One of my baking goals this Christmas was to challenge myself by making a tricky dessert. I decided upon the deliciously elegant yet disobedient, the ever temperamental, the French Macaron. I was looking forward to making them for weeks, my housemate spent an hour grinding almonds into flour as we anticipated the big event. I spent a long time hunting through recipes for flavours to try with my first ever macarons and baking tips. The more I searched, the more scared I became that my macarons would not turn out well. I read so many horror stories that this started to seem like an impossible treat to master. You have to weigh EVERYTHING and our scales are old and sketchy. You are also supposed to age the egg whites for a few days... which I did not do. Making macarons is apparently a science. After learning all that I could and gathering plenty of tips and tricks I set my heart on chocolate macarons. It was a simple flavour to try first. I wanted a yummy filling so decided that in honour of my macarons (if they came out successfully) I would break open my new bag of sea salt and make a salted caramel buttercream.
6 tbsp almond meal
11 tbsp plus 1 tsp icing sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
10 tsp sugar
50 grams egg whites - at room temperature and preferably aged for about 4 days
Preheat the oven to 320F
Line baking trays with parchment paper.
Blend together the almond meal, cocoa powder and icing sugar so they are well blended and fine. Pass the mixture through a sieve.
Place the egg whites in a very clean, dry bowl. Beat on medium speed, slowly adding the sugar by the spoonful. Increase the speed after a minute, beating on high for about 4 minutes or until stiff peaks start to form. You don't want them to be too stiff, but still hold peaks.
Add the dry mixture slowly by sprinkling it over the egg whites, and fold it in with a spatula very carefully. You should do this gently and be careful not to overmix. It should be about 40 folds. In order to know if you're done, the batter was once firm and held its shape and now it should fall in ribbons.
Fill a piping bag with a tip less than 1 cm with the mixture. If you drew circles on the parchment paper, pipe the mixture to fill the circles. Carefully hit the tray against the counter to remove any air bubbles and let them stand for 30 minutes. This allows the meringues to form outer shells so they don't crack. They should be dry to the touch before going in the oven. Place them on the middle tray with another tray underneath them on the next level.
Bake the macarons for about 10-11 minutes. You know they are done if when gently pushing the macaron, the feet move a bit.
Remove the trays from the oven and place them on a wet cloth to stop the baking process.
After a couple minutes peel the macarons off the parchment paper and lie them on their backs.
Create your desired filling to sandwich between the meringues :)