Recently I came across this post from the Oatmeal, and I feel like it is so true!
For me it is not possible to be non-stop around people and be creative at the same time. There needs to be some kind of brain-space where you can withdraw from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and potter around.
Which is – I realise – most likely also one of the reasons I like cooking so much, as it often provides a safe and quiet haven in which I withdraw.
And having said that, after playing hookie for almost four (!) weeks while snorkling in the Maldives, drinking beer in Bayern and enjoying our little terrace-garden (look at this bee in our lavender!), I really felt like diving into a kitchen project of proper size: making French Macaroons. I consider making these rather intimidating, and I will try to give some guidance and links in this post.
What I find comforting is to realise that these are just Italian Meringue shells, made more substantial and chewy by mixing in ground almonds. Before starting, I have read both this guide by the amazing Dorie Greenspan on baking macaroons and this background post by David Lebovitz.
Additionally, I was armed with actually a very conservative and old-fashioned recipe coming from well, actually my favorite cookbook – the Dutch baking bible of Cees Holtkamp. That and a thermometer, something I hesitated to buy over for a long time, but am really so happy with now that I finally have one (I have this one). Not only do I use it to make Italian meringue, tempering chocolate but also for making the base of these macaroons.
Might you still be hesitative to make macaroons, I can comfort you. They’ll turn out perfect. If not the first or second time, than the third time.
And with perfect I explicitly do not mean cutesy-consistent small macaroons. Because to be honest, I like these to be hearty, large enough to be only able to fit two in your hand so that these macarons can have enough filling to make it count. Because, you know, that is what homemade is supposed to be. 😉
- 5 egg whites (3 to whip with sugar syrup, 2 to be stirred together with the icing sugar and ground almonds)
- 200 grams of granulated sugar (to be dissolved and cooked with)
- 80 grams of water
- 200 grams of ground almonds
- 200 grams of icing sugar
- 10 grams of vanilla essence
- 3 pinches of salt
- Optional: food coloring
- Fillilng: 50 grams melted dark chocolate,mixed with 2 tablespoons of dulce de leche and 1 teaspoon of instant espresso powder. Be assured that you can be as creative with the filling as you wish. I have amended the amounts as I realised that it is really pleasant to not have a sweet filling, to give a contrast against the sweet macaron shells.
- I have found that making macaroons is easiest with a standmixer, so you have your hands free to do the other parts, but in fact you can also make these with a handmixer.
- As there are different steps involved, just make sure you have all ingredients measured out to be prepared.
- Stir together two egg whites, the icing sugar and ground almonds in a large bowl until you have a thick paste. Set this aside until the 'meringue' whipped part of the macarons is ready to be mixed in.
- Whip 3 egg whites with the pinches of salt into a frothy mixture. As always, makes sure that your bowl and whisk are sparkling clean. To be sure, I usually wipe a halved lemon over the bowl and attachment.
- On the stove, heat the water and sugar until 110 degrees Celsius. Once this syrup has reached this temperature, move quickly.
- Add the syrup to the frothy (three) egg whites while the kitchen machine is still running. Keep the machine running until no longer visible fog is coming from the mixture.
- You will end up with a beautifully shiny and stiff whipped egg white mixture (this part is called Italian Meringue).
- From this point onward you will only mix by hand. Drop the ground almonds into the meringue mixture and fold it through using a spatula. Some authors, such as Lorraine Pascale call for mixing in with 40 strokes. I have found that that works surpringly well. In case of doubt: the mixture should resemble thick yoghurt and should run off you spatula in a thick stream. Halfway stirring in the almonds is a good point to add food coloring, if using any. I used blue and added it last minute to achieve a 'marmbeled' effect. I would use a little less next time, but was quite happy with the result.
- After your mixture has reached the right consistency, use silicon baking mat or baking paper to pipe rounds onto. For this you can either use a piping bag or a sandwich bag of which you cut of a corner. In case you are hesitative about the size of macarons, on Pinterest you will be able to find a lot of printables that you can put underneath your baking paper to use as a guide. I made the macarons double this size, because I like it, but you're completely free in this (I have even seen avocado-scaped macaroons on Instagram!).
- After you have piped the rounds, let them stand on your kitchen counter for around 30 minutes to let the tops dry. You can check this by feeling whether the tops are dry to your touch and no longer stick. This will give a better result after baking. A lot of 'macaroon' baking mats are out there to make it easier, but I have found that it is not really necessary.
- Then, bake the macaroons in a moderately hot oven on 175 degrees Celsius until they are shiny and easily come off the baking mat (test with trying to lift one of with your finger). Recipe and guidance differs here and range between 6-9 minutes in the oven, but I found that my macaroons needed around 12 minutes in the oven (having said that, mine were also a little larger).
- Let the shells cool down and pipe some filling on one half and put another shell on top of it.
- Leave the macaroons one day in the fridge before serving so that they soften a little.
- PS after baking a sprinkled a mixture of gold food paint and some drops of vodka on the macaroons for decoration.