Did you know the Macaron (not the macaroon) isn’t a French confection? After the Arabs landed in Sicily in the 9th century, Italy had an array of nutty foodstuffs at its disposal, ground almonds being one of the most important. It was through the combination of almond powder and Italian paste that Macaron batter would eventually evolve. The history’s hazy after that but Italian recipes arrived in France during the rennaissance, and the macaron as we know it was devised by a man called Ladurée in Paris itself. Ideas for new flavours are everywhere nowadays so have fun experimenting with this standard recipe, or try out different fillings!
– 3 large eggs
– 200g icing/confectioner’s sugar
– 20g caster/granulated sugar
– 130g well-ground almond powder
– A sieve and spatula
– A whisk (preferably a balloon whisk)
– Greaseproof paper and trays
– Extract of one vanilla pod
– A bowl, preferably a metal or glass one
– Piping bag
– Small amount of vinegar or lemon juice
1. Sieve together the almond powder and icing sugar, taking great care not to let through any lumps. Don’t worry about losing some of the ingredients. Add the vanilla pod to the dry ingredients.
2. Place the whites in a bowl that has been rinsed in cold water, thoroughly dried, and then wiped down with either lemon juice or vinegar. Beat the whites with a whisk that has been treated similarly.
3. Continue to beat the whites until they form a firm foam (the whisk should form a clear impression in the egg white and you should be able to tip the bowl without it falling out). You can then start adding the granulated sugar, a tablespoon at a time. Continue whisking until peaks form. The mixture will end up looking thick and creamy.
4. At this point you can begin to fold in the dry ingredients (this is probably the hardest part). With one hand, slide your spatula down the side of the bowl under the egg whites and with the other, sprinkle in (thinly and evenly) about one fifth of the almond powder/icing sugar mixture. Use the spatula to bring the bottom up to the top and literally fold the egg whites around the powder. Make sure each portion of powder is folded in properly before adding any more (it should still look thick and creamy in the end, but shinier).
5. Line trays with grease-proof paper and use a cup to set up the piping bag. Twist/fold the tip of the bag so it’s tied-off and rest it in the bottom of the cup so that the wider end of the piping bag is outside the cup. Fold the sides of the bag around the cup-rim (or just roll them down a little if they won’t fit). Spoon your mixture into the piping bag.
6. If you’re using a teaspoon to put out the mix then make sure the batter portions are uniform, round and are of about 3cm in diameter (also, leave space for the batter to spread out a bit). If using a piping bag, remove it from the cup, keeping the tip twisted. Twist the wider end of the bag shut too. Make sure the tip is just above the greaseproof paper and, applying constant light pressure from the large end of the bag, slowly loosen the twist at the tip of the bag to release the batter.
7. Tap the trays and leave the batter to rest at room temperature for at least half an hour, and preheat your oven to about 140°c and let the macarons bake for about 15 minutes. They should have little ‘feet’ (fluffy bases) and should not be left to brown. Your macarons are ready when they’re matte and firm.