I often find myself late to the party, wearing last years style and presenting a gift that was sooo cool last year. I have an eccentric father and a mother who has never cared what other people think, so genetically speaking I never stood a chance at being cool. They say macarons are going to be as cool last years cupcakes but now that I’ve started making them it seems I was the last one to jump on the M train. I never thought too much of macarons, never had the dying urge to make them nor an obsession to seek out the best. That was until a petite girl with spiky red hair, wearing hipster ankle boots arrived to a party I was at with some pink ones. They were the most beautiful macarons I’d ever seen. She said she wished they were shinier. I said I wished she had bought more of them. And then a wave of jealousy overtook me. The kind of jealousy I usually keep pocketed for when I meet people who can run Boston qualifying marathons without passing out. I started dreaming macarons. I read and read and read and watched and then I went into the kitchen and with all my very specific instructions in toe and produced failure after failure. Six failures in all. They were too lopsided, too flat, too hard, too not even worth putting in the oven because they had decided to spread out and join together in formation of one giant puddle of a macaroon. It was the kind of depression only a macaroon could cause.
And in my head all I could hear was that trendy little girl telling me I’m not a pastry chef, I just love to make macarons and it haunted me in that Hollywood fashion of images and reverberating voices in my head. I was jealous because some nobody with no formal training could make better macarons and I couldn’t. It was more frustrating to me than the long line at the security checkpoint on Christmas week and some TSA num-nuts telling me to spread my legs when I’m already running late for a plane because Continental Airlines has the most ineffectual baggage-check system at Newark airport and all this having argued with the the cab driver for trying to overcharge me and knowing that I won’t have time to grab a cup of tea before I board and it’s not even 6 am! Okay, so maybe not that frustrating but close.
Well you can probably guess the moral of this story….if at first you don’t succeed try, try again. And if it still doesn’t work keep trying. That is until you have no hair on your head left and a bowl of eggs yolks so large that you start to worry that even though you love custard more than the sticky toffee pudding it’s swimming it, you’re not sure you could ever eat quite this much. Then it’s probably time to pack it in.
And even if I am late to the macaron party. I really don’t care because lemon curd and clotted cream will never be the dorks in the corner. Oh no. Besides which, I had to put a little English touch on these French delicacies. Can’t let them take all the glory.
Lemon curd & clotted cream macarons
Adapted from My Tartlette and Not so Humble Pie. It is important to “age” your egg whites- leave your separated egg whites at room temperature, lightly covered with cling film for 3 days
90g three-day old egg whites (about 3 but accuracy is important)
28g granulated sugar
1/2 tsp meringue powder (not powdered egg whites, this is different), optional but really helpful
200g powdered sugar (icing sugar)
110g ground almonds
170g jar Clotted cream
• Line 2 large baking trays with parchment paper so that it lies flat and neatly against the sides of the pan. You can try using Silpat but I found that the feet tended to spread as they baked rather than rising upwards. You can draw your rounds or mark where your meringues will be piped- but allow some space in between.
• Make sure that you have all of your ingredients measured out and a sparkly clean bowl for whisking your egg whites in. Set up a piping bag with a large plain piping nozzle (Ateco #807 or #809) in a tall pint glass folding the bag over the sides of the glass so that you have a nice opening that you can easily fill with the meringue- set this aside.
• In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or use a hand whisk*) whisk the egg whites on a slow-medium speed until you have a thick foam that resembles bath foam. Now gradually start adding the granulated sugar and meringue powder until you have a glossy meringue that looks like shaving cream and holds a medium peek. Do not over-beat or they will be to dry. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times to incorporate any sugar stuck to the sides of the mixing bowl.
• Sift together your powdered sugar, and ground almonds and then whisk together. Add 1/3 of the mixture to the egg whites and fold together well. Add the remaining powdered sugar and almonds and fold through to break up some of the air. If you run a spoon through the middle the meringue should come back together in roughly 10 counts. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple more folds. This step is very important so play close attention.
• Fill your piping bag with batter and pipe a little meringue under each of the corners of your parchment so that it sticks to the baking tray. Pipe small rounds, holding your piping bag in a straight downward position- circles should be about 1.5 inches. Let your meringues sit uncovered in a cool dry place for 30-60 minutes so that the shells harden. They will no longer look wet but like a skin has formed over them, which should not feel tacky when touched. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to between 280F- 300F (130C-150C/Gas 2-3) not fan assisted and set the rack in the middle of the oven. If your oven tends to brown the cookies, consider placing a rack in the top of the oven with a baking sheet on it to shield the cookies. I found the most success at 290F. My cookies baked in 18 minutes perfectly but I did have more even rising when I swizzled the baking tray around 180° half way through cooking. The should have flat, even tops and the signature feet they get from rising.
• Remove the cookies from the sheet soon after removing from the oven. A great method is to lift up the parchment paper they are sitting on and carefully nudge them off with one hand behind the parchment whilst the other hand gently peels away the meringue. If they are completely stuck chance are they aren’t finished cooking so give them another couple of minutes in the oven. If they’re very sticky you may need to allow them to cool a little but ideally they’ll have good bottoms and you can lift them right off the paper immediately. Place them upside down on a surface to cool (I find allowing them to cool upside down prevents the cookie’s interiors from settling during cooling and creating hollows).
• Once cool carefully spread half of the shells on the flat side with a thin layer of clotted cream and the other half of the shells with a thin layer of lemon curd. Gently press the opposing shells together and store in the fridge. Let sit at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.
* If you have a copper bowl, according to Not So Humble Pie, now is the time to use it.