A couple of months back I was excited when WhyNut sent me a goody box through the post inviting me to try out some of their pistachio nuts and nut pastes. I used the fresh nuts in different ways in to make some Pistachio Cupcakes and in cookies but wanted to try out the nut pastes to delicately flavour some macaroons. Now this was going to be a big challenge for me. I’ve always wanted to be able to bake macaroons but always thought they looked far too fiddly and complicated. I tried once but to be fair I rushed them and didn’t follow the recipe properly. The result was a sloppy mess and since that bungled attempt about 3 years back I’ve never bothered since. But I had the nut pastes to try out so all I could do was try and try again!
So I asked my friends on Twitter and Facebook what recipes they would recommend for baking macaroons. One suggestion was to try the recipe in Lorraine Pascale‘s first book “Baking Made Easy” I remembered seeing a macaroon recipe in the book, it was for strawberry and lemon ones. Being as the title had “made easy” in it, I did hope that would apply to the macaroons too!
A couple of weeks ago we had a get together with my mum’s side of the family. We didn’t get round to exchanging presents at Christmas and I love making foodie presents. I always think macaroons look so pretty in a gift box and I had some brightly coloured ones bought from Lakeland to put them in. I knew my family would appreciate the macaroons and wouldn’t take the mickey out of me if they looked like they’d been trodden on either!
So, jobs done and dog walked I started on the macaroons. First I preheated the oven to 150oC as I was using my fan oven to bake them in and found my silicone macaroon baking sheets. They hadn’t been used before so I hoped I could use them properly.
I weighed out icing sugar, some ground almonds and some egg whites into a bowl and mixed it so it formed a paste. When that had done I had to heat some water and sugar on the stove. I was dreading this after my fiasco of burning my thumb when I got hot sugar syrup on me when I tried to make lemon meringue cupcakes a couple of years back. I tried to be so careful. I did rely on my sugar thermometer to help me.
After this some more egg white was mixed in a bowl until I got medium stiff peaks, then to this I added the sugar syrup. This was then whisked until the mixture became stiff and shiny. At this point I added a teaspoonful of the nut paste and a couple of drops of food colouring paste. For the pistachio macaroons I used a small dab of mint green paste, for the hazelnut ones I had to use a cream coloured food colouring as that was all I had left in the cupboard! After this I then folded the egg white mixture with the almond paste mixture.
Now for the piping bit. To make it easier to carry I put the silicone macaroon mats on top of a flat baking sheet (the sort I use for cookies) and then started to pipe the macaroons into the bases. I used one sheet for the pistachio flavour, the other for the hazelnut ones. To pipe I used a large “Get A Grip” disposable piping bag from Lakeland which I swear by. The nozzle I used was a straight one and I’m so glad I used a piping bag. Otherwise it would have gone everywhere.
Before putting the macaroons in the oven I gave each tray a sharp tap on the side of the cooker and also left them for about 1/2 hour to stand before baking them. Apparently this forms a skin on the macaroons. Then they went into the oven for about 12-15 minutes, Lorraine suggests leaving the oven door slightly ajar! This was a new one on me but I tried it.
When the time was up and I looked in the oven I was so pleased. The macaroons actually looked like they should. I was all set to do a big happy dance around the kitchen. It was a major achievement to me. What’s more they came off the tray without sticking as well.
After leaving the macaroon shells to cool for a while I got on with the filling. I whipped up a tub of double cream then halved it into two bowls. To one bowl I added a spoonful of Whynut Pistachio Paste and to the other a spoonful of their Hazelnut Paste. These were spread carefully onto the shells with a small pallette knife and left to set.
Each family member got a gift box of 6 macaroons each and along with their spice jars and granola, the macaroons went down very well. They looked smaller than the ones I’d seen in the shops but everyone loved them. I was so happy it has inspired me to try out some more flavours in the future.
Love Sam xx