Macaronbeth

macarons

It’s up to the wild highlands of Scotland for our penultimate Bakespeare recipe, influenced by Shakespeare’s tragedy that can only be referred to as ‘The Scottish Play’.

Hover through the fog and filthy air to a heath near Forres, Scotland, in the mid-11th century. A drum, a drum! Macbeth doth come, accompanied by Banquo, both fresh from defeating a duo of armies. They meet three witches– although Macbeth can’t decide what they are (you should be women, and yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so). The witches prophesy that Macbeth will be made thane of Cawdor and eventually King of Scotland, and that Banquo will produce a line of kings. The witches disappear, and Macbeth and Banquo are pretty sceptical– that’s until King Duncan’s men arrive and tell them that having heard the news of their victory, King Duncan has made Macbeth thane of Cawdor.

Can the devil speak true? Now he’s been made thane of Cawdor, could the rest of the prophecy come true? Is he on his way to becoming king? Macbeth writes to his wife, Lady Macbeth, to tell her all about it, and he invites King Duncan to dinner at Macbeth’s castle.

Now, for the rest of the prophecy to come true, Macbeth’s gotta kill King Duncan– but Duncan’s a nice guy, and so is Macbeth, so that won’t happen, right?

Nope. Lady Macbeth really ain’t nice, and since fate and metaphysical aid doth seem to have thee crowned, she’s pretty set on making sure Macbeth will be king. Macbeth mulls it over– he’s worried about the punishment that comes with murder, whether he’ll get his comeuppance, and plus, the king trusts him, so Macbeth shouldn’t kill him.

But Lady Macbeth practically forces him to kill Duncan that evening. As he waits for the bell to signal the coast is clear, he imagines a bloody dagger. Is this a dagger which I see before me? Is it real, or just a figment of a guilty imagination? The more he thinks about it, the more he goes off the idea of killing Duncan but oops! Too late. The bell tolls, Macbeth snaps out of his soliloquy, and stabs Duncan.

The next morning, Macbeth wakes, pretends he didn’t murder Duncan, and assumes kingship, whilst Duncan’s sons Malcolm and Donalbain flee to England fearing that whoever killed Duncan will kill them too.

Macbeth orders hitmen to kill Banquo and his son, since Macbeth doesn’t want the part of the prophecy about Duncan’s sons becoming kings to come true as well. Banquo’s ghost visits Macbeth, which sends him a bit mad. Frightened, he visits the three witches, and double, double, toil and trouble, they show him further prophecies; beware Macduff (who had opposed Macbeth’s becoming king), that nobody born from a woman will ever harm Macbeth, and that Macbeth will never be defeated until Birnam Wood marches to fight you at Dunsinane Hill. Good news then, because everyone is born from a woman, and woods can’t march.

But when he hears that Macduff has gone to England to join Malcolm, he orders that Macduff’s castle be captured and that Lady Macduff and her children be killed. He has killed me, mother. Naturally, this doesn’t go down well with Macduff. Malcolm, Macduff, and their army, ride to Scotland to battle Macbeth.

Meanwhile, the stress is getting to Lady Macbeth. She’s taken to sleepwalking, and complaining of the blood that just won’t come off her hands. Out, damned spot! Out, I say! The madness slowly takes its toll and she dies, as Macbeth laments the fact that death comes to everyone in the end. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time.

Macbeth waits for the army to arrive. They’ve disguised themselves as trees and what d’ya know, the woods are marching. Not only that, but Macduff reveals that he was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped (16th century caesarean) – not born of woman. Macbeth fights valiantly, but is killed and beheaded by Macduff.

And so ends the Tragedy of Macbeth. It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Let’s not beat around the bush: there were no macarons in 11th century Scotland- nor in 16th century Stratford-Upon-Avon, at a guess, so Shakespeare certainly wasn’t writing about these in his plays.

They’re a bit of a treat, since macarons are pricey. At times like this, I can sometimes see Lady Macbeth’s point. Being Queen would mean that you could afford all the macarons you ever wanted, so pushing your husband to murder is an understandable option if it promised endless macaron supplies.

Luckily, it turns out that macarons are actually quite easy to make– good news for any potential husbands. They might seem difficult at first, but practice makes perfect! (Although, if you’ve got help from three witches, I’d take them up on it, because I swear there’s some magic required to make perfect macarons).

These booze-filled macarons are the grown-up version of an already grown-up treat. I did gin (green) and amaretto (orange). The white ones are Malibu flavoured, and I switched the almonds for ground up desiccated coconut.  There’s endless options you could try. Just see what you’ve got in your drinks cupboard and try it out!

Macarons might be delicate French treats– foreign to the wild, 11th century Scottish highlands– but you can’t tell me that Lady Macbeth, for all her faults, wouldn’t have loved a dainty cookie. Sure, she might have been a terrifying, callous, and frankly pushy, regicidal maniac– but she wouldn’t have been one to turn down a macaron.

* * *

MAKES 30 macarons

PREP 25 mins

COOK 15 mins

▪ Will keep for 1 day in airtight container

 

FOR THE MACARONS

3 egg whites (aged overnight in the fridge)

100g caster sugar

135g icing sugar

100g ground almonds

3tsp alcohol of your choice

Few drops of food colouring of your choice

 

FOR THE FILLING

145ml double cream

65g white chocolate

2tsp alcohol of your choice

 

1 Begin by lining a large baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper. Print off a template of circles about 3.5cm to help you pipe the macarons to the correct shape.

2 Next, beat the egg whites in a bowl using a hand whisk, or in a stand mixer, until the egg whites are foamy and stiff peaks. Beat in the caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until it forms soft, glossy peaks.

3 In a bowl, sieve together the icing sugar and ground almonds, and tip away anything left in the sieve. Fold this into the egg whites, along with the alcohol and the food colouring, using a large metal spoon in big cutting motions, until just combined. It should leave a ribbon of mixture behind when you lift the spoon out.

4 Fill a piping bag with the mix, snip off the end (or use a large round piping nozzle if you have one) and pipe even disks on to the greaseproof paper, filling the circle outlines.

5 Allow to dry on the baking tray for about thirty minutes, or until they don’t stick to your finger if you touch them.

6 Pre-heat the oven to 160°c/320°f. Before you bake the macarons, gently drop the baking tray onto a hard surface (from a small height- don’t chuck it out of your bedroom window). Bake in the oven for about fifteen minutes, or until they come cleanly and easily off the tray (use a blunt knife to gently lift them- if they come off easily, they’re ready. If they stick, pop them back in for a few more minutes). Allow them to cool before removing from the tray, and cool completely before filling.

7 For the filling, warm 60ml cream in a saucepan to just warm (it will start to steam slightly). Chop the white chocolate, then pour the cream over the chocolate and leave for about two minutes. Stir until the chocolate has melted, then mix in the alcohol. Set aside, and once cool, whip the chocolate ganache with the remaining cream until it thickens (be careful not to overwhip or the cream will separate).

8 Add a spoonful of filling to one macaron, then sandwich another on top. ▪

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