Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Cooking with booze: Kir Royale Macarons

There's nothing I like more than cake and cocktails: separately, together, any kind of combination, and I'm sold. A fancy afternoon tea is all well and good, but the addition of a chilled glass of champagne.. Now you're talking.

I know that macarons are not strictly cake, but those bite-sized beauties are so splendid that even the most stubborn "I'm not into sweets" person would find it hard to resist. If you're not acquainted with the macaron, they're light as a feather almond-y meringues that are so Parisian chic - delicate shiny shells, still chewy in the middle, sandwiched together with buttercream or something similar. They can be bloody tricky buggers to make though (they've brought me to tears once before), but get them right, and your friends will think they've come straight from a patisserie.
Anyway, my love of cake and cocktails led me to this idea; a macaron filled with a Crème de Cassis buttercream filling, paired with a glass of your favourite fizz, and you have yourself an interesting take on a Kir Royale! Its the perfect recipe for a late afternoon or night time soiree - one of those gatherings that doesn't require you to make a feast-for-all, just a few nibbles - but something a bit special nonetheless.

I'd suggest your chosen fizz be dry - champagne, cava, Franciacorta, or even English sparkling wine - prosecco could be a bit too sweet when accompanied with the treats.

This recipe, adapted from Harry Eastwood's Skinny French Kitchen (available on Amazon for £18.95), is the easiest I've come across, and the one that's had the least failures. My tips are: to use food colouring that is in paste/gel form as they're the best for keeping their colour (natural food colourings don't tend to work well); red/pink/purple are most suited to this flavour. Go off piste if you like; a colourless shell with a vivid centre would look equally as fancy as what I've suggested.

Unfilled shells fare well in the freezer, so you can whip a batch up and freeze some for future use. You can also freeze the buttercream, but it will need a good mix, and possibly more icing sugar, to get back to the right consistency once defrosted. Oh, and you're definitely going to need an electric hand whisk; you might have guns like Popeye, but you'll struggle with this one.

Kir Royale Macarons
Makes approx. 40 macaron shells (20 whole macarons)

For the shells:
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 3 medium egg whites
  • a pinch of salt
  • 40g caster sugar
  • food colouring (paste)
For the buttercream:
  •  75g unsalted butter
  • 150g icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp Crème de Cassis (I used Tesco Finest, £9.00) 
  • food colouring (paste)
Champagne or equivalent.

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
  2. Using a food processor, whizz up the icing sugar and ground almonds until you have a fine dust that resembles flour.
  3. Whisk the egg whites with the salt until you reach stiff peaks. Add the caster sugar in a steady stream, still whisking the whole time until the whites are stiff and glassy. Add the food colouring and whisk so that the colour is evenly distributed throughout the whites.
  4. Using a metal spoon, gently fold the almond and icing sugar mixture into the egg whites until the texture is uniform. Don't be heavy-handed here, you want to keep it as voluminous as possible.
  5. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium nozzle, or alternatively, use a disposable one. Standing the bag in a tumbler helps, as this can get a bit messy.
  6. Pipe circles of the mixture on to the baking sheet, roughly 3cm wide. Leave space in between each one, as they tend to spread out a little, and puff up during cooking.
  7. Bang your baking sheet on the kitchen work surface a couple of times to get rid of any large air bubbles, then set aside for 30 minutes to dry out the shells. They're ready when you can touch the surface without leaving a fingerprint.
  8. Cook for 12 minutes in the middle of the oven, and leave to cool on the tray.
  9. To make the filling, whisk the butter until soft and fluffy. Add half of the sifted icing sugar and beat until mixed.
  10. Add the remaining sugar, crème de cassis, and food colouring. Beat until smooth.
  11. Use the mixture to sandwich the macarons together - piping it is best.
  12. Pop the champagne and serve.
Good luck!
 Champagne image taken from Lachlan Hardy's photostream under the Creative Commons License.

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