I know I'm not supposed to have favourites, but when it comes to macarons I do, and these are, definitively, them.
I feel this is OK because of all the people out there who whine that they don't like coconut. Someone has to, and that someone is me. You're all missing out!
I was in Taormina, Sicily, recently for a wedding (which was amazing - congrats again, Sam and Jen), and ate really well. The local cakes of choice are cassata (which is going to get made, so we won't be talking about it here), and canoli, which are little tubes of fried pastry, filled with creamy ricotta cheese and topped with candied orange peel and chopped pistachios. They are delicious, but presented a huge problem when competing for a place on Delicious Delicious Delicious: I have a 'Just Say No' policy when it comes to deep frying.
This is not because I am fat-phobic (as if - these macarons are filled with Swiss meringue buttercream!). It is because I never know what to do with all the oil afterwards. Wouldn't keeping it be gross?
I digress. I was at home for all of about five seconds after Sicily before I had to come back to work, so there just wasn't time to get a cassata made and photographed. Well, actually, that's not strictly true, but I would have had to leave the whole cassata in the fridge for Mr. Other P to eat while I was away working, and that seemed a little unfair to me. I mean, I love the man dearly, but a whole cassata? Hell no.
So I decided to craft a macaron recipe (we've not had macarons for a while, and too much of a good thing can be wonderful) that would take all of my favourite Sicilian flavours and combine them with a little Parisian chic to make a quick little petit four to wow and dazzle. I know that coconut and mango are neither of them Sicilian in any respect, but you're going to have to work with me here.
The thing about Taormina is that it's best by night. It's too hot to be in town during the day, which is why we spent almost all of our time on the beach. But in the evenings, when it's a bit cooler, the Corso Umberto and little streets that run off it are startlingly beautiful. Everywhere you go, the night air carries the sweet fragrance of jasmine and orange blossom, and flowers of all colours decorate the church steps and square; it is truly one of the most lovely places I've ever been.
Now. I went as far as buying the orange blossom extract. But when it actually came to making the macarons, I just wasn't feeling in the mood for it. My bottle of coconut extract was giving me the old puppy dog eyes, and when I found some mango buttercream in the freezer I knew I was good to go.
Yes, jasmine-scented macaron shells filled with orange blossom infused white chocolate ganache sound wonderful, but only a fool would make ganache when there's ready-to-go Swiss in the freezer. I am no fool. And I had less than 12 hours at home.
So Taormina will have it's time on these pages when I get round to that cassata. In the mean time, let me introduce you to my favourite macarons...
Coconut and Mango Macarons
You will need:
110g icing sugar
50g ground almonds
1 tsp coconut extract
2 egg whites (60g), aged for 24 hours (just leave them on the kitchen counter, uncovered)
40g caster sugar
Mango flavoured Swiss meringue buttercream - follow the recipe here, using mango purée instead of strawberry. You'll need about a quarter of the recipe; freeze the leftovers for up to 6 months.
- Sift the 110g icing sugar into a large bowl, and mix in the almonds.
- In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy, then slowly whisk in the caster sugar until you have soft peaking meringue. Add the coconut extract and carry on whisking until stiff peaks form. If you want to add a colouring to your macarons, I recommend the gel type, and you should add it with the extract.
- 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. Thick is good here. If you spend too long folding in, you'll get a too-thin batter and your macarons won't stay in pretty little rounds.
- Put this mix into a piping bag with the end snipped off, and pipe circles about 2 inches in diameter, well spaced apart on a lined baking sheet. You should have between 28 and 30 blobs of mixture. Let's call it 29.
- 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: use the Swiss meringue buttercream to sandwich the mac shells together. If you don't fancy all the work of a Swiss, you could use strawberry jam and sprinkle in a little dessicated coconut for extra texture. It would be delicious, and I'd be happy to taste them for you.