Ah, the humble macaron. Any cook with an oven and some egg whites has no doubt given these beasts a go. They are the stuff of legend, notoriously temperamental and fiddly, and they come with more rules than the average board game: Age the egg whites, don’t age the egg whites, double sift and toast the almond meal, don’t toast the almond meal…. You’d be forgiven for seeing a recipe for macarons and thinking you’ve probably got better things to do, like clean the toilet or change the cat litter.
But don’t be dismayed, if I can bake a macaron then you can too! All you need is to find a recipe that you can work with and practice, practice, practice. The shells that don’t work out so well still taste delicious, you can break them up and eat with ice cream or cream in a sort of ad hoc Eton Mess, or just fill them as though they worked perfectly and enjoy the sweet almondy goodness anyway – feet or not, they taste fantastic.
I’m not going to give you a recipe here today because I’m in no way skilled enough to describe the method to you confidently. What I will do is suggest a couple of tried and true recipes that I’ve followed and strongly encourage you to have a crack yourself. The first place I would start is with the Macaron tutorial over at Tartelette, if this recipe works for you then go for it. If you’re like me and need less words and more pictures (hey, I’m a visual person!) then you can’t go wrong with the very handy I<3 Macarons by Hisako Ogita. Since purchasing this book I’ve not had a bad batch (touch wood), it seems the secret is the number of times you stir your batter; stir too few times and you won’t get the infamous ‘feet’, stir too many and your macarons won’t rise.
If you’re cool with making macarons and are looking for a new flavour combo then read on…. To make lavender shells I simply ground a half teaspoon of dried lavender flowers in the mortar and mixed them in with the almond meal before running it all through the food processor with the icing sugar. I mixed in some violet food colouring with the meringue and sprinkled some flower heads on the shells straight after piping so that they set with the flowers on the top. To fill I simply made up another batch of lemon curd and piped it into the shells once they had cooled completely. They tasted so good it was difficult to stop at one!