About 12 months ago on the wave of all the macaron hype, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Actually, to call it a wave is an understatement. I’d liken it more to a macaron tsunami, with those petite biscuits flooding pinterest, blogs, magazines and a few of my favourite cooking programs. I was flicking through a cookbook, Zumbo, and counted no less than 23 different flavours ranging from the ubiquitous salted caramel to a salt and vinegar flavoured macaron. I’m fairly adventurous, but I’m still struggling to imagine that flavour mix incorporated into a sweet biscuit.
My youngest son who is my fussiest eater but also my most adventurous cook asked more than a few times if we could make the salted caramel macarons together. I like to let my children take a hands on role in the kitchen and I wasn’t sure that my nine year old would manage Zumbo’s fairly technical instructions. I found what seemed to be a reasonably straight forward recipe in one of my foodie magazines, so we ran with that. While I wouldn’t necessarily call them a fail, I will say that the labour involved was not really worth our results.
Fast forward a year, and rather than die a quiet death like fondue and cupcakes (are they still popular?) macarons seem to have become even more popular. Adriano Zumbo has released another cookbook focussed solely on his famous Zumbarons which sits alongside a half dozen more macaron cookbooks at my local bookshop. When I saw a macaron ready-mix in my local supermarket, I didn’t look twice. Call me a bake snob, but I haven’t cooked a cake from a box in years. But then I started to notice a few blogs posting pictures of their ready-mixed macarons with spectacular results. I was impressed. Back from the supermarket with my purse $8 lighter, Mr (now) 10 and I had another attempt at macarons. This time we decided that the results definitely outweighed our efforts and the $8 seemed pittance for 25 perfect little macarons. (We squeezed every single drop of mix out of the piping bags).
After a few baking sessions my conscience started nagging that I was cheating, even though I was honest with everyone who ate them and giving full credit to Mr Zumbo. I decided that with a bit more experience behind us, we might be able to have another go at ‘from scratch’ macarons – and this time I had the Thermomix to help out! A quick Google led me back to one of my favourite blogs. I don’t know how I’d missed this recipe! Mara who writes for Super Kitchen Machine has fantastic instructions and tips. I was ready to go.
One of the things my children love is when I make icing sugar and the sugary mist swirls around when the lid comes off. Mr 10 assures me he’s able to catch the mist in his mouth. …I’ll admit that I have tried, but my sugar-mist catchers mustn’t work as well as Mr 10’s do.
We then had to mill blanched almonds. This sound is one of the things my children do not like about the Thermomix, and Mr 10 made a point with his ear-plugs. Yeah buddy, ha ha. Point taken.
Next step, the filling. A perfect opportunity to make the Everyday Cookbook’s Hazelnut Chocolate Spread. I cannot believe that I have not made it before now. It’s not as sweet as Nutella, but that’s a good thing. My kids had a rare treat of it slathered over white bread.
A few pointers. Mara says that it is a crucial step to lift the trays of piped macarons and then drop them onto a hard surface four times. She’s not kidding. I was a bit too gentle and only lightly tapped the trays instead. Mara cautions that any air bubbles will cause cracks. She’s right. Trust the experts! Next time I won’t be so timid with my tapping. I also increased my oven temperature to 160c with no fan.
One other tip Mara offers is that the macarons are better after 24 hours. I’m afraid that one is going to be tricky. 😉
My final tip. Don’t drop the macarons after taking the money shot…