Many moons ago (I had to use that, mainly because it is my middle daughter’s favourite story opening and has been since she was 4, and also because I’m too darn lazy to check back on the exact date…) I wrote a blog post about macarons.  I’d heard tell about these tricky little beggars, notoriously hard to produce; so when I followed a recipe found in an Ocado magazine, I was delighted (and slightly surprised) that they turned out really, really well!  

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Well, it turns out it really was a case of beginners luck because a couple of years and many kilos of ground almonds, eggs whites and sugar, and quite a few tears later, I think I’ve finally nailed it – again.  The main issue I experience is cracking – of the shells, and occasionally my will to live, but mostly the shells – which I think is because the mixture is too dry (i.e. not mixed well enough) but, after extensive research and so much contradictory advice, it may just be that the day had a ‘y’ in it.  
 
Anyway, the main things I learned this week are:
1. Never (ever, ever, ever,) use a different recipe when faced with any sort of time constraints unless you’ve tested it thoroughly, 
2. Never try and make macarons if you’re experiencing any sort of stress at all (they know, they just know and they can and will sense your weakness and crush you…) 
and 3.  On the plus-side, even if they’re a little cracked, flat or have no ‘feet’ (or in the case of one batch this week, look like they’ve been rapidly inflated and deflated and left looking like a post-partum belly) they taste great.  
Oh, and 4. If you eat more than 5, even in the name of research, you might need insulin on hand to avoid the need to lie down until the shaking passes.

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I did get the hang of a really useful bit of gadgetry this week – the silicone macaron sheet from Lakeland which appealed to my sense of laziness (no one really wants to be drawing 100 tiny circles evenly spaced, on sheet after sheet of baking parchment). The first time I used it, the macaron shells even defied point no. 3 above by refusing to be parted from the baking sheet (I nearly resorted to just licking them off) and had to be soaked in soapy water which quite obviously rendered them inedible! But, by increasing the baking time, I got some lovely, evenly sized shells which once cool, were easy to lift off the sheet.
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So anyway, a huge thanks to Ruth Clemens at The Pink Whisk blog for her recipe which seems with a few tweaks to be, if not foolproof (which is more to do with the baker than the recipe), then at least consistently good.  Here’s my recipe for pistachio macarons with white chocolate ganache (burning a large batch of ganache whilst trying to soften it quickly on the defrost setting in the oven was another of my not-so-favourite moments this week, ah well)
 
Flossie Pops Pistachio and White Chocolate Macarons
 
Makes around 56 shells, 28 macarons
 
(Only to be undertaken in a positive, zen-type frame of mind, if you’re stressed, please see my post on Rocky Road!!)
 
For the shells:
3 large eggs whites (approximately 110g)
75g caster sugar
175g icing sugar
55g pistachios
70g ground almonds
Mint green food colouring (optional)
 
For the filling: 
300g good quality white chocolate
100ml double cream
 
Two baking trays either with a Lakeland silicon macaron sheet or sheets of baking paper with 1 1/4″ circles drawn at least 1/2″ apart.  Remember to turn the baking parchment over and pipe on the back or the macaron shells will have pencil circles on them!
 
Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius (fan) or gas mark 3
 
Grind the pistachios in a coffee grinder or food processor until they form a fine meal.
 
Place the egg white and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment.  Reserve a tablespoon of egg white if you’re planning to use food colouring. Whisk on a medium speed for a couple of minutes.
 
Slowly add the caster sugar to the egg mix, one tablespoon at a time and whisk until the mixture forms glossy stiff peaks – around 5 minutes in total. 
 
If using food colouring, mix a dab into the reserved egg white, add to the bowl of meringue and whisk in well.
 
Whilst the meringue is mixing, place the ground almonds, ground pistachios and icing sugar in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and whizz together until well mixed.
 
Sieve the almond mixture into the the meringue mixture and using a silicon spatula, begin to fold together.  This is the tricky bit!
 
You want the mixture well combined and glossy, the meringue will lose a lot of volume. Keep folding until the mixture forms a thick ‘ribbon’ for a few seconds from the spatula when lifted out of the bowl.  Too dry (mixture doesn’t ‘ribbon’) and your shells may crack, too wet (mixture is runny or forms a thin stream) and the shells will be flat.
 
Once you think the mixture is ready, spoon into a disposable piping bag and pipe small mounds onto your preparared baking sheet.  Remember the mixture spreads a little so pipe inside the lines.
 
Now warn everyone in a 3 mile radius to cover their ears – pick up the baking sheet and drop it  (carefully!) back onto the counter from at least a foot above, rotate the baking sheet 45 degrees and do it again. This is very noisy but knocks out any air bubbles.
 
Now leave the macarons for 20- 30 minutes to dry a little – you should be able to touch the shell very gently without getting any mixture on your finger. Once this skin has formed, place them in the oven for around 15 – 20 minutes (and do a little ‘please don’t crack’ dance around the kitchen).  
 
You should be able to gently ease the shells off the baking sheet once they’re ready. I like to think of it more as a drying process than a cooking process.  If using the Lakeland sheet, I reduce the oven temperature to 120 degrees after 15 minutes and leave them in for another 10 minutes.
 
Hopefully now you have risen, glossy, even shells and if not, please refer to point 3 above…
 
To make the ganache, heat the cream gently in a small pan until bubbling (make sure you don’t burn it!).
 
Chop up the white chocolate fairly finely, or use buttons which melt quicker, place in a heatproof bowl and pour the hot cream over.
 
Leave for a minute or two, then whisk gently to combine.
 
Once cool, pop in a disposable piping bag and use to sandwich the shells together.
 
Good luck (and remember point 4)!! 
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