Tom Kitchin recipes: Macarons

Tom Kitchin. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Tom Kitchin. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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Edinburgh-based chef Tom Kitchin talks us through two recipes for macarons - a perfect marriage of French cooking with fresh seasonal Scottish ingredients

IF YOU’VE ever been to France – Paris in particular – you’ll no doubt have been tempted into one of the many pâtisseries by the colourful collection of macarons that so often decorate the windows. Just seeing the rows and rows of vibrant colours and dainty, delicate shells is a joy. Macarons tend to be thought of as French in origin, but in fact they were first made in Italy and were brought to France by the wife of Henry II, Catherine de’ Medici, when she moved there. It is believed that she brought along her cooks and bakers and introduced a variety of pastries to the French. Whatever their origins, they have become a French favourite and it’s the French who have really perfected these melt-in-the-mouth delicacies.

Macarons are a simple but delicious combination of ground almonds, egg whites and sugar. Good macarons are crisp and crumbly on the outside and soft and slightly chewy on the inside. The two textures, combined with a rich jam or ganache centre, make for a wonderful sweet treat.

Macarons come in many sizes, flavours and colours. Traditionally they tend to be around 2.5cm in diameter, and sandwich a flavoured filling of jam, buttercream or ganache. At The Kitchin we often serve macarons as petits fours for our guests to enjoy at the end of their meal with tea or coffee. But recently, we’ve created a new dessert which is a much larger macaron. We make and flavour the shell with fresh Scottish blueberries and fill it with delicious, fresh seasonal mixed berries like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. The pastel purple macaron and the deep reds and purples of the berries just showcase a perfect marriage of French cooking with fresh seasonal Scottish ingredients.

People often assume that macarons are difficult to make. It’s true they’re not easy to perfect, but if you patiently follow a recipe and take on board some handy tips, you’ll get the hang of them. Part of the appeal of macarons is their perfect, delicate presentation, so take your time and follow a recipe carefully so you end up with macarons that look and taste good. If you’re starting out, you might want to buy a macaron mould, or draw out your circles on the greaseproof paper to get them just right.

My advice would be to use the freshest ingredients possible – fresh eggs and freshly ground almonds. Egg whites should also be at room temperature before you start to prepare your mix. If you’re making coloured macarons, I’d recommend you use colouring gel or powder and not liquid, as liquid food colouring can sometimes change the texture of the macarons.

Don’t be tempted to skip a step – this isn’t the kind of recipe you can adapt and weighing and measuring everything out before you start will really help. Always make sure you sieve the almonds and icing sugar so you get as smooth a mix as possible.

When it comes to macarons, the real secret is to make sure you let them rest overnight as the flavour and texture will improve. The filling will slowly melt into the shell giving that wonderful texture and flavour that macarons are famed for. Although if you can wait a whole day before tasting them, then you’re more patient than we are in our house.

Blueberry Macarons

Serves eight

95g ground almonds

170g icing sugar

80g egg whites

50g caster sugar

2-3 drops purple food colouring gel

Method

For best results, use a food processor to blend the almonds and icing sugar together then set aside. If you do not have a food processor you can use an electric whisk to combine the almonds and icing sugar. Whisk the egg whites in the processor or with an electric whisk and add the caster sugar, whisking until the eggs are white and glossy, avoiding over-whisking. At this stage add a little food colouring to give a subtle colour to the macarons; gel or powder colour tends to work best.

Mix the egg whites with the icing sugar and almond mixture using a spatula to combine the two, being careful not to overwork. The ideal texture will drop from your spatula and not hold its shape when it rejoins the mixture – this is called the “macronage”. If your mix is still thick then mix once or twice more.

Pre-heat the oven to 120C/Gas Mark ½. Fill a piping bag with a 1cm nozzle with the macaron mix. Prepare a large sheet of greaseproof paper and cut to the size of a large flat baking tray. On the greaseproof paper prepare a template for each macaron with a ring of your desired size, I have used 7mm, run a pen around the outer edge. Repeat this, leaving 1cm gaps between each template. Place the paper on your baking tray and pipe the macaron mix into the centre of each template until the edges of the mix touch the rim of the template circle. Repeat this until the tray is full. Using the heel of your hand, hit the underside of the tray 4-5 times until the excess air has dispersed and each macaron fills out slightly.

Leave to dry out for 35-40 minutes, this helps the cooking process. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the macarons lift off the paper without leaving a trace. Garnish with blueberries and raspberries and serve.

Raspberry Macarons

Serves eight

95g ground almonds

170g icing sugar

80g egg whites

50g caster sugar

2-3 drops red food colouring gel

3 tbsp raspberry jam

Method

In a mixer, mix the ground almonds and icing sugar. Separate a quarter of this mixture into another bowl. Whisk the egg whites until they start to form peaks and then gradually add the sugar to make a firm meringue.

Take a large spoon of the meringue mixture and fold into the quarter of the mixture which has been set aside. Add the 2-3 drops of the food colouring to the mix at this stage – when it comes to food colouring a little goes a long way. Then add the remaining meringue mixture to the rest of the dry ingredients. Lastly, add the coloured mixture together with the meringue.

Now place the mixture into a piping bag with a round nozzle. Prepare a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Pipe the macaron mix on to the baking tray in approximately £2 coin sizes, or whatever size you wish. Rest in an airy place for about 30 minutes. Bake in the oven at 120C/Gas Mark ½ for 25 minutes. Once cooked, spread the raspberry jam on half of your macarons and place another half on top of each so the jam is sandwiched between.

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