As with a lot of baking, you don’t absolutely have to use specialist equipment in order to guarantee success, but I do think that a piping bag fitted with a ½cm plain nozzle is a necessity as using one ensures that all your macarons are of a uniform size. I also use a silicon mat which has the macaron circles pre-printed on it. Again, this helps ensure uniformity, but you can use baking parchment and draw little circles on the reverse side.
Once you have piped out the macarons, it is crucial that you leave them aside for at least 30 minutes to form a ‘skin’, which means that the macaron mixture should not stick to your finger when gently touched. Allowing this ‘skin’ to form encourages the development of the thin wavy ‘foot’ which is a characteristic of properly made macarons.
I have been experimenting with peanut butter recently and trying out loads of different sweet and savoury recipes which include it. It was therefore inevitable that I would try making Peanut Butter & Jelly Macarons and believe me if you are a fan of peanut butter you will love these.
Ingredients:125g ground almonds
150g icing sugar
100g caster sugar
3 large egg whites (110g in total)
A drop of brown gel/paste colouring
25g salted peanuts, chopped
50g smooth peanut butter
30g raspberry jam, sieved to remove seeds
Method:1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Cut a sheet of baking parchment to size, to fit a large (approximately 30cm x 40cm) baking tray. Draw 50 x 3cm circles, spaced about a centimetre apart on the sheet of baking parchment and flip over so that the side you drew the circles on is against the surface of the baking tray. (Alternatively use a silicon macaron mat). Set aside.
2. Mix the ground almonds and icing sugar together and then place in a metal sieve. Use the back of a metal spoon to work the mixture through the sieve into a large mixing bowl. Discard any solids that you can’t work through – there should only be a small amount. Set the mixture aside.
3. Place the egg whites in a separate large mixing bowl and then, using a hand-held electric mixer, whisk them until they form stiff peaks. Gradually whisk in the sugar to create a smooth and glossy meringue. Add a drop of brown gel/paste food colouring and mix again to fully incorporate the colour.
4. Fold the meringue into the ground almonds mixture. Don’t worry if you knock some of the air out of the meringue as you don’t want the mixture to be too stiff. The consistency you are aiming for is one where the macaron mixture just holds it shape but any peaks settle and merge smoothly into the rest of the mixture.
5. Spoon the macaron mixture into a piping bag fitted with a ½cm plain nozzle. Using the circles you drew on the parchment paper as a guideline, pipe out equal sized discs. The easiest way to pipe the macarons is to place the tip of the nozzle in the centre of each circle and keep squeezing the piping bag until you reach the edge of the circle and then move on to the next one.
6. Once you have piped all the macarons, lift up the baking tray and with one sharp tap bang the tray against your table/work surface. This gets rid of any large air bubbles in the macarons and helps prevent them cracking as they bake. Sprinkle a few chopped salted peanuts over the top of each macaron.
7. Set the macarons aside for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. During this time the unbaked macarons will form a skin. You will know they are ready as when you touch them lightly no mixture will stick to your finger.
8. Place the macarons in the preheated oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 150C/Fan Oven 130C/Gas Mark 1. Bake for 13-15 minutes but do not allow them to brown. You will know they are ready if you gently try to wiggle one and it doesn’t come apart from its ‘foot’. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before attempting to move them from the baking parchment.
9. Place the smooth peanut butter in a disposable piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle. Pipe a circle of peanut butter on the underside of half the macarons. Spoon a tiny blob of jam inside each of these circles and then top with an unfilled macaron shell to create a ‘sandwich’.
The macarons can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Makes 25-30 sandwiched pairs.