I know that this post is about macarons but it starts with a story of fudge and the most fantastic restaurant I know.
As I’ve discussed before I spend the end of every summer in the Highlands of Scotland. The land near us, sheltered by the mountains to the north and south and with the warm sea air, is remarkably fertile and the produce is fantastic. Not only are there the usual grains and potatoes, cattle and sheep, but also fantastic fruit and veg farms growing everything from raspberries to aubergines and the largest shellfish port in Europe is down along the coast. So unsurprisingly dotted amongst the fields and farms are some pretty special restaurants. My favourite of these of Boath House and this is where the fudge come in; tonka fudge to be precise.
I have only been lucky enough to visit a couple of times, but oh my! When food is that good and a seven course tasting menu is your only choice you are sure to discover something new. Last I went time it was tonka beans.
I had heard of them before, via Sous Chef which sources and stocks an incredible array of ingredients, but I had never tried them. And if anything was going to be certain to be a success in my eyes it is when it arrives in fudge form. My goodness it was the best fudge I had ever tried!
The flavour of Tonka beans is hard to describe, there’s coconut and vanilla, some say sour cherry, clove and liquorice too. The flavour is complex and quite frankly amazing. They beans themselves look like mini vanilla pods although they are much harder and are best grated with a nutmeg grater.
Unfortunately for those reading this in the US tonka beans are banned by Food Standards due to the presence of a rather toxic chemical. Fortunately for us not in the US tonka beans contain so little of it you’d have to eat more macarons than anyone would feasibly manage to see any effect. They are fantastic used in the place of vanilla all manner of recipes, ice cream and of course fudge, being my favourite. So don’t be put off!
My recipe, as I’ve posted before, follows the Italian method with the slight change being the use of my oven to dry the macaron shells before baking, which is proving successful so far given even results whatever the weather. Hopefully soon I’ll post a full hints and tips for macaron making sharing some of the lessons I’ve learnt, so if you have any questions you want answered let me know 🙂
Makes 20 macarons
For the macarons
Adapted from Perfecting Patisserie by Tim Kinnaird
100g ground almonds
100g icing sugar
37g egg white
100g caster sugar
37g egg white
- Preheat the oven to 140°C
- Blitz the ground almonds in a food processor to make them as fine as possible, being careful not to over blitz and turn them oily.
- Add the icing sugar and first portion of egg whites to the almonds, but do not stir
- Add the caster sugar to a pan with the water and gently heat, stirring carefully (wiping any granules of sugar off the side of the pan with a wet pastry brush) until all the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat to high and leave to boil (without stirring) until it reaches 118°C
- Meanwhile, as the sugar is beginning to boil whisk the egg whites to soft peaks
- Once the sugar has reached 118°C pour it in a steady stream onto the whisking (medium speed) egg whites. (You want the sugar to land just to the side of the whisk- try not to land it on the metal as it will form sugar crystals, nor too far up the side of the bowl as it will cool too much before it hits the egg whites)
- Continue whisking these until the meringue has cooled and is thickening. Just before it has reached stiff peaks whisk in the food colouring. Continue whisking until the meringue has formed stiff peaks (the bowl will still feel warm but not as hot as it was)- this is your Italian meringue
- Spoon a third of the meringue onto the almond mixture and beat in. Once it is all combined add the remaining meringue a spoonful at a time folding in and gently pressing down to remove some of the air. Do not over mix- it should be the consistency of a thick cake batter and bumps should reduce to almost nothing in 10-15secs – too much mixing though will make it runny and make piping the macarons very difficult. Stop when the mix is just starting to flow evenly, without breaking, off a raised spatula
- Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle (1cm) and pipe into 3cm rounds on baking paper on a metal baking tray. (To help you can draw around a coin, leaving an inch between each circle, turn the paper over and pipe onto this, leaving a little room for mixture to spread out slightly as it settles). Trap the tray on your work bench to remove any air bubbles
- Pop the trays in your oven and turn it off, leave for 12mins and turn it back on to 140C and bake for another 15mins. To check if they are cooked or not give one a slight push to check it is no longer stuck to the baking paper- if they seem very stuck leave them a minute or two longer
- Remove from the oven, slide the baking paper off the tray onto your table and leave to cool for at least 20mins before attempting to peel off the paper (The longer you leave them the easier it will be)
For the white chocolate tonka bean ganache
150g white chocolate
150ml double cream
1 small tonka bean
- Melt the chocolate in a pan over simmering water
- Warm the cream until it just begins to steam, allow to cool for 30 seconds before pouring onto the chocolate and mixing until smooth (if any lumps remain reheat the mixture over simmering water very gently – it is better to be slow here than too fast and risk splitting the ganache)
- Pour into a clean dish and leave to cool slightly
- Spoon the ganache into a piping bag with a round nozzle
- Match macaron shells into pairs if they aren’t evenly sized
- Pipe a good sized blob of ganache onto the underside of half of the shells
- Carefully press the tops onto the ganached macaron shells
- Store the assembled macarons in the fridge for at least 24 hours, preferably 48 hours so that the flavours can develop and the shells soften (I refrigerate them overnight and then leave out of the fridge)