A few years ago I made what was apparently a significant social faux pas in a restaurant while being served petits fours: when I referred to what I thought were macaroons the waiter, bristling with petulant superciliousness, exclaimed “they are macarons, sir”. All done with a pronunciation that could well have been from an episode of ‘Allo, ‘Allo with an accompanying roll of the eyes! Now, I am not the tallest of people to begin with but at that point I felt positively Lilliputian!
But spelling and pronunciations aside (although I do opt for macaron now) the more rustic macaroons are a different beast to the daintier macarons. They are very easy to make and while they don’t have the sophistication of the French macarons, they nonetheless have a lovely charm about them.
Macaroons keep well in an airtight container and are excellent used in desserts such as St Émilion au Chocolat, In fact, when doused with alcohol they make a fabulous alternative to a sponge base for trifles and the like. That said, they are brilliant served just as they are with freshly ground coffee.
Macaroons: makes about 30
- 220g ground almonds, blitzed until very fine
- 4 large egg whites
- 300g unrefined golden caster sugar
(1) Preheat oven to 180C(fan). Whisk the egg whites for about 30 seconds until just foamy. Add the sugar and whisk in well for a few moments to create a very loose meringue: it will just be frothy but the sugar will not have dissolved.
(2) Add this mixture to the almonds and beat well to incorporate, to give a soft paste (as in thepicture below).
(3) Shape into small balls – about a teaspoonfull at a time – and brush lightly with water. Place on a solid baking tray, lined with a double thickness of greaseproof. Bake for about 15 minutes until just golden brown, checking after 12 minutes. They will be squidgy inside which is perfect.
NB: you do need a double thickness of greaseproof here (or a silicon mat) to prevent the macaroons from burning on the bottom.
(4) Cool on a wire rack – they will crisp up a little as they cool whilst retaining the lovely chewiness inside.