Vanilla & Chocolate Macarons

There are few things more confidence-boosting than exceeding your own expectations.  Probably the most difficult thing I made in 2012 was these macarons, and I fully expected my first efforts to be a complete write-off and merely a useful experience in what not to do for next time.  But, to my astonishment, they actually turned out completely delicious and not wholly unattractive, and left me feeling like quite the little masterchef.

In the past two months, I’ve really exceeded my own expectations outside of the kitchen too and it’s given me such an incredible boost.  I’m keen to keep the momentum of that into the new year:  my main resolutions are simply to be bolder and push myself a little harder.  Here’s to a happy and adventurous 2013!

Macarons (18)

Vanilla & Chocolate Macarons

Ingredients:

3 egg whites, chilled for 2-3 days then brought up to room temperature

85g ground almonds

150g icing sugar

65g granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

food colouring

For the ganache:

120g double cream

110g dark chocolate

25g butter, at room temperature

Method:

1.  Two or three days before baking:  place the egg whites in an uncovered bowl in the fridge.  Leave them alone until baking day itself.

2.  Remove the egg whites from the fridge and bring up to room temperature before starting.  Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, draw circles around the large end of your piping bag nozzle, 2.5cm apart.  Turn the paper pencil-side down.

3.  Grind together the almonds and icing sugar in a food processor.

4.  Sift at least twice into a bowl.

5.  With an electric handwhisk (unless you are really up for a challenge), whisk the egg whites until foamy.

6.  Gradually whisk in the granulated sugar.

7.  Add the vanilla essence and your preferred food colouring and whisk again.  I’ve heard that you need to add it generously, but actually I was aiming for quite a pale yellow and they came out brighter than intended – I guess it’s trial and error and depends what kind of colouring you use.

8.  Add half the sifted mixture, scooping up from the bottom of the bowl with your spatula.

9.  Add the rest of the almond mixture, stirring with a circular motion.

10.  Use your spatula to scoop the mixture up from the bottom and turn it upside down 15 times.

11.  Scoop the mixture into a piping bag and pipe into the circles (my baking trays are so dark I couldn’t see all the outlines well enough, so got a few misshapes).

12.  Rap the baking tray sharply on the counter – this is essential to give the macarons their ‘feet’.  Leave at room temperature to dry for 15-30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 150C.

13.  Put your baking tray on top of another baking tray on the oven shelf and bake for 14-15 minutes – keep an eye on them.

14.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  They should then peel off the baking paper easily.

15.  While the macarons are baking, start the ganache.  Bring the cream just to the boil, pour it over the chocolate and leave for 2 minutes without stirring.  Then stir, add butter, and continue stirring until smooth.  Leave it to set until thickened.

16.  Pipe or spread a little ganache onto one macaron shell, and use it to sandwich on another.  Repeat for all.  Voila!  Apparently, these are best left to chill overnight.  Mine didn’t last that long.

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