Florence’s Food: Macarons

Today, I’m handing you over to my sister Francesca because she is going to share her tips on making (the notoriously tricky) macarons. After she had cracked the recipe and bake, I asked her to teach me, and you guys, how to make them, with stunning results. You can find the basic macaron recipe here on The Pink Whisk – the baking blog by Ruth, who came second in the first Great British Bake off series. Francesca is going to talk you through the how-to step by step sharing her hard won tips so you can skip to the perfect macarons!

A very lovely friend recently brought a box of macarons all the way back from Brussels for me and I instantly fell in love. Each was a different flavour with a tangy delicious filling and the colours were beautiful! I decided I wanted to make them myself and knowing how notoriously difficult they were to make I took the time to read around the art of making them. With a fair bit of baking experience under my belt I foolishly went into my first batch feeling quietly confident. I followed the recipe and heeded the few warnings about common stumbling points but mine were still misshapen, unrisen and very firmly stuck to my extra greased grease proof baking paper. The silver lining to this baking disaster was the macaron eaton mess I made with the broken pieces I managed to prize from the baking paper! A futher 4 batches were made with varying degrees of success and failure and I now believe I have mastered the tricky little macaron! I hope with these tips you will avoid the 4 unsuccessful batches and skip right to the proud moment of sandwiching two together and having your friends/family tell you how great they look (and taste!)

My first piece of advice is not to try making macarons without a silicon Macaron Mat! Other people recommend different brands of baking paper but the only success I had was with my purpose made silicone Macaron Mat (link to the one I bought). As long as they are cooked at the right temperature, for the right amount of time and left to cool completely, they will peel off this mat with ease. (Make sure you put a baking try under your mat before you pipe anything onto it or you’ll have great difficulty moving the floppy silicon mat into the oven without your mixture going everywhere!)

I start by mixing the ground almonds and icing sugar very thoroughly. This can be done with a food processor or enthusiastically by hand! Once they are mixed, I weigh out the egg whites ensuring the mixing bowel is squeaky clean and no egg yolk gets mixed in. They need to be whisked to a stiff peak and then the sugar can be added in bit at a time. Be careful not to over whisk or they egg whites will become flat again. This is the best stage to add in the food colouring. Gel colouring is best as it does not affect the consistency of the mixture as much as a liquid colouring. I personally like ‘sunshine yellow’ for my lemon macarons but pick whichever colour takes your fancy! You do need quite a bit of colouring, they fade a little when cooked. I use about half a tube for each batch.

The ground almond and icing sugar mixture can then be sieved into the egg whites, I usually do it in thirds. Each time you sieve the mix over the egg whites some larger almond grains will be left behind (above top right), these will make the maracons grainy if you force them through the sieve so throw these away. Fold the almond and icing sugar mix into the egg whites being careful not to knock out too much air as you go. Once they are fully mixed together, the macarons are ready to pipe.

I like to make lemon macarons which requires the addition of the zest of 2 lemons and ½ – 1 whole juiced lemon. I add this once all the mixture is combined and add the second half of the juice slowly and see how loose the mixture becomes, depending on the size of the lemon only half may be needed, or the macaron mix will not hold its shape on the mat.

I have two fancy piping devices, neither of which helped me with the macarons as the nozzle sizes weren’t right. I decided to fill a plastic sandwich bag full of mixture and seal it at the top, then hold the mixture upside down so the tip is pointing in the air and carefully cut off the corner tip. You can then turn it around and start piping onto your mat.

Once your mat is full of macarons, you need to help the mixture flatten by lifting the tray about 10cm and dropping it flat onto the work surface. Do this 3-4 times until your macarons have flattened out nicely, then leave the mixture on the side for 30 minutes to form a skin. At this point you can preheat the oven to 140, (fan assisted.) You should be able to gently touch the top of the macarons without any mixture sticking to your finger. They need baking for 1416 minutes in my oven, but I’m afraid it can be a trial and error situation as every oven varies. They then must be left to cool completely before trying to remove them from the baking mat or they will stick and break.

You can be a creative as you like with the filling. I have to confess I’m not sure I’ve mastered that part yet but I do like using whipped cream with the addition of a generous handful of raspberries and a little icing sugar. Anything from jam to nutella can be used to fill them or special macaron buttercream filling, for which there are numerous recipes on the internet for, I just haven’t found one I like enough to use yet! My last bit of advice is to only sandwich the shells together with filling just before you eat them, otherwise they tend to go soft if left for too long. The shells will keep fresh for about a week in an air tight container.

Good luck and remember, if at first you don’t succeed – try, try again! I think this motto was made for macaron making!

Thank you Francesca! I was so impressed with this batch – now to make them myself!

Will any of you be joining us in attempting macarons, or have you mastered them already – I’d love to hear any tips!


The Details:

Friday Food: Chocolate and Almond Biscotti

This week’s Friday Food, is one of my own favourites, by Rachel Allen. Recently I’ve had a real sweet tooth and one of my worst habits is that I can’t stop eating at any meal until I have had something sweet. These biscotti are amazingly low fat (I worked them out as 1.5 weight watchers points on the old plan) so make a nice sweet finish without too much damage to the waistline. They’re perfect for dunking in coffee and even better as a gift for the host at a party or Christmas.

Biscotti are baked twice, but don’t let that put you off, it only adds 15 minutes to the recipe and you never turn the oven off.

Ingredients: (Makes 12-20 biscotti)

  • 1 egg
  • 100g Caster Sugar
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 75g roughly chopped dark chocolate
  • 50g whole almonds
  • the finely grated rind of one orange

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Whisk your caster sugar and egg together until pale and mousse-like.

Fold in the dry ingredients gently.

Flour your hands and a surface then scoop out the loose dough mixture and shape it into a flattened log.

Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar before putting in to the oven (you may want to do this bit on the baking tray you intend to cook them on as it is quite soft.)

Bake for 20 minutes then remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.

Take a serrated bread knife and slice the biscotti (at an angle looks nice,) into 2cm wide slices.

Place them back onto the baking tray, on their sides and bake for a further 5 minutes on each side, turning in between.

Cool on a wire rack. (If you’re feeling really fancy, then you can half dip the biscotti in chocolate for a more indulgent treat.)

For this batch, I had some pecans I wanted to use up so threw them in too, and I used milk chocolate as I had it in the house, instead of dark. Mine are also a little under done here, but still tasted fantastic and crisped up nicely. The recipe can take a bit of messing – people will be so impressed when you say these are home made!

Buon Appetito!


*Recipe taken from Rachel’s Food for Friends – Read more about the book and my other favourite cookery books here.

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