Thursday, 14 July 2011

You Say Pom Pon, I Say Pom Pom

In the lovely Mollie Makes, or else Handmade Living, or perhaps even Making Magazine, there was a small debate about whether it is 'pom pon' or 'pom pom'. To me it has always been the latter, and I just can't imagine why you would say it any other way! I know it all depends on what you have been taught when you are little, but it is so odd to hear a familiar word sounding different. Or indeed, to read it. Whilst browsing in a book shop today, I came across a new section in the baking books. There were two particular titles, both of which looked beautiful. One was called 'Macaroons' and the other 'Macarons'. I was almost certain that the latter was some kind of dreadful spelling error, but a little internet research shows it is no such thing! A macaroon is, apparently, a singular item, but a macaron is a pair of them sandwiched together, usually with icing. There is also a coconut macaroon, which is a different beast entirely. Even so, I am sorry, but in my mind, it will always be macaroon whether they have been sandwiched together or not! (The long oooh sound in it is the same sound you make when they come out of the oven and work!)

Now macaroons and I have a nice little history. My mum makes the best macaroons in the world, using the word to describe a singular little bite (they aren't quite biscuit, not quite cake, they are a special thing all of their own, as anybody who had had one will know!) but they are a million miles away from the 'new' fancy macaroons of today. They were little nubbly mounds of ground almonds, egg white and sugar, baked lightly in the oven to give a sweet chewy delection. One year, for Christmas, she gave me a recipe notebook and included her recipe in it, and I have made them to take to work several times, and they have always gone down very well. Best of all, I nearly always have the ingredients in the cupboard!

It used to mystify me though, when I saw in magazines and on websites these beautiful smooth little macaroons in pastel colours. How were they so round, so smooth, so perfect? Well, having started to see them everywhere lately, including the cover of a lovely issue of BBC Homes and Antiques magazine, I have resolved to find out, to master the macaroon, and make it my new signature bake. (My sister started on cupcakes and has now made the melting moment her own, and I do love the idea of having something that people associate with me. I also love the idea of presenting a box of perfect macaroons as a birthday gift. But I digress...)

So this afternoon I tied on my home-made polka dot pinny with the heart-shaped pocket, and set about making my first batch of coffee macaroons. I got the recipe from a book simply named 'Macaroons' in the 'love food' series. The steps are simple, but precise, and each one is designed to give you the perfect smooth, round, flat top macaroon. One of the first things was to blitz the ground almonds, icing sugar, and instant coffee granules to make them super fine. Instantly, the kitchen was filled with a scrumptious scent that made me feel like I was in a french patisserie. I definitely need both more baking sheets, and practise piping, for rather than sploding out spoonfuls as I do with my normal recipe, you pipe gentle rounds. You then leave them to 'set' for half an hour before baking them at a fairly low heat. I was so excited when they came out looking, although far from perfect, like a macaroon from a fancy shop, in that they had the flat top, and the frilly bit round the bottom. I definitely need practise, as they were not all the same size, and look decidedly wonky, and one or two had run together, but for a first go I am pleased. I have resisted trying one yet, as the next step is to whisk up a coffee cream-cheese icing and to sandwich them together.

One of the lovely things about these is that they look so beautiful, and yet take very small quantities of ingredients. So although ground almonds are expensive, you use so little that a small bag will make several batches.

Now I just have to choose which flavour to make next!

PS Ann- thank you for your lovely and kind offer! I am very touched. When I have finished this tube of That Gal I will certainly let you know. Thank you!

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