There’s such a simple, primal pleasure that comes from playing with food or eating it with your fingers.
Most of the time (in the Western world at least, perhaps discounting fast food and TV dinners)we need a knife and fork, eat from a plate and at a dinner table, restricted either by the type of food or our understanding of what is acceptable in a social situation.
Other foods invite a little more freedom: cracking nuts, tearing apart pieces of bread, picking crab meat from its shell or flipping and rolling pancakes, wiping sugar crumbs from our lips and sticky syrup with our fingers.
Tomorrow is Pancake Day and I plan to indulge in my fair share of batter-flipping, finger-licking fun. But I’ve failed to have the forethought to make any this weekend to photograph and share with you in time for the day. Sorry. Instead I’ve got a recipe for something else you can enjoy and eat with your fingers.
Malteser macarons are inspired by their crispy chocolate namesake. A crunchy malted milk shell encloses a smooth milk chocolate ganache, studded with extra chunks of crushed Malteser. You can eat them all at once, twist the two halves apart and scoop out the ganache, nibble daintily around the edges or put them to one side and play with the original Maltesers, throwing them in the air and attempting to make them hover above your mouth.
I made these macarons on Saturday as a little thank you for my bridesmaids. We’d been dress shopping and after a couple of hours of trying on outfits and catwalk-style strutting, these felt like the perfect sweet treat to pick everyone up before an evening of celebrations.
They’re not completely perfect. Macarons are notoriously difficult to make and while I’ve always (smugly) prided myself in never encountering any problems, this time it wasn’t meant to be. The first batch ended up in the bin as I hadn’t bothered to grind my almonds fine enough and while this second set taste lovely, they’re a little irregular and haven’t fully developed their characteristic feet.
Not that it really matters. Like the occasional irregular pancake, appearances aren’t all that matters and if you like the taste of Maltesers, I’m sure you’ll love these crunchy, chocolaty, malty mouthfuls. There certainly aren’t any left as I’m writing this post.
Malteser Macarons (adapted from my Salty Snickers Macarons)
(makes about 20 macarons)
For the shells
110g icing sugar
50g ground almonds
25g malted milk powder (I used Horlicks)
60g free range egg whites (about 2 medium eggs)
40g granulated sugar
For the ganache
40g milk chocolate, chopped
25g dark chocolate, chopped
15g unsalted butter, cubed
60ml double cream
Handful Maltesers, crushed
For the shells
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Line two trays with baking parchment.
Sift together the icing sugar, ground almonds and malted milk powder in a large, dry bowl. Place the egg whites and caster sugar in a separate bowl and, using a hand-held whisk, whisk on full speed until a thick, aerated meringue forms. It should be firm, but not too dry.
Take a third of the meringue and fold it into the almond and sugar mix. Add the remaining meringue and fold gently (this is important so you don’t knock all the air out) until fully incorporated. The resulting mixture should be smooth, thick and glossy.
Fill a piping bag with the macaron mix (brilliant tips on how to fill a piping bag here) and pipe small, shallow discs onto the sheet, slightly spaced apart (about the size of a two pound coin).
Tap the tray vigorously on a flat surface to help level out the mixture and leave to rest for fifteen minutes. Bake in the centre of the oven for 10-12 mins: the macarons are cooked when you can lift them easily from the tray with a palette knife and the top is firm, but not coloured. Remove from the oven as soon as they reach this stage so they don’t overcook, and leave aside to cool completely.
For the ganache
Put the chocolates and butter in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until boiling then immediately remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate and butter.
Stir gently with a rubber spatula until combined then place a layer of cling film over the surface and leave to cool for a an hour or so.
To assemble, take a teaspoon and smear the flat side of one shell with ganache. Sprinkle with some crushed Malteser then sandwich together with a second shell. Repeat until all shells are sandwiched together.
Leave at room temperature to set for a couple of hours. These macarons taste even better the next day when the shells have softened slightly and almost melt into the ganache, creating the perfect contrast of crisp and smooth.