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My favorite Ladurée French macarons served at the award winning Anthenaeum in London

Now that January has come and gone, many sights are set on Valentine’s Day, just over a week away.  Have you ever thought of sharing an Afternoon Tea with your loved one?  It easier to pull together than a lavish dinner and can be more relaxed.  If you are single you can always hold one with your friends…or for yourself.  In any event each Tuesday I dish on Downton Abbey and other topical issues one might discuss at tea, served up with a recipe with an interesting history.

You may find my Online Guide to Afternoon Tea helpful in understanding traditions and recipes to help you host your own tea party with family and friends. Today’s treat are traditional British Macaroons, the type that the British traditionally had with their tea.  The bonus is that these are heart healthy treats.

Dishing Downton

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Abbey Cooks Entertain

DACE_Cover_0113I think you will find something to tempt you amongst the 220 recipes I have included in this book. If nothing else you will want to get the book for recipes for the famous Downton dishes from Season 1-3.  This 432 page ebook sells for only $7.95. You can only get a signed copy here on my site.  If you don’ have an eReader I would suggest the PDF version which can be printed if you like. Sending as a gift? Order as many copies as you need and simply forward the email download link to your friend(s), just as you would gift music.

English Almond Macaroons

Ethel-friendly macaroons, plus a special version for Valentine's Day

Ethel-friendly macaroons, plus a special version for Valentine’s Day

While French macarons are lovely, particularly with tea and champagne (see our feature photo above), they can be a challenge to make for beginners.  I recall my first taste of Ladurée macarons in Paris many years ago, and I rushed home with a box motivated to learn how to make them, and make a fortune at it.  Well, I soon lost interest since I could never quite replicate the same flavour of the famous confection, and now of course you see macarons everywhere.  Perhaps we will make macarons together another time, but today we are helping beginning cooks succeed, just as Mrs. Patmore helped Ethel.

English style of macaroons, a recipe which Mrs. Patmore might have given to Ethel, as a quick and easy tea treat to make.  One theory points to origins in an Italian monastery in the 18th century.  Most English almond macaroon recipes you see today are traced back to Mrs. Beeton, the famed Victorian domestic diva. In her day she called for a mortar and pestle to make a smooth paste, but we have been blessed with the convenience of food processors.  The main ingredient is ground almonds, which is heart healthy and the thought is that the fiber content in almonds offsets the absorption of some the fat.

Makes 12 – 15 biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups ground almonds
  • 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar (or sugar substitute)
  • sliced almonds
  • red food coloring (optional)

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400F.  Line a baking tray with silicone liner or parchment paper.
  2. Beat the egg whites with a fork until foamy.
  3. Pulse ground almonds in a food processor and pulse for half a minute to make fine (or work with a mortar and pestle until you have released a bit of the stress of your day).
  4. Make a paste, adding a portion of egg whites, then sugar pulsing until combined after each addition.  For colored macaroons without changing the almond flavour, add a little red food coloring until you get the color you desire.
  5. The mixture will be soft.  You can use a little cookie scoop, or let it sit for a few minutes for the dough to stiffen to work with your hands.
  6. Make balls about 1.5″ round to make a nice petite size for your tea tray.
  7. Place the macaroons a few inches apart on your cookie sheet.  You can leave as is, or if you prefer a flatter biscuit, gently press, and then place a couple of almonds on top.  I went for a “heart” effect and cut my red biscuits with a little heart shaped cutter.
  8. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until lightly browned.  Take care not to overbake. I like them a little on the pale side for my tea tray. The goal is have a crispy outside, and chewy inside.
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