We had a potluck party last night to celebrate various happenings at the lab. The original excuse was somebody being accepted into a PhD programme, but since one of my labmates recently handed in, we added that as a further excuse. And then “oh, it’s French national day on Sunday? Let’s celebrate that, too!” So a Woohoo PhD/no more PhD/Bastille Day party. Sacré bleu, what an excellent idea!
As the lab’s bona fide French person, I wanted to do something relevant to Bastille Day, something French. I was considering madeleines, a particular speciality of mine, and always a popular offering. But then I realised that it’s been a while since I made macarons… And then it hit me: I could make blue, white and red macarons like the French flag, aka macarons tricolores! So one blue shell, a white filling and a red shell. I think that qualifies as suitably French.
I used a white chocolate ganache for the filling. I was originally going to add Amaretto, but discovered that we didn’t have any, so I used Frangelico instead. It was a delicious alternative. I thought that making two batches of shells would be terribly time-consuming, but actually I was able to make the blue shells whilst the red shells were setting and they then set whilst the red shells were baking. So actually it worked out rather well. I didn’t work the blue batch for quite long enough which is why nearly all the blue shells ended up with nipples, which irritates my perfectionist side, but doesn’t affect the taste.
The macarons were a hit and definitely a fun way to celebrate le 14 juillet (Bastille Day). Everybody loved the whole French flag thing, as well as the taste (most important). Now get your berets on* and have a marvellous 14 juillet. Maybe even let off some fireworks (if that’s legal where you are).
Yup, super keen French person, right here. Cocorico! (That wasn’t last night by the way, but a few weeks ago when France played the All Blacks at Eden Park. France lost. Quelle surprise.)
Makes about 80 small macarons (so about 160 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!
Ganache recipe by Sharky Oven Gloves
Obviously making two colours of shells is totally optional, but it does make these macarons fun, and is actually not as time-consuming as you’d expect. 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’re best 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:
150g room temperature egg whites
270g icing sugar
180g ground almonds
100g caster sugar
Red & blue food colouring paste or gel (optional)
For the ganache filling:
40g whipping cream (NZ: pure cream)
150g white chocolate
30g Frangelico or Amaretto
To make the macaron shells:
1. Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside. Prepare two piping bags with plain round piping tips of the same size (if you only have one, you can wash it in between the two batches of shells, but make sure to dry it thoroughly).
2. Split the egg whites evenly between two large mixing bowls. If you can’t get it exactly evenly, adjust the proportions of all the other ingredients according to the weight of the egg whites.
3. Blend half of the icing sugar (135g) and half of the ground almonds (90g) together (don’t skip this step!). Sift them through a medium sieve into a bowl. Sift them again if necessary.
4. Make the French meringue by whisking the one of the bowls of egg whites into glossy firm peaks, gradually adding half the caster sugar (50g). Add a few drops of the red food colouring gel to the mixture just before the end and mix well to get the shade of red that you wish.
5. 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.
6. Transfer the mixture to one of the previously prepared piping bags and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 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.
7. Leave the shells to set for about 30 mins (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.
8. Whilst the red shells are setting, repeat steps 2-7 with the remaining shell ingredients, but this time add blue food colouring to make the batch of blue shells.
9. Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10 mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3 mins longer). Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair one red and one blue shell up by size.
To make the ganache filling & assemble:
10. Whilst the macarons are setting and cooking, make the ganache filling. Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the chocolate (broken into pieces) and the Frangelico. 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?). Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to thicken on the countertop (or in the fridge if absolutely necessary – if it’s taking too long or not setting).
11. Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a dollop of ganache onto one shell of each pair. Then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to squash the shell down onto the filling.
12. Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult! But so worth it!!)
*I’m allowed to stereotype because I’m French.