They are becoming ubiquitous. Those colourful chubby discs are showing up in smart patisseries across the land. They have long been popular in France and we are all very ready to state that French food is best.
Well, I would not go that far (although I am driven to admit that the French make the best French food), but I note that the trendy macaron was originally created in 1533 …in Italy! Perhaps we could agree that the French know a good thing when they see it, or eat it.
Macarons have now taken the crown which was until recently held by the popular cupcake. But these little macarons are pricey, so a good recipe and a little practice could save the savvy entertainer a crate of cash. No self-respecting afternoon tea provider could hold his head aloft if that top tier was not garnished with some macarons, in colours to coordinate with the flowery crockery or the Laura Ashley drapes.
A batch of macarons, it must be said, is not something one can thoughtlessly rustle up. There is a technique to practise and the use of quality ingredients is key. But it isn’t rocket science and it’s worth the effort. One glance at this eponymous book will have you drooling and reaching for the ground almonds.
One doesn’t need any special equipment. A plain piping nozzle and a sugar thermometer are the only kitchen items that you might have to purchase, although if you are a regular jam maker or cake decorator you will already have these.
The perfect macaron should have a paper-thin crust with a slightly chewy interior. The individual macaron should have “feet” – that is the bubbly band at the base which indicates that the correct technique and temperature were used. It might all sound complicated but if one carefully follows the recipe then success is assured.
A skill worth practising
The basic recipe here uses 225g of icing sugar, 140g of ground almonds and 100g of egg whites, and yields 60 macarons or 30 pairs of sandwiched macarons. One would only be able to buy a half-dozen or so commercial macarons for the price of raw ingredients sufficient to make more than two dozen at home. I’d say it’s a skill worth practising.
The flavour combinations of shell and filling are endless. There are classics like chocolate filled with ganache, and raspberry filled with jam, but this excellent book offers marvellous confections such as Black Forest – chocolate filled with cherry-flavoured buttercream, or Basic macaron filled with mint-flavoured chocolate.
I mentioned the old-fashioned afternoon tea. It’s very much in vogue just now. My pick of this book has surely been invented with teatime in mind. Jasmine Tea and Lime Macarons are delicate but with a definite twang of lime zest. These are dainties to be nibbled and savoured while sipping from your grandmother’s best bone-china cups.
Macaron is a charming book and would make an ideal hostess gift when one is indeed invited to tea. It’s a stylish volume that will coax you into trying your hand at macaron making. Perhaps it’s for either a confident cook or a Virgo who will be meticulous at weights, measures and temperatures, but follow the rules set down here and we could all be macaroning like pros.
Author: Alison Thompson
Published by Apple Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018