Organising house-warming parties is probably one of the best bits of my job. There’s something about helping people throw open the doors to their home for the first time which makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. They’re full of pride and optimism, tinged with just a slight nervousness about whether or not their nearest and dearest will love their home as much as they do.
Most guests come armed with a gift, usually of the alcoholic variety. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that. There’s a lovely scene in It’s A Wonderful Life where wise old George Bailey is standing on the threshold with a new home-owner who looks like he might pop with happiness. George hands over some gifts and finishes with, ‘Wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever’. Who wouldn’t wish that for a new home?
Last weekend I was very happy at the prospect of going to the house-warming of an absolutely delightful couple who’ve bought a pad in Soho. Rather than take a bottle I thought it would be nice to make them something. The couple in question are very stylish, elegant and a little mischievous. Not unlike pistachio macaroons…
INGREDIENTS (for twenty small macaroons)
For the biscuity bits:
125g icing sugar
2 large egg whites
15g caster sugar
For the filling:
250g icing sugar
125g softened unsalted butter
Crack on with the macaroon biscuits first.
1. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper and set the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4.
2. Put the pistachios and icing sugar into the food processor together and grind to fine powder. Tip into a large mixing bowl.
3. Whisk the egg-whites until fairly stiff, add the sugar and whisk some more until very stiff.
4. Fold the egg mixture into the pistachio-sugar powder and gently but thoroughly combine.
5. Using a teaspoon (life is far too short to pipe these), put small rounds of the mixture onto the baking sheets. You’re aiming for around forty rounds from this amount of mixture.
6. Leave them to sit out of the oven for 10 minutes to form a skin. Then pop in the oven for 10 minutes or so.
7. Remove from the oven and leave them to cool on their sheets. Probably the trickiest bit of making macaroons is lifting the little blighters off the baking tray. I think there are two ways of doing this – straight out of the oven or when they’re properly cold. So when you first get them out, have a go at loosening one with a palate knife. If it works, plough on with the others. If not, leave them be until cold.
Now make the buttercream filling.
1. Grind the pistachios and icing sugar as before.
2. Cream the butter and gradually add the nut / sugar powder as you continue to cream. It’ll become the most beautiful pale-green colour.
Simply sandwich the macaroons together and then step back to admire your handiwork.
Finding a box to put these in which will do your delicacies justice is sometimes harder than the baking itself. The online shop Not On The High Street has some good ones here.
Line your box with greaseproof paper and put the macaroons in. They should be pretty sturdy so you don’t have to be too careful with them. Finish the box off with a beautiful ribbon and there you have it. A gift which has been created with love, thought and – most generously of all – your time.
Girl Thursday is an events and concierge guru, responsible for some of the most luxurious, bespoke and exclusive parties, shows and private soirées in London. Discover more at her website.