40s Macaroons

Makes about 24

80g caster sugar

3 egg whites (free range organic and not too big)

180g icing sugar

125g ground almonds (best quality)

For the filling

200g butter

125g icing sugar

Variations

These dainty little hamburger shaped morsels are divine just as they are, but you can add various essences and colours to create the pretty tones and subtle flavours they have become famous for. I always prefer natural additions such as lime, lemon or orange zest and juice, or rose syrup or raspberry juice for pink ones.  Some more grown up flavours that work well include a tsp of dried instant coffee granules added to the ground almonds, with nutella or chocolate ganache filling.  Replace the almonds with peeled ground pistachios or hazelnuts in the meringue and combine with dark chocolate ganache for a heavenly combination. Saffron or cardamom are also delicate and very grown up additions to a plain almond meringue – again working beautifully with a valrhona or similar 70%+ ganache filling.  Oh…and for pure chocolate ones; just replace half the icing sugar in the meringue with cocoa.

 

Method

Don’t turn the oven on yet as it may take you a while to put these together the first time. Bring out your ingredients and allow them to reach room temperature.   Find two of your largest and flattest oven/baking trays and cut baking parchment to exactly fit in the bottom. Get piping bags ready; you will need one for each colour with a plain medium sized tip.  Alternatively you can use Ziploc or sandwich bags and cut off a corner at the bottom just less than a cm wide.

Place icing sugar and almonds in a food processor and blitz for a minute or two, ensuring they are well combined and very fine (add coffee granules, cardamom, or cocoa if using at this point).  Sift mixture into a bowl – resist the temptation to push bits through as you may have up to a teaspoon left behind.  Place the egg whites, a tablespoon of the caster sugar and a small pinch of salt in an immaculately clean metal bowl (wipe down with paper towel dipped in a little vinegar if you want to be sure).  Beat egg white until it begins to form soft peaks and then slowly beat in the rest of the caster sugar until the mixture is smooth, glossy and thick, but not too firm.  Slowly cut and fold the icing sugar and almond mixture into the meringue mixture until just combined.  Split into separate bowls if you want to make more than one colour (you can fairly easily split this amount into two) and add tiny drops of colour and/or flavouring until you get the desired intensity.  Don’t worry too much about having to stir your colour in uniformly – the recipe is fairly robust and too much stirring shouldn’t affect it too badly.

Spoon the mixture into the piping bag and pipe circles of mixture onto your baking parchment about the size of a 50 pence piece, or shot glass circumference (remember they will spread a little).  If you are a true perfectionist you can draw the circles in pencil on the paper and pipe on the reverse side.  Bang the tray on a flat surface to release any excess air (you don’t want them to rise and have a hollow centre) and then, put them somewhere cool and dry and forget about them for a while as you make the filling and preheat the oven.

Turn on the oven to 140C if fan assisted or 160C if not – though results may well not be as good and you will have to watch them closely during cooking.

Beat butter until soft and then add icing sugar a spoon at a time.  When combined, beat until light and fluffy.  Split your filling mixture between bowls again to colour and flavour if doing more than one type and then check your macaroons.  They will be ready to put into the oven when they have formed a slight skin – you will be able to touch them without ending up with mixture on your finger.  This can take up to an hour.

When ready put in oven for about 12/15 minutes ensuring that the shell is crisp but not turning brown.

Allow to cool on the trays, remove carefully, and then stick them together using the filling, squashing slightly between flat palms so it begins to ooze.  Serve/eat as soon as possible with a good strong cup of coffee. 

 1940s Parisian housewife style.

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