Earl Grey, White Chocolate and Lemon Macarons

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I used to only drink Earl Grey tea as a special treat, until a good friend of mine who only drinks it helped me realise that some things are worth reserving for special occasions – macarons, for instance – but tea really isn’t one of them. You often find Earl Grey paired with dark chocolate in macarons, but I find it dominates the delicate flavour of the tea. Instead, I’ve paired it with the subtler white chocolate flavoured with lemon zest, to bring out the perfumed, citrus notes of the Earl.

It took me many, many attempts to get macarons right – too flat, too lumpy, too runny, cracked on the top, no feet on the bottom – but I’m pleased to report that I’ve never had a problem since working out this recipe. They really aren’t as intimidating as they seem and many first-time macaron-makers among my friends have had success with this method.

You will need a freestanding mixer, as the egg whites have to be whisked for a good ten minutes, two piping bags (no nozzles required) and either two silicone macaron matts or two sheets of greaseproof, with 28 x 3cm circles drawn out in pencil as a guide, on baking trays.

Ingredients
40g caster sugar
125g egg whites (from around three eggs)
100g ground almonds
200g icing sugar
3 Earl Grey teabags
200g white chocolate
65ml double cream
the zest of 1 lemon
edible cornflower petals (optional)

Makes 56 shells, 28 once sandwiched

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Method
Place the caster sugar and egg whites in the bowl of a freestanding mixer and beat on low (4 on a KitchenAid) for 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium (6-7) for further three minutes. Finally, increase the speed to high (9-10) for three minutes more. You should now have very stiff peaks.

Meanwhile, weigh out the ground almonds and icing sugar into a bowl, along with the contents of the Earl Grey teabags. Stir well to combine. Add the almond mix to the whisked egg whites and fold together. It should take about 20 turns to come together, but don’t stop there. Continue to fold until you achieve a molten consistency, where a spoon of mixture dropped into the bowl sits on top of the rest and then melts away after around 10 seconds. Too thick and your piped macarons will have peaks rather than lying flat; too runny and, well – try not to get that far.

Spoon the mix into a piping bag (stand it up in a pint glass so you can fill hands-free), twist and fasten the top with whatever you have to hand – a plastic clip, an elastic band, a hair tie – and then snip off the end to give a roughly 1.5cm opening. Pipe swirls in the centre of each dip/drawn circle on your macaron matt/baking paper, leaving a little space around the edge as they will spread as they settle. Scatter the tops of one tray’s worth of macarons with cornflower petals, if wished.

Preheat the oven to 170°C fan. Leave the two trays of macarons on the side while it heats; they will form a soft skin. Rap each tray on the worktop a couple of tips to push any bubbles to the surface. Bake the macarons one tray at a time in the top of the oven for 13 minutes if using a silicone matt, 10 minutes if using greaseproof. Leave them to cool for five minutes on the tray before peeling them off and placing them on a cooling rack.

Meanwhile, make the ganache filling. Place the chocolate and cream in a bowl and heat gently in the microwave for a minute. Remove and stir to combine; the chocolate will continue to melt in the hot cream. If it needs more time to melt completely, continue in 30 second bursts, stirring after each, until melted. Stir to combine, then leave to cool on the side. Once cool, sit in the fridge for 20 minutes.

To create white, pipe-able ganache, whip up the chilled ganache with a hand mixer or in the bowl of a freestanding mixer for 3-5 minutes until it is pale and fluffy. Transfer to a piping bag, as before, and pipe circles on the bottom 28 shells. Sandwich with the top 28 (the ones decorated with petals, if you chose to).

I best like to eat macarons after a 24-hour resting period; simply store them in an airtight container until you’re ready to eat.

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