Everybody is impressed by homemade macarons. Take them as an after dinner treat for your hosts, and people will think that you are some kind of chef wizard. I show these pictures to more people than I would like to admit, waiting for their gasps – “But aren’t they impossible at home?”
Macarons do seem like they would be difficult to make. And, in many ways they are – for just one person. Once you add another pair of hands into the mix, they become much more manageable. They become a notable accomplishment for a rainy Saturday afternoon spent with someone you love; a perfect Valentine’s treat with your honey, or a best pal.
We made ours with Italian meringue, which is a little more involved than the usual kind. Sugar is boiled before adding to whipped egg whites, and the result is a smooth, glossy finish to your treats, almost like ceramic tile. It’s worth the effort. These are based on a Lorraine Pascale recipe and are gluten-free.
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– I know it seems mad to weigh egg whites, but you need to be very precise in this recipe. Use a digital scale.
– Ground almonds that have been languishing in your cupboard are not going to make great macarons. Buy fresh or grind your own just before.
Makes about 24.
125g/4 ½ oz icing sugar
125g/4 ½ oz ground almonds
90g/3 ½ oz egg whites
2 tbsp water
110g/4 oz caster sugar
powder food colouring (optional)
150ml/5fl oz cream, whipped
5tbsp seedless raspberry jam
homemade lemon curd (I make Nigel Slater’s)
- Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 5 and line a couple of large baking trays with baking paper.
- In a large bowl, mix with icing sugar, ground almonds and 40g/1½ oz egg whites to a paste.
- In a small saucepan, put the caster sugar and water over a gentle heat until the sugar melts. Then, turn up the heat and boil until the mixture thickens a little bit and has the consistency of runny honey. Resist the urge to stir it – you’ll make the sugar crystallise and your macarons will be grainy.
- Whip the remaining eggs whites til quite stiff – they should stay standing when you take the whisk out of the bowl. Pour in the sugar syrup, whisking until the mixture becomes stiff and shiny. Tip this mixture into the almond paste mixture and stir gently until the becomes stiff and shiny again.
- Spoon into the piping bag, fitted with a regular medium, circular nozzle. Put a little dot of the mixture into each corner of the paper underneath, to stop it slipping. With the bag held vertically, pipe 4cm/1½in flat circles onto the lined tray, about 2cm/¾in apart, twisting the bag after each one. Lift the tray about 6 inches off the counter and drop it a couple of times to knock the bubbles out. It’s intimidating to do, but just do it with confidence, and let go from both hands at the same time! I thought that they needed to look absolutely perfect here, and thought I’d ruined them because they were a little misshapen, but they changed to perfect in the oven.
- Leave to stand for 30 minutes (During which time, you can make lemon curd if you want to, following the recipe here) to form a shiny skin. This will mean that they rise evenly with a nice curve on them. Bake in the oven for 12–15 minutes with the door slightly ajar until firm. It’s geeky, but I would stay close by, possibly even sitting on the oven like you’re on Great British Bakeoff. Remove from the oven, lift the paper off the tray and leave the macaroons to cool on the paper.
- When cool, sandwich the macaroons together with whipped cream and jam; or lemon curd. We used the piping bag again, because we were enjoying it!