When is a macaroon not a macaroon? Or, put another way, when is a macaroon a real macaroon?
When we were in France last summer we visited a macaroon museum. Yes really. The French have a museum for everything and anything including almond macaroons.
It was a delightful way to pass an otherwise unpleasantly warm and humid afternoon. The museum presents the history of a family of artisans who began making almond macaroons in France a hundred years ago and at the end you get a little dégustation. And very nice they were too. I wrote about it here.
The original almond macaroons.
Then there are coconut macaroons. I have my friend Elizabeth to thank for re-introducing me to the delights of those.
These are a dream to make and absolutely scrumptious. Now that I have discovered my favourite recipe I make them often. You can read about them here.
Be-Ro book macaroons, well sort of.
However, I have never made anything like these. Not only that, I have never eaten one either. They always look incredibly fiddly to make and I have immense admiration for anyone who does make them. They’re on my bucket list for a day when I’m feeling brave and frivolous.
When we were in France last summer I took with me a book borrowed from the local library. It soon became one of those books I couldn’t live without so I bought myself a copy. It is now one of my very favourite cookbooks.
I was sitting on our little terrace under the shade of the big umbrella one afternoon. Nick had gone fishing, the dog was snoring in the sunshine, I had a little pile of cookbooks on the table next to my glass of rosé wine and all was well with the world.
With our recent trip to the macaroon museum still fresh in my mind, I found a recipe for these:
I nipped straight down the hill to the little Spa shop in the village and there on the shelf was just what I needed, a packet of ground hazelnuts.
This always amazes me. Here we are in rural France in a little village the size of Cromford in Derbyshire and you can get everything you need. It might be basic and the choice may be limited but between the village butcher, baker, Spa shop and Thursday market, there’s not much you have to go without. Twice we have spent a whole week in the village without venturing anywhere else and we managed perfectly well. There are very few Derbyshire villages where you can do that.
The little macaroons were a joy to make and absolutely lovely. Great with morning coffee and afternoon tea. I always give our neighbour Mme André some of my baking. It amuses both of us and she’s always most appreciative. It’s also my way of thanking her for all the little gifts of flowers, fruit and vegetables that she leaves on our doorstep every visit. She thought “les macarons” were beautiful and delicious.
This is what you need.
160g ground hazelnuts
2 egg whites
160g caster sugar
40g ground almonds
2-3 drops vanilla extract
This is what you do.
Mix the egg whites and sugar together and add the other ingredients. Combine to form a sticky dough, cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge for half an hour or so.
Preheat the oven to 130°C/gas mk ½. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
Remove the mixture from the fridge and stir to loosen slightly.
Take small pieces of dough, about the size of a large teaspoon, shape into rounds or balls and place on the baking sheet. Allow a little room for spreading. Flatten slightly.
Bake for 25 minutes or until the macaroons are light golden. They should be firm on the outside but slightly soft in the middle.
Cool on a rack. They will keep for several days in an airtight container – allegedly !!
Makes 25-30 macaroons.