Macarons are certainly the indulgence of the moment. Ever since Sophia Coppola featured them in all their pastel glory in Marie Antoinette, a macaron craze has been sweeping the world. Websites debate where the best macarons in Paris can be found, while magazine features show lovingly shot piles in exotic colours and flavours, or parfums as the French say. But for me, especially as a first time macaron chef, I was not considering liquorice or lychee or anything exotic. I decided to stay with strawberry and chocolate as good safe bets, especially since there would be kids at the shower.
Having watched the Masterchef macarons, and after reading various blog posts about the trials and tribulations of making macarons, I was prepared for the worst. And yes, I completely stuffed up the first batch by whipping the egg whites firm (correct), but then adding the remaining ingredients into the mixer instead of stirring in by hand (definitely not correct - the egg whites lost their stiffness and I was left with a mixture that was way too runny to pipe). So I started again.....with a little more success. I used egg whites from the supermarket (non-refrigerated as I had forgotten to leave any out overnight). I also did not leave the piped macarons to stand for 4-5 hours; instead I left them for a couple of hours. Make sure you only bake one tray at a time - when I went to swap my trays half way through the cooking all the bottom macarons were cracked, so I left the trays as they were and the top ones remained uncracked. (You can see a cracked macaron hiding in the top left of my picture). I also kept the cooked but unfilled macarons in the freezer for a couple of days with no problems.
When it came to making the chocolate macarons, I decided to try another recipe, this time from Martha Stewart. The flavour was really good - my youngest told me they tasted just like the ones from the Lindt Cafe and you don't get higher praise than that. The downside was that they were a bit thicker and not as crisp as the strawberry ones. I will keep experimenting with recipes, but in the meantime I would make both of these again. They were really really good - the Gourmet Traveller recipe lighter and crisper, Martha's chewier and denser. I guess it depends where your preferences lie : one or the other or both!
Macarons with white chocolate and strawberry ganache adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller
130 gm pure icing sugar
110 gm almond meal
105 gm eggwhite (about 2), at room temperature, left out overnight
65 gm caster sugar
4-5 drops rose food colouring
White chocolate and raspberry ganache
50 ml pouring cream
100 gm white chocolate
45 gm raspberries, coarsely chopped
Process icing sugar and almond meal in a food processor until finely ground, triple-sift into a large bowl and set aside. Whisk 90gm eggwhite in an electric mixer until soft peaks form (1-2 minutes). Add caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously until incorporated and mixture is thick and glossy (2-3 minutes), then add food colouring. Stir in almond mixture in batches until incorporated and mixture slowly slides down sides of bowl when bowl is tilted. Add remaining eggwhite to loosen mixture, spoon into a piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle, pipe 3cm-diameter rounds of mixture onto heavy baking-paper-lined oven trays, stand until a crust begins to form (4-5 hours).
Preheat oven to 140C. Bake macarons until firm but not coloured, one tray at a time (10-12 minutes), set aside, cool completely on trays.
Meanwhile, for white chocolate and strawberry ganache, bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, add chocolate, stand until melted (5 minutes), stir until smooth and glossy. Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable (45 minutes-1 hour) then stir until smooth. Add raspberries, stir to form a ripple effect, then spoon a teaspoon of ganache onto half the macarons. Sandwich with remaining macarons and refrigerate until set. Macarons will keep for 1-2 days refrigerated in an airtight container.
adapted from Martha Stewart
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup almond flour
3 Tbl unsweetended cocoa powder
2 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup castor sugar
Pulse icing sugar and almond flour in a food processor until combined. Sift mixture twice.
Preheat oven to 185 degrees. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add castor sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny.
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1cm plain round tip, and pipe 3cm rounds 3cm apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, dragging pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks. Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macaroons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes. After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees.
Let macaroons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. (If macaroons stick, spray water underneath parchment on hot sheet. The steam will help release macaroons.)
Sandwich 2 same-size macaroons with ganache (recipe below). Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months.
Makes 3/4 cup ganache
1/2 cup pouring cream
100g dark chocolate, finely chopped (preferably 70 percent cacao)
15g unsalted butter, softened
Pour cream over chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Let stand for 2 minutes. Add butter, then whisk mixture until smooth. Let cool, stirring often. Use immediately.