Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Making macaroons - tips and tricks and my favourite recipe!

Wow, where did my day go? I have spent the whole day making macaroons/ macarons. The first batch went horrendously wrong as I accidentally mixed in the wrong dry ingredients to the egg whites and killed the mixture. So I chucked them away and bought some more ingredients and hey presto. Good macaroons. Not perfect, but good enough!

Chocolate macaroons with a blue strawberry filling
Ok, ok. They have cracked tops and no "feet" but they taste good and they have flat bottoms. That's all I could hope for after this mornings disaster!

Here's what you do!

Gather ingredients:

You will need:
  1. 175g icing sugar
  2. 125g ground almonds
  3. 3 large free-range egg whites
  4. 75g caster sugar

For the filling:

  1. 150g butter, softened
  2. 75g icing sugar

Firstly, draw out your templates on grease proof paper using a milk carton top and a pen. Cut the paper to the size of your baking tray.

The template above actually has the circles too close together. They do need quite a large gap between circles as they spread when forming the skin.

Measure out all your ingredients; you will need them handy so that you can work quickly.
Sift the almonds and icing sugar into one bowl, have the caster sugar in a small bowl and the egg whites in a large bowl.

Caster sugar on the left, almonds and icing sugar on the right.
(You are supposed to mix the icing sugar and almonds in a food processor to get them really fine but I don't have one and I'm lazy. Also, my sugar was granulated as I couldn't afford to buy yet more ingredients! Neither of these things made a huge difference in my opinion!)

Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff and have increased substantially in volume. Gradually whisk in the caster sugar. The mixture should be glossy and smooth. If in doubt, keep whisking!

Now is the time to add any flavourings or colourings. I find the gel food colours keep their colour much better after baking than the liquid ones...

Next, gently fold in some of the almond/ icing sugar mixture. Gradually fold in all the dry mixture until no pockets of dry ingredients can be seen. Don't overdo it or you'll knock the air out of the mixture!

My blue mixture looked like this:

This was the mixture I messed up! It looks ok in the bowl but it didn't cook properly. In my second mixture, I used 40g of cocoa powder and only 135g of icing sugar so that the macaroons were chocolate flavoured! That batter looked much more dense and piped more easily.

A tip for piping bags:
Piping bags can be messy to fill. I open mine out over a pint glass so that the top is wide open and I don't have to hold it as I fill it!

My piping bag and nozzle set was from Sainsbury's £3
When the bag is full of batter, push down on the baking tray to pipe your mixture into circles. Mine needed four baking trays and then some! Ideally I think I would need five....this is not for the faint hearted or short of space!

Give them plenty of room!
Tap the tray on the work surface a few times to remove air bubbles and then leave them for about fifteen minutes to half an hour to form a slight skin. This sometimes seems to take ages....but you do need it in order to get a smooth top and "feet."

(Feet are the little ruffly, bubbly bits around the edge of the macaroon!)

Whilst they are getting their skin, this is a good time to quickly wash up and pre-heat the oven. I set mine to 150 degrees but my oven door doesn't close properly so they take about 20mins to cook properly. The recommended temperature is 160°C/fan140°C/gas 3 for about 12 mins. You'll just have to experiment with that, ok?

When you can press them gently on the top without breaking the shell, they're cooked. Immediately take the paper off the baking sheet and leave them to cool (on the paper) over a wire rack. Cook the other batches in the same way.

They should lift easily off the paper if they have been cooked long enough. There are loads of reasons why they can stick, be hollow, crack etc - there are many websites that will guide you with this. I'm not going to go into it as they do it so well!

My chocolate shells had good, flat bottoms. Hollow macaroons are not the end of the world although they need more filling to sandwich them together!

For the filling, I mixed the butter and icing sugar until smooth and soft and then added strawberry flavouring and blue colouring. You can also use Nutella or fruit curds as fillings.

Here they are in all their glory!

Some of my previous efforts have been better in some ways, some have been worse. Macaroons are tricky.

My gorgeous new cake stand came as a free gift with a new baking magazine for only £1.99. The rest of the series will have vintage china with it to collect and will be £7.99 I think, but as this is the first issue, it was cheaper.

Vintage tea party issue 1.
Another top tip is to leave your macaroons in the fridge overnight before eating them as it makes the butter or Nutella filling more solid and the fillings will have absorbed into the shells. They taste better this way, promise!

So, are you going to give macaroons a try? Or have I put you off?!!

1 comment:

Becky Conroy said...

Wonderful! I have a macaroon recipe book but haven't yet quite ventured into making them. I think I need to have a go after reading this :-). Lovely cake stand too. xx