A journey to Macaron Mecca

I recently worked for ten weeks in the Harrods food hall when I was waiting for my permanent job to begin. From my first day one thing was clear: I would quickly become sick of Laduree macarons- just unfortunately not from their over consumption. Laduree is a famous French macaron maker and the food hall was en route to their Harrods concession; at times, directing customers to it seemed like my main function. I was astonished and not a little unimpressed by their popularity.

It wasn’t all bad, though: I did hear a number of amusing, confused macaron descriptions from those on the Laduree pilgrimage- mainly men-on-a- mission and tourists.

Preferring chocolately treats and knowing that macarons are fabulously overpriced (confirmed by their presence at Harrods), I had never looked twice at the colourful morsels, let alone tried one. This all changed on staff discount day. I began by trying Maison du Chocolat’s (which happily has a Harrods concession too) chocolate macarons. Although I paid about £6 for as many macarons (after my discount of 40%, ahem), I was converted. They are nothing less than DIVINE.

Determined to take on a technical challenge and create something comparable at a 20th of the price, I bought some food colouring, rolled up my sleeves and started experimenting.

My first batch of macarons- whilst successful and tasty-looked more like rock cakes glued together than the sleek variety found in the shops.

Second time around I dyed them pink for a Valentines tea party. They were much daintier than their older siblings: I was becoming quite a piping bag talent.

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Spurred by their popularity, I then tried a less girly and more grown up version. This time chocolately, heart shaped and based on a different recipe. The result was aesthetically pleasing and confirmed my preference for the chocolatey variety of these French treats. I substituted white chocolate for dark chocolate in the filling to achieve a colour contrast but next time will try more of a buttercream filling, in the hope of recreating the melt-in- the- mouth experience found at Maison du Chocolat.

Top tips: I can thoroughly recommend drawing out the desired shape for the macarons on grease proof paper before attempting to pipe the mixture onto it. This really helps with uniformity. The piped shapes then seem to benefit from being left until a subtle skin forms- as the recipe I originally used said, this could take anything from 15 minutes to 45 ( it seems to make them glossier and smooth). Yes: macaron making is indeed time consuming. Nevertheless, it is very satisfying and if you’ve done it once, the method is the same each time. This seems to be true whichever recipe you use. All that’s then left to do is come up with new flavours and shapes. Crowns or Olympic torches anyone?

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Drawing my shapes.

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Preparing my mixture

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You can tease the mixture into shape with teaspoons after piping

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Sandwiching together with the white chocolate ganache

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Et voila!

Chocolate Macarons (Makes about 20)

Adapted from Ottolenghi: the cookbook

110g icing sugar

50g ground almonds

12g cocoa powder

2 egg whites

40g caster sugar

For the ganache filling:

65g dark chocolate

15g unsalted butter

50ml double cream

2 tsp dark rum

1. Make the ganache filling: place the chocolate, butter and cream in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water and stir until melted. Take off the heat and stir in the rum. Cool the mixture and then cover with cling film. Leave to set somewhere cool for a couple of hours.

2. Heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

3. Sift the icing sugar, ground almonds and cocoa powder into a bowl.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites on full speed. When they thicken, add the caster sugar and continue to whisk until you have thick and firm (but not dry) meringue.

5. Fold the meringue gently into the almond mixture in thirds. Mix until it is all incorporated.

6.  Pipe the mixture onto baking sheets using the small nozzle (it helps if you have drawn the desired shapes onto the paper- two pound coins are a good size if making regular shaped macarons). Don’t use too much mixture- you want the macarons to be quite flat. You can use teaspoons to tease the mixture into a more perfect shape.

7. Leave the macarons to sit before putting in the oven. Only move on to the next step when a light skin has formed and the mixture no longer look freshly piped. This will probably take at least 20 minutes (but could take longer).

8. Place the macarons in the pre-heated oven for around 12 minutes. They are ready when they can be eased from the paper with a palette knife without too much difficulty.

9. Leave on the tray for a couple of minutes.  Then, gently lever them from the baking paper and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

10. To assemble, smooth the ganache over the flat side of half of the biscuits. Sandwich them with the other half and leave to set at room temperature- they will take a couple of hours to ‘stick’ together properly if using the ganache. You can chill them in the fridge to speed up this process. If using a buttercream filling, they will ‘stick’ almost immediately.

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One Response to A journey to Macaron Mecca

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