Macaroons – why bother?

This isn’t one of those posts where I start off saying one thing, then answer my own question and end up persuading you that making macaroons is actually very important. Nope. I am simply asking why you’d bother to make them? Notoriously difficult and fiddly, don’t we all have better things to do with our time? If you really like them, why not buy them? That’s my advice to the sane among you.
Now, I’m not insane, but I was literally forced – at palette-knife point – to make some. Against my will and better judgement. The initial results were appalling and, after stuffing my face with the bits I could chisel off the grease proof paper, made me feel quite sick. I then had to make some guided by an expert, and those are the ones you see here (which I have to add, did taste pretty lovely).
So here, for the masochists among you, is a recipe for macaroons. And in true crumbs spirit, it is relatively easy (relatively easy), but really, I’d recommend sitting down with a good book and a cup of tea instead.
Macaroons
Ingredients for about 15 macaroons
Start to finish: bloody ages
180g icing sugar
140g ground almonds
3 large free-­range egg whites
75g caster sugar
For the filling
150g butter, softened
75g icing sugar
Flavouring or food colouring
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C.
2. Whizz the icing sugar and ground almonds in a food processor to get a very fine mixture, then sift into a bowl. If you have nuggins of nuts in the sieve at the end you can decide whether you want them in the mixture for something a little more rustic and textured, or dispose of them for something a bit finer.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt to soft peaks. The salt breaks down the whites which helps them become really stiff. To check they are whipped enough turn the bowl upside down, and none should fall out. Then, gradually whisk in the caster sugar until the mixture is thick and glossy.
It’s here you can stir in any flavourings you want to use, or colours. If you want lots of different colours divide the mixture in to different bowls and colour each bowl.
4. Fold half the almond and icing sugar mixture into the meringue, using a metal spoon. Try not to over-stir, as you don’t want to lose all that air you’ve just whipped in to the mixture. Then fold in the remaining half, using your spoon to cut and fold the mixture until it is shiny and has a thick, ribbon‐like consistency as it falls from the spatula.
5. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large 1cm plain nozzle. The best way to spoon the mixture into a piping bag, if you haven’t done it before, is to open the bag up and fold the top bit down, and then place the spoon with the mixture as far down into the bag as possible, use the thumb of the hand which is holding the bag to scrape the mixture off the spoon.
6. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. A good tip is to draw 3cm circles on the underside of the paper so your macaroons are all a similar size and pair up well. Draw round an egg cup or a bottle lid, and make sure the pen goes on the underside so you don’t get it on the macaroons.
7. Pipe small rounds of the macaroon mixture, about 3cm across, onto the baking sheets. The best way to pipe is hold the bag half way up, thumb on one side, fingers on the other, and squeeze gently. The bag should be held directly above the circle, at a 90 degree angle for best results. (Although this piping bit sounds really uptight, it’s actually really good fun, and I’m going to be doing a lot more piping in the future!)
8. Then you need to give the baking sheets a sharp tap on the work surface to ensure a good ‘foot’, this means the macaroons rise a little bit and become a bit more macaroon-shaped. Then leave to stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes to form a slight skin (although this took a bit longer for ours). This is important – you should be able to touch them lightly without any mixture sticking to your finger. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.
6. Meanwhile, make the fillings.  In a bowl beat the butter until light and fluffy, then beat in the icing sugar. Add flavourings now if you want them. Use to sandwich pairs of similarly sized macaroons together (or not, I didn’t get round to doing this part).
Ta da! Macaroons for masochists! Enjoy!

5 Comments

  1. Never tried to make macaroons, can’t beat laduree and their beautiful green boxes.

    Reply
  2. They seemed to be one of those perfectly lovely things that you always bought, rather than making, until food magazines started pushing them at everyone. Then it was whoopee pies, now it’s those cake pop things (a mere mouthful of cake doesn’t seem like a very practical idea to me). I wonder what they’ll latch onto next?

    Reply
  3. I like your attitude! I’ve never made them either, but feel pressurised to have a go. The only thing I would say about buying them is that when you live in the depths of rural Scotland – they are just not available to buy!

    Great post.

    Reply
  4. Hippo: a woman after my own heart!
    Cath: Lovely to hear from you! I think the nature of magazines is they have to make you think something is “in” while something else is “out”, otherwise they’d be out of a job! But it’s good not to succumb!
    Janice: Thank you! I do like macaroons, but personally a lemon drizzle cake would be just as satisfying, and you can knock one up in the time it takes to get to the shops!

    Reply
  5. I love this post. As much as macaroons are lovely, I would never attempt them myself. And actually, at the risk of being VERY uncool, I prefer the Italian sort – the huge mounds of coconut bound together with egg white and drizzled with chocolate. Sigh…

    Reply

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