One of the hardest things for me about leaving school was deciding on what presents to get for my teachers. I decided to bake something, as it seemed a more personal touch than the generic bottle of wine, and also less expensive!
Then came the problem of what to bake, and what packaging to present them in. Cupcakes and cookies seemed too boring, and it wasn’t realistic to make 8 layer cakes! So I decided to make macarons, as you can use a variety of flavours and colours to make them look pretty, and I found some beautiful simple white boxes to package them in.
Macarons are notoriously difficult to make, as I discovered, with more failed attempts than I care to remember, and a few occasions of being taunted by macarons in my nightmares, but eventually I succeeded! My favourite flavour out of the ones I made was black forest; chocolate macaron filled with a dark chocolate ganache and a centre of cherry jam. Deeeelicious!!
Black Forest Macarons
100g ground almonds
170g icing sugar
30g cocoa powder
3 egg whites
75g caster sugar
200 ml double cream
200g dark chocolate, finely chopped
150g cherry jam
- Cut off 2 sheets of baking paper, and draw 16 circles about 5cm wide on each. I draw round a jar or Tom Yum soup paste…!
- Put the ground almonds, icing sugar and cocoa powder in a food processor and whizz until they are really fine, then sieve into a mixing bowl, throwing away the gritty bits left in the sieve.
- Whisk the egg whites in a bowl until they form peaks, but aren’t over mixed. This takes me about 3 minutes by hand, but less with an electric mixer.
- Add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking in between every addition. Give the mixture a final whisk once you have added all the sugar, and then gently scrape it on top of the ground almonds.
- Use a tiny amount of meringue (I use the bits still stuck to the whisk) to stick the greaseproof paper to your baking trays at the edges.
- Gently, with a spatula or large metal spoon, fold the egg whites and almond mix together in a figure of 8 formation. Keep doing this, remembering to incorporate the dry mix at the bottom of the bowl and round the sides as you do.
- Stop when your mixture is the same consistency as cake batter, and drops off your spoon, but is still thick. Fill a piping bag with this mixture, I don’t tend to use a nozzle for this, as the opening of my piping bag is exactly the right size, but use a fairly big nozzle if you do. You could also use a food bag, and snip the end off to the right size.
- Twist the end of the piping bag, and gently pipe the circles on your greaseproof paper, making sure you don’t go outside the edges.
- When you have filled them all, it’s time for the fun bit! Take one of your trays, and, holding it about a foot above the worktop, drop it. Just drop it! Do this a total of 3 times, then repeat with the other tray.
- Now you need to leave the macarons for an hour in a cool dry place, to gain a shiny shell-like coating.
For the Ganache
- Heat the cream in the microwave, then put the chopped chocolate into a bowl and pour the cream over, stirring so it melts and forms a smooth mixture. Put in the fridge for 1 hour.
- After the macarons have had half an hour to rest, preheat your oven to 170°C/Gas mark 3.
- After the hour of resting, put the macaron shells in the oven and bake for 4 minutes, then open and shut the oven door rapidly. Do this again twice, so they have 12 minutes in the oven in total.
- Remove the baking sheets from the oven and allow the macarons to cool completely before VERY gently removing them from the baking paper.
- Pair the macarons up in terms of size and shape; there will always be a couple of bigger/smaller ones, no matter how hard you try to make them all perfect!
- Spoon a little blob of cherry jam into the centre of half your shells. Put the ganache in a piping bag, then pipe a ring around this blob, before sandwiching with the other shells.
- Enjoy the fruits of your labour!