Chocolate macarons

I watch waaaaay too many cookery shows, and The Great British Bake Off often inspires me to try ridiculous things for which I then realise I don’t have the ingredients… today, though, they made macarons, and I knew I had ground almonds.

All the recipes I looked up used Italian meringue, which needs a sugar thermometer. Who has time in their life to watch sugar syrup hit exactly 108 degrees (or whatever)? I also don’t have a fancy mixing machine, so I made mine with simple meringue (French meringue, I think). I also don’t have a piping bag, so I splodged mine onto greaseproof with a teaspoon (no template) and smoothed them out a tiny bit. They are not things of beauty but my goodness they are utterly delicious.

(They’re visiting presents, I’m not planning to eat them all…)

Makes about 20 pairs to be sandwiched together. Would make more if you piped them, probably…

For the macaroons:

1 cup ground almonds
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
Tblsp cocoa powder
3 egg whites
2 tblsp caster sugar (I used brown)
2 drops lemon juice

For the ganache filling:
200g dark chocolate
150ml single cream
2 tblsp amaretto/brandy/rum
2 heaped tsp butter

Mix the ground almonds, icing sugar and cocoa together. (Recipes insist you need to grind the almonds up further in a blender, but I don’t have a blender so I didn’t bother…) Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks (you should be able to hold the bowl upside down over your head!) and then whisk in the caster sugar and lemon juice until thick and glossy. (This is the stage to whisk in any other flavours, or any colours. If you want coloured macaroons you’ll need to leave out the cocoa unless you want them brown. Replace it with extra icing sugar.)

Carefully fold the almond/icing sugar mixture into the egg whites, keeping in as much air as possible. Stir until combined. As you can see, mine ended up a little streaky because I was scared of over-mixing. Drop a heaped teaspoon of the mixture from a small height onto a baking tray covered in greaseproof paper. Smooth into a rough circle with the back of the spoon/your finger. Space the mixture out as they spread a little bit in the oven. Drop the tray flat onto the surface. This apparently knocks out any big air bubbles and stops them cracking. It’s quite fun to do, anyway, but be careful the greaseproof doesn’t slip off the tray!

Leave them to dry out for about an hour – they need time to form a thin crust, so you can touch them without any mixture sticking to your finger. Bake at 160 degrees for about 12mins. I took my first batch out after about 8mins because I though they were done (crispy on top, soft in the middle). They looked like this, because their “feet” stuck to the greaseproof:

Poor little hollow things

Batch two cooked for another 4-5mins, and peeled off the paper beautifully:

Good feet…

Peel off the paper as well as you can (!) and then cool completely.

To make the ganache, put the cream in a pan over a very low heat and break the chocolate into it. Stir occasionally until all the chocolate is melted, then add the alcohol (or coffee) and butter, to give a lovely shiny finish. Sandwich the macaroons together with about a teaspoon of ganache. I tried to match up vaguely similar sized/shaped ones…

This one is the only one that looks like a *proper* macaroon:

The sole circular macaroon in all its glory…

The rest were less aesthetically pleasing, but rest assured that they are magically delicious. I’m going to take half to my sister tomorrow and half to my aunt on Weds. Except for the ones we already ate…



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