I was recently asked to make some macarons for a celebration, and I must admit my first response was anxiety. As a baker who contributes to important celebrations of the lives of others such as weddings and birthdays, it can be terrifying to think of the responsibility you have. Of course, cakes are not the most important thing in the world (did I really just say that?). And yet, I always feel partially responsible for the success of the celebration as cake (and food more generally) can be so integral.
So the thought of making macarons, when my last experience of them was about 4 hours in a hot kitchen five years ago, and very little success, was not enticing. Add to that the amazingly beautiful creations you see almost every day on Instagram (that blessed and awful invention!) and I wasn’t feeling optimistic.
However, I still have some time before this particular celebration comes around, and that means I have time to practice. So with my spare hours I thought I’d make some macarons – for honestly the first time in 5 years! I was prepared to have to spend a considerable amount of time, possible the best part of the day in the kitchen. So I checked my diary and made sure I had enough time just in case it really did take 4 hours.
Out of laziness (because I couldn’t immediately find the book) and the desire to do better, I chose a different recipe to that fated day 5 years ago. I chose Ottolenghi’s recipe. Always a good idea! You may know Ottolenghi for his impressively delicious yet healthy-looking platters, but before this he wrote another recipe book which contains some wonderful sweet delights in it (particular ode to his brownie recipe!). And so began my mission!
And my confidence in Ottolenghi was not misplaced! It took me about one hour from start to filling to make about 30 macarons! Take a look…
Peanut Butter Macarons
60g almond meal
110g icing sugar
2 egg whites (about 60g total)
40g caster sugar
45g icing sugar
2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
- Carefully sift almond meal and icing sugar into a large bowl.
- Whisk egg whites and caster sugar together in an electric mixer until firm peaks have formed, but make sure the mixture is still shiny and not too dry!
- Fold 1/3 of the egg mixture into the almond meal and icing sugar until well combined. Follow with the next third, and the final third and mix until it comes together nicely and is smooth (and should be shiny!)
- Place the mixture in a piping bag fitted with a large circular nozzle. Pipe rounds about the size of a 20c piece onto baking trays lined with baking paper – make sure they’re not too close as they can spread a little bit. (To make it easier on yourself, use a bit of the mixture to glue the baking paper to the tray – otherwise you’ll be battling the paper as well as the mixture…!)
- Let the macarons sit for at least 15 minutes (this is so that they form a nice crisp shell!) Then bake at 170C for about 12-15 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when you can easily lift them off the baking paper without them sticking!
- Then pull them out of the oven and put the whole sheet of baking paper onto a wire rack to cool.
- While you’re waiting for them to cool, make the filling: place the butter in an electric mixer and beat until pale. Add the icing sugar and the peanut butter and beat until smooth. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a smallish round nozzle (about 1cm wide) and pipe onto half of the cooled macaron shells. By all means, just do this with a knife if you don’t like using piping bags! Then sandwich the halves together and bask in the joy that is French patisserie.
** a note on the filling – you can basically add whatever flavour you like. Just make sure that in the end you have a smooth, soft consistency that is spreadable. Do this by adding more icing sugar if it’s too runny and more milk/essence/liquid of some description if it’s too stiff.