Although these jolly snowmen will be a hit at Christmas, they need not be confined to the festive season. Make them when the weather is cold, or for a winter-themed party at any time of year.
- Preheat the oven to 160ºC (325ºF) Gas 3.
- Prepare the basic macarons (recipe below). Put the mixture into the piping bag fitted with a 1-cm round nozzle.
- Place the Snowman template on a baking sheet, and place a transparent silicone mat on top. Using the template as a guide, pipe a snowman on to the silicone mat. Start at the top of the head then follow with the body. Repeat to make 25 snowmen (you will need more than one baking sheet).
- Tap the bottom of the sheets lightly on the work surface to settle the mixture. Carefully slide the template out from under the silicone mat. Leave the macarons to rest for 20–40 minutes.
- Bake the macarons, one sheet at a time, on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 12 minutes, until the tops are crisp and the undersides of the macarons are dry. Leave to cool for 30 minutes on the baking sheets.
- For the filling, mix the candied chestnuts into the buttercream (recipe below). Line the snowmen macarons into rows of 2, flat-side up. Using a teaspoon, place a little chestnut filling mixture onto half of the shells, and sandwich the pairs together gently to create 25 macarons. Leave to set in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours before serving.
- Prepare the Royal Icing (recipe below), then divide it equally into 5 portions. Use a cocktail stick to add a little of each food colouring paste to each portion and mix. Transfer the black to a small piping bag for icing, and snip off the end to create a small hole.
- Pipe the eyes and buttons in black, then repeat with the tangerine in a second piping bag and give the snowmen carrot noses. Use the remaining three colours for the snowmen's scarves. Leave to dry for 1 hour, then lightly dust the macarons with icing sugar before serving.
Making the basic macaron mixture:
- Separate the egg whites from the yolks 3–5 days before you plan to use them, and store them, covered, in the refrigerator. Do not use fresh egg whites. After 3–5 days in the refrigerator, the egg whites will be a runnier consistency.
- Before baking, you need to bring the egg whites to room temperature.
- Whisk the egg whites in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or in a mixing bowl with a hand-held electric whisk until it has doubled in size. Add the caster sugar and continue to whisk until the meringue mixture looks glossy and starts to come away from the side of the bowl, forming one large blob in the middle. At this stage, if you lift the whisk, the meringue in the bowl should form a stiff peak and stay upright after the whisk has been lifted.
- When you are first learning how to make macarons, it is a good idea to work with a very stiff meringue. This means that the end result can be slightly dry, but it gives you extra time when you reach the folding stage, allowing you time to get your 'macaronage' or folding technique right. If your meringue is under-whisked (or if it is perfectly whisked but you have not yet got your folding technique right), the meringue will collapse before you have incorporated all the dry ingredients.
- Sift the ground almonds together with the icing sugar in a separate bowl. Add the meringue mixture to the dry ingredients. You are now ready to fold the ingredients together.
- Fold the meringue into the dry ingredients using quick circular movements until the mixture is ready for piping. This technique requires you to be gentle but not too gentle – you do not want to just coat the meringue in the dry mixture, you need to combine the two together.
- As well as being gentle, you also need to work quickly, otherwise the macaron mixture will lose its structure and collapse. Use a spatula to fold the ground almonds into the meringue until there are no more ground almonds around the edge of the bowl. At this stage, use your spatula to scoop up the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl and work them into the meringue. Fold until there are no dry ingredients visible in the bowl. The mixture should not be runny.
Making the buttercream:
- Place the sugar and egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer or a heatproof mixing bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water. Whisk using a hand-held electric whisk for 3 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are hot to the touch.
- Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, if using. Whisk on high speed in the mixer or with a hand-held electric whisk, until the mixture has cooled down and formed stiff peaks; about 8 minutes.
- Switch to the paddle attachment. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated. Don't worry if the mixture appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with beating. Beat until smooth.
- If using within several hours, cover with clingfilm and keep in a cool room. Alternatively, store in the refrigerator for 3 days. Beat to soften before use.
Making the Royal Icing:
- Place the egg whites, two-thirds of the sugar and the lemon juice into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat for about 10 minutes, until white and thick. Alternatively, use a mixing bowl and hand-held electric whisk. Add the remaining sugar and beat until stiff.
- If you are not using it immediately, cover the icing with a damp kitchen towel and leave at room temperature to prevent it from drying out.
Recipe courtesy of: Super Cute Macarons by Loretta Lui, photography by Jason Atherton and published by Ryland Peters & Small
Ingredients for basic macaron mixture
- 145g egg whites
- 95g caster sugar
- 170g ground almonds
- 260g icing sugar
Ingredients for the Snowmen
For the macaron shells
For the filling
- 50g candied chestnuts, finely chopped
1 batch Buttercream consisting of:
- 300g caster sugar
- 5 large egg whites
- 500g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 2 teaspoons vanilla powder or seeds of 1 vanilla pod
For the decoration
1 batch Royal Icing consisting of:
- 90g egg whites
- 480g icing sugar
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- black food colouring paste
- tangerine food colouring paste
- holly green food colouring paste
- royal blue food colouring paste
- Christmas red food colouring paste
icing sugar, for dusting
- disposable piping bag fitted with a1-cm round nozzle
- Snowman template
- transparent silicone mat
- 5 small disposable piping bags for icing (for the decoration)
Makes 25 Snowmen