Pineapple macarons

pineappleMacarons2There are essays, poems (yes, really), entire blogs and Instagram accounts dedicated to macarons. Thousands of words have been penned about the rights and wrongs of preparation. Leave them to rest, don’t leave them to rest for long. Tap the tray on the table, don’t attempt them when it’s humid.

That’s a lot of fuss over a few little almond biscuits. Even if they are lovely.

Let’s get a bit realistic. People do find them tricky, but it’s possible they’re worrying too much and taking too much notice of all the myriad advice out there. Here’s the shocker: they’re not difficult and aren’t doomed to failure. And the truth: they are a little tricky, but that’s mostly down to how many steps are involved, not how difficult each step is.

There are a few tips and tricks that do work.  Not all the tips that people give out  are equal – as the song says – don’t believe the hype.

Here are the (few) things I think work and I include every time:

  • Have everything prepared in advance, all measured out (this is good, plain boring advice for any multi-step baking or patisserie recipe)
  • Do drop the tray of piped macarons on the table, from about 6 cm/3″. This forces the larger bubbles of air out of the meringue now, rather than during baking so they aren’t baked in place (giving you a holey texture). (Again, this is good advice for other baking – I always drop sponge cakes that have chemical leaveners in; honest)
  • Leave the macarons until the shells harden a little – if when you touch them, they stick to your fingers they are not ready to be baked. It’s this which creates the ‘feet’. The almond and meringue mixture will expand in the oven (as with any other cake-like mixture). Because the shells are hard, the mixture cannot push upwards and outwards so can only push down, creating the archetypal platform sole in the process.
  • Do NOT add liquid food colouring – the mix can’t take the liquid and will flatten. Also only colour the meringue; don’t add colour after the meringue is mixed with the almond/icing sugar. It’s too late by this stage (if you do, it will knock all the air out and the macarons will be flat)

So, here’s my recipe for pineapple macarons. Makes about 20 (40 shells)…

Equipment
  • Stand mixer or electric hand whisk (it is possible with a balloon whisk, but really exhausting so I wouldn’t recommend you attempt it!) – I personally don’t have a stand mixer; I do everything with my little hand mixer
  • Food processor/blender (you can do without this piece of equipment, but the macarons will be bumpy-textured, however unaffected in any other way)
  • Several bowls
  • Non-stick saucepan, medium-sized
  • Sugar thermometer – digital probe or traditional bulb style: either will do
  • Two large baking trays lined
  • Large piping bag with a circular nozzle
  • Flexible spatula
  • Wooden spoon
  • Pastry brush
  • Very clean (freshly laundered or new) muslin cloth or teatowel
Ingredients – for the macaron shells
  • Ground almonds – 100g
  • Icing sugar – 100g
  • Granulated sugar – 100g
  • Pineapple juice – 25ml or thereabouts (just enough to cover the sugar in the saucepan)
  • Egg whites – 75g (this MUST be measured: do not estimate how many eggs. To make the measurement easier, whisk up the whites of two large eggs to break the albumen to make separation and precise measurement easier)
  • Food colouring – only powder or gel and to your choice of depth of colour (remember that you are colouring the meringue which will appear bright; after you add the coloured meringue to the almond/icing mix the colour will be softened, so if anything go for a bit more lurid than you actually want)
Ingredients – for the pineapple buttercream
  • Fresh pineapple – about 100g/three thick whole slices (I expect you can use tinned pineapple as a substitute)
  • Unsalted butter – 100g
  • Icing sugar – between 75 – 100g (amount varies dependant on how much moisture there is and the fat content in the butter). Just make sure you have more than 100g in your pack to hand
Method – macarons
  1. Firstly, prepare the pineapple for the buttercream so you can obtain the juice:
  2. Chop the pineapple very finely and pop it in the middle of the cloth. Tighten the cloth around the pineapple and (over a bowl) squeeze out all of the juice from the pineapple and set the flesh aside for later
  3. Measure out 25ml of the juice. If the resultant juice is less than 25 ml (it will probably be more!) top it up with water
  4. Briefly blend together the icing sugar and the ground almonds – best to pulse blitz them for a second or two at a time until they are a really fine powder
  5. Sift into a bowl (the sifting ensures that the powder is not stuck in clumps anywhere) and set aside
  6. Put the granulated sugar in the saucepan and gently tip the pineapple juice in – try not to splash (this will reduce the need to brush down)
  7. Tip just over half of the egg whites (40g) into a large, very clean bowl if you are using a hand mixer or in the very clean bowl of your stand mixer
  8. Heat the sugar/juice until it bubbles and reaches 118˚C. If the sugar creates crystals round the side of the saucepan, dip the pastry brush in some water and brush down the sides
  9. While the sugar/juice is heating up, whisk up the egg white until it is somewhere at the soft peak stage (this actually has a term in French: bec d’oiseau which is literally bird’s beak)
  10. When the sugar mix is ready pour it down the side of the bowl that has the whipped egg whites in and then whisk until the mix has cooled – about 4-5 minutes
  11. Right at the end of the whisking, add your food colouring and ensure it is evenly distributed without streaks
  12. Mix the remaining egg whites into the ground almond/icing sugar mix
  13. Take one large spoonful of the meringue and beat it into the ground almond/icing sugar to loosen the mix, to enable it to receive the rest of the meringue more easily
  14. Now take a third of the remaining meringue and using the flexible spatula fold it into the ground almonds/icing sugar in a figure of eight motion, combine it fully but gently
  15. Repeat with half of what’s left of the meringue it is incorporated into the mix and then the same with the final amount of meringue. Do not leave any clumps of white meringue in the mix, but do try to do it slowly and gently. It may seem like too much work to do this in stages, but this ensures that a) it’s incorporated as evenly as possible and b) that you don’t knock all the air out of the meringue so that it does rise
  16. Many recipes tell you to draw circles out on the baking paper – you could do this, but really it isn’t necessary. Don’t fuss (especially the first time!) that they’re not perfectly circular or are slightly different sizes – you can match them up to fit and being less than the perfect ‘⚪️’ won’t mean people don’t like them. You’ll soon get the hang of piping to the same size and the nozzle guides you to the correct shape. Drawing out circles just makes the whole process longer and you are as likely to stress about going over the line as you are worried about not having any line, so why bother?
  17. So, now have your baking trays already lined with baking paper (you can tack down the paper with a fingertip of the mix in each corner)to hand
  18. Fill your piping bag with the mix and pipe your first disc. Keep the nozzle just above the paper and squeeze gently but continuously and keep the bag steady (don’t sway about). The mix is thick enough to pool out slowly into a circle itself. Keep squeezing until the disc is about 3-4cm width (you can choose to be more dainty and smaller or larger) when it is to the size you want, flick up the bag with a quick wrist movement to pull the nozzle off the macaron and ‘break’ the flow of the mix.
  19. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect – it’ll improve. If it’s really terrible, scrape it off the baking paper, put it back in the bowl and try again. I’m sure you’ve done a good job, in fact you’ve probably got it near perfect 🙂

IMG_1592

  1. Once all the mix is used up, drop the trays. Yes, I honestly mean that – but make sure you do it level and from about 6cm above the table only. Don’t whatever you do drop it at an angle! If you’re scared, tap the underside of the tray instead, but it’s not quite as effective
  2. If you have any large peaks left (where you pulled the piping bag away) dampen your finger and gently pat them down
  3. Leave them to harden – about 23-30 mins, if they’re ready they won’t stick to your finger
  4. Heat the oven to 160˚C fan, about 175˚C conventional and bake for about 12 minutes. It might be easier to bake them in batches
  5. Leave to cool and go on to make the butter cream
Method – pineapple buttercream
  1. Beat the butter and 75g of the icing sugar together. It should be thick and creamy and taste sweet rather than too buttery – if this is the case add another couple of tablespoons of icing sugar and beat it again. Once you’ve reached the right consistency, add the pineapple, ensuring it is mixed throughout evenly
Assembly
  1. It’s best to match up the macaron shells before you fill them – try to match up similar sizes. Lay them out in pairs, with one right side up and one upside down. This way you will fill the matched pairs correctly
  2. Using a spoon put a smallish blob of the buttercream in the middle of the first upturned shell, and place the matching shell on top, pressing down lightly to secure the macaron and spread the buttercream out to the edges. You can alternatively pipe the buttercream on, but I don’t think this is entirely necessary
  3. Fill all the matched pairs in the same way
  4. Macarons are actually better the day after being made and will last a few days, that is if you haven’t eaten them before then
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