My version of a piña colada cocktail in a macaron!
These are not too sweet; the pineapple and lime juice in the filling strike the right balance between the sweetness of the white chocolate and the shells.
Using desiccated coconut in the shells gives a shell that does give a taste of what the final macaron is supposed to represent, without affecting the texture and the finish of the macarons. I tend to use half coconut and half almonds which adds the right amount of coconut flavour. For a greater depth of flavour, gently dry-fry the coconut in a large pan for a few minutes until it turns golden-brown before blitzing it. The light sprinkling of coconut on top of each macaron turns wonderfully nutty as the macaron cooks.
A tablespoon or so of the toasted coconut can be added to the filling mixture but there is enough coconut flavour in the shells to bring it all together and I like the pineapple and the lime to be the stars of the filling. However, a gentle splash of rum in the filling works well.
I always end up making more filling than is needed for most recipes and while there should be more than enough filling here to sandwich together the macarons generously, any left-over filling can be frozen for using next time.
Alternatively, the left-over filling can be turned into chocolate truffles that taste as if they had come from an expensive chocolatier: pipe or spoon small blobs of the left-over filling onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Freeze for an hour or two until firmed up, dip into melted chocolate and leave on a sheet of greaseproof until the chocolate has set – this will be almost instant given the filling has come straight from the freezer. The filling will defrost in the chocolate casing, so as you eat one of the truffles the crisp chocolate gives way to a soft, fruity filling.
Pineapple and Coconut Macarons
makes about 70 1-inch shells ie) 35 sandwiched macarons
- 75g ground almonds
- 75g desiccated coconut
- 150g icing sugar
- 135g caster sugar
- 105g egg whites at room temperature yellow
- few drops of yellow food colouring (gel-based rather than water-based)
- 200g white chocolate, chopped into smallish chunks
- 100g pineapple, pureed
- juice of 1 lime
- 60g unsalted butter
- desiccated coconut
(1) Put the coconut into a food processor and pulse until powdery – this might take a minute or two. Add the icing sugar and almonds to the food processor and pulse for about 10 seconds until perfectly uniform. Sift into a large bowl and discard any larger lumps.
Notes: This process breaks down the dry ingredients to give a smoother macaron.
(2) In a clean, dry bowl whisk the egg whites and the caster sugar until you get a thick, glossy meringue. With a hand whisk this usually take me about 10 minutes. The meringue should have firm peaks so when you lift the whisk out of it, the peak holds its shape and does not curl over.
Notes: I now opt for this French meringue method rather than the Italian meringue method purely because it is quicker than making a sugar syrup and using the thermometer etc, but I have had the same good results with the Italian meringue method.
Some recipes call for the egg whites to be aged. I don’t bother to be honest; I just use the eggs that are to hand and get them to room temperature.
I do weigh out the egg whites – and find digital scales to be invaluable here. “3 large egg whites”, say, can cover a large range in weights, and accuracy really is crucial for macarons.
I freeze any yolks that I am not going to use imminently and later use them to make crème patissière, to make pasta, to add to sauces and quiche fillings etc…
(3) Add the meringue to the dry mixture, along with a few drops of food colouring, and stir together gently, patting down the meringue into the dry mixture against the side of the bowl as you go, stopping as soon as most of dry mixture is no longer visible. The mixture will be fairly stiff at this point.
Notes: I use a rubber spatula for this which works well. The key here is not to beat it in, but also not to fold it too lightly as if making a soufflé. You want to try to knock some of the air out of the mixture which does seem counter-intuitive after making up the meringues, but too much air in the finished mixture can result in the macaron rising too much and cracking. By gently patting the mixture against the side of the bowl as you mix, enough of the air will be knocked out. This process should only take up to about half a minute.
(4) Continue to fold the mixture together gently until the mixture starts to loosen up. This is a critical part of the process – you don’t want to over-loosen it: it is ready when you lift up the spatula and the mixture on the spatula slowly drops back into the bowl, leaving a trace on the surface. This trace should gently merge back into the mixture, disappearing within about 30 seconds.
Notes: This is arguably the most important part of the whole macaron-making process, (referred to as the macaronage stage in recipes). It is certainly better to under-mix rather than over-mix and the first few times of making macarons it can be hard to know precisely when you are just there or if you have gone over. Caution is very much the key here! While folding, the mixture changes from feeling fairly stiff to then feeling a little looser. Visually, the mixture will change from being slightly grainy-looking to looking smoother and silkier. It is at this looser stage that after every two subsequent folds (a bit precise but it does prevent over-mixing!) I lift the spatula a few inches above the main mix and judge how easily the mixture on the spatula falls back into the bowl. Initially it might just plop very slowly back into the bowl, and sit there doing very little on the top of the main mixture…at this stage it is not ready. So two more folds, then try again….Very soon it WILL get to the stage that when it drops back onto the main mixture it will disappear back into it, within about 30 seconds.
If you over-fold, the macarons will spread like mad when you pipe them and will probably collide into each other giving a very colourful but not very helpful meringuey-mess. Over-folding is also a common cause of cracked macarons and even if they do not crack, they are less likely to have the much-prized feet. If the macaron mixture is under-folded, the resulting macarons are likely to be lumpier, could also lack feet and are prone to being hollow. With macarons, if it is not one thing that will be hell-bent on destroying them, it will be another!
(5) Put non-stick greaseproof paper/parchment onto solid baking trays. Pipe the required size of macarons onto the paper and add a light sprinkling of coconut to the top of each.
Notes: I use a 1cm plain nozzle, making sure there are no large air bubbles in the piping bag and I just pipe vertically onto the paper until I get the size I want, leaving a gap of about 1cm between each. Drawing circles onto the paper can be helpful here. Some favour piping “at an angle”, but vertically works for me.
I have rarely had great results with silicone sheets or anything other than greaseproof to be honest. I don’t use the silicon macaron moulds that are now widely available. Granted, they do give perfectly uniformly sized macarons, but they can stick even if the mould is lightly oiled and they seem to need a much longer baking time, so that the trade-off for them coming out of the moulds is slightly over-baked macarons.
(6) Lift each baking sheet a few inches off the work surface and drop this flat onto the work surface several times.
Notes: This will get rid of the larger air bubbles that will invariably still be in the macarons. Large air bubbles can cause the macaron to crack in the oven or result in hollow macarons. Normally half a dozen drops does the trick. It is natural for the piped macarons to spread out a little but they shouldn’t run into themselves. You may well see air bubbles form on the surface – some will automatically burst and then the tops become smooth but if there are visible air bubbles that form and do not burst, just prick them gently.
(7) Leave the macarons to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes or until a very thin skin forms on the surface. During this time preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). I find the macarons bake best with the fan on.
Notes: I have found the resting period to be another very important part of the process although I know that some people have had great success without the resting. However, whenever I have rested the mixture, I always get nice feet to each macaron whereas if I have baked some without them having been resting, the feet are much less forthcoming. In fact, I never failed to get decent feet after resting whereas without resting things are unpredictable. I think the skin must act as a protective layer to the macaron and in the heat of the oven, it causes the macaron to push upwards, thereby creating the foot.
The skin: although you can’t see a skin, after about 30 minutes gently touch one of the macarons and remove your finger. If your finger removes easily and the indent vanishes then there is a skin and the macarons are ready for baking. If your finger sticks to the macaron then a skin has not formed enough so leave it for another 15-30 mins or so and repeat until you have a skin.
(8) Bake the macarons for 6 minutes. Turn the trays around after this time and turn the temperature down to 150°C (300°F). Bake for a further 6-7 minutes Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the trays before removing carefully.
Notes: As each oven is different, as with most baking it is important to get to know your oven as to the positioning of the shelves. Even with a fan-assisted oven, the temperature is not likely to be constant throughout the oven. For my oven, the macarons bake best when lower down and I never put more than two shelves of macroons in the over at a time. Too many can create a build-up of steam in the oven which, in turn, is another thing sent from somewhere wicked to destroy all the loving attention to detail already put into the macarons by this stage!
The reason I turn around the trays after 6 minutes is three-fold. Firstly, with the oven hot-spots it ensures that I don’t get a row of overly crisp macarons while others are barely cooked. Secondly, it allows any steam that might have created in the oven to escape. Some recipes suggested popping a wooden spoon or something similar into the oven door to create natural ventilation to ensure steam escapes. Thirdly, I get to see the feet that should have just started to form which, by that time, they would have started to……and I can assure you, after so many macaron-baking sessions, it is no less exciting to see those gorgeous little feet forming. Perhaps I should get out more, but the party going on in my oven at that time is more alluring!
With 1 inch macarons I find that 12-13 minutes in total is about right but on occasion I have had to bake them for several minutes longer. To test, I gently wiggle the top of one of the macarons. If it is too sticky at the feet and looks as if the top will pull straight off I bake for another couple of minutes, and another couple of minutes is normally enough.
I am very strict with myself now in leaving the macarons to cool on the trays, although temptation often gets the better of me! But leaving them to cool on the tray helps the base crust form fully which in turn makes it easier to peel the macarons off the paper.
(9) For the fruit filling, melt the chocolate chips over a pan of hot water or very gently in the microwave. Stir in the butter until it has melted and mix in the pureed pineapple and the lime juice. Leave in the fridge until the mixture has set to piping consistency. Pipe the filling over half of the macaron shells and sandwich together gently with the other half.
Notes: You don’t need to pipe the filling, of course, as gentle dollops of it will do. But I find piping to be therapeutic and the macarons deserve it! The filling can be changed in any number of ways, of course, by using any fruit puree or even just lime or lemon juice. Sometimes I add a little more fruit puree – the mixture will still set in the fridge until it is the right consistency. Occasionally I will use a home-made jam or a well-flavoured butter-cream in the filling.
After sandwiching the macarons together, I will invariably eat a few of them – the temptation is far too great! However, I do find that popping the macarons carefully into an airtight box and leaving in the fridge for a day helps enormously with the texture. Even if the macarons have been over-baked and were a little too crispy, when they get filled and have a day’s rest in the fridge, the shell will soften somewhat and give the right texture.