Sunday, February 26, 2006


I developed a literary taste for macaroons from an early age. As a young child, I would voraciously read Enid Blyton’s Mystery Series. These books were about The Five Find-Outers and Dog, and their many exciting adventures and run-ins with Inspector Goon. Most exciting for me, however, were their frequent trips to the local tea shop. Here they would eat macaroons, that their leader, Frederick “Fatty” Algernon Trotterville, did hope were good and chewy.

I think I ate my first real macaroon at age 9, bought very excitedly from a café in Carlton. Can I just say I was incredibly disappointed? I was expecting a mouthful of crunchy-chewy deliciousness, but my immature palate was totally unprepared for the assault of artificial almond essence. Feral. So since then, I have avoided macaroons and anything flavoured with almond-essence like the plague.

281. Macaroons (Basics etc.)

Naturally, I wasn’t too keen to make these, but it’s gotta be tried. And it happened to be raining like a biatch today, so I was happy to spend the afternoon indoors.

To make macaroons, you stir together almond meal, castor sugar, and egg whites to form a thick paste. My mixture turned out really stiff, and keeping in mind that they’re supposed to be piped with a piping bag, I added extra egg whites to loosen it. Then add a tablespoon of flour and a teaspoon of almond essence (I was very, very sparing with the essence), and pipe out into 5 centimetre rounds.


Now, even though they’re supposed to be piped, I must admit that I was not too keen on the idea of washing up a piping bag. So, I just spooned out the mixture into appropriately sized circles. They take about 20 minutes to cook.

on rack

I got 13 out of this mixture. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed them! I ate them with the parentals in front of the TV, watching some old Dirk Bogarde spy film. They’re quite sweet, but very tasty. I prefer them with just a hint of almond essence flavour, rather than the invasive artificial taste that you get with excessive amounts. (My rule-of-thumb is to halve the quantity of almond essence stipulated in a recipe). And there was a lovely contrast between the chewy interior and crunchy interior. I guess Fatty Trotterville was right after all!



Niki said...

Yeah, almond essence can be nasty stuff. It makes things taste like those alcohol soaked cakes you get in Italian cake shops (we used to have them for my dad's birthday. They were gross). I agree that a little goes a very long way.
Incidentally, I used to be an Enid Blyton fanatic as well, and dream about what treacle tarts and potted meat and macaroons would taste like. But I think the macaroons she means are those British ones made with dessicated coconut, sugar and egg whites, rather than the European ones with ground nuts and almond essence. I never realised a real macaroon (actually "macaron") was this Frenchy thing, not full of coconut, until I was well into adulthood!

Sarah said...

Hey Niki,

Oh, right you are! Silly me should have realised that, I've had macarons before. Did you know that Laurent Patisserie give you a free macaron when you buy ice-cream there? Heads up, Laurent ice-cream is wonderful!

The one in Kew (near Leo's) has ice-cream, as does the one on Whitehorse road if you ever feel like trying it.

Ooh, there's a treacle tart recipe in HTE! I think that's going to get made soon. And also, now that you mention it, maybe it was my Enid Blyton fandom that subconsciously pushed me towards HTE and all its English English recipes.

xox Sarah

Niki said...

No, I didn't know that about Laurent! There's one in Ivanhoe near me, and mum often walks up on the weekend to get her take away coffee. I might have to join her one morning (when I'm actually around). Although I love the stuff at Laurent so much I'd probably come out with my arms full of sticky pastries.
I know exactly what you mean by the English recipes; I think it's the reason I really love British food writers and chefs too. I've never taken to American cookbooks, but I love the homely, comforting feeling of the British cookbooks. And, like you, I'm a huge fan of Nigel Slater. Go the butter!!!

Anonymous said...

Would almond extract (the real deal) be better than almond essence (the chemical flavouring) maybe?

Sarah said...

Hmm... that's an interesting idea, anonymous, I hadn't thought of that. I just used the almond essence that we had in our pantry. But I'll be on the lookout for almond extract next time I'm in the shops.



Eleanor said...

I am delighted to see the picture of your macaroons - they're flat! The ones in shops are always neatly rounded and high, whereas on my attempts they have invariably come out rather thin and spread out. Just like yours in fact, which suggests that it is not just me, but what home-made macaroons are really supposed to be like. Thank you for providing the comfort and confidence-boost that I am not just a terrible macaroon - baker! When do you start on "How To Be a Domestic Goddess"?!