I think Ms. Humble said it best: 'Swiss Meringue Buttercream? Yes please!'
I know you'll think me lazy for posting another version of a recipe that I have done before, but quite frankly, I needed something suitably beautiful to banish the pie trash that was hanging around on the front page of my blog, and quick sticks. As it happens, I missed the good light anyway, and am less than happy with the photos, but stopped short of actually killing myself as penance. What can I say? You get, at least, to look at a pretty blue passion flower and a vintage sugar bowl with blue roses. Look for the positives in life!
By the way, that passion flower is the last one I am ever picking. Last year, when we moved into our place, the garden was literally covered with them, and I got a bit passion flower happy. You know, filling old coffee tins with them to brighten up the kitchen, attaching them to gifts wrapped in newspapers and tied with old cotton twine. That's right; Mr. P can come over all Homes and Gardens when the mood takes him.
Anyway, the point is, they don't like being picked. The vine hardly flowered at all this year, and from what I gather, it is because I picked so many last year. Oh, and pruned it to within an inch of its gnarled, woody life in the Winter. (Well, it looked dead!)
So readers, if you want abundant passion flowers on your vine, don't pick or prune. A little free garden advice, brought to you by Delicious Delicious Delicious.
Now, let us return to the case in hand: macarons. I should tell you that although I am going against my usual policy of 'No chocolate, chocolate is boring', and am not revising said policy (at this stage), it has been proven to be rather counter-productive in this particular case. Chocolate flavoured macaron shells are really fantastic! Cocoa is one of the few ingredients that can drown out the almond flavour almost completely, meaning you get a macaron that tastes 100% of what it should. It also colours the macaron batter naturally. OK, it colours it brown, which is not the most exciting colour in the world, but still... Nothing artificial - a macaron you'd be happy to give to your children.
The filling is Swiss meringue buttercream that I had left over from a layer cake in the freezer. If you yourself ever go Swiss, I really recommend sticking a few spoons full into a plastic freezer pot to use as a mac filling. Brought to room temperature, all you need to do is stir with a spoon until the buttercream is smooth again (which took about two minutes), add extracts, and you are good to go. Apart from anything else, the amount of filling used to put macaron shells together is really small - why would you ever bother to make a ganache?
If there are any mac doubters left out there: get over it. I have two work colleagues who now routinely make macarons, and they, like me, are not trained pastry chefs. (That's a lovely idea though: pastry chefs moonlighting as flight attendants! ) You can do this. Even if you can't get a passion vine to flower.
You will need:
110g icing sugar
50g ground almonds
1 tbsp cocoa
60g egg whites, aged (left in a glass on the kitchen counter for a few days)
40g caster sugar
Swiss meringue buttercream, flavoured with maple extract
- Line a baking sheet with parchment, and prepare a piping bag with a plain nozzle.
- Sift the icing sugar, cocoa and almonds together.
- Beat the egg whites and caster sugar together until stiff peaks form; fold the sifted cocoa mixture into this meringue. Don't be shy - you can be heavy-handed and this will still work.
- Scrape the batter into your piping bag and pipe small rounds onto the parchment, well spaced. From this amount of batter, I get 30 shells, though mine are quite large.
- Rest the piped shells for half an hour and pre-heat your oven to 150 C.
- Bake the shells for between 11 and 13 minutes. There is guess work as to when they are perfectly done here - sorry. Cool on the sheet, then remove to a wire rack.
- Sandwich the shells with the buttercream, and mature in the fridge for a day or so before eating (at room temperature).