I must admit when I first saw a picture of macaroons, followed by the recipe, I thought "that looks too complicated and I'm not failing at making them" But I was ignoring my natural instinct to always challenge myself and go that extra mile to bake or cook something that looks tasty. So, one day, I was flicking through Nigella's "how to be a domestic goddess" and saw a picture of macaroons and said I've got to try this out whether I like it or not. The recipe didn't seem that difficult but I was missing two key elements – a piping bag and nozzle, which I didn't have yet and pistachios. It wasn't that difficult to buy a piping bag and some nozzles, but trying to buy unsalted pistachios was much more challenging. With no luck trying to track down unsalted pistachios in the supermarkets, I had only one option – the Naschmarkt, in downtown Vienna. Naschmarkt has now become a major tourist attraction in Vienna, where you can buy exotic food, spices, fruits at burn in your pocket prices, but they usually have most of the unusual stuff. At first it wasn't that easy, no one seemed to have unsalted pistachios and then I finally found it at one stall, but of course at a nice price – 100g of these precious green and exotic nuts for 2.50 Euros. Oh well, a small price to pay for my next kitchen challenge.
On getting back home, I realized I had made one mistake – I actually needed about 150g of pistachios and I only had 100g. Not to be defeated, I pondered and thought, well I can use almonds instead, one of my favourite kitchen ingredients and something I try to ensure I always have at home. So I simply halved the pistachio portion for the macaroons, making it 50g by 50g split with the blanched almonds (i.e. whole almonds without their skin). For the rest of the recipe I more or less followed the guidance – 2 large egg whites, 125g of icing sugar and 15g of caster sugar.
Because pistachios are oily, you should begin with pulsing the icing sugar with the pistachios and almonds to get what can be called an almond and pistachio dust. Once you've finished with this, whip the egg whites until fairly stiff, add 15g of the caster sugar and continue whipping the egg whites until really stiff, taking care not to over whip and collapse the egg whites. Place this gooey mixture into a piping bag and pipe out about 30 to 40 rounds about 4-5 centimetres in diameter wide onto a baking tray lined with 2 rows of baking paper or parchment.
The number of the rounds needs to be an even number as you will sandwich the biscuits together later on. Leave them on the lined tray for about 10 minutes to get a "skin".
Bake for about 8-10 minutes, making sure that the macaroons don't get too brown around the edges. As soon as they are done, take them out of the oven. To make the pistachio butter cream filling, simply grind 50g of pistachios with about 150-200g of icing sugar and then add about 100g of soft butter and continue pulsing until it comes together.
Wait for the macaroons to cool completely as they are quite delicate and removing them can be a bit tricky. I usually peel them off with my finger very gently from both sides making sure they don't bend and snap in half. After this, using a small knife or dessert spoon, scoop up the pistachio butter cream and place it gently onto one macaroon like you are spreading butter, but very gently if not you will break the macaroon. After this, place the other biscuit on top, smooth the sides with a small knife or your fingers if they are clean.
This is definitely an "impress your friends" recipe and it doesn't take that long. I was happy with the outcome even though my family thought it was a strange concoction so I shared some with my colleagues who were impressed and pleased too. You can store them in an air tight container for about a week and contrary to suggestions, I did store some in the fridge and found them quite refreshing on a hot day. Now, I'm looking forward to trying different recipes of what I believe is a French cookery phenomenon. Watch this space….