Of all my baking achievements up to this point, mastering macaroons is definitely one of the ones that I am most proud of. This was a difficult technique to master, not in the least because most recipes for macaroons are made using the Italian meringue technique, which involves whipping boiling sugar syrup into beaten egg whites. This technique terrifies me – I have visions of it spraying everywhere, covering me and the kitchen in red-hot sugar, a total kitchen horror movie. I spent a long time searching for a recipe which didn’t involve this technique but couldn’t find one. Then Max’s aunt in Phoenix, Arizona came up with the goods, sending over a lovely book of macaroons made without Italian meringue. I was so excited that day – I think she must have an amazing ability to read minds across the Atlantic!
With this book in my possession, the (macaroon) world was now my oyster, and I became intrigued by the beautiful delicate sweets. It was through the recipe for tiramisu macaroons that I discovered my addiction to sweet sherry mixed into marscapone cheese, and reminded myself of the wonderful combination of chocolate and hazelnut (macaroons and nutella – so good!) At my recent masters graduation I sampled all the flavours provided at the drinks reception (to the great amusement of my family) and I love the fact that my hometown now has a macaroon stand in the shopping centre. However, there is nothing like making them yourself, and the confidence that making something more complex can give you.
This recipe is one of my favourite combinations, that of chocolate and chestnut. This delicious, rich combination provides a wonderful decadent dessert which contrasts with the crisp shell of the macaroon. The Mont Black itself is a dessert of sweetened chestnut puree topped with whipped cream, and was apparently often served at the house of Lucrezia Borgia! (I suppose it is to die for… baboom!) Combined with the chocolate macaroon shell this makes a bite-size treat made in heaven!
Excitingly, the Classic French Challenge of the Month, which is being hosted by A Kick at the Pantry Door is focusing on macaroons – perfect timing! I couldn’t resist therefore submitting these as an entry.
Mont Blanc Macaroons
- 3oz/78g ground almonds
- 5oz/125g (1 cup) icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 2 large egg whites
- 2oz/56g caster sugar
- 8floz/240ml double cream
- 1/4 cup sweetened chestnut puree
- 2 tbsp dark chocolate, grated.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a pencil to draw 24 circles approximately 1-1.5 inches in diameter. Turn the paper over so that the lines show through, but you aren’t eating graphite!
Process the ground almonds, icing sugar and cocoa in a food processor for 15 seconds, before sifting into a bowl. Whisk the egg whites to the soft peak stage before gradually beating in the icing sugar until the mixture forms stiff peaks, and turns very glossy. Fold the almond mixture in a third at a time and continue to fold the mixture until it forms a thick shiny consistency, which forms a ribbon when the spatula is lifted out of the bowl.
Pour the batter into a piping bag fitted with a 0.5in round nozzle and pipe onto the prepared baking sheets.Holding each end of the tray, lift it up and sharply tap it onto the work surface – this will remove any air bubbles that may be present in the mixture. Leave them to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Whilst they are resting, preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/ .
At the end of the 30 minutes, bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove and cool for 10 minutes before carefully peeling off the baking parchment and allowing to cool completely.
Make the filling by whipping the double cream to the soft peak stage before folding in the chestnut puree. Pipe the puree onto half the macaroons and top with the chocolate shavings before sandwiching with the remaining macaroon shells. To finish, sift over a light shower of icing sugar.