Christmas Macarons

Macarons remind me of a make-up artist's palette. Their strikingly vivid colours imbue a fun, frivolous and festive vibe, which fits in perfectly with the arrival of Christmas.

Unlike most other Christmas confectionary, macarons are gluten free, dainty and light, making them perfect for summer in the Southern Hemisphere. If you're like me, the last thing you feel like is a hot and heavy Christmas pudding or a slice of dense Christmas cake, following the traditional roast Christmas lunch.

Le macaron is also relatively simple to make, requiring only a few essential ingredients: egg whites, ground nuts (usually almonds) and both granulated sugar and icing sugar. Macarons come in a multitude of flavours - but for Christmas why not try making some pistachio, caramel, or raspberry flavoured macarons to tie in with the colours of the festive season. This means it is a wonderful Christmas present for gluten free friends and family!

While le macaron seems like a relatively new phenomenon to our shores, its origins date as far back as the 1500s to either France or Italy. While the precise origin of the macaron is contested, one thing is for sure, its smooth and flat shape distinguishes it from its cousin, the meringue.

The macaron, as we know it today, was in part due to Pierre Desfontaines (second cousin of Louis Ernest Laduree), who in the 20th century, took two macaron shells and sandwiched them together with an exquisite filling of chocolate ganache. Known as the gerbet or the Paris macaron , this reunion has come to symbolise the success of the Laduree Parisian tea houses.

Pistachio Macarons Here's what you'll need... To make 30-40 half macaron shells

For the Ganache

And here's how to make the shells...

1. Separate egg whites into a bowl. Add a pinch of cream of tartar, then beat until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in caster sugar and continue beating until peaks become stiff.

2. Grind pistachios very finely using a food processor or blender. Sift the ground nuts and icing sugar together in a bowl.

3. Sift the dry mixture (yet again!) into the egg whites, and then fold mixture together. Note: the more you fold, the more liquid the mixture will become and the worse the overall shape of the final macaron. Therefore I recommend folding until it just mixed.

4. Pipe or spoon out the mixture onto a baking papered oven tray, using a circle shaped cookie cutter to get a good shape. Repeat until all mixture is spooned out.

5. Bake at 150°C for 20-25 mins. Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes, then lift off onto racks and cool completely.

And for the ganache...

6. Place the chocolate and cream in a small bowl (and orange water if using). Microwave on Medium for 60-90 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds, or by placing the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir until smooth then cool until thick enough to spread.

Sandwich the halves together with about a teaspoon of ganache, then store in an air tight container.

Note: for Raspberry Macarons, I recommend replacing the pistachios with about 100g of almonds, ground finely, and adding a few drops of gluten free red food colouring. Also add some raspberry jam into the ganache mixture for extra raspberry flavour. Or even pop a real raspberry in the middle of the ganache!

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