There isn’t anything that says “I love you Mum” more than a box of ludicrously tricky sweets.
Anyone can phone up Interflora, or ping over a Moonpig card. Sacrificing your Saturday afternoon to fiddle about with meringue is love indeed though.
I don’t mean to put you off making macaroons by banging on about how difficult it is. If you did it in a well-equipped kitchen, I don’t think it’d be tricky. Sadly I didn’t.
I really do encourage you to give these a go though. When you’re sticking together your little macaroon babies, and lovingly placing them in a tissue paper-filled box, it’ll make you so warm and fuzzy inside that it’ll be all worth it.
175g icing sugar
65g ground pistachio
65g ground almonds
3 egg whites
(For the filling)
150g softened butter
50g chopped pistachio
The first task is to make a sort of pistachio flour. My first error was to buy the pistachios still in their shells. They were half the price of the ready-shelled pistachios, but it did take me half an hour to work my way through the bag, shelling them like some demented monkey.
Once I’d liberated the pistachios from their cases, I was faced with the problem of grinding them into a sort of pistachio dust. I imagine this would have taken a couple of minutes if I had something useful like a grinder.
Instead, I sat at the kitchen table with a knife cutting them into really, really small pieces. I lost track of time doing this, but I do know that in the background, Escape to the Country, A Place in the Sun and Location, Location, Location all came and went before I was satisfied with my pistachio dust. Finally, combine the almonds with the icing sugar and the pistachio dust to create a sort of multi-flavoured dust. Worth every second!
The next task was to whip up the egg whites. This is a fairly basic thing to do…or so you would have thought…
My Mum gave me a bamix whisk for Christmas – allegedly the King of Whisks. I’d already had a pavlova travesty with it where I failed to whisk up a single egg white into a stiff peak, and racked through fifteen eggs to no avail.
I was determined to get it to work this time, but just ended up with a miserable slop again, so I resorted to the balloon whisk. This was even more of a difficulty as my right arm was already weary from the repeated motion of nut-chopping for an hour and a half.
Get the egg whites to stiff peaks, and then gently whisk in the caster sugar so that it’s glossy – almost shiny and thick.
Next, gradually add the pistachio/almond/icing sugar dust. Do this bit by bit, and make sure that you’ve put down your whisk and are folding it in gently with a spatula.
Put the mixture into an icing bag. If you don’t have an icing bag (I don’t, unsurprisingly) then put it in a freezer bag and cut off a corner to pipe it out into circles on a baking sheet (refer to my profiterole blog for a demonstration!)
Let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes until they have a sort of film on top of them, and you can touch the circles lightly without getting a meringue-y finger! Put the macaroons into an oven at 140°c for 15 minutes.
If they aren’t quite done by then, just turn off the oven and let them sit there while it cools down so that the warmth carries on dehydrating the mini-meringues.
Simply mix together the softened butter, icing sugar and remaining pistachios as a filling. Spread one on a meringue and sandwich two together like a tiny burger.
For extra brownie points, line a box with tissue paper and tie a ribbon round it. With so much commitment to crafting a fiddly macaroon, what mother wouldn’t be delighted?