Judging by my Twitter feed every Wednesday evening, I’m pretty sure that the majority of you are completely engrossed in the Great British Bake Off at the moment. Me… not so much, I hand on my heart haven’t watched an episode this year, and to be honest just reading Twitter is enough to keep me up to date with all the shenanigans.
However, it hasn’t stopped it infiltrating into my life in other ways and September heralds the start of the Great Bake Off at work. It’s all organised to tie in with the Macmillan Big Coffee Morning on September 26th, and I’m looking forward to a little competitive baking. Although, there has been fleeting conversations in the kitchen about my ‘professional baking’ past and my entry; all in good humour and all with me blushing a little, as I don’t consider myself an amazing baker. I do something I love and others seem to like it too, that’s good enough for me. The proof will be in the first round when sponge cakes come out. Yes, I have an idea of what I’m going to create, and no I’m not telling you… well not until it’s baked, judged and tasted. It could be a disaster…
Anyway, with all of this going on I thought it was about time that I sorted some photos out that have been sat in my Lightroom ‘To Edit’ folder for ages. They’re not the best examples of my limited food photography and styling capacity; and they’re also not the best example of how to bake a macaron either. But, they tasted pretty darn good and I wanted to blog them as there’s plenty of things that don’t work that happen in my kitchen, despite the professional side of things.
Say hello to a Maca-pie! Seriously, don’t get me started with all the crossover food naming and so-and-so thought of it first. Someone has already probably called something a Maca-pie before, I’m not claiming a new food group, I’m not claiming to have invented something else, I’m just telling you these macarons failed, on not quite so epic portions, but I thought they looked more like a whoopie pie so there.
Now then, what can I tell you about these failed beauties? Well, the recipe you’ll find at the end of this post, will actually work for proper nice flat, shiny shelled macarons. I have made them before, but the time I decided to photograph them, the photos were terrible and I didn’t blog them. Also, what you don’t want to do, is to decide on the hottest day of the year to bake macarons, leave them to rest and the shell start to form with the sun beaming straight on top of them. And then, when they are baked, instead of rising with a nice puffy foot and the top staying smooth and flat; what actually happens is the glorious sun has welded the base of the mac to the baking parchment, the foot can’t rise, and thus your macarons erupt like Mount Vesuvius.
They’re not really *that* bad, I’ve had worse macaron fails before, completely inedible, not even making it off the baking sheet fails. So when these failed, it wasn’t the end of the world, it was make the best of a bad(ish) situation and just roll with it. The non-pink macaron shells weren’t overly disastrous, they didn’t all erupt like the pink shells, they just decided that they didn’t like the nice round shape that I’d piped them into, and so they ended up more randomly shaped, which meant matching two shells together wasn’t as simple but it wasn’t a travesty, they still resembled macarons.
So what did work? Well what was a success was that I had two batches of misshapen macaron shells, in two different colours, as I set out to do, that were sandwiched with the a vanilla frosting. The inspiration behind them was a reminiscing Pinterest session and the ice cream and lollies of my younger years, in particular why did my Other Half not know what a Strawberry Mivvi was (Strawberry Split lolly, in case you are wondering). The frosting worked, and they tasted as they should, so despite not looking pretty, they were winner!
Strawberry Split Macarons
For the Macaron Shells
- 125g Ground almonds
- 175g Icing sugar
- 50g Strawberry milkshake powder
- 100g Egg whites
- 25g Caster sugar
- Pink food gel colouring
For the Frosting
- 150g Unsalted butter
- 300g Icing sugar
- 1tsp Vanilla extract or Vanilla bean paste
- Strawberry jam, optional
- Preheat the oven to 170C
- Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment. On each of tray, draw circles onto the parchment using a cookie cutter as a guide, about 3.5cm in diameter. The circles should be about 2.5cm apart to although the macaron shells to spread a little. Line the sheets with a 2nd sheet of baking parchment over the top of the 1st and clip together using a paperclip.
- In a food processor, add the icing sugar and the milkshake powder and pulse for 30 seconds until there are no lumps.
- Add the ground almonds, and pulse for another 30 seconds.
- In a standmixer, with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and whisk until they start to form soft peaks.
- Add the caster sugar to the egg whites, and whisk for approximately 10 minutes until they form stiff peaks, and are dense and white.
- Add the almond & icing sugar mixture to the eggs whites, and fold in quickly to break deflate the mixture, beating out the large bubbles. The mixture will start to become shiny, smooth and pourable, mix gently now, until a streak of the mix on the surface disappears after 30 seconds.
- Add the pink food colouring to the mixture. Make sure it is quite bright, as the colour will pale when the shells are baked. Alternatively split the mixture in half and colour half pink and leave half natural, as I did.
- Place the macaron mix into a disposable piping bag and snip the end off.
- Pipe flat, round mounds of the mix onto the baking sheets, using the circles you drew as a template for the size.
- Gently tap the baking sheets on the work surface to smooth the macarons, and let them rest for 30 minutes. The surface of the shell should not break when it is touched gently.
- Bake the macarons for 10-12 minutes, until just firm. As they bake, the macaron 'feet' will form.
- Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet.
For the Frosting
- In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add half of the icing sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth.
- Add the remaining icing sugar and beat until smooth.
- If the frosting is too stiff, add a tsp of whole milk and beat until smooth.
- Match the cooled macaron shells into pairs, of roughly the size and shape.
- Fill a piping bag with the frosting, and snip the end off.
- Pipe the frosting into a round, onto one macaron shell, and gently press the other on top.
- Alternatively, pipe a ring of frosting around the edge the macaron shell, and fill the gap with strawberry jam, before sandwiching with the other shell.
Any unused macaron shells can be keep up to 3 days in the fridge, or they work crumbled over ice cream.
I do have a nut allergy, but it’s mainly peanuts and brazil nuts, I don’t have a reaction with almonds.2