Sunday, 5 October 2014

English Macaroons

If there is a bake that makes Mr CC misty eyed with nostalgia then it’s probably this one – an English macaroon with a rice paper base.  I think if you were a child of the 1970s, as we both were, you could guarantee that any bakery you went into would have a tray of English macaroons – or macaroons as they were called back then, prior to the invasion of the fancy French version with an ‘o’ missing.  I remember them decorated with half a vividly red glace cherry (picking it off would have to be done before I could start eating) but this recipe suggested an almond, perhaps to add an air of sophistication?

The best bit about the macaroon back then (and now) was the rice paper base.  It added to the glorious chewy/crunchy/sticky joy of the macaroon and also added stability so that, when it crumbled, it still held together supported by its paper base.  I ordered my rice paper online but I think larger supermarkets may stock it.  And yes, I did eat the off cuts.  It tastes of a sweet nothingness on its own and is dry in the mouth, just like eating absorbent paper (who could’ve guessed that?) but I stayed true to my task wondering why on earth I was doing it.  My only regret is that I wasn’t more careful how I placed the batter on the rice paper – it would’ve been nice to cover more of the paper.  The first photo shows them raw;  the second, baked:

The only warning about making these is that they really do spread in the oven so don’t be tempted to pack them closer on the baking sheet.  I guessed what size to cut my rice paper discs but it doesn’t matter if the biscuit spreads to a bigger or smaller size.  I used the top of an espresso cup as my template – it was the sort that’s wide at the top and tapers to a smaller base.  I worked with four layers of rice paper at a time and used a knife to score the circle and then scissors to cut it out fully.

I think it’s time to re-popularise the English macaroon and get it back on the tea-time cake stand.  Whisper it softly but I think it tastes better than its French counterpart and has a lot more going on in texture too.  Beautiful in its simplicity it will keep for days in an airtight tin and – if anything – the flavour keeps improving.  I think Mrs Overall would be proud of these!


Optional: Sheets of rice paper
2 egg whites
100g ground almonds
175g caster sugar
25g ground rice or semolina
2 drops almond extract
Approx 25 whole blanched almonds or glace cherries


Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C/340°F/gas mark 4.

Line three baking sheets with either baking paper or non stick foil.

If you are using the rice paper, cut it into circles (the batch makes about 25 biscuits, so maybe start with cutting 12 circles and judge how many more you’ll need when you’ve used those up) – I used the top of a glass to press onto the rice paper; it left enough of a mark to cut round with scissors.  NB. It speeds things up if you cut through multiple sheets of rice paper at a time.

Place the discs out evenly on your baking sheets – aim for about 9-12 biscuits per sheet, depending on the size of your sheet.

Now make the biscuit dough: whip the egg whites until they will hold their shape in soft peaks.

Stir in the ground almonds, sugar, ground rice and almond extract.

The recipe then stated:
Take heaped teaspoons of the dough and roll into balls – think big marbles and you’re at about the right size.  NB. The dough is very sticky so you’ll find it easier to handle if you dip your hands into cold water between each rolling.

My dough was far too wet to roll so I spooned generous teaspoons of batter onto the rice paper bases.  They baked just fine so don’t worry if your mix is runny.

Place each ball of dough onto a disc of rice paper and place a whole almond or half a glace cherry on top.  If you’re not using the rice paper, simply place the ball of dough directly onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the biscuits are spread and a pale golden colour (they don’t take on much colour at all).

Leave to cool on the baking sheet – they will be very soft while warm and moving them will cause them to break.

If the biscuit has not spread enough to cover the rice paper you can trim any excess off with scissors (I didn't bother).

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.



Gloria Baker said...

what Lovely macarons!

Choclette Blogger said...

I'm with you CC, bring back the English macaroon - everyone has got very confused by these French upstarts and thinks the only thing we ever made were the coconut things - hurmph!

The Spooky Whisk said...

We call these almond cookies here. Super yummy.

Jo said...

Mmmm, so deliciously chewy and almond-y. I'm with Choclette, let's bring them back!

Izzy said...

I've never heard of English macaroons like these, but have always wondered what they are if different from macarons. I'd love to try one as I love rice paper too!

Snowy said...

A trip down memory lane. I love these macaroons - I agree, bring them back!

Maggie said...

I was brought up eating these and I love rice paper......yum!

Stuart Vettese said...

I used to get confused what the difference was! Yours look nicer and less faffy :)

Kate Glutenfreealchemist said...

Yay! Another blast from the past! Always had these as a child, home-made with rice paper stuck to the bottom. The fun was trying to pick off the rice paper with your teeth and then (only then) chewing on the macaroon. Definitely bring these back!

Cakelaw said...

I have had these type of macaroons before, but never with a rice paper base. Sounds good.

Baking Addict said...

Such a nostalgic bake. I love the rice paper base