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Marvellous Macaroons

I love macaroons but I've never found a recipe that works for me. I've even watched online tutorials and followed step by step; mixing the ingredients in different ways, in different proportions, resting the piped dollops for 30 minutes or 60 minutes as instructed, all without success. Those beautifully formed confections have eluded me for years but the other day, I finally cracked it simply by adapting my perfect meringue mix and here's how.

You will need:

A silicone macaroon mat or baking parchment and a baking sheet

2 medium sized egg whites

80g caster sugar

80g ground almonds

80g icing sugar

1/2 tspn cream of tartar

food colouring gel or liquid

Some cornflour for dusting

For the filling:

100g dark chocolate, around 70% cocoa solids, finely chopped

150ml pot double cream

Turn the oven onto 160C/325F/ Gas Mark 3.

First place the ground almonds and the icing sugar in a food processor and blitz them together. Sieve the combined mixture into a bowl and set aside. Throw away any lumpy bits left in the sieve.

Now you need to beat the egg whites. It's best to use an electric whisk for this part as you want the whites to be as stiff as possible. Start on a low setting and gradually increase the speed until the egg whites form peaks. Then, with the speed on the highest setting, slowly add the castor sugar and continue whisking until the meringue mix is glossy and firm. Add the food colouring.

Fold in the almonds and icing sugar mixture and the cream of tartar until fully combined. It should be the same consistency as cake mixture and not runny. If you are using a silicone macaroon mat, dust lightly with cornflour as this will help with lifting the shells later. If you are using baking parchment, line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a large round nozzle. Hold the bag vertically over the tray, with the nozzle about 1cm from it. Pipe rounds about 2.5cm in diameter onto the prepared baking sheets leaving about 2cm between each one to allow for spreading.

This is where I differ from most received wisdom about making macaroons. Most recipes will tell you to leave the trays for anything from 30 minutes to 60 minutes to allow a skin to form on the piped rounds. I have tried this many times only to have the shells crack during cooking or, even worse, once you've taken your perfectly domed macaroons out of the oven, they sink and crack as they cool or stick to the paper so that you break most of them trying to lift them off the baking sheets.

Once you have piped the rounds onto the parchment covered baking sheets or your silicone mat, tap the underside of the trays to release any air bubbles and let them sit for about 10 minutes. Put the trays into the centre of your pre-heated oven and cook for 10 minutes. Then turn off the oven and leave the macaroons inside as it cools for a couple of hours or overnight.

Once your macaroons have cooled, take them out of the oven and carefully lift them off your silicone mat or baking trays.

To make the filling, put the chocolate and cream in a pan and gently heat, stirring now and then, to make a runny chocolate sauce. Leave to firm up at room temperature until it reaches a spreadable consistency. Place the chocolate mix into a clean piping bag with a smaller nozzle and pipe a dollop on the flat side of half the macaroons. Gently sandwich the two halves together. Once finished, the macaroons will keep for 1 day filled, or up to 3 days unfilled, stored in an airtight container.

There are a variety of different ways to fill your macaroons. I like chocolate ganache but you could also try flavoured buttercream or mascarpone cheese.

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