Sunday, 22 December 2013

Clementine Macarons

Macarons or Macaroons to give them their English name are little meringues made with ground nuts, most usually ground almonds, although one of my favourite versions includes ground pistachios.

Macarons are usually presented sandwiched together in pairs and can be filled with chocolate ganache, buttercream or jam. They can be made in a range of flavours but the traditional flavours are vanilla, raspberry, pistachio and chocolate.

I really love macarons… I mean I really I REALLY LOVE MACARONS! I love their appearance; I love their adaptability and how easy it is to incorporate different flavours but most of all I love the feeling you have when you eat one…a feeling of doing something slightly naughty and of giving in to a self-indulgence that cannot be resisted.

Although very few ingredients are used in the making of macarons, they are notoriously difficult to make and to perfect. I love a culinary challenge and about a year ago I became more than a little obsessive about making macarons. I think I have cracked it and after many failed attempts, I am now able to churn out batch after batch of consistently good macarons. Once you get used to making them and are able to achieve consistent results, you can then really start experimenting with flavours.

The recipe that I give here is for Clementine Macarons. I recently purchased a large crate of clementines and I know quite a few of my recent posts have included recipes using clementines, but let me reassure you, these are delicious. You can of course, use other citrus fruits… but given that it is Christmas, I think that these are very apt.

There is nothing more delightful than seeing the look on someone’s face when you present them with a selection of home-made macarons in a range of beautiful flavours and colours. There is something so decadent and luxurious about them and in case you hadn’t already guessed… I LOVE MACARONS!

Ingredients:

Macaron shells:
90g egg whites
30g caster sugar
200g icing sugar
110g ground almonds
Finely grated zest of 1 clementine
Few drops of orange food colouring (gel colouring)
Clementine buttercream:
100g butter, softened
250g icing sugar
1-2 tsp lemon juice
3-4 tsp clementine juice
3 tsp clementine zest
 

Method:

1. Prepare your baking sheets. Draw about 40 round circles (about 4cms in diameter) on two sheets of non-stick baking parchment and place on two baking trays, ensuring that the side that you drew the circles on is on the side against the baking tray – you should still be able to see the circles through the baking parchment.
2. Put the icing sugar and ground almonds into a food processor and pulse to grind the nuts to a fine powder. Pass this mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl and set aside. Discard any large lumps of nut that are retained in the sieve.
3. Using a hand held electric mix, whisk the egg whites until they have reached the soft peak stage.
4. Add the caster sugar and whisk until the mixture is standing in firm peaks. Stop once you have reached this stage, because over beating will result in macaron shells that are too dry. Add a couple of drops of orange gel colouring and whisk the mixture briefly to incorporate the colouring.
5. Add the nuts and sugar mixture to the meringue along with the clementine zest and fold into the meringue with a spatula, using firm folding strokes. Make sure everything is well incorporated. The meringue will slacken as the nuts are folded in. It will take about 40-50 strokes to achieve the correct consistency. It should be a softly flowing consistence that does not retain any peaks, but will still hold its shape without spreading everywhere.
6. Place the macaron mixture into a disposable piping bag fitted with a ½ cm plain round nozzle and pipe out rounds of the mixture using the pre-drawn circles as guides. Let the piped macarons sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to dry out their shells a little.
7. Pre-heat the oven to 140C/Fan Oven 120C/Gas Mark 1. Place the macarons in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow cool. Remove the baked macarons from the baking parchment. If you are not filling the macarons immediately they can be stored in an air tight tin until they are required.
8. To fill the macarons, pipe or spoon a teaspoon of buttercream onto the underside of one macaron and sandwich together with another macaron.
To make the clementine buttercream:
9. Using a hand-held electric mixer cream the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add the clementine and lemon juices along with the clementine zest and beta again to fully incorporate. Use to sandwich the macarons together in pairs.
 
Makes 20-24 macarons (sandwiched together).