Hello lovers. Did you miss me? I’ve been on a mini-hiatus [read: on a bit of a fitness kick hence no baking] but I’m back now! I feel rather like how that Adam fella on Man Vs Food must feel: with so much food and baking to get through, it does rather take a toll on a healthy lifestyle.
But look at these babies! Macarons. Sigh. These are macarons for people who don’t like macarons. Those people who go “Oh I just don’t get the fuss about macarons, they’re too sweet and they don’t taste of anything.’ Hush your sceptical mouths.
Half-almond-half-peanut shells sandwiched together with decadent salted caramel sauce. It’s all salty-sweet and vaguely reminiscent of peanut brittle. Whether you’re bribing tutors for better marks [Hi Margot], trying to impress on dates or you simply fancy spending an afternoon leisurely baking, these are the macarons for you. Force them upon the macaron-averse and feel smug when they look at you in awe. And at around 90 cals a pop, even the most health-conscious can indulge. Recipe and tips after the break.
EQUIPMENT IS KEY. This is my golden rule. Yes, you can make macarons the easy way, with no heating and an easy peasy meringue, but you get much more consistent results with the Italian method, which is what I use. Invest in a sugar thermometer and reusable non-stick baking mats. I use teflon ones, but the Lakeland silicon ones also work wonders. When you manage to peel off every single macaron perfectly, you’ll wonder why anyone ever uses baking parchement.
AGE YOUR EGG WHITES. It’s a massive faff, I know, but it really helps to stabilise the egg whites, so your macarons are less likely to collapse or crack.
BE PATIENT. Macarons take ages. Fact. Read a book while you wait between stages, or even have a shower, but you have to give them time. The drying time is key to forming feet, and without feet, well, they’re just biscuits, aren’t they?
Peanut & Salted Caramel Macarons [makes about 16-18 macarons]
150g egg whites, aged by either leaving them out for 24h or in the fridge for 48h
100g ground almonds
100g unsalted peanuts, toasted or roasted
200g icing sugar
200g caster sugar
Salted caramel sauce for filling. Use store-bought or try this recipe, with a sprinkling of sea salt added.
- First things first: get your nut mix ready. In a food processor, whizz up the peanuts with the ground almonds until finely ground. Add the icing sugar and whizz again. Sieve into a big bowl – although I often don’t bother with sieving. When you’re grinding your own nuts [which sounds vaguely dirty], you’re never going to get them perfectly fine. Just one of those things.
- Add 75g of the egg whites to the nut mix and stir together to form a paste.
- With a little bit of lemon juice on a piece of kitchen towel, wipe down a large bowl and your whisk, to get rid of any grease which will stop the eggs from whisking. Pour the remaining 75g of egg whites into this bowl.
- In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar and water and place over a low-medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. While this is all heating up, start whisking the egg whites into stiff peaks. Pop a thermometer into the sugar syrup, turn it up a wee bit and when it reaches 118C, pour in a steady stream into the stiff egg whites, mixing all the while. Keep beating until the meringue is thick and shiny and cool.
- Add a little of the meringue to the nut paste, to loosen it up, folding it in with brisk strokes. Add the rest of the meringue and fold to combine, until the macaron mixture is at a point where a ribbon of mix settles back into the rest of the mix, but be careful not to overmix.
- Pipe 2-3cm circles of macaron mix onto baking sheets. Leave the macarons to dry in the air for at least 40mins, then bake at 160C for 16-20mins, turning halfway. The timing really depends on how big you’ve piped them, but you should aim for them to be a light golden colour and to not wobble to much when you prod their tops. Leave to cool on the baking sheet and then remove to a rack.
- Sandwich together with caramel. Keeping the sandwiched macarons in the fridge for a day will allow the flavours to develop. Remove 30 mins before serving. As a tip, I pop my macarons into cupcake cases when I store them, because this stops the sticky caramel from going all over each other, and it looks lovely to give someone their individual macaron in a case.