My friend Ali really likes to wash dishes. I think she’s completely mental, but she loves to get her hands in some hot soapy water and turn a messy kitchen into a clean one.
Here’s Ali the Dish-Washing Queen
So, when planning a big baking project that was sure to produce lots and lots of dishes, I invited Ali to join me in the kitchen to “help.” AKA- come do all the yucky washing up whilst I make bright blue meringues.
I’m mostly kidding. I wanted to try to make these macaroons with Ali because she’s great fun and a great cook and knows how to help out with a bottle of wine whilst we’re cooking. The fact that she does the washing up as well is just a huge bonus.
Ali and I assembled all the ingredients to make French patisserie-style macaroons on a Sunday afternoon. The ingredient list was deceptively short and simple for what turned into a huge, fiddly, messy, tasty task.
We whisked and we coloured and we burnt things. We tasted and we laughed and we made a meringue that looked just like a foot. We measured and we piped and we washed pink butter cream off the mixers (but not before licking the beaters.)
And the results were…. Not bad. Our meringues were all crackled on the outside, rather than smooth like the stunning creations you buy in France. Our meringues weren’t uniform in size and shape- in fact you’d be hard-pressed to find any two that looked remotely alike.
But, our macaroons were really delicious. The texture was spot on… chewy meringues sandwiched together with smooth, rich, brightly coloured butter cream or Nutella. We made strawberry ones and vanilla ones and peppermint ones. It was a rainbow of confectionery.
By the time we finished making the macaroons, we were so tired that we could barely eat any of them, but the ones that we did manage were really something special.
And the best bit, no washing up left over for Monday morning!
French style macaroons
adapted from Delicious magazine
Makes about 20 macarons
For the macarons
175g icing sugar
125g ground almonds
3 large free-range eggs
75g caster sugar
For the butter cream filling
150g butter, softened
75g icing sugar
Preheat your oven to 160C or gas mark 3. Whizz the icing sugar and ground almonds in a food processor until the mixture is very fine. Sift this mixture into a bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of sugar. It helps to use electric beaters for this, or your arm might fall off. Once the egg whites form soft peaks, whisk in the caster sugar a little at a time until thick and glossy. At this point you can divide up the egg whites into separate bowls and whisk in different flavours and colours… for example red food colouring and strawberry extract.)
Fold half the almond / icing sugar mixture into the meringue and mix well. If you’ve divided your meringue up, you’ll need to also divide up the almond / icing sugar mixture. Make sure you use a spatula to cut and fold the mixture until it is shiny and has a thick, ribbon-like consistency. Spoon this mixture into a piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle.
Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. Pipe small rounds of the macaron mixture, about 3 cm across, onto the baking sheets. Give the baking sheets a sharp tap on the kitchen counter to ensure a good, smooth bottom.
Now, you have to leave the macarons to stand for at least 10-15 minutes to form a slight skin. I think this is where we went wrong and why our macarons were crackly looking. You should be able to touch your macarons lightly without any of the mixture sticking to your finger.
Bake the macarons for 15 minutes. Keep a close eye on them. After 15 minutes remove them from the oven and leave to cool.
To make the filling, beat the butter and icing sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Once you have the right consistency, you can divide the filling into smaller bowls and add colours and flavours to match the macarons. Use the filling to sandwich together the macarons.