Macadamia Orange Macarons with Caramel Filling

I had egg whites in the fridge and couldn’t think of anything to make that wasn’t meringue-based.  Ok, not strictly true. I’ve been obsessed with macarons for a while. Yes, I am using the poncy French spelling. That’s because I am particularly obsessed with the French, perfumed, pastel morsels served up by the likes of Pierre Herme and Laduree. Though the first ones I ever made were pistachio, to a Nigella recipe, to ensure that I had something suitable for a coeliac friend who was coming to afternoon tea. That’s the basic recipe that I used to start off this version.

The Macarons:

Ingredients:

  • 75g macadamias
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 15g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp orange essence

Oven – 180, Gas Mark 4

  1. Grind the macadamias and icing sugar in a food processor.  Probably more finely that I did, as it led to a barely but visibly bumpy surface to the cooked macarons.
  2. Add the orange essence to the eggs, then whisk the two egg whites til stiff but not dry. Add the caster sugar. Whisk til stiff.
  3. Fold the whites into the macadamia sugar, gently.
  4. Pipe on to a parchment baking sheet.
  5. Allow to sit so they form a skin.
  6. Cook for 10-12 minutes, then cool on the sheets.

I put two trays in the (non-fan, bane of my life) oven and the bottom ones cracked slightly, so will know not to do that again.

Caramel Filling by Girl Cook in Paris:

For the filling, I knew I wanted to do some sort of caramel. I spent some time drooling over researching macarons (like Edward’s amazing ones, with lots of tips too) and went with Diane’s step-by-step, including mise-en-place tutorial. I still feel a little limited because I don’t have a stand mixer, and waited for the boyfriend to come home to help. Supervise. Take me to the A&E with burns.

In fact it’s simple, and safe as long as you follow the instructions.

I did wonder if it was going to work, beating the cooled caramel in with cream cheese and butter.

It did. I piped this glorious splodgy cream onto the paired up macarons and found that I had half a piping bag left over.  So I filled some experimental chocolate tartlet shells (experiment is a nice way of saying I screwed them up) with the remaining mixture, and popped a sliver of chopped Montezuma milk chocolate button on top.

I dropped some of these off yesterday to various people in town – because if we eat all of them, frankly we’ll turn into Teletubbies. Would you like some?

Hummingbird Bakery: Coconut Meringue Cake

When I realised I’d need a hammer to make the Hummingbird Coconut Meringue Cake, I instinctively developed reservations about it.  ‘Fresh coconut tastes better’, declared the author. I’m sure it does, in much the same way that basking under the sun on a private beach on Necker warms your bones more gratifyingly than a sunbed in the local tanning salon.

Note to self: sometimes you can ignore the author.

Note 2 to self: no, no you can’t. Other people can. Get the hammer.

Welcome to a cake tragedy.  It started poorly – when you can’t get butter and sugar to cream, it doesn’t bode well for a light fluffy cake. I wondered if the butter had been too cold, so I consulted the cakey gurus. Yup, I phoned my mother and father. Baker of birthday cakes for many years, and former commercial bakery owner/manager respectively. Maybe it could have been softer was the consensus, but sure keep beating it and see what happens.  You can’t make it any worse.

No better either, it seems. The ratio of sugar:butter at 370g:70g just didn’t seem right to me.  It had the consistency of grainy melted marzipan. I chucked it and started over.  It didn’t improve much. I persevered. Someone wrote, tested, proofread this book, right? It must be correct. Note 3 to self – errata do occur.

I looked up the errata. They were no help, but you now have the Brooklyn Blackout Cake recipe should you be brave enough to try it.

I baulked slightly at the seven eggs required for the meringue frosting but started separating. You know the sage advice about separating the eggs into a cup and then putting the whites in a bowl? Of course I wasn’t doing that. On the seventh egg I sliced neatly through the yolk and the yellow plummeted into the Sea of Albumen. I know I should have chucked it all out but I removed as much as I could instead and made up the meringue frosting. With a lot of extra sugar. It was still runny as all hell, so I mixed in some of grated coconut for texture and to bind it. A bit like mixing mud and straw as building materials. Just really sweet mud. On the plus side, if I ever want to recreate Tunnocks Snowballs at home, I’ve got the filling cracked.

Oh, why did I need the hammer? To pierce the eyes of the coconut and drain the milk, then to smash open the shell later. My neighbours looove me now.

Stars: *****

It was better the next day. It could really do with being two tiers rather than three, it’s simply too much cake and the sugar rush from the amount of frosting required to cement it together could put you into a coma. The texture was so dense it reminded me of breeze blocks.  I’m a fan of the book but won’t be making this again.