Are you busy this weekend? I want to try making macaroons and would love your company. Thought we could try them to-gether?
And that’s how we ended up spending the evening with dear foodie friend Ann Coetzee and her hubby Garth on Saturday, making macaroons.
We also enjoyed the most magnificent Moroccan lamb dish with accompanying Persian fried rice, which Ann put together in between making the macaroons, but that is a recipe for another day.
Macaroons are notoriously difficult to make, and in our self-imposed masterclass (Annie-love had done all the research beforehand), we found that the consistency of the batter is the crucial element of macaroon making.
So much so, that it is worth doing a test run to establish whether or not the batter is just right. More about that later.
It is a deceptively simple recipe, because the ingredients are so few, but like all baking, proportions are precise and method is specific.
The only discretionary dimension to the project, is colouring the batter.
We found that more colouring is better than less, because you do tend to lose some colour in the baking process, so it makes sense to add more colouring.
After all, if you look at pictures of macaroons, they tend to be quite intensely coloured.
The filling you use between the macaroons is a matter of choice, and can range from your favourite flavoured frosting to a chocolate ganache, which is what we settled on.
Ingredients, selection and preparation
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups (230g) icing sugar
1 cup almond meal: sifted
1/3 cup castor sugar
10-12 drops food colouring
100g white confectioners chocolate discs
30ml fresh cream
Line two baking trays – the mixture makes about 48 macaroons – with baking paper.
Whisk the egg whites in a metal mixing bowl – a stand mixer for this job is de rigueur – until thick, which should make about five minutes.
Whisk in the icing sugar until the mixture is glossy and thick, and holds stiff peaks, about five to eight minutes more.
While this whisking is happening, dribble in your food colouring of choice.
Sieve the almond meal and castor sugar into the egg white mixture, discarding anything that does not pass through the sieve.
Now comes the discretionary bit. Fold in the dry ingredients, from the bottom of the bowl, all the way over to the top, turning the bowl was you work, for about 50 folds.
It is this folding process that determines the consistency of the batter.
Fold too many times and it becomes to runny; fold too few times and it will be too thick.
A good test is to take a spoonful of the batter, and put it in a small plastic bag with the corner cut off – a makeshift piping bag – and pipe one test disc.
If the disc of batter holds a peak rather than flattening immediately, the batter is too stiff. Fold gently a few more times, and try again.
Once your batter consistency is right, fill a piping bag and using a plain nozzle, pipe the discs – about 2cm in diameter and about 2cm apart – on the prepared baking trays.
Rap each tray smartly on the counter top three or four times to liberate any bubbles in the batter mixture, and set aside for up to an hour to form a skin.
About a half hour into the skin-forming process, pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
Place the baking trays in mid-oven and bake until the tops are dry, about 15 minutes. Watch them like a hawk, because you don’t want them to discolour.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before peeling them off the baking sheet. Be warned, if you’re in too much of a hurry, you’ll leave the base and centre on the sheet, and end up with a crisp cap in your hand.
Make the ganache while the macaroons are cooling. Melt the chocolate discs in a double boiler – you can make one by placing a glass mixing bowl over a saucepan of gently boiling water – and stir in the cream. Set aside to cool.
Gently lift the macaroons from the baking paper, and assemble the finished product, by carefully sandwiching about a teaspoonful of ganache between two discs.
Preparation time: 90 minutes
Baking time: 15 minutes
Yield: approximately 48 discs