If you're looking for cute, edible Christmas gifting have I got an idea for you Dear Reader! If you've ever made macarons, you'll know that you end up with a huge number of macarons which makes makes them the perfect gifting idea! These seasonal macarons are bright red with a peppermint buttercream studded with smashed candy canes!
I approach macarons the same way that someone would a dentist - with a measure of wariness and dread. But by now I think I've got a macaron recipe that produces great results all the time but there are some rules that you do need to follow when making macarons that I've observed:
One: Firstly don't make macarons in extremely humid weather. They can turn out but they can also not work out and it's heartbreaking to see all those ingredients wasted. I've found the hotter and humid the weather, the more prone they are for error.
Two: Always wait for the skin to form well. After you pipe your macarons you need to wait anything from 15 minutes (in a cold commercial kitchen in Paris where we made them once) to three hours (our apartment on a humid Summer's day). If you don't, the macarons will crack on top and they won't develop feet.
Three: If you store your almond meal in the fridge, dry out your almond meal in a 50C/122F oven for 10 minutes. Make sure that it is all spread out well on the tray too.
Four: Always add the colouring in the boiling caramel syrup (don't add it later to the whipping egg whites as the moisture level is important) and always keep the flavour in the filling and keep the shells as simple as possible.
Five: I have also found that they work best if I bake them one tray at a time and use silpats rather than parchment.
Phew! I'm sorry to have possibly scared you but once you perfect macarons you'll probably never buy one again because you'll know how easy and comparatively inexpensive they are to make in comparison to buying them.
In fact they made such an enormous number, more than I could ever give away, that I had a big box of them to give to my parents when we went to their house for dinner.
My father paints as a hobby and he keeps his paintings in the lounge room. He loves to paint and wants to sell his paintings but found that they weren't selling as well as he had liked. I looked at them. Some of them are quite good although a couple are slightly kooky. I tilted my head at one. "Father, why does the picture of Marilyn Monroe have her standing in outer space?" I asked him. I actually quite liked the quirkiness of that one and I have a few of his paintings at home. He didn't really have an explanation of why she is in space.
As for my mother, she took one look at the macarons and thought that she knew exactly what I had made. "Teeth?" she asked. Yes she thought that I had made a sweet to look like teeth! Yes, you can always count on family to say the most blunt or loopy things!
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever made macarons? Is there an item that you make because you think it's ridiculous to pay for it? And are your parents kooky?
Peppermint Candy Cane Baby Macarons
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Macarons are best made 2 days ahead of time to give them time to soften
Makes a lot of macarons (depending on size, I got 60 baby macarons out of this)
Preparation time: 35 minutes plus time for the skin to form (15 minutes to 3 hours depending on temperature)
Cooking time: 20 minutes per tray (makes 4 trays)
- 300g/10.6ozs. Tant Pour Tant (150g/5.3ozs almond meal mixed with 150g/5.3ozs. icing or powdered sugar)
- 60g/2ozs. egg whites
- 150g/5.3ozs. caster or superfine sugar
- 40g/1.4ozs. water
- Red food colouring
- 60g/2ozs. egg whites
- 250g/8.8oz butter, at room temperature
- 125g/4ozs. caster or superfine sugar
- 75ml/2.7ozs. room temperature water
- Peppermint flavouring
- 4 candy canes, crushed into smithereens
Sieving the tant pour tant
Step 1 - Sift the tant pour tant through a fine sieve. Honestly this is the most annoying bit about making macarons for me. Place in a large bowl and mix with the first lot of the egg whites until it forms a smooth paste. Place the caster sugar, water and colouring in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil.
Mixing the first lot of egg whites with tant pour tant
Step 2 - While it is boiling, start whipping the second lot of egg whites in an electric mixer until you get soft peaks. Wait until the caramel reaches 118C/244F and then pour it into the soft peaked egg whites. Start whipping again and use a spatula to make sure that there is no caramel caught at the bottom. Whisk until it reaches 50C/122F. Add the meringue mixture with the TPT mixture making sure to mix it very well.
Macaron mixture ready to pipe
Step 3 - Line four baking trays with silpats. To make baby macarons, use a #9 plain nozzle fitted into a large piping bag. Pipe little circles about an inch apart as they will spread slightly. Then allow the macarons to dry at room temperature. The amount of time depends on the weather conditions. In dry conditions it can take as little as 15 minutes but it can take as long as 3 hours. You will know when they are ready when they develop a "skin" on them and you can touch them without the mixture sticking to your finger.
Step 4 - Preheat oven to 130C/266F. Bake the macarons for 15-20 minutes. I also find the time it takes really depends on weather and raw ingredients. Check it after 15 minutes and if you can lift off a macaron it is ready. Otherwise return it to the oven and bake for 5 minutes intervals until they can be lifted. Cool completely and lift them off with an angled spatula. Match them for size.
Step 5 - To make buttercream use a beater attachment with your mixer. Beat the butter for 5 minutes on a low speed (a third of the maximum speed eg. 3 out of 10). Then add sugar, water and peppermint essence and beat for another 5 minutes until the sugar no longer feels gritty between your fingers. Place into a piping bag fitted with a #867 piping tip and pipe on one half of the macaron. Sprinkle with candy canes and place the second half on top. Sprinkle with edible glitter. Store in the fridge. They are usually not ready to eat straight away but in a day or two the shells will soften.