Macaron’.
Originally born in Italy, Macaron’s developed from a small sweet cookies which mostly consisted of almond powder, sugar and egg whites. They were ‘introduced by the Chef of Catherine de Medicis in 1533 at the time of her marriage to the Duc d’Orleans who became king of France as Henry II’ –(History of Macarons) hence their residence in France now.
The legend has it that apparently the granddaughter of Catherine was saved from starvation by eating these sugary treats. So yeah. Pretty remarkable discs of joy really!
Like the English ‘macaroon’ , French macarons are also mostly gluten free. That’s if the chef hasn’t done some crazy wheat based filling. (Hate when that happens), or like the Macarons in M&S they’ve added wheat and barley. Hmm.
Keep it simple. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as they say. And although I’d love to have come up with my own magical recipe for macarons I just didn’t think it necessary. These delights are best made the same traditional way. There are different methods and ingredients added by other chefs such as sugar syrup, but as an amateur chef who has a mad kitten running about the place, I simply don’t have the right environment to play around with hot molten sugar and fast-paced washing up.
But really. You don’t have to believe me. They are easy to make. You just have to get everything ready to go before you start.
As I’m experimenting making these for the wedding I’ll add different fillings/recipes to this post when I can. If you don’t like the ‘curd’ texture, just try adding lemon zest and juice to a traditional buttercream.
The Macaron I love, French Macarons
Makes around 15 macarons.
Adapted from a recipe in the The Skinny French Kitchen by Harry Eastwood
Macaroon shell ingredients
200g Icing sugar
100g Ground almonds
3 Medium egg whites
Pinch of salt
40g Fine Caster Sugar
Food colouring (paste is best)
Lemon Curd filling ingredients
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tbsp cornflour
40g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. and line a baking tray/s with very good quality non stick sheets. Mix together thoroughly the icing sugar and almonds in a bowl and give them a good sifting through- this will make sure you don’t get a bumpy lumpy macaron.
2. With an electric whisk or stand mixer, whisk the egg whites with the salt, until you get stiff peaks- you should be able to hold the bowl over your head without it falling on you!
3. Add in the caster sugar and whisk again until stiff and glossy white.
4. Add in the food colouring and whisk again. Make sure you add more than necessary – I found 4 -5 drops best – it may look nearly orange but the oven will pale the mixture quickly.
3. With a spatula, fold in the ground almond and icing sugar mixture gently into the egg whites, until the texture is uniform. Just be gentle and patient you don’t want to beat out any of the air you just whisked into it.
4. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium nozzle. If you don’t have a piping bag I don’t see any harm in using a spoon to plop on circular dollops!
5. Carefully pipe circles of mixture on to the baking sheet. Aim for little circles of around 3cm wide, leaving the same amount of space in between each. Tap the pan on the counter top (lift the pan up and let it fall from a little height) once you’ve piped all the discs on to ensure the air bubbles stay in.
6. Set aside for 30 minutes to dry out. When they are ready you should be able to touch the circles without leaving a fingerprint.
7. Cook for 12 minutes in the middle of the oven and leave to cool.
8. Meanwhile, make the filling. Pour the lemon juice in a steady stream over the cornflour, using a teaspoon to incorporate it as you go. When there are no cornflour lumps left, pour this mixture into a small saucepan along with the caster sugar and lemon zest. Bring the mixture to a slow boil, stirring constantly until thickened.
8. Remove from the heat instantly and whisk in the butter. Pour the filling on to a plate and leave to cool.
9. When all is cool, sandwich together two macaroon shells with one teaspoon (or more :P) of the filling. To remove discs off the pan easily you can add a tiny drop of hot water to the corner of the baking sheet to create some steam – which should ease them off.
Eat two, or four, or 15 with tea.