macaroon technique / a work in progress

For dessert on Sunday, I had meringues on my mind. This may well have been because the latest issue of the Delicious magazine had a giant pavlova on the front, or just because it's simple to make, Summery and delicious. At the last minute, I changed my mind from baking meringues to macaroons. I've never tried to bake macaroons before, but they seem to be quite the trendy thing to eat at the moments, so it seemed like high time I got on with it and baked some of these little delights. 

The method was pretty simple - my main challenge was our little old oven. The temperature gauge cannot be relied on, and as macaroons exude a delicate nature, I thought that temperature was a very important factor. So I popped my oven thermometer in to give me an accurate reading, and it turns out that 250C in our oven is actually only 160C. I'm glad I checked, otherwise I would probably have ended up deflating my macaroons by opening the oven door too early. 
I chose to make a mixture of chocolate and strawberry pink macaroons. Sadly, the pink ones turned out more flesh coloured than I was anticipating, so I've learnt a little lesson there.

The chocolate macaroons were filled with nutella - piping nutella through a tiny star nozzle brought me great satisfaction. There's great pleasure in simple things. I filled the pink macaroons with a strawberry filling consisting of blended fresh strawberries and whipped cream, mixed together.
ingredients {yields 20)
175g icing (confectioners) sugar
125g ground almonds
3 large free range egg whites
75g caster sugar
cocoa (optional)

for the filling
120g nutella / chocolate spread
100ml double cream
handful of strawberries

1) Preheat oven to 160C / gas mark 3
2) Whizz together the icing sugar and ground almonds until well combined and fine in texture.
3) If making chocolate macaroons, replace 2 tbsp icing sugar with cocoa.
4) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form.
5) Gradually whisk in the caster sugar.
6) Stir in food colouring to the egg mixture - divide mixture into separate bowls if using multiple colours.
7) Fold in half the icing sugar and almond mix using a metal spoon (to keep air in), then fold in second half.
8) Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm round nozzle and pipe 3cm rounds, well spaced out.
{If you are unsure as to what a 3cm macaroon looks like, whip out your ruler!}

9) Leave to sit for 10 - 15mins until a skin has formed on each macaroon
10) Bake for 15 minutes then remove from oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack
11) Pair up macaroons and sandwich together with a filling of your choice!

Lessons I've learned about macaroon making:

1) Remember to tap the tray to get the air bubbles out to avoid cracking
2) Remember to leave macaroons for 15 mins pre-baking to form a skin on top
3) Add more food colouring than you think you need to - the colour changes during baking