Sift the ground almonds and icing sugar together into a large mixing bowl. You have to sieve the mixture. This is really important (especially if you don’t have a food processor) as it will get rid of the remaining bigger bits and ensure a smooth batter. You will see some of the almond refuses to pass though your sieve (see picture below). Don’t try to force it through; it’s ok to throw it away. The quantity shouldn’t be significant enough to unbalance your recipe.
In another bowl, whisk the egg whites and sugar to stiff peaks and stir in the lemon zest if using.
Use a large spatula to gently fold the sifted ingredients into the egg whites. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium-sized nozzle. Pipe neat little mounds on the baking sheets – about the size of a 10 cent coin (for mini macaroons) or a 50 cent coin (for medium-sized macaroons). Leave to stand for 15-20 minutes, until a skin forms on the surface.
Preheat your oven to 140C. Bake the macarons for 12-15 minutes until they have a firm outer shell. The perfect macaroons is crisp on the outside and slightly chewy in the centre. Leave to cool on the baking tray for a few minutes then carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. At this stage the macarons can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
When ready to serve, sandwich pairs of macarons together with crème patissiere, or butter cream or ganache.
1 - Heat the sugar in a saucepan, over a medium heat. Without stirring too much, watch over the sugar until it becomes a lovely light-brown caramel colour.
2 – Next add the pouring cream, little by little, gently stirring with a spatula to stop the caramel cooking any further. Watch out for spatters ! The caramel will foam up and can burn.
3 – Once the cream is well incorporated into the caramel, put the banana, vinegar with a spatula and incorporate the butter in small pieces. Beat or whisk until the caramel is smooth and even.
4 – Pour the caramel into the chocolate and stir gently until smooth.
Pour into a suitable container and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 ½ hours so that the caramel thickens.