Although I’m still not really sure where my life is currently going and whether I’ll get a post-grad somewhere and where that will happen to be, almost everybody else seems to have wonderful plans, courses and jobs lined up for after the summer. One of the many people who know what they’re doing after the summer is a friend of mine (of cute-baby-seal-birthday-cake fame) who has been accepted to do a Masters at Oxford. Getting into Oxford is something he’s wanted for quite a while now, so for a number of reasons, this is a really big thing for him. He actually received the news way back in March, but at the time he only told a few people and asked us to keep it quiet because he wanted to wait for the right time to drop the “Oxford-bomb” so that the announcement would have maximum impact (I suspect that he had a few specific individuals in mind). Apparently the “O-bomb” was finally dropped a few days ago, which means that I can finally share the congratulatory macarons I made for him with you (I’ve only been waiting five months).
I’d decided on macarons because A) I knew that Kat was making him a cake, and B) I was looking for an excuse to make macarons. Not exactly much of a decision. The difficult part was choosing which flavour to attempt. At first I wanted to do something Oxford-themed. The University of Oxford colours perhaps? Hmmmm… I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired. Anyway, the shades probably wouldn’t have come out exactly correct anyway, and I didn’t feel like getting lectured about the exact specifications of Oxford Blue (to save yourself the Google search, you can find them here. And yes, I actually looked them up…) complete with several historical anecdotes (I’m sure it would be very interesting, but not in response to a gift). So I quickly scrapped the Oxford-themed idea, and decided to make macarons based on his favourite cocktail: the White Russian.
White Russian macarons? Brilliant plan! The only minor flaw is that, despite being a big cocktail fan, I’ve never actually had a White Russian. Pick yourself up off the floor, and I’ll explain: it’s the cream. It just totally puts me off. Don’t get me wrong, I love cream. Love cream (seriously – you’ll find at least three different kinds in my fridge at any given time). But not in a cocktail – I just think it would make me feel very sick, very quickly. I know what goes into it (vodka, coffee liqueur and cream), but I had to do a bit of guesswork with regards to exactly how the cocktail actually tastes. Personally, I think the macarons were good, but I can’t vouch for how akin to an actual White Russian they turned out. He seemed to have enjoyed them though, and that’s the main thing! I’m also submitting these macarons to this month’s Mac Attack challenge, since the theme rather conveniently happens to be “kick it up with alcohol” (I know, it’s like the challenge was made for me!).
White Russian macarons
The colouring of the shells is totally optional – I decided to colour them at the last minute but didn’t have any brown colouring. My genius solution: use a mixture of all the other food colourings that I do have (because everything mixed together makes brown, see?) – luckily it worked. If you’re feeling particularly motivated, you could make only the bottom shells brown and leave the top shells white, which is more reminiscent of an unstirred White Russian. 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
4 tsp coffee granules
½ tsp coffee extract
Coffee-brown food colouring paste (optional)
For the ganache:
40g single cream
150g white chocolate
4cl (40g) vodka
2 tsp coffee granules
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. Finely grind the coffee granules. Blend the icing sugar, ground almonds and ground coffee 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. Add the coffee extract and a dollop of brown food colouring paste (if you’re using it) just before the end and mix well.
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. 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 white chocolate and vodka ganache filling. Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the white chocolate (broken into pieces) and the vodka, 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. Finely grind the coffee granules into a powder (or put them in a zip-lock bag and roll over them with a rolling pin).
10. Once the ganache has cooled, use a teaspoon to deposit a good dollop of ganache onto one shell of each pair. Sprinkle a pinch of finely ground coffee over the top of the ganache, and then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to squash the shell down onto the filling.
11. Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult! But so worth it!!)