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Sunday, 2 February 2014

Chocolate Orange Macaroons (1st attempt)

To start this month I really wanted to something more technical than my normal range of recipes.   Last summer was the first time I had ever tired a french macaroon and it is something that I always thought about making.  I had watched contestents make them on 'The Great British Bake Off' to various degress of success so I knew that it would be a challenge.             

Ingredient wise macaroons are very simple - almond, egg whites and sugar with a filling, unfortunately although limited in ingredients the things you do need tend to be costly.  Ground almonds make up the bulk of the recipe and in the amounts you need will end up costing the most.  Then you need egg whites, another costly ingredient, especially when you throw away the yolks.  

My advice to try and reduce the cost is to buy your ground almonds from local shops that supply the indian community.  I found a large bag of ground almonds (250g) for £2.99.  The solution to the egg white issue is to hunt around your local supermarket (Tesco, Sainsbury or Waitrose are stockists) for cartons of egg whites.  Normally found in the butter/cream area although you may need to ask.  If you intend on making lots of macs I would highly reccommend the egg white carton.  You MUST weigh/measure the egg whites, this is very important.  

As this is my first attempt I am being very honest with the results.  They tasted great and the crisp/chewy texture was perfect (I made sure I sampled some from M&S so I knew what I was looking for) but I know I didn't get the texture right when piping.  You will see from the images that they looked like little puddles of mixture when actually they should stand taller and 'peak' when piped.  I didn't get a peak and found the mixture leaked out the piping bag as I went so the whole experience became rather messy.  I hope it was beginners error.

I tried to colour my macs orange, using paste colouring,  but as you can see from the photo they are not very orange.  I think powdered colours are best and when I try again I will make sure I use them.  Do not use liquid coluring as this may make the mixture too loose and you wuill ruin your mixture.

I made a simple ganache for my filling - chocolate, cream and orange extract.  At first I had a very glossy mixture and it looked and tasted perfect, however while it cooled I didn't notice it splitting a little and the glossy look became very oily.  The next day the chocolate had set and looked fine.

One final area that I think is important to consider when baking macs is the use of non-stick parchment.  I used my normal baking parchment (shiny side up) and have some success however I did have to use a spatular to remove them and found that some of the insides stuck.  Hunting around the net I found a number of recipes, most recommending the using of baking parchment as I used, but  a couple recommended purchasing good quality non-stick baking lining - John Lewis is a good stockist.  I am going to make sure I get some for my next batch and will update this post with the details as soon as I do.

This recipe is a combination of ideas I found on the internet.  As you see from the images they worked.  I think my issue is getting the texture right when folding the mixture together just before piping.  My mix was very runny and difficult to pipe.  I would recommend that you hunt around YouTube for videos on making macs before baking your own.  That way you can watch how the mixture should fall back in to the bowl instead of just looking at images.

Chocolate Orange Macaroons
Makes around 30 (60 mac halves)

110g egg whites (3 large eggs)
75g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
175g icing sugar
2 tsp orange food colouring (paste or powder)
1 tbsp cocoa for dusting

100g 75% chocolate
90g double cream
1 tsp high quality orange essence

Start by lining two large baking sheets with grease proof or (recommend but not in picture) high quality non-stick baking liner.  You could mark out 30 2cm discs (draw round a 2p coin) or just be a maverick and go freehand later on.

Place the almonds and icing sugar in a food processor and turn on.  You MUST leave this for around 7/8 mins.  I know...its a long time.  But it is really important that you grind up the almonds more than they already are.  I did stop once or twice to scrape up the icing sugar from the bottom of the processor bowl.

Weigh out your egg whites - 110g.  Place in a bowl of a freestanding mixer (or by hand if you are hardcore) and whisk to peaks.  Add the sugar slowly and keep whisking until glossy.


Add your orange colouring and whisk to combine.

Sift half the almond mixture over the egg whites and fold in carefully.  You will end up with some bits of almond that won't sift - tip away.  


Sift in the reminder of the almond mixture - tipping away the bits that won't fit again. 

Now this is the tricky bit (and the bit where you should reference your YouTube video)  Fold in the reminding mixture carefully, takes around 1 minute, until you have a glossy mixture that pours off the spatular and leaves a thick ribbon in the bowl. If its leaving peaks its perfect.  Mine didn't so good luck here!

Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a plain 1cm tip.  Pipe small mounds (30 per sheet) making sure you leave a bit of a gap as they may spread.

Dust with cocoa and now leave for 30 minutes.  This is so they form a skin and will crisp up when cooking.  At this point you should pre-heat your oven to 160C (140C fan).

After the 30 minute resting period, bake for 13 minutes (set a timer).  Hopefully they should rise up and look shiny on top.

Leave to cool on the tray (something I didn't do but maybe should have!) and then transfer to a cooling rack, upside down.  Its better if you arrange them in twos at this point.

Make the chocolate ganache by heating the cream to boiling point.

Chop up the chocolate in to small bits and place in the hot cream, now off the heat.

Leave for 1 minute and then mix to form a glossy paste.  Add your orange extract and mix.

Leave to cool completely.  Transfer to a piping bag and pipe on to each mac and then sandwich together.