That’s right, the domestic goddess herself. I just adore her attitude to food and those gorgeous cashmere cardigans.... they’re the kitchen accessory I covet the most in this world after a Kitchen Aid mixer.
It got me thinking: if Nigella were to pop round for arvo tea at my place, what would I make? I delved into How to be a Domestic Goddess for inspiration and then it came to me – macarons!
Macarons are the most elegant biscuits in the world – a divine concoction of almond meal, icing sugar and egg whites, sandwiched with ganache or buttercream. They shouldn’t be confused with macaroons which are more like little cakes and are made traditionally with coconut.
Adriano Zumbo’s killer Macaron Tower challenge.
There are hundreds of blogs celebrating the macaron and many offer advice for the aspiring baker – apparently the sexy little French biscuit is notorious for being tricky to bake.
Debate abounds over
- the optimum time for resting the batter before baking (anything from 10mins to 5 hours - I vote for 45mins)
- correct baking temperature
- how long to bake for
- how to achieve ‘feet’ - the little ruffle at the base of the biscuit
- whether the shell should crunch or not.
But the biggest debate seems to be about the correct ratios of almond meal, icing sugar and egg whites – what is the best [failsafe] recipe for the not so humble macaron?
I had flirted with the idea of making Nigella’s Chocolate Macaroons purely based on her description in Domestic Goddess that words could not convey just how good they were – “Eat them: that’s enough”.
Then I discovered Dean Brettschneider in a back issue of Cuisine magazine that I picked up at the op shop for 99cents (May 2005). Dean Brettschneider, also known as the Global Baker, is an authority on all things baked. The article was an exclusive excerpt from his then forthcoming cookbook Taste: Baking with Flavour. He was given the Chocolate Almond Macaroon recipe from BakeMark Ingredients France’s export pastry chef, Olivier Hutt. I took it as a sign and plunged in.
With respect to the mixture, yes, you really do need to sift the almond meal. I didn’t have any cream of tartar so I substituted with a few drops of lemon juice.
I admit I did get spooked into changing the baking temperature and time after reading about other people’s trials and tribulations with macarons. I baked them with a starting temperature of 130degrees (no fan) and then turned it up to 150degrees, for 15minutes. Call it beginners luck but they worked. Next time I’ll try Dean’s recommendation of 180degrees for 8-10minutes.
I sandwiched them with the chocolate ganache and then put them into a container and stored them in the fridge overnight. Apparently they get better if they’re aged in the fridge for a couple of days. Handy to know – bake them on a Friday and store them in the fridge for a Sunday afternoon tea!
So how did they taste? In a word – di-licious!
And I’m delighted – I’ve ticked off my first baking resolution for the year – mastering the art of making macarons. Nigella would be proud!