Well I messed up good and proper on this one, in all senses of the word! First off, I thought I’d be organised and get CT to pick my next Random Recipe Challenge well in advance, so I could plan the best time to do it. THEN Dom went and changed the rules. We were meant to choose book number 18 (not that I have 18 chocolate books to choose from I might add, not yet anyway). Note to self – wait until a challenge is actually issued before going ahead with it. Sorry Dom, I’m hoping that you won’t disqualify me.
Second off, I followed the same routine as last time and CT picked chocolate macaroons from Unwrapped. Aaaaah, macaroons! Fiddly, faffy food is not my forte (alliteration might be). This was going to be a real challenge for me and I knew I had to put some serious time aside for it. My mother was having her somewhat delayed Christmas dinner which is always a wondrous affair of Goose (mock goose for me) and the best Christmas pudding ever. So, I thought perhaps these would be just the thing to show off and impress everyone after dinner – hummmm.
Thirdly, I tried really hard to follow the recipe and instructions for this, but still came out with macaroons that were unevenly sized and looked nothing like the elegant macaroons I keep seeing on everyone else’s blogs. Fourthly, this was the first time I’d tried using the piping bag that CT gave me for Christmas. Well, I knew there was a reason I had been putting this off and this was duly confirmed; I got more of the mixture over myself, the outside of the bag and the worktop than I did inside the actual bag. I found it fiddly, faffy and frustrating AND I broke the bag.
Fifthly, the ganache split, grrrr – why didn’t I follow Marc Demarquette’s recipe which had worked so well in the lemon balm ganache I made last year?
This is how I went about it:
- Covered two baking sheets with baking paper.
- Hunted around for my new and yet unused piping bag – had no idea where I’d put it. Recipe stated a 2 cm nozzle, but I didn’t have one of those so made do with the biggest one I had.
- Whizzed 8oz icing sugar in the coffee grinder to get the lumps out then sifted this into a bowl with 4 1/2 oz ground almonds and 1 oz cocoa.
- Decided I couldn’t be bothered to get my electric beaters out, so spent an inordinate amount of time whisking 4 duck egg whites until nearly stiff.
- Sifted in a further 1 oz of de-lumped icing sugar and whisked again until stiff and glossy.
- Tried to gently fold in the rest of the icing sugar mixture, but didn’t really understand how this could be done gently.
- Left to rest for 10 mins – no idea why, but I was trying to follow the recipe.
- Stirred in 1/4 tsp vanilla extract – which was meant to deflate the mixture a little and stop the tops from cracking. Mine was already deflated and the tops cracked anyway!
- Things started to get really messy. The recipe instructed me to pour the mixture into the piping bag. What? I had no idea how you were meant to pour a mixture that wasn’t pourable anyway into a bag that doesn’t stand up or stay open. I spooned the mixture into the bag as best I could (which wasn’t very successful).
- Piped the mixture onto the baking sheets in a swirling motion to form rounds (that were meant to be evenly sized – ha). I made 33 rounds, but am sure I could have made quite a few more if I hadn’t spread so much of the mixture around the kitchen (who said piping was easy?)
- Used a tea strainer to dust cocoa over the tops.
- Baked first batch on top shelf at 220C for 1 minute then turned oven down to 180C and baked for further 9 mins.
- Removed macaroons immediately onto a rack to cool.
- Repeated the process with the 2nd baking sheet.
- Brought 90ml double cream to the boil.
- Poured over 100g chopped 85% dark chocolate (which was meant to melt it but never does in my experience).
- Placed the bowl over a pan of hot water to try and melt the chocolate.
- Added 1/2 tsp honey (deviation from the recipe) and 1 oz unsalted butter.
- Stirred together – at which point the mixture split (it always does when I try and do it this way).
- Panicking, I looked on the internet to find out what to do. Use electric beaters apparently and beat like mad. So I got out the beaters I hadn’t wanted to use and beat like mad. It made no difference. So, I did what I normally do when this happens and beat in some icing sugar. I was later advised by the expert himself, Marc Demarquette, to add more hot cream. At this point I remembered that Kath had rescued hers by the same method, oh well, maybe next time!
- Tried to match up my weirdly shaped and sized macaroon shells into pairs.
- Spread the ganache thickly over one half with a palate knife and placed the other half on top.
- Packed into an air tight tin and hoped they would not become soggy by the morrow.
Fiddly and faffy these may have been to make, but oh my, they were good. They may not have looked like those elegant French macarons, but they were crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle. Because I’d used such a dark chocolate, the ganache wasn’t at all sweet despite the icing sugar. Both the texture and sweetness of the ganache were a good contrast to the sweet and really delicious macaroons. And they all held together perfectly.
CT went off on a trip of free association and came up with the following: luxurious – decedent – our very own le manoir – hot stone massage & Jacuzzi (he may have been suffering from a theobromine overdose at this point) – rich – unctuous – not too sweet – combines well with the – don’t want to rush – want to chew – chocolate hit (see what I mean?).
Despite everyone leaving the dinner table groaning and holding their bellies, most managed to enjoy a macaroon with coffee and those that didn’t got to take one home with them. Luckily, CT was very well behaved and kept his opinions to himself!