Monday, 25 August 2014

Pistachio, Chocolate and Orange Macarons

There are some flavour combinations that I regard as sacred. Cheese and chutney, for instance. Chocolate and orange. Or chocolate and chilli. Or chocolate and...OK, I admit it, I'm a chocoholic and believe there is very little that doesn't go with the brown stuff.

Rarely is it that I hit upon a three-way flavour combination that just cannot be argued with. Chocolate, orange and pistachio is one of these, evidenced by my orange and pistachio biscuits from just over a year ago, which came liberally drizzled with dark chocolate.

When I come across a holy trinity of flavours like chocolate, orange and pistachio, I want to use it again and again. So when I had a load of orange-flavoured chocolate ganache to use up from last week's baking, pistachio was the obvious solution. And I already had ground almonds and eggs at my disposal - so macarons were equally obvious.

This was the result:

As you may or may not know, macarons and I have a chequered past. My first macarons were hideous, a blot upon humanity's forays into French patisserie, and I retain the blog post only as a warning to myself and others.

A warning of what, I'm not sure. But it took me a while to get macarons right and I still have the occasional macaron hiccup every now and then. In fact, I tried to make another batch of lemon and cardamom before these ones and there were a fair few disasters.

Not only did I scald my thigh by tipping a whole pan of boiling water over it whilst making lemon curd, but the damn stuff then refused to set (this has never happened to me before) and the sorry debacle ended in me scraping ruined macarons into the bin (pausing to paw a few into my mouth along the way) and shouting about what a waste of time and effort it was.

But I'm happy to say the pistachio macarons came out fine. So here's the recipe, which will make about 12-16 macarons, depending on size:

You will need:

For the macarons:
green food colouring, or blue and yellow (preferably paste or gel colouring)
50g egg whites
60g ground almonds (plus a little extra)
33g caster sugar
90g icing sugar
greased and lined baking sheet

For the ganache:
100g chocolate
100ml cream
zest of one orange
1 tsp orange flavouring or orange liqueur such as Cointreau

To decorate:
50g dark chocolate
handful finely chopped pistachio nuts

1. Set the cream and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, adding the orange flavouring or liqueur and zest. The water must not touch the bottom of the bowl, or the chocolate will seize up.

2. Keep an eye on the chocolate and cream and stir every now and then. Take it off the heat when the chocolate and cream are combined and the mixture is thick and glossy. Set aside to cool.

3. Sift the ground almonds and icing sugar through a fine sieve. You may need a blender to blitz any ground almond that won't go through, or some extra ground almonds.

4. Beat the egg whites to very stiff peaks, adding the caster sugar bit by bit as you go along. The mixture should be stiff enough so you can hold the bowl upside down without any falling out.

5. Add the food colouring - if using gel you will need to use a lot less than when using liquid. Fold in the almond and icing sugar with a spatula. It may be controversial for me to say this - but you are looking to lose some of the air when doing this - you want a mixture that ribbons off a spatula. You need to retain some though, so don't beat all hell out of it.

6. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and pipe equal sized circles onto a greased and lined baking sheet. I find that piping from one point and letting it spread a little works better than circling with the piping bag. But bear in mind the mixture will spread so space your blobs well apart. I'd say at least 2-3cm. Some of my macarons ran into each other during this bake.

7. Leave the macarons to set for at least 30 minutes until they are dry to the touch. Preheat the oven to 180C whilst waiting and then bake for 8-10 minutes until risen. Your macarons shouldn't brown. Yes, shut up, I know some of mine have, but I have a difficult oven.

8. Leave the macaron shells to cool until removing careful with a spatula or similar. Match shells up with similar sized and shaped shells.

9. Decorate some of the half shells by drizzling over chocolate and sprinkling with chopped pistachios, or dipping in chocolate and then into the pistachios. Then spoon the cooled, but not set, ganache onto half of the half shells and use it to stick the other halves on top.

Macarons for all the family.

With macarons I find the best way to avoid hiccups is to be patient, be precise with your ingredients and don't try to take shortcuts like trying to fit too many macarons onto a baking sheet and having them run into each other.

And try to avoid chucking boiling water over yourself. It hurts.



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