Do you remember me venting about my distaste for the obsession with macarons? And pointing out that even Parisian macarons are sometimes done badly? And that everyone is getting a little too obsessed with this over-hyped meringue? Well, if not, read this.
Today, I am putting the old 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' adage into practice. I don't plan on becoming obsessed with macarons, but I do like a challenge, and have decided to join the baking fray, as it were.
I have read more posts about macarons than I care to mention, and have weighed up the pros and cons of each method of macaron production accordingly. I think, after much consideration, the Italian Meringue Technique (capitalised for the hell of it - makes it sound important, no?) is the one for me, but as I have not a sugar thermometer, nor a stand mixer with a steel bowl, I am forced to use the French Meringue Method instead.
The recipe I decided to use, as eagle eyed comment readers will no doubt already know, is the one that Sarah at Maison Cupcake uses. Reading her macaron trials and tribulations, and absolute insistence that this was the perfect recipe for getting the elusive 'feet' on the temperamental cookies in question, I decided to do the right thing and cut to the chase - this was also the recipe that I would use.
But I wanted to flavour them in my own special way! And what a way it is, ladies and gents.
My inspiration is a cocktail I sometimes have with friends. I'm not telling you the cocktail's name, because, quite frankly, it's a naughty word, and I try not to cuss on this blog, but basically, the drink is a mixture of lychee liqueur and grapefruit juice. And it's rather special.
The lychee liqueur in question is Soho, which seems to be known as Dita internationally. We used to drink it with lemonade when we lived in France as students, so I have a soft spot for it. But let me tell you right now that it is amazing for adding lychee flavour to desserts. I think most liqueurs are - I use Cointreau a lot in cooking, and the Purple Rain Lamingtons would have been nothing without the Crème de Violet lurking in the back of the cabinet.
For the grapefruit flavouring, I just added the finely chopped zest (I never grate - who can be bothered with that?) of one bright yellow fruit to the meringue along with the nuts and icing sugar.
So how do I think I did?
Well, in terms of flavour and texture (I don't want to say 'mouthfeel'!), I am going to give them an 8 out of 10; I am incredibly pleased with myself. But for appearance, I can only give myself a 4. The reason for this is that I must have under-mixed the batter. Because it was rather stiff, when I piped the mac shells out on to my baking sheet, they peaked like regular meringues. I assumed, wrongly, that they would flatten out and spread during baking. I would smooth them down with a pallet knife before baking if this happened again. They did have feet though, which is why I didn't only give them 2.
Did I enjoy the macaron experience? Yes. Will I make them again? Yes.
I think I have caught the bug. Heaven help us all!
By the way, I would like you all to say hello to my latest charity shop purchase. I couldn't resist these cups and saucers, and am sure they'll be in loads of my photos from now on! And in the fair hands of Mr. Other P's mum when she comes round - she likes her tea in a proper cup.
Grapefruit and Lychee Macarons
You will need:
110g icing sugar
50g ground almonds
zest of 1 grapefruit, finely grated or chopped
2 egg whites (60g), aged for 24 hours (just leave them on the kitchen counter, uncovered)
40g caster sugar
small dab of orange food colour gel
50g soft butter
125g icing sugar
45ml (3 tbsp) lychee liqueur
- Sift the 110g icing sugar into a large bowl, and mix in the almonds and zest.
- In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy, then slowly whisk in the caster sugar until you have soft peaking meringue. Then add the dab of colour gel, and carry on whisking until stiff peaks form.
- Add the almond and sugar mixture, and fold in. You are supposed to do this in exactly 50 strokes, and turn the bowl 45° after every tenth stroke. I don't think it's of paramount importance - you should just have a smooth mixture. Read Sarah's post for more detail, she's got very good instructions.
- Put this mix into a piping bag with the end snipped off, and pipe circles about 2 inches in diameter and well spaced apart on a lined baking sheet. You should have between 28 and 30 blobs of mixture. Flatten with a moist pallet knife if they peak.
- Let them sit for 30 minutes while you pre-heat the oven to 150°C.
- Bake for 12 minutes on the bottom shelf. Cool completely on the sheet, and then remove using a pallet knife.
- For the filling: beat together the liqueur, 125g icing sugar and 50g butter until smooth and fluffy; use to put the macarons together.
- Eat. Weep. Think of more flavours to do, and schedule regular 'mac-off' time.