A generous friend gave me a pack of delicious marzipan to which, this weekend, I felt compelled to do more justice than simply cutting off tiny pieces and eating them and which all but one of my cook books deem suitable only for lagging a cake or dyeing and forming into tiny fruit.
Hurrah, then, for this volume half-inched (well, not really, I asked permission) from the family collection. The Complete Book of Desserts (Ann Seranne, 1952, Faber and Faber for the Cookery Book Club) is just that – 357 pages, divided into 18 chapters including Baked and Steamed Puddings; Gelatin Desserts; Cornstarch, Rice, Farina and Other Creamy Desserts; Dessert Omelets [sic] and Souffles. The recipes assume a reasonable level of cooking ability and are consequently fairly light on detail and some recipes are printed over two pages leading to turning during cooking, never good for the panicked cook. I also like the bright, kitsch slip cover.
Macaroons – Massepain
1 cup almond paste
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 – 4 egg whites
Work the almond paste and sugar together until well mixed.
Add egg whites, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
It may not be necessary to add any or all of the last egg white.
The consistency of the dough should be soft enough to be easily passed through a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tube, and yet hold its shape on the baking sheet.
Line a baking tray with waxed paper and press out rounds of dough the size of a 25 cent piece.
Bake in a slow oven for 12 – 15 minutes
- I halved the recipe
- I stirred the egg whites briefly before adding to the marzipan and sugar so it would be easier to combine everything.
- I added just over 1 medium egg white first and that was enough to give the dough was a soft dropping texture.
- I don’t own a piping bag so I spooned out teaspoons of dough.
- They took a little longer than 15 minutes – more like 20.
- I should have left them to cool completely as some of the bottoms broke as they were lifted off the tray.
These were hollow and meringues-like; Light, chewy and perfectly sweet. I suppose a little flour or more thoroughly whisked egg whites would yielded something more like a biscuit and less like a piece of confectionery but I was pleased to have made something so insubstantial and therefore unlike my usual effort when baking.
In a subsequent attempt to make some macaroons as a present, I encountered several problems. Firstly, I decided to make 1.5 times the recipe, in order to have plenty to dispense (and plenty FOR ME), so I, of course, lightly stirred 5 egg whites. This turned out, however, to be excessive, with around 3 whites leading to very wet batter and 2 flat, messy batches. I added a dessertspoon of plain flour and around 25g of ground almonds and a pinch of baking powder and finally produced something acceptable – same meringue-like texture, although this time with many large cracks running over the surface. Some melted dark chocolate painted on the bottom augmented my woe (I burnt the first lot) but eventually completed the gift which was well-received by the main intended recipient (and her other half). After a couple of days, I asked if the altered macaroons had become harder or chewier, they were reported as ‘harder but still awesome’.
Luckily and coincidentally, in the middle of a weekend of carbohydrate mis-adventure, I was informed of the deliciousness of making a biscuit base (including amaretti crumbs) for apple pie, so I have a use for all the pale, misshapen biscuits in my freezer. Of course, I can’t serve this up to any of my loyally reading friends. They’ll know what a cheapskate I am.