Orange blossom macarons

Orange blossom macaronsBe warned, these macarons are addictive and far too easy to make! I have looked at recipes for neat, piped, filled macarons before and decided that they were too much trouble, even though they look delicious. So, I was curious about this more straightforward recipe by Thomasina Miers, which I clipped from The Guardian magazine last year and finally got round to making last weekend. Why did I wait so long? The macarons were so good that I immediately made another batch. They are a great way of using up egg whites, which you will have in abundance if you make ice cream to eat with them (see below).

The macarons are crunchy on the outside and soft inside, perfumed with orange rind and orange blossom water. I served them first with orange salad and sherry ice cream (based on this excellent brandy ice cream, using a medium sweet sherry instead of the marsala). They are equally delicious with a cup of coffee, with poached rhubarb, as a sweet canapé at a drinks party…you get the picture.

a little oil to grease the trays
100g egg whites (from 2 large or 3 small eggs)
250g unrefined icing sugar
200g ground almonds
1½ tbsp orange blossom water
zest of ½ orange
salt

Mixture for Orange blossom macaronsHeat the oven to 200ºC/Gas 6. I cooked one batch in the fan oven at 180ºC, but I think you get a bit more crunch and colour if you bake them at 200ºC without the fan (if your oven gives you the option). Line two or three large baking trays with greaseproof paper and oil them lightly, or use silicone liners if you have them. Measure half of the egg whites into a large bowl and mix in the icing sugar, almonds, orange blossom water, orange zest and a pinch of salt, until you have a thick paste. I found a silicone spatula the best implement for this. At first, it looks as if there isn’t enough egg white, but persevere and it will come right.

Put the remainder of the egg whites into a clean bowl and whisk to stiff peaks, then fold them a little at a time into the paste using a spatula or metal spoon, trying not to knock out all the air you’ve just beaten into them.

Orange Blossom Macarons ready for the ovenUsing two teaspoons – one to scoop up the mixture and the other to push it onto the tray – put heaped teaspoons of the mixture onto the prepared trays, spacing them well apart, as they spread. I find I could only get 8 macarons onto one of my baking trays – any more and they joined together (not fatal, but you don’t get such a regular shape).

Bake for 15-17 minutes, swapping the trays around after 10 minutes so that they brown evenly. They should be golden and feel solid to the touch. Take out of the oven, gently pull them off the paper and leave them to cool, either on the tray or on a rack (if, like me, you need to re-use one of the trays). Miers says that the recipe makes 20, but I must have smaller teaspoons as I found I got 24 macarons.

Brutti Ma Buoni

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Ugly but good almond biscuits from Lucy Boyd. Excellent with raspberries or other fruit – or just with coffee. I usually make half quantity, which gives 13-15 biscuits.

4 medium egg whites
250g caster sugar (vanilla sugar or add ½ tsp vanilla extract)
300g skinned almonds, finely chopped in blender (but not to powder)

Preheat the oven to 170ºC/150ºC fan/Gas 3. Whip the egg whites with a pinch of sugar until very stiff. Mix the almonds with the remaining sugar (and vanilla extract, if using) and fold in the egg whites.

Grease a baking sheet or line with baking parchment. Using a tablespoon, place little dollops about 3-4 cm apart (they spread a little when cooking), onto the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to firm upon the tray and dry out a little, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. They can keep for a while in a tin, but are so good they will soon be devoured.