My friend Liis is one of those skinny, good looking people who're generally careful about what they eat, so whenever she has strong emotions about a baked good I perk my ears as chances are that it should be absolutely fantastic (to be worth the calories and all). So it was her that first alerted me to the fabulous world of macaroons. The way she described the pistachio ones she had in Paris (and she had 2.5 in one sitting) was just mouthwatering. But that was years ago and I kind of filed them away as 'way too much hassle for my liking' and decided to wait until I go to Paris to try them. But then my lovely fellow bloggers who have insanely magical abilities when it comes to cakes, cookies etc. started making and posting them so macaroons were back on agenda.
And that's how we come to my beloved and often-mentioned Nigella book. As I said I made a cheesecake from there recently and that left me with egg-whites I had no particular plans for. So I was leafing through her domestic goddess guidelines and there they were - pistachio macaroons - and the recipe and directions seemed unbelievably easy. What had I been afraid of all these years - the mystery remains.
For some reason I couldn't find the recipe on her webpage, so here goes:
(makes 20 small ones)
for the macaroons:
75 g pistachios (I assume she means without shells, I used 3/4 of a 200g pack of pistachios with shells)
125 g icing sugar
2 large egg whites (I used 3 small ones)
15 g caster sugar
for the icing:
55 g pistachios (I uses 1/2 of a 200 g pack of pistachios with shells)
250 g icing sugar
125 g unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Shell the pistachios (and get rid of as much of the brown dry skin that's between the nut and the shell as well) and grind the amount meant for the macaroons in a food-processor with the icing sugar. You'll end up with a nice flour (Nigella says it's supposed to be as fine as dust but my processor refused to grind it that thin, but it worked fine anyway).
Whisk the egg whites (and as she said whisk I actually hand-whisked them, don't know if it makes a difference, but I imagine it might, it's easy to overbeat the egg whites with an electric mixer, so that they're too dry) until fairly stiff, sprinkle the caster sugar over and whisk until very stiff.
Fold the egg whites into the pistachio flour and make small rounds onto a baking-paper lined baking tray.
Somewhere during that process I realized that I had just automatically used salted pistachios and got a bit of a panic-attack about that, but in the end it turned out that it was no problem at all.
Nigella says to use a confectioner's pipe, which I initially did, but got annoyed half way through and continued wih a spoon, which works just fine.
Let them sit on a countertop for about 10 minutes, so that they'll form skins, then bake for about 10-12 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool, I did that the night before.
For the filling you just need to grind the rest of the nuts with the rest of the icing sugar and then cream the butter and continue creaming as you add the nut-flour. You should end up with a well combined and soft cream.
And then it's simply down to sandwiching them together. While I was doing that I got a flashback to a Soviet-era theatre visits, in the theatre cafeterias they basically sold two types of cake (and one always had to have cake while going to see a play) - rum-cake (cocoa, cookie, butter mass with rum essence) and these meringue-cookies, which were basically two bone-dry and hard, stone-white pieces of meringue (no added flavors) glued together by a blob of white butter-cream (plain as well). So I guess I had heard of macaroons before my friend started gushing over them.
I never liked the theatre cafeteria type, but I remember a story my mom told me about how she went through a phase while in the university, where she had one of those large, boring macaroons with a tall glass of salted tomato juice for lunch every day. Ugh ... right?
Well these ones, they're really indescribably good. The meringues are sticky and marshmallowy and the cream is lovely. Also they're probably the sweetest cookie /cake type of thing I've ever had in my life. You basically need a large latte to eat one and you'll be riding a sugar-high for at least a couple hours after that. So a good thing to bring to the office I imagine :)