Recipe: Simple Macarons

I love to bake. I try to make something most weekends, and most of the time it's something new - I can spend hours scouring recipes for inspiration and ideas, and I'll usually look up numerous recipes for one dish, taking bits from all of them!
Recently I compiled a list of things I want to do before my next birthday (the big 2 5! eek!), and on there, at number 4, was "Make Macarons". So last weekend I did just that!

Now, like most people, I love macarons! I'm not really sure what's not to like? Unless you don't like sweets, or almonds, or sugar - then maybe they aren't for you. But sadly, as good as they taste, they aren't the cheapest of treats. I'm put off at spending £1.00 on something not much bigger than the coin itself, so I decided to try and make them myself.

I found a recipe that I liked (this one from What Olivia Did) and then I adapted it slightly. When looking for a recipe my main concern was that it had to tell you how many egg whites you need, rather than how much - because to me, that just makes things significantly simpler. It also had to be fairly cheap to make. This recipe makes 10 good size macarons and could probably make close to 20 smaller ones, for a lot less than £10! Bargain!

You will need:

For the macarons

- 2 large egg whites
- a pinch of salt
- 65g ground almonds
- 80g icing sugar
- 60g caster sugar
- food colouring

For the filling

- 200g icing sugar
- 110g soft unsalted butter
- food colouring

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C for fan ovens. Draw an even number of circles on to a sheet of greaseproof paper for the template. I drew 20 circles using the base of one of those Kit Kat mugs that you get with Easter eggs, which is roughly a 5cm diameter.

2. To start, whisk the egg whites with the pinch of salt in a large bowl using an electric whisk on a low speed until soft white peaks begin to form.

3. Next add the caster sugar, gradually (about one spoonful at a time), whilst still whisking the egg whites, continue until the mixture is smooth and glossy, increasing the speed of the whisk as the mixture stiffens.

4. Sieve the ground almond and icing sugar in to the mixture then add the food colouring before gently folding the mixture. Be careful not to over do this as you don't want to lose any air from the egg whites.

5. If you don't have a piping bag (which sadly I didn't), you can use a spoon for this next bit. Carefully spoon the mixture on to the greaseproof paper using the templates. Once you've done this, sharply tap the bottom of the tray on the work surface to release any air bubbles, then set aside for 30-60 minutes until the macarons have formed a 'skin'.

6. Next, bake the macaron shells in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until they feel firm. Remove from the oven, leave for 5 minutes and then place the macarons on a wire rack to cool.

7. For the filling I just made a basic buttercream by beating the butter until it was pale then gradually adding the icing sugar, finished off by adding the food colouring.

8. Dollop some buttercream on to one macaron & sandwich another on top. Then hey presto! Simple but lovely macarons!

I adore the taste of these as they are (I love almonds!). But there are lots of different things you can play around with:

- The main one is colours - go crazy! Use any combinations you like!
- You can also try different flavours, most supermarkets will have a selection of essences.
- For something a bit different you could try sprinkling some desiccated coconut on to the macaron shells before you put them in the oven (I've also seen this done with finely chopped pistachios).
- Another option would be to sandwich the shells with jam or whipped cream instead of buttercream.

The opportunities are endless with this simple recipe!

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