You might remember that back in June I finally made a pilgrimage to The Little Macaron Shop in Liverpool in search of my first ever macarons and their magical sounding 'maclairs'. I literally haven't stopped thinking about these ever since, it was love at first sight. But sadly living on the other side of the country has meant I haven't been able to revisit these desserts so this week for pastry week, despite having never made macarons or eclairs, I decided to finally make my own.
I opted for an earl grey macaron (because I will never get bored of baking with tea) on top of a classic choux pastry and filled with rose flavoured cream. I don't have a lot of notes for you this week because honestly, for things that people make such a fuss about getting really wrong, I was surprised at just how easy they were to get so right. The earl grey and rose complimented each other beautifully but you can substitute them for any other flavours you wish as long as you stick to dry/powdered ingredients in the macarons.
Really my only tip this week is that if you want to make these ahead of time (we ate most of them right away because we were so excited), don't assemble them until the day you want them. I left some overnight and by morning the macarons had soaked up all the moisture from the cream and were a soggy, sugary mess. The pastry and cookies will both keep for a couple of days in the fridge though so just keep everything apart until the day you want to serve them.
I will also say that while they are fantastic, in making them at home you don't get to experience the fantastic service and atmosphere of The Little Macaron Shop or sample any of their other amazing bakes so if you're in the neighbourhood, I'd still highly recommend checking out the real thing but in the meantime, these are definitely worth a try.
150g plain flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp earl grey
100g icing sugar
100g finely ground almonds
2 egg whites
small pinch salt
60g caster sugar
approx 500ml of double cream
2 drops of rose water
Start by sifting the almonds and icing sugar into a large bowl (throw away any large lumps that won't sieve) and mix together.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they start to form peaks then add the caster sugar and salt and whisk again until they are stiff and glossy. Gently stir in the icing sugar/almond mix and the earl grey tea - everyone makes a large fuss about the way you fold them in at this point but honestly I just threw it together and my macarons came out near enough perfect. You can also add food colouring at this point but try and get gel or powdered colouring because you don't want to add any extra moisture if you can help it. I used a mixture of blue and black to get a sort of grey colour but it isn't very clear in the photos.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and pipe small circles or strips (depending on your desired shape of maclair, I made a mixture of round and 'eclair' shaped ones) on to a lined baking tray - make sure to leave a few cm between them as they will spread. Gently tap the tray on to a countertop to remove any air bubbles and leave to stand for at least 20 minutes. They should form a skin and become shiny in this time.
Bake at around 140c for 15 minutes - I found it helped to leave the oven door slightly ajar to let out any steam. When you take them out of the oven leave them on the tray to cool, they're very delicate so if you try and prise them from the paper right away they will break.
To make the pastry, start by sifting the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl. Then in a small pan heat the butter and water until all the butter has melted. Bring to the boil and then quickly add the flour and stir until it is well combined and sticky then remove from the heat. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs well and then stir into your mixture, it will take a few minutes to come together but it will happen.
Using a large nozzle, pipe your pastry onto a greased baking tray into the same shape as the macarons (make them a little smaller than the finished biscuits so that they have room to rise) and bake at 200c for around 20 minutes (a little more for larger buns).
When you remove them from the oven poke a small hole into the top of each pastry so that any steam can escape and stop them from getting soggy and leave to cool.
Once your pastry and cookies are cold you can finally assemble your maclairs. Start by whipping together the cream and rose water until it is thick enough to pipe. Then using a sharp knife, cut off the tops of the pastries, pipe full of cream and top with a macaron.