Thursday, 22 July 2010

how to make...macarons

With all of this excitement about macarons, I thought I would share Ottolenghi's recipe for macarons, which i've tried a few times and it is surprisingly easy to get a tasty, satisfying macaron. What is much harder is both piping them out onto the tray so they come out just the right size and shape, and getting the cooking time perfect. Especially if they are different shapes. Overcooked macarons will tend to crack when you try to spread the ganache onto them.

Heat the oven to 170 degrees or gas mark three.

Then place the egg whites and the caster sugar in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer and start whisking on full speed until the whites have formed a thick, aerated meringue, firm but not too dry. Remove the bowl from the machine, take a third of the meringue and fold it gently into the sifted almond and sugar mix. Once incorporated , add another third of the meringue and continue similarly until all the meringue has been added and the mix appears smooth and glossy.

Take a sheet of baking parchment and 'glue' it to a baking tray by dotting the tray in a few places with the mix. Now you need to use the mix to create uniform shallow discs about the size of a two pound coin. In our kitchens we pipe the macaroon mix onto the lined tray using a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle.

I would say if you have this equipment, then do it, otherwise you end up with a real mix of sizes.

Ottolenghi also suggest drawing circles on the baking parchment to achieve consistently sized 'blobs'. One of the recommendations in the book is to cover your hands with icing sugar and try to form the shapes as you would with a pastry and a handful of flour. This didn't work for me at all, so not sure if worth trying.

Once the blobs are in place on the tray, tap the underside vigourously, to help spread and smooth the macarons. Leave them out and uncovered for 15 minutes before baking.
To bake, place the macarons in the preheated oven and bake for about 12 minutes. This may take longer depending on the oven. They are ready when they come freely off the paper. Remove from the oven as soon as they reach this stage, so you don't overbake them, and leave aside to cool down completely.

From my own experience it is really important that they are not overbaked so that they maintain the moist innards that the macaron should have. There is a risk they can dry out and become brittle.Once you put the ganache between two layers they will still be delicious, but it is this, and the beautiful combinations of flavours, which makes them an art. Maybe I'll take back what I said before about it being simple....
To assemble, use a small spoon or piping bag to deposit a pea sized amount of the filling on the flat side of half of the biscuits. Sandwich them together with the other half, squeezing them together gently, leave at room temperature to set within a couple of hours or you can chill to speed the process but remember to serve at room temperature.
Chop up the chocolate and the butter into small pieces. Place in a heatproof bowl. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, watching it carefully. As soon as it boils, pour it over the chocolate and butter mix. Stir carefully until you get a smooth mix. If the chocolate doesn't melt, help it by forming a bain-marie and placing over a pan of hot water. Then stir in the rum until well blended.

Cover the bowl with a sheet of clingfilm and leave somewhere cool (but not a fridge) for a couple of hours. Don't let it get too hard as when you spread it, it might break the macarons.

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