Paris is feeling extra magical at this time of year. Macaron cones are majestically towering more than ever in chic boutique shopfronts.
As I joined the gathering crowd in front of Fauchon’s window in Place de la Madeleine, it made me giggle just thinking that it’s not for nothing that window-shopping is literally translated as window-licking (faire du lèche-vitrines) in French.
It was indeed window-shopping, after seeing the macaron prices! Instead inspired, I returned to ze kitchen and set about making a batch of shiny, festive macarons at home. As I’m not a professional baker and don’t have a shop or online business, I haven’t needed a macaron cone or tower – we just eat them greedily straight from the pastry boxes! The towers that the professionals have access to are amazing, but this macaron and cupcake stand is pretty cool, as is this clear, acrylic 4-tier cake stand version which I’m buying for Christmas, as you can compact the nesting design.
I may not have a business but I do have a straight-forward macaron recipe that works. It’s all in the book. If you’re new here, let me tell you it’s filled with tips and step-by-step instructions how to make macarons using the French meringue method (there’s no need for a sugar thermometer this way.) It’s a lot easier than you think to make them; there are just a few, simple ‘rules’ to follow but it’s so worth it (so is the book – a fraction of a macaron workshop!) Check out some tip examples on the sidebar ——->
There’s no need for a silicone macaron mat (see my macaron mat review) or a mould (the moulds are for chocolate makers who make macaron-shaped chocolates or marzipan); you really need a good spatula and a piping bag with a plain 8-10mm tip. See my recommended baking items. Oh, and the second edition is now out – including a troubleshooting section and a glossary of terms for our American readers.
If you’ve been timid to make them in 2012, then 2013 is your year of making macarons like the French!
Rubbing on the bronze food colouring luster dust on these vanilla and rum macarons give them that extra special festive look. It’s perhaps messy using your finger but you don’t lose the precious dust as you would using a brush. Speaking of a goldfinger, has anyone seen the new James Bond film yet? I digress but, if you’re still reading me at this point, you’ll know that this is one of my specialities!
I’m all over the place just now, like most women who need to juggle life, family, presents and – dare I say the words? – greetings cards! Is it just me but do you get irritated by people who send a bald, ‘Love from xxx” and don’t write anything else inside? Rien du tout. You mean, you went to all that trouble to send something but you didn’t give an update? Frankly, with the environment and all that, what would you say? Tell them off, plead in your card that you (once again) would appreciate an update, or would you just not bother?
What are your favourite macaron flavours for the festive season? Our favourites are vanilla, pistachio, orange blossom and all chocolate varieties. Add some chopped fresh mint and mint extract to your chocolate ganache for After-Eight macarons. Spice up your chocolate macarons (also in the shells) with nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves plus add a dash of Grand Marnier or your favourite liqueur. To make rum and vanilla macarons, just replace 40ml of the milk in the vanilla macaron filling recipe with good dark rum. These cranberry egg nog macarons are also based on the vanilla recipe: just add freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon and 100g of drunken cranberries (first soaked in rum) to the filling.
And there are not just sweet macarons; for those who are a bit more daring, try savoury macarons: Thai Green Curry, beetroot and horseradish, Bloody Mary, sweet garden herb or – my favourite garnish for soups – my Tikka Mac’sala! This weekend, I’m excited about entertaining friends and so it will be curried cauliflower with fried scallops to start with the curry macarons. It guarantees a giggle at the table!
Another favourite soup is Pumpkin, Leek and Ginger Soup which goes well with the curry macarons. When my children were between 5-7 years, their best bedtime story book of all time was Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper, as they were so concerned about Duck getting lost. Thank you, Granny, for many memorable moments and thank you, Helen – your wonderful story captivated my girls and any time I make this recipe, your name is always mentioned as they insist in adding some salt and a Pipkin of Pepper to the pot. Garnish the soup with crispy sage leaves and a couple of red peppercorns.
I think it’s time to make a pot of tea and attack that Christmas tree. Somehow the decorations are needing replacements around here. I bought baubles filled with chocolate nougat from our local chocolate factory. They open for a month before Christmas to the general public and so we go bananas stocking up like the pros!
I’m on this mission to finish all the chocolate nougat by this weekend so my tree is filled with macarons for our guests. Although I wouldn’t eat them. They’re just for show, as they’ve not been put in the fridge. It reminds me of my Uncle Bob, who ate the chocolate from my Granny’s Christmas tree and just about passed out when Granny told them they were 15 years old!