The Easter weekend has come and gone, but don’t worry, there is only three days to wait before we can do a similar thing again. Hoorah for long weekends! Hoorah for William and Kate! Hoorah for Grande Bretagne!
I got a very kind invite to spend the day watching horses and drinking Pimms at the Kimble Point to Point. Hoorah for me! Point to Point, like Henley and the boat race, is a social occasion masquerading as a sporting event, a middle class picnic in a makeshift car park. This weekend the weather was so nice that most of the horses at Kimble couldn’t even be bothered to run, preferring instead to eat carrots and drink Moet. This was welcome news – no need to look up from the smorgasbord of slightly warm scotch eggs and congealing taramasalata.
Anyway, I had a great day and managed to build up a strong T-Shirt tan to start the season with. I was glad I had thought in advance to make an Easter gift for my very generous hosts. What better to celebrate a middle class Easter weekend than a box of slightly melted macaroons?
Macaroons are kind of London trendy. A lot more trendy than your average point to point crowd, the kind of crowd where the men shoot dinner and the women shove it in the AGA. Having said that the cheeky almond bite has got a bit of coverage recently on some post ‘Loose Women’ cooking shows and may well permeate the home-counties before the Olympics kick off next year.
Anyway, I made them, just. Attempt one failed at the first hurdle when I processed the wrong sugar with the almonds. No big drama. Attempt two seemed to be going well until the individual piped blobs of wet macaroon became one large lake of sludge. With an exceptionally careful folding technique I brought together mix three, holding back as soon as the suggested ‘shaving foam’ texture was reached. The foam certainly piped better, producing moussey little domes of yellow on my upturned roasting trays (It is worth checking in advance that you have at least two baking trays in your house if attempting this recipe, if not – buy some or prepare to improvise).
As you can see from the photos the macaroons turned out ok, a little too airy and too much rise, and pretty ugly. They tasted ok, and looked just about pretty enough to present in a box as a gesture. My oven is consistently crap on all counts, this may not have helped much.
I sandwiched the sunny nipples with some pink lemon butter-cream. Both because it looked nice and because I didn’t really have the ingredients in the house to create anything more elaborate.
The moral of the story (because every story must have a moral, especially at Easter time) is this: do not try and make macaroons when you are hung-over but do give macaroons to people as a little Easter gift – even if they taste like stale communion bread and look like tomb blocking boulders your hosts will coo and think you are clever, especially if you are a boy.
Here is the recipe I used, courtesy of the BBC website. If you know a better one that will make me as good as Pierre Hermé or Child Doctor Tim please let me know.
- Blend the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor until well combined. Set aside.
- Using an electric whisk, slowly whisk the egg whites in a large bowl at a low speed until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. Slowly whisk in the cream of tartar and caster sugar until the mixture is smooth and glossy, increasing the speed of the whisk as the mixture stiffens.
- Gently fold in the food colouring and blended ground almonds and icing sugar until the mixture resembles shaving foam.
- Spoon the macaroon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm/½in round nozzle. Pipe 5cm/2in circles onto the baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. If a peak forms, wet your finger and smooth it down. Sharply tap the bottom of the tray to release any air bubbles from the macaroons, then set aside for 60 minutes (the macaroon shells are ready to go in the oven when they are no longer sticky to the touch).
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160C/315F/Gas 2½.
- Bake the macaroons in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Carefully peel away the greaseproof paper and set aside to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, for the chocolate filling, heat the double cream and chocolate in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth and well combined. Add the brandy and butter and stir until smooth, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely.
- Use the filling to sandwich the macaroons together then chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.