“If you are ever at a loss to support a flagging conversation, introduce the subject of eating.” Leigh Hunt
Macarons can be made following the French, the Swiss and the Italian Meringue method. Some bakers swear to one, some to the other. Originally fancied in boulangerie of Paris, it has now gained so much popularity all around the world in the past few years. Macarons are not only known for their taste, chic appearance, but also notoriously known for the intricate process of baking they demand. Its time-consuming and also very delicate. The Italian Meringue method is less delicate with the use of the right equipment.
It has been claimed that meringue was invented in the Swiss village of Meiringen and improved by an Italian chef named Gasparini in the 18th century, however this claim is contested and the Oxford English Dictionary states that the French word is of unknown origin.The name meringue for this confection first appeared in print in François Massialot’s cookbook of 1692. The word meringue first appeared in English in 1706 in an English translation of Massialot’s book. Two considerably earlier seventeenth-century English manuscript books of recipes give instructions for confections that are recognizable as meringue, though called “white biskit bread” in the book of recipes started in 1604 by Lady Elinor Fettiplace of Appleton in Berkshire and called “pets” in the manuscript of collected recipes written by Lady Rachel Fane (1612/13–1680), of Knole, Kent.
“Cooking is at once one of the simplest and most gratifying of the arts, but to cook well one must love and respect food.” Craig Claiborne
For the shells (Makes about 50 macarons)
300 g almond meal
300 g icing sugar
60 g cocoa
2 tsp cinnamon
110 g egg whites
30 ml strong coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
300 g caster sugar
75 ml water
110g egg whites
For the Honey and Chocolate Ganache
500 g milk chocolate, finely chopped
200 g double cream
50 g unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp honey
To make the shells:
Line 4 – 6 trays with baking paper. Sift the almond meal, icing sugar and cocoa into a large bowl and mix well. Pour 110g egg whites, the coffee and vanilla over the dry ingredients. Set aside without mixing.
Make an Italian meringue by putting the caster sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir over a medium heat. Fit with a sugar thermometer. Watch the sugar as it boils and when the mixture reaches about 110 C, turn the remaining 110g egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer onto a high speed. Whip these until they form very soft peaks. The sugar should be 115 C at this stage, so turn off the heat. While the egg whites are still beating on high, pour the sugar syrup, very slowly, into the eggs. Continue to beat until the mixture cools (feel it through the base of the bowl). Fold the Italian meringue into the almond meal mixture in three batches, until well incorporated and smooth.
Spoon into a piping bag fitted with medium round nozzle and pipe small 3 cm rounds of mixture onto the lined trays, allowing a little room for spreading. Tap each tray onto the bench a few times very hard, to remove air bubbles. Repeat until all the mixture is used. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Bake the macarons for 11 – 12 minutes, opening the door at the 8 minute mark and the 10 minute mark, in order to let out any steam. If they grow and develop little “feet”, they have worked. They are ready when they can be gently lifted off the tray without leaving the foot behind. Set the macarons aside to cool completely while making the ganache.
To make the ganache:
Place the finely chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to the boil and pour it over the chocolate. Set aside for 2 – 3 minutes, then stir, starting from the middle, until the chocolate is melted and incorporated with the cream. Set aside in the refrigerator until the ganache firms up.
Add the butter and honey to the ganache and use a stick blender to smooth the mixture until it is light and fluffy.
Match the macaron shells up so they have partners of similar size. Pipe a little ganache onto the center of half of the macarons. Sandwich the partners.
“If this was adulthood the only improvement she could detect in her situation was that she could now eat dessert without eating her vegetables.” Lisa Alther