Today is Craig’s birthday, so Happy Birthday Craig (when you eventually get round to reading this)!
Now Craig is a big fan of gin, so obviously his birthday present just had to be something gin-related. I decided to attempt to make Gin & Tonic macarons because I think macarons make brilliant presents – they’re something a little different, they look lovely, and I haven’t yet come across any good ones in St Andrews. They also involve gin, so I was pretty sure they would go down well. Providing they were tasty, obviously.
I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about making them though. The gin would be incorporated into the filling, along with some lime zest and juice – that was straightforward enough. I decided that a white chocolate ganache would be the best type of filling, simply because I find that a ganache can take more liquid (read: alcohol) than a buttercream. The tricky part was working out how to incorporate the tonic. I realised at this point that I actually had no idea what tonic tastes like. I drink it all the time in G&Ts, but never on its own. So I tasted it, and I think Kat’s description of “like bitter lemon and seltzer water” is pretty apt. I can’t say I’m much of a fan. So how on Earth was I going to include the tonic element? I made myself a G&T (all in the name of culinary research, of course) and realised that whenever Kat, Craig or I make a G&T, the amount of gin that goes in effectively covers any taste the tonic might have contributed to the drink. So I decided to add a bit of lemon zest, in an attempt to faintly echo the bitter lemon element of the tonic, but I felt that would be enough, because let’s be honest here, it’s all about the gin.
So how did they turn out? Well, they were gin-y and lime-y. And thus I think I can say that they were yummy. The tonic flavour may have gotten slightly lost, but well, the tonic in a G&T is really there just to dilute the gin a little, so I don’t think that matters too much. And anyway, Craig did manage to guess that they were supposed to be G&T macarons just from smelling them, so they can’t have been that far off.
Gin & Tonic macarons
I added a speckled pattern to the shells just for a little bit of colour. Since the only colourful thing in a G&T is the lime, I went for green, which coincidentally also matches the bottle of Gordon’s gin that I used. Make sure you leave these at least 24h before eating them, in order to allow the ganache to soak into the shells a bit. They can be stored in an airtight box in the fridge – just remember to bring them out at least 30mins before eating them, so that you can appreciate the flavour fully!
For the macaron shells:
100g aged egg whites (age them for 4-5 days in a sealed jar in the fridge)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar
Green food colouring (optional)
For the ganache:
40g single cream
150g white chocolate
Zest of 1 lime + 1 tsp of lime juice
Zest of ½ lemon
To make the macaron shells:
1. Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside. Prepare a piping bag with a plain nozzle.
2. Blend the icing sugar and ground almonds together (don’t skip this step!) Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl. Sift them again if necessary.
3. Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites at room temperature (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand) to glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.
4. Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well. Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture. Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes. The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.
5. Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 1.5-2cm in diameter). Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round. Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.
6. Leave to set for about 30mins (this helps to produce the feet). Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C. Pour a little green food colouring into a small dish, dip a paintbrush in the colouring (a clean one that isn’t used for actual painting, obviously), and flick the colouring across the shells whilst they set. When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.
7. Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3mins longer). Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair them up by size.
To make the ganache filling:
8. Whilst the macarons are setting and cooking, make the ganache filling. Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the white chocolate (broken into pieces), the gin, the lime and lemon zest and the 1 tsp of lime juice, and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth (don’t let it boil or you will boil off the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?). Allow the mixture to thicken in the fridge (or freezer if necessary).
9. Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a good dollop of ganache onto one shell of each pair. Then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to push the shell down onto the filling.
10. Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult! But so worth it!!)