Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Baking challenge #17: Mary Berry's macaroons

Mary Berry's macaroons, as baked by EJ
When I first glanced at Mary Berry's macaroon recipe, I was really hoping for something that would resemble this:

Ah - real French macaroons in a patisserie in Dieppe!
However, the macaroons in Mary Berry's baking bible are quite different to the currently popular, smooth surfaced, piped macaroons we are used to seeing photos of everywhere at the moment. Mary Berry's macaroons are certainly delicious, but are definitely not the best lookers.

Caster sugar is used instead of icing sugar in Mary Berry's recipe, so the macaroon mixture is spooned onto baking paper and carefully rounded, instead of being piped. I wondered if the egg whites I used were large enough, as the pre-baked mixture seemed quite dense. I have since found this BBC Good Food recipe by Lorraine Pascale, in which the egg whites are measured by weight instead of quantity- perhaps this is a more practical measurement for this kind of recipe.

If you try this recipe, make sure you leave plenty of space around each pre-baked circle of macaroon mixture, as the egg whites will cause the macaroons to spread out a little as they bake.

Something else that left me uncertain, was where the macaroons should sit in the oven. I baked my first batch on the middle shelf (as I would for a cake recipe, as the heat should be even here), but they needed a good 10-12 minutes more baking time to achieve a 'pale golden brown' finish. Mary Berry has included a great section at the beginning of the Baking Bible with some handy 'baking tips', but unfortunately doesn't talk about adjusting the position your tray within the oven for the best results. 

Despite all of this, the macaroons really are delicious and have a rather charming rustic finish, that I actually quite like. They have a crisp outside and manage to be both light and slightly chewey with a traditional almond flavouring.

While I wouldn't say I'm disappointed by these macaroons, they really have inspired me to have a crack at making the beautiful kind - I shall, of course, be posting my experiences here.

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