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Beautiful macaroons are one of the current ‘sweet’ crazes. Make a batch, put them in a pretty box tied up with ribbon, and give them to a friend as a dazzling gift.
Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F), Gas Mark 5. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Put the icing sugar, ground almonds and 40g (11⁄2oz) egg whites together in a large bowl and mix to a paste.
Put the water and caster sugar in a small pan and heat gently to melt the sugar then turn up the heat and boil it until the mixture starts to go syrupy and thickens. I don’t use a thermometer but it would read 115°C (239°F).
Whisk the remaining egg whites in a small bowl until medium-stiff peaks form, then pour in the sugar syrup, whisking until the mixture becomes stiff and shiny. For coloured macaroons, add a few drops of food colouring. Tip this meringue mixture into the almond paste mixture and stir gently until the becomes stiff and shiny again.
Spoon into the piping bag. Pipe a little mixture under each corner of the baking paper to stop it sliding around. With the bag held vertically, pipe 4cm (1½in) flat circles onto the lined tray, about 2cm (3⁄4in) apart, twisting the bag after each one. The mixture should be quite loose to give a smooth finish. The piping will leave a small ‘tip’ on each circle so, when they’re all piped, give the tray 2–3 slams on a flat surface to flatten them.
At this stage, sprinkle with desiccated coconut if you want. Leave to stand for 30 minutes to form a skin then bake in the oven for 12–15 minutes with the door slightly ajar, until firm. Remove from the oven, lift the paper off the baking tray and leave the macaroons to cool on the paper.
When cool, sandwich the macaroons together with whipped cream. They can be kept for a couple of days, if they hang around that long.
Makes about 24 macaroons (12 if sandwiched together) (V)
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