We’ve suspected that my dad has a wheat allergy for a while now, and recently persuaded him to try giving it up to see if it improves his health. I don’t blame him for his reluctance – when you start to think about it, there’s flour in almost all baked goods. I, for one, would find it incredibly hard to live without cake.
When I went to Paris last month, I swore one day I’d learn to make macarons that tasted something like the heavenly ones I sampled at Ladurée. I think what distinguishes them from lesser quality brands is that you can barely taste the almond, and this is exactly how it should be. The macaron is a delicious bite-size, meringue-y, gooey-in-the-middle, adorably pretty and stylish vehicle for whatever flavour you choose – raspberry, lemon, pistachio, caramel… I had a go at Nigella’s recipe for chocolate macarons (she is, after all, queen of all things chocolate), but surprisingly they didn’t quite cut it. A flour-free recipe, this would have been the perfect treat for my dad’s new diet, but he also happens to be allergic to nuts. (As in, rush-him-to-a-hospital, stick-a-needle-in-his-leg type of allergic.) This inspired me to a little experimentation in the kitchen, and I tried adapting Nigella’s recipe, using rice flour instead of ground almonds. It worked beautifully. I’m on a macaron making high, and next I’m going to try branching out to other flavours. Watch out, everyone, you’re probably going to get a box of home-made macarons for Christmas. Try it, you’re guaranteed to get addicted, too.
260g icing sugar
115g rice flour
35g cocoa powder
4 large egg whites
25g caster sugar
(for the filling)
3 tablespoons double cream
125g plain chocolate, chopped
1 and a half tablespoons of butter
Preheat the oven to 180 C/gas mark 4 and line two baking trays with baking parchment. Sift together the icing sugar, flour and cocoa powder and mix thoroughly. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until they form really stiff peaks. Sift in the caster sugar and beat some more, until you can hold the bowl upside-down and the mixture doesn’t fall out. It is very important that you don’t wait at this stage – once you’ve beaten the egg whites and sugar, quickly fold gently into the dry ingredients. Don’t over mix this, but keep as light and fluffy as possible. Put about two teaspoons-worth of the mixture into evenly spaced neat blobs on the baking parchment, and once you’ve done this, leave them to sit and form a skin for about 15 minutes. Then bake them for around 12 minutes. They should be dry on top, but still gooey inside. Don’t worry if some of the tops are a little cracked. I personally don’t think it’s a massive deal, as long as they taste good. Plus, eating the really messed up ones because they ‘went wrong’ is kind of fun.
While the macarons are baking, melt the butter, cream and chocolate together and allow to cool. When everything has cooled, sandwich two macaron halves with the chocolate mixture. Sprinkle with cocoa powder, et voila!
*UPDATE: For perfect sized pretty rounds, the key really is using a silicone macaron tray. I used one recently and not only does it yield perfect rounds, but they also didn’t crack on top. Hurrah! Here’s the one that is on my wish list, but just google them and you’ll find lots to choose from. Also, for a really thorough, scientific analysis of what makes a good macaron plus various different flavoured recipes, check out this amazing blog post from Not So Humble Pie. And let’s just get this straight, people: