These chocolate macaroons are a chocaholic's dream. Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, try experimenting with your own favourite flavour combinations.
115g/4oz white chocolate, broken into pieces
orange colouring paste
115g/4oz white chocolate, broken into pieces
green colouring paste
Line eight baking trays with greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
To make the shells, place the icing sugar, ground almonds and cocoa powder in a food processor and pulse for about 30 seconds to make a fine powder. Sift the powder into a clean bowl, discarding any lumps left in the sieve.
Weigh the egg whites - you should have about 300g/10½oz in total. Stir half the egg whites into the icing sugar and almond mixture to make a smooth paste. Place the remaining egg whites into the bowl of a mixer with a whisk attachment. Whisk the egg whites in the mixer until they form soft peaks.
Place the caster sugar and water in a small pan, heat gently until the sugar has dissolved then turn the heat up until the syrup reaches 115C/235F (use a sugar thermometer to check this). Turn on the mixer and continue whisking the egg whites on a low speed, pouring in the syrup in a steady stream. Increase the mixer to a medium speed for two minutes then turn it down again and continue whisking for five minutes, or until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed.
Fold the icing sugar, almond and egg white paste into the whisked egg whites. Spoon the mixture into a large piping bag fitted with a 5mm/¼in plain nozzle. Pipe 4cm/1½in circles onto the baking trays. Using a toothpick, burst any air bubbles that appear on the surface of the shells. The macaroons must stand for at least 20 minutes before going into the oven as it helps to form a skin.
Bake the shells for 12 minutes or until they no longer wobble when you shake the baking tray. (You may need to do this in batches, but the macaroons can rest for 1-2 hours.) Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Carefully peel the macaroons off the greaseproof paper.
To make the milk chocolate centres, heat the cream in a small saucepan until just boiling then take the pan off the heat and whisk in the chocolate pieces. Transfer to a small bowl and place it in the fridge.
To make the chocolate orange filling, heat the cream in a small saucepan until just boiling then take the pan off the heat and whisk in the chocolate pieces, orange colouring and flavouring. Transfer to a small bowl and place it in the fridge.
To make the mint chocolate filling, heat the cream in a small saucepan with the peppermint essence until just boiling. Take the pan off the heat then whisk in the white chocolate and green colouring. Transfer to a bowl and place it in the fridge
To make the caramel, heat the cream in a small saucepan until just boiling then remove the pan from the heat and set aside. Heat the sugar in a clean pan, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it turns dark brown. Pour onto the cream, taking care as it will be very hot, and whisk until smooth. Add the butter, whisk thoroughly then transfer to a bowl and set aside.
To assemble the macaroons, pair up the macaroon shells with the flat sides uppermost and place them on baking trays lined with greaseproof paper. (You should have about 120 macaroon shells.)
Spoon the chocolate orange filling into a piping bag fitted with a 5mm/1¼in plain nozzle and pipe a circle around the edge of 20 of the macaroon shells. Repeat with the mint chocolate and caramel fillings.
Spoon the mixture for the milk chocolate centres into into a piping bag fitted with a 5mm/1¼in plain nozzle and pipe small dots into the middle of the circles of filling, then carefully sandwich together with the remaining shells.
For each of the dips, melt the chocolate in a microwave, or in a bowl suspended over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring in the colouring if using. Pour into squeezy bottles or piping bags fitted with very small nozzles and pipe swirls onto the appropriate macaroons.
Transfer the finished macaroons to the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight, before serving.
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Paul and Mary share some of their favourite festive recipes in this one-off special.
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