Italian Meringue Macarons

I feel as though I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with macarons. I love to eat them (homemade or not) but hate the effort required to make them. Seriously, have you ever sieved ground almonds for anything else? It’s a nightmare. In addition to that, I feel really guilty if I think about buying them because I know that I could make them for far less than they cost in the shops especially the good ones, I mean come on, £18.00 for eight macarons… are you having a laugh @Ladurée?

Last time I talked about macarons on thatcookingthing, I was rather vague and only gave a little detail about all of the different parts of the macaron which make it what it is. This time, I want to focus on one specific element – the meringue. There are two methods of making macarons – one using French meringue and the other using Italian. I assume that you could also use Swiss meringue but having never seen a Swiss meringue based recipe, I feel like they are either not very successful or not very nice (because Swiss meringue is super easy to make so would be brilliant for this kind of thing). French meringue is the “classic meringue” you think of. Caster sugar is beaten into whipped egg whites to create a glossy, sugary mix which is thick and voluminous. Italian meringue is slightly more tricky as a sugar thermometer is needed. Sugar syrup at 118°C is poured into whipped egg whites to make a super thick meringue which is incredibly stable.

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French Meringue Macarons – not my most successful!!

French meringue is very delicate – this is the method I used for my last macaron recipe; however it is easy to over mix the batter when you are folding in the dry ingredients. The final result is a bit denser than the macarons made using the Italian method and is also less sweet as the ratio of sugar to almonds is smaller. The feet formed on French macarons tend to be more irregular and bulging outwards than on their Italian counterparts. As it uses a far more stable meringue, the Italian method tends to be used more often in professional bakeries as it is easier to get the same results consistently. These macarons tend to rise more vertically than the French ones and the feet formed are more regular and taller with small bubbles in them. I have found that Italian macarons always require resting to form a skin before baking whereas French ones can often get away with being piped and baked immediately.

Personally, I prefer the French method. I think the end result is more to my taste, it’s less sweet than the Italian method and it is also far simpler. As a result of the stability of Italian meringue, the folding section of the recipe takes far longer as you have to beat the air out of the mixture until it reaches the right consistency – this is not easy when the meringue is famous for not deflating. Despite what I said about them earlier, Ladurée, one of the most famous macaron patisseries, use the French method over the Italian one so I can’t hate them too much. Pierre Hermé (the other famous macaron makers) on the other hand use the Italian method – and are also slightly more expensive so it’s a double fault for them!

Have a go at the recipe below and let me know what you think. It would be fascinating to find out whether people prefer the Italian or the French method.

Good luck.

 

 

 

Italian Meringue Macarons

Work time: 1 hour

Rest time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

 

 

260g ground almonds

260g icing sugar

200ml egg whites (split into two 100ml measures)

¼ tsp cream of tartar

200g caster sugar

1/3 cup water

Optional: 2 tbsp instant coffee or 2 tbsp cocoa

 

Filling:

300ml double cream

300g dark chocolate

25g brown sugar

25g butter

 

Tip the almonds and icing sugar into the bowl of a food processor and blend for 30 seconds to help grind them to a finer powder.

Sieve the ground almond and icing sugar mix into a bowl. If there are a couple of tablespoons of ground almond bits left in the sieve, discard them.

If you wish to add the coffee or cocoa, sieve it in now.

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Tip in 100ml egg white and mix together thoroughly. Cover and set to one side.

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To make the meringue: tip the caster sugar and water into a heavy based saucepan.

Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.

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Use a sugar thermometer and keep cooking until the sugar reaches the soft ball stage (116-118°C).

 

When the sugar has reached 110°C start to whisk the remaining 100ml egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the cream of tartar once the mix is foamy. You want the egg whites to reach soft peaks by the time the sugar is up to temperature.

Once the sugar reaches 118°C, remove it from the heat. With the beaters running on high, gently stream the sugar syrup down the side the of bowl (trying to avoid pouring it directly onto the whisk).

Leave the beaters running until the outside the bowl feels cool again and the meringue is super thick and glossy.

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Take one third of the meringue and stir it into the ground almond mixture until completely combined. This will slacken up the mixture making the next step easier.

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Fold the rest of the meringue through the almond mixture.

Continue to fold and beat the mixture until it flows in thick ribbons off the spatula. You should be able to draw a figure of eight with the mixture as it flows off the spatula. This figure of eight will slowly sink into the rest of the batter over fifteen seconds or so.

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Line five or six baking trays.

Load the mixture into a piping bag and pipe small circles about 3cm in diameter leaving a couple of centimetres between them.

Lift the tray and smack it down on the surface a couple of times. Rotate the tray by 180° and repeat. This will pop any air bubbles stuck in the mixture. I also use a small pin to pop any remaining large bubbles that I can see as these will cause your macarons to crack if you are not careful.

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Set the macarons to one side for twenty minutes to allow the top to form a slight skin.

 

While the macarons are resting, preheat the oven to gas mark 2 (150°C).

Bake the macarons for twenty minutes. Test for doneness by gently nudging the top of the macaron, if it sticks a little bit – this is good!

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Remove the macarons from the oven and leave on the tray to cool for five minutes – this will help finish cooking the base.

Gently remove the macarons from the tray and place them, shell side down, on a wire rack to cool.

 

 

To make the filling:

Chop the chocolate and put it into a large bowl.

Heat the cream, butter and sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is about to boil.

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate.

Leave for two minutes for the chocolate to melt and then whisk together.

Leave to cool, stirring regularly until it reaches a thick, piping consistency.

 

To assemble:

Pair up the shells by size.

Pipe a large dollop of ganache into the centre of one of each pair and then gently press the other macaron on top. I find that lightly twisting the macaron helps prevent breakages.

Place the macarons in an airtight box in the fridge overnight.

Eat the next day – or even the day after that! They get better with age for the first few days.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. These are delicious with a cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, by themselves etc. (you can eat them any time really, you don’t need an excuse).

If you want to try something a bit easier, why not try making standard meringue first and then moving on to these? I have recipes for both Swiss and French meringue knocking around the place on here.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a lovely warming soup recipe (because it is that time of the year again)!

 

Boozy Tiramisu

Let’s take a minute to talk about booze. Specifically, let’s talk about booze in food. From red wine in bolognaise to rum in a ganache to sherry in soups, alcohol gets used a lot in cookery. It helps to enhance the flavour of the dish and whilst the alcohol itself is often cooked off, the depth it adds to the taste remains and while I hate that I am about to use such a cliché phrase, it really does take the dish to another level.

This week, I was lucky enough to receive a commission for a tiramisu for a friend at university who did her year abroad in Italy. I did a little digging on the history of tiramisu and discovered a couple of interesting things including that alcohol is a relatively recent addition to the standard recipe (or at least as relative as it can be for a dish that was only invented in the 1960s)! Normally you would use Madeira, dark rum, brandy and some sort of coffee liqueur however people have also been known to add Malibu (coconut rum) and Disaronno (almond liqueur). The recipe that I use is an egg free recipe however people are also known to add egg yolks to the filling as it makes the dessert far richer. While I don’t do this myself, if you wish, you can beat egg yolks and sugar over a pan of simmering water until the mixture is thick and creamy – this also helps cook the egg so you don’t have to worry about food poisoning. This mixture would then be folded into the mascarpone mix before the tiramisu is assembled.

Owing to the shape of ladyfingers, tiramisu is often made in a square dish as they will tessellate to cover the entire surface whereas if you use a round dish, you will end up having to cut several of them to size to cover the base. The other benefit of this is that it makes serving the tiramisu easier, especially in restaurants as they can give everyone an identical portion with none left over. It is also common to serve tiramisu in martini glasses so everyone gets a portion to themselves. I tend to prefer making tiramisu in a large cake tin and lining the sides with ladyfingers as you get a stunning finish to the dessert and also everyone gets a little bit more coffee!

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The layering on a square tiramisu looks amazing

The recipe can be amended for people who don’t like coffee too. A couple of months ago, I received a commission for a birthday party which included a fresh fruit tiramisu. In this case, I replaced the coffee and such with a mixture of fruity beverages including Chambord (raspberry liqueur) and a raspberry vodka. Instead of chocolate in the layers and on the top, I filled the middle with diced up fresh berries and the spent far longer than necessary arranging the berries on top to look beautiful including fanned strawberries!

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Boozy Tiramisu

Prep time – 30 minutes, Chilling time – 4+ hours

Ingredients:

3 packets ladyfingers

350ml cold coffee

250ml coffee liqueur

100ml white rum

750g mascarpone

300ml double cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g icing sugar

400g dark chocolate

 

Chop up the chocolate into medium to small chunks and set aside

 

Place the mascarpone in a bowl and beat it until soft.

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Add 50g of sifted icing sugar and the vanilla and beat again.

Add the cream and slowly beat until a smooth thick mixture is formed. Be careful not to overwhip as the mix can become stiff and grainy.

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Mix the coffee, rum and liqueur together

 

Place the ring from a nine or 10 inch springform tin onto your serving plate to use as a mould.

Take the ladyfingers and dunk each one into the coffee mixture for a few seconds and then place them vertically against the edge of the tin with the sugared side facing inwards. Repeat this with more of the fingers until you have gone around the entire ring. If you are using ones which have writing on them, try and make sure the writing goes the same way on each of he fingers for a more professional finish!

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Line the bottom of the tin with a single layer or ladyfingers dunked in coffee – you don’t need to fill in all the gaps as they will continue to expand as the coffee soaks through them.

Spread a layer of the mascarpone mix onto the ladyfingers. I tend to find this is easiest using a piping bag to pipe on a layer and then spread it out.

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Sprinkle on just under a third of the chocolate.

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Add another layer of dunked ladyfingers, mascarpone and add just under half the remaining chocolate.

Add a final layer of each of the filling ingredients and make sure that the chocolate on the top covers the whole of the cream layer – if you don’t have enough, you can sprinkle some drinking chocolate on first to make sure any gaps don’t stand out!

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Chill in the fridge for at at least 4 hours so the filling can set.

Remove the tin and serve – you can always wrap a ribbon around the outside to jazz it up if you feel like it!

 

You can also make this in a large dish or individual martini glasses where you don’t need to line the outside. If you do this, the desserts only need to be chilled until they are cold as they don’t need to set or alternatively, you can serve them immediately!

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This keeps for a few days in the fridge – just make sure it is covered!

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Let me know if you try this at home! Give me a tag on Instagram if you have a go as I love seeing what people have made! If you enjoyed baking this and are looking for a bit more of a challenge, why not try out my Battenberg cake or check out last week’s recipe for butternut squash soup to help get you through this winter – this morning was the first day where the grass outside was frozen.

Have a good one and I will see you next week with an amazing recipe for lasagne!

H

Coffee and Walnut Cake

The coffee and walnut cake was the first coffee flavoured food that I liked. I always found that the taste was far too bitter for me despite loving the taste. Since then, it has (much as it pains me to say this) become my “signature dish”. I love the taste and the walnuts give it a far more exciting texture than a plain sponge cake. I have been making this cake for just under 10 years now and it is my go to cake for events. It has been used for birthdays, stone settings, afternoon teas and as a general all-purpose cake for when I want a sweet treat.

Being a take on the standard sponge cake, the coffee and walnut cake follows the standard ratio of 2oz (56g) butter, sugar and flour to each egg. As it has three layers instead of two, I use five times the empirical recipe. This does of course assume you are using self-raising flour! If, like me, you only have plain flour, use a teaspoon of baking powder for each 2oz of flour that you use. The size of the walnuts chunks is entirely up to you. Personally, I like the chunks to be relatively large so they add an extra texture but you can chop them up incredibly small (or add them with the first set of flour so they get broken up during the mixing.

This cake is perfect almost any event and isn’t as sweet as a standard Victoria sponge or chocolate cake so is incredibly popular with adults.

I hope you enjoy making and eating it as much as I do!

For the Cake:

280g (10oz) Sugar

280g (10oz) Unsalted Butter

5 eggs

280g (10oz) Plain Flour

5 tsp Baking Powder

2tbsp Instant Coffee

100g Walnuts roughly chopped

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Ingredients for the cake with premade coffee

For the Icing:

250g Unsalted Butter

375g Icing Sugar (Sieved)

2tbsp Instant Coffee

Preheat your oven to 180 oC (Gas Mark 4) and line three 8” baking tins with baking parchment, butter and flour

Mix the coffee with one tablespoon of boiling water

Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy

Add the coffee to the sugar and butter and mix until combined

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Stir together the flour and baking powder

Add the eggs one at a time adding tablespoon of the flour mix after each egg

Once all the eggs are added, mix in the remainder of the flour

Once that is all beaten together, add the walnuts and mix on a low speed to prevent the walnuts being broken up too much

Split the mixture evenly between the three tins and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean

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Three layers of batter ready to go!

To make the icing, add a tablespoon of boiling water to the coffee

Beat the butter until it is soft

Add about a quarter of the icing sugar along with the coffee to the butter and beat to combine

Add the rest of the icing sugar in a couple of batches and beat until it is soft and spreadable

If the icing is too stiff, add a small amount of milk to slacken it up

To assemble the cake, add the first layer of cake to the serving plate or cake board using a small amount of icing to keep it in place.

Add a layer of icing to the cake and add the next layer

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The first layer iced and ready to go. I piped the icing round the edge so give an attractive finish between the layers

Repeat this with the final layer and add a final layer of icing on the top

Decorate the cake using either chopped walnuts or walnut halves

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The finished cake

Let me know how the cake turns out for you in the comments! Photos are always appreciated so give me a tag on instagram (@thatcookingthing)!

Have a good week and see you next Monday for the first recipe in my Cooking from Basics series!

H