A and I went to Paris last August.
We got a 'little' (ahem) tipsy on lovely French vino and went up the Eiffel Tower at midnight. My word, it seemed to sway an awful lot.
We sat at pavement cafes watching the oh-so-chic Parisian world go by.
We walked the Champs Elysee while I sang, extemely out of tune, 'Aux Champs Elysees'. Over and over again. And I really only know that one line from the song so it was quite painful for A. The Champs Elysee he found to be quite long.
And we ate a heck of a lot of macaroons. Well, when I say 'we', I mainly mean me. I think I may have had the odd baguette to spice things up a bit, but really it was all about the macaroons. Each paterrserie we passed I'd insist upon a detour and greedily lap up the brightly coloured displays of macaroons.
So its quite amazing that its taken me this long to get round to actually making them.
For my first attempt, I choose this recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's weekly column in The Guardian. And while I reckon beginner's luck played a huge part, they were really pretty good, a crisp shell on the outside, while all gooey and rich on the inside. And they are easier than you think they may be. Honest.
125g icing sugar
3 tbsp cocoa
165g ground almonds
3 egg whites
55g caster sugar
¼ tsp vanilla extract
For the ganache
100g plain chocolate, chopped into small pieces
100ml double cream
1. Heat the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2.
2. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
3. Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl, and whisk in the almonds.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy, then gradually whisk in the sugar until the mixture is stiff and glossy.
5. Stir half the almond mixture into the egg whites, then add the rest, along with the vanilla, and fold until just combined.
6. Transfer the mixture to a plastic bag and cut a one cm hole in the bottom. Or you can use a piping bag with a one cm nozzle.
7. Pipe on to the baking sheets. Tap the sheets hard on a worktop to eliminate air bubbles.
8. Bake until the macaroons feel slightly firm, about 18 minutes. Remove, allow to cool slightly, then transfer on the parchment to a wire rack to cool completely.
9. To make the ganache, put the chocolate in a bowl.
10. Warm the cream in a small saucepan until barely simmering, pour this over the chocolate, leave to stand for two minutes, then stir until the mix is smooth and cool.
11. Spread some ganache on to half the macaroons and sandwich together with the remaining ones.
12. Refrigerate, covered, until you're ready to serve.
When exploring the many different recipes available I also read these tips:
- Hugh reckons they're better made with egg whites separated, covered and left in a cool place overnight.
- Once you've piped the mixture onto the baking sheet, leave for 15 minutes before placing in the oven as this helps form the hard shell
- Keep a really close eye on the macaroons when in the oven- initally they'll rise, then watch them carefully to judge when they are firm enough. In some ovens this may take 14-15 minutes, rather than the 18 minutes in the above recipe
- Some recipes suggest the macaroons taste better the day after you've baked them- and this was certainly the case with these ones. Keep them in the fridge overnight.
- And if you are out and about in London and have a craving for macaroons may I recommend Laduree in Harrods or Pierre Herme at Selfridges or Lanka near Chalk Farm for unusual, Japanese influenced macaroons