Macarons, or to be precise Macarons Parisiens are those stunning little almond sandwiched delicacies which we all know because they are absolutely everywhere these days. It’s another one of those tempting treats that has been out of bounds for us, what with them being made with eggs and almonds/nuts.
It has taken me years to get this one right. One of those unattainable recipes that no matter how many times I tried, I’d never be able to make a free-from version. I’ve tried so many times before, but when you’re leaving out two essential ingredients of a recipe it’s understandable to find it difficult to make a free-from replica.
Those pretty pastel-hues kept me trying though. There was no way the macaron was going to win in this battle. This journey has taught me that I hate to be defeated and that everything is possible.
The first problem with free-from macarons was replacing the egg-whites but luckily last spring fellow bloggers started having great success with aquafaba. We were one step of the way there.
Next problem: how to replace the nuts? Almonds are intrinsic to a macaron, delivering not just flavour but also the gooey texture. I’d heard of people subbing coconut, but I’m not keen on coconut and find it a very strong flavour, which in my opinion doesn’t suit a delicate Parisien Almond Macaron. I was going along the lines of ground sunflower or pumpkin seeds but was having trouble sourcing trace-free seeds. Then during the last series of Masterchef the professionals one of the contestants made a cake using popcorn. Lightbulb moment! Why not use ground popcorn in place of the almonds? As it turns out it was a genius flash of inspiration. The ground popcorn has a similar light texture to ground nuts, minus the oil and combines beautifully with the whisked aquafaba meringue to form the perfect free-from replacement.
I was worried the popcorn would have too strong a flavour, but although you could detect it if you knew it was there, it doesn’t overpower once you have flavoured it with other things. Initially the texture is a little firmer than traditional macarons, but I hear that is usually the case with vegan ones made with aquafaba. If you can resist, leave them in the fridge overnight, then the filling melds with the shells to make a slightly softer and gooey centre, far more like the authentic recipe.
My recipe is created by tweaking and experimenting with the creations developed by Floral Frosting and Crazy Vegan Kitchen, and I thank those ladies wholeheartedly for giving me the beginnings of a recipe that could be made nut-free! The joy.
Macaron making isn’t difficult but it is quite a lengthy process – be sure to leave yourself plenty of time, as the folding and resting are crucial to the recipe.
Nut-free, Egg-free Strawberry Macarons
(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)
makes about 14
Aquafaba from one tin of beans, you will need 3/4 cup
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups ground ready popped popcorn
1/2 cup icing sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pink gel food colouring
1/4 tsp natural strawberry flavouring
- First reduce the aquafaba by about a third, you need to end up with 1/3 cup of aquafaba. Leave to cool
- In a food processor, grind the popcorn to a powder and then pass through a sieve. This takes a fair while and the popcorn turns to airy dust and flies everywhere. Be patient, you want the popcorn powder to fine as possible. Combine with the icing sugar
- In a stand mixer, whisk the aquafaba and cream of tartar until you form a fluffy, bubbly mix. Slowly add the caster sugar until you have a glossy, thick meringue mixture. This will take a few minutes. Whisk in the colour and flavouring.
- Stir in half of the popcorn. Then gently fold in the other half, trying to retain as much air as possible. Once it is all combined, fold the mixture 15-20 times. This is called the macaronage.
- Transfer to a piping bag with a plain nozzle, and pipe even circles ( with the nozzle going directly downwards) onto a lined baking sheet. With a wet finger, smooth over the top of each macaron so there is no lumps or bumps.
- Once finished, pick up the baking sheet and drop in onto the work surface so it slaps down two or three times ( this is to remove any air bubbles)
- Leave uncovered at room temperature for at least two hours. This will encourage the tops to form a skin-like covering so that when they bake they rise up and form frilly feet round the bottoms.
- Preheat the oven to 120 degrees centigrade and bake the macarons for 22 minutes. Do not open the oven! Turn off the oven (still do not open!) and leave for a further 15 minutes. Open the oven door a little and leave for a further 15 minutes. Cool completely before removing from the baking paper.
For the filling:
2 tbsps dairy-free margarine
2 cups icing sugar
1-2 tbsps dairy-free milk
1/2 tsp natural strawberry flavouring
- Whisk all together to make a thick, smooth buttercream. Pipe circles into the flat side of half the macarons and then sandwich together.
- Keep refrigerated until ready to eat. They last really well for 2-3 days.