Macarons are quite possibly my favourite sweet treat ever. I can’t think of anything that makes me happier than a display of these brightly coloured almond delights all lined up in an array of exciting flavours. That being said when it comes to making them they have long eluded me. I’ve had so many failed attempts from french to Italian meringue base experiments which have often resulted in some very tasty biscuits and on one occasion, during an experiment with powdered egg white, some very peculiar miniature cakes. Through all the experiments I had never quite managed to achieve that perfect bake profile with a crisp shell and chewy centre, that is until now…..
A few months ago I decided it was time to get serious about this, how can any self respecting baker not be able to master the art of macarons? I poured over recipes and researched other peoples success stories, it seems I was not alone in my plight and a suitable method for these little tinkers is often a personal journey of trial and error.
It was around this time that I remembered a recipe given to me by my friend Liz. Post a disastrous weekend of baking Liz had offered me the french meringue recipe she used whilst working as a pastry chef in a restaurant run by her family high in the mountains of Morzine. Liz had assured me that this recipe had never let her down, even baking them at a high altitude in the heart of the French Alpes, so this was an encouraging place to start.
I followed Liz’s recipe to the T and when the first batch came out reasonably well I had to have another crack, and then another, Raspberry and chocolate then lemon and pistachio followed by chocolate and hazelnut, I was churning them out and by the time I stopped I spent around two days baking nothing but macarons! It had been a long old slog but finally I was making macarons to an acceptable standard.
I decided a masala Chai tea party was in order to celebrate my new found skill.
To Make Masala Chai spice blend you will need:
- half a cinnamon stick
- 1 & 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
- half a tsp powdered cardamom – or the seeds from 3 pods
- 2 white peppercorns
- 1 clove
- 1 head of star anise – or 1/2 tsp powdered star anise
Place all ingredients into a spice blender or pestle and mortar and rind to a fine powder. For Masala Chai tea with this spice blend place 1 tablespoon of the mix into a saucepan along with 750ml milk and two black tea bags, bring to a simmer, then transfer to a teapot to infuse. To serve, strain the mix through a fine sieve or tea strainer into tea cups.
To Make Liz’s Macarons you will need:
- 1 Tbls Chai spice blend
- 1 black tea bag
- 120g icing sugar
- 80g ground almonds
- 2 large egg whites at room temperature
- 50g caster sugar
This recipe makes 18-20 macarons
Pre-heat the oven to 120°C. Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds together with the chai spice and the contents of the tea bag, discard any large lumps of almond that aren’t fine enough to go through the sieve.
Whisk the egg whites along with a pinch of salt until stiff, then add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time and bring the whites up to stiff peak, and when I say stiff, I’m talking hold the bowl over your head stiff, this is key to getting the crisp shell and lift. This may take around 5 minutes.
Fold the almond mix into the whites in two halves, add the first half to lighten the mix, then add the second. Transfer the mix to a piping bag and pipe even circles around an inch in diameter onto a baking tray lined with silicone paper. Once piped lift the tray up and drop it onto the work surface, this will encourage any air bubbles in the mix to rise to the surface, repeat this 5 times. If after slamming the tray there is still a point where the macaron has been piped this can be removed by placing a dampened finger onto the macaron to level it off. Allow the macrons to sit for 15 to 20 minutes to skin over.
Place the macarons into the pre-heated oven 1 tray at a time. All ovens have hot spots so the positioning of the tray in the oven can also affect the finished result of the macarons. I experimented with different shelves in the oven and for me the second shelf up from the bottom gave the best results. Bake for 10 minutes, turning the tray around after 7 minutes to ensure an even colour all over.
Once cool the macarons can be filled with a filling of your choice. I use nutella as a filling for this batch, but chocolate ganache works very well also.