These darlings of every French pastry shop are worth the effort and fuss for which they are famous. For best results, make them when the weather is clear and dry to avoid soft or sticky macaroons.
1 cup (250 mL) icing sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) ground almonds
2 egg whites
2 tbsp (30 mL) granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) meringue powder
Purple paste food colouring
Black Currant Filling:
1 cup (250 mL) black currant jam
In food processor, pulse icing sugar with almonds until fine. Sift through fine sieve into bowl; set aside.
In large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Beat in granulated sugar and meringue powder until soft peaks form. Tint mixture purple. Fold in almond mixture, one-third at a time, until blended.
Using piping bag fitted with 1/4-inch (5 mm) plain tip, pipe meringue into 1-inch (2.5 cm) rounds, 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart, onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Let stand for 15 minutes.
Bake in 325 degrees F. (160 degrees C.) oven until puffed, smooth and cracked around bottom edges, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on pan on rack. (Make-ahead: Store in airtight container for up to 3 days.)
Black Currant Filling:Meanwhile, press jam through fine sieve into small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat; reduce heat and simmer until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl to let cool until thickened and spreadable, stirring occasionally.
Spread about 1/4 tsp (1 mL) filling onto bottom side of half of the macaroons. Sandwich with remaining macaroons, bottom side down. (Make-ahead: Store layered between waxed paper in airtightcontainer for up to 24 hours.)
Caramel Macaroons: Tint macaroons with light brown food colouring.
Caramel Filling: In heavy saucepan, stir 1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar with 3 tbsp (45 mL) water over medium heat until dissolved, brushing down side of pan with pastry brush dipped in cold water.
Bring to boil over medium-high heat, without stirring but brushing down side of pan often, until amber, 6 to 9 minutes.
Standing back and averting face, whisk in 1/3 cup (75 mL) whipping cream. Return to boil, stirring occasionally, until soft ball stage of 234 to 240 degrees F. (112 to 116 degrees C.), and 1 tsp (5 mL) syrup dropped into cold water forms soft pliable ball, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 tbsp (15 mL) butter. Let cool to room temperature.
Chocolate Macaroons: Omit food colouring. Add 2 tbsp (25 mL) cocoa powder to icing sugar and almonds before sifting.
Chocolate Ganache Macaroons:
Chocolate Filling: In saucepan, heat 1/4 cup (50 mL) whipping cream over medium heat until small bubbles form around side of pan. Stir in 2 oz (60 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, until melted. Stir in 1 tbsp (15 mL) unsalted butter until smooth. Transfer to bowl. Let cool until thick enough to spread.
Pistachio Macaroons: Tint macaroons with green food colouring.
Pistachio Filling: In food processor, pulse together 2/3 cup (150 mL) icing sugar, 1/3 cup (75 mL) shelled pistachios and pinch cardamom until fine. Add 2 tbsp (25 mL) unsalted butter, softened. Tint with green food colouring. Pulse to form paste.