12 October 2010


Today my Mum's new cooker arrived. It was very expensive I thought, but was well overdue, the old one was only half-working after 22 years of quite intensive usage.

This new one is very flash and I decided to give it a try by making macarons. This will be interesting in many ways. We gave the oven a quick try to see that it heats up, but didn't let it hit its top temperature, so there is potential that there will be the "new oven smell" as noted in the instruction manual.

Then my macarons needed to be adapted for the whole family - my Sister Bip has developed an allergy to almonds and hazelnuts, thus walnuts had to be used an I ran them in the little processor. This resulted in a rather course beginning to a walnut marzipan, rather than the fine flour that is actually required. Don't even mention peeling the nuts.

Then, like never before, I succeeded with my French meringue - it was rock solid! And of all times it's not supposed to be, this isn't one.

For the cream, I originally intended to make mousseline cream, but decided to bail out and whipped together one of my Mum's pudding powder packets. I also wanted my macarons to be very brightly coloured so I could try out my beetroot powder. That worked well, the pudding cream already had some extract from beetroot, also known as E162, so adding a bit more worked as I'd expected it to work.

For the meringues, I wanted them bright saffron yellow. Obviously saffron is very expensive and I thought I'd substitute with turmeric. Well, the stuff in my Mum's jar was very strongly flavoured and I didn't really get much colour out of it.

And I forgot to add vanilla essence, that might have made the meringue runny, as would have adding some yellow food colouring. Oh well.

The final straw was that my Mum doesn't have a piping bag. So a food bag with one of it's corners cut would have to do. This resulted in quenelle shaped meringues, very stiff and not budging one bit when I tried to get them to settle by dropping the trays on the able. In hindsight, I should probably have used baking parchment and made a cone, it couldn't possibly have given worse results. And they were knobbly and spotty from the walnuts.


Though I'm sure they'll be edible one way or another. They are baking now on the fan programme. And I do like this new cooker, you turn it on and set the temperature you want. It then starts pre-heating and displays what temperature it has reached. Once it's reached the pre-set temperature, it beeps to let you know. It was fast too. With a fan blowing hot air around, I'm hoping to bake both trays together.

Oh yes, the timer bleeped after 15 minutes, and the hot air has dried the meringues nicely. Some have cracked and all have spiky tops on them, so no question of them standing up when put together. And when I opened the oven door, I was hit by a combination of turmeric and something else, which I assume is the new oven smell. I've left them in the oven to cool down a few more minutes, probably to after dinner.

But I must get a piping kit, I won't be able to manage with bags.


Anyway, for the record, here is the recipe that needs massive refining


110 g sifted icing sugar
50 g finely chopped walnuts
1.5 tsp turmeric
2 medium sized egg whites
60 g granulated sugar

  1. Mix together the icing sugar, walnuts and turmeric.

  2. Ensure the egg whites are at room temperature and beat them to stiff peaks, then slowly add the granulated sugar, while beating constantly.

  3. Once all the sugar has been incorporated, add the nut mixture and fold in carefully.

  4. Pipe round meringues on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Leave a little space between them to expand, though they can be piped fairly close together.

  5. Lift the baking sheets a few cm from the table and drop a few times to get the meringues to settle down and flatten even more.

  6. Let the meringues rest for 30 minutes and dry out a bit on the surface. In the mean time pre-heat the oven to 130 degrees on hot air fan.

  7. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn off the cooker and allow the meringues to cool down in the oven.

  8. Take out and prise them off carefully. Store in an airtight box and only put together the macarons shortly before serving them.

Well, they didn't taste particularly nice, though my parents said they were great, but they would, wouldn't they? Still, they're not too offensive, so we'll get through them one way or another. One cannot cheat on the filling cream, so I will start earlier next time and make proper mousseline cream. And I'll stay well away from turmeric as a colouring agent, it's really not worth it. But I think the walnut meringues worked quite nicely

I had loads of the pudding cream left over, so I made impromptu tiramisu. That is, I cut up ladyfinger biscuits into cocktail glasses, drizzled a little Cointreau over them and poured some of the pudding cream over. I bet they're nicer as the cream is nice on its own, just isn't firm enough to hold the meringues together.

But I love the new oven, it just did its job so wonderfully well.

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