Old fashioned english macaroons

When I was little, my mum would occasionally buy me one of these macaroons from a local village bakery as a treat. I fell in love with their crispy shell, chewy, sweet marzipan-flavoured interior and edible rice paper base. They are so incredibly addictive. In my humble opinion, they are the perfect "biscuit" (if you can call them that.)

For some reason, I never see them anymore. Perhaps this is because there aren't really any independent bakeries around these days. A tragedy if you ask me. I do love a good traditional bakery. Our towns and cities seem to be overrun with European chains like Paul, Le Pain Quotidien, Hummingbird and Patisserie Valerie. Whilst these are all lovely, where have the traditional British bakeries gone? Baking has always been cool in my house but it has definitely made a comeback since the Great British Bake Off graced our screens! Here is a bakery in Brixton from 1910- a year before our house was built. I would love to see these types of bakery on our streets once more.
English macaroons are not to be confused with the brightly-coloured, fancy French "macarons" which are so trendy these days. Don't get me wrong, I love a French macaron and have made a fair few batches. But these are proper old-fashioned English macaroons which your Grandma might have made and far nicer that their French cousins!

These macaroons would have once sat proudly on the shelves of many a traditional bakery alongside other old-fashioned treats such as custard tarts, lardy cake and iced buns.

However, this past weekend, I happened to be in the tiny village of Nailsworth with my friend Victoria and we spied a Hobbs House Bakery! I'd seen and heard great things about Hobbs House from watching the Fabulous Baker Brothers on the telly and I follow their forum on Sourdough bread, which I love (more on that another time).
Our legs couldn't get us through the door quick enough! Inside, we marvelled at all the baked goods on offer. We stocked up on Cornish pasties for the men and sausage rolls for us and then my eyes fell upon my long lost love, sitting all alone on a dish. The last one in the shop! I had to have it! It was just as glorious as I remember and I was filled with nostalgia as I devoured it. So much so that I was inspired to bake my own when I got home.

The internet disappointingly doesn't seem to know much about these forgotten gems. There seem to be hundreds of recipes for the dessicated coconut kind (yuk) and loads about the French kind with their colourful, smooth shells.

Old fashioned macaroons don't look very fancy but they are beautiful in their simplicity and a true delight to eat. I think it's time we re-popularised the English macaroon and get them back on the tea-time table.

Ingredients (makes approx 16)
Sheets of rice paper (or wafer sheets as they are sometimes known)
2 egg whites
100g ground almonds
175g caster sugar
1 tsp almond extract
Approx 25 whole blanched almonds or a small bag of flaked almonds  

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

Line three baking sheets with rice paper sheets. if you can't find any, use greaseproof paper.

Mix the almonds and both sugars in a bowl. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until they start to foam like below.

Fold it into the almonds with the almond extract.

Spoon the mix onto the lined baking tray so that you have 16 rounds, making space for them to expand.

Wet your fingers and flatten slightly. Place a blanched almond on top or a sprinkling of flaked almonds and bake for about 13-15 minutes. Once they are a pale golden colour, take them out! They need to be turning golden round the edges, firm on the outside but soft inside. Don’t be tempted to leave them in longer or they’ll lose that lovely soft centre.

Leave them to cool on the tray.  Don't try to move them while they are warm or they'll squidge together.
Once cool, if you used rice paper, tear the biscuits apart to separate. If you used greasproof paper,  then carefully peel them away from the paper.


They keep for days in an airtight container but I doubt they'll last that long!

Do any of you have any long lost bakery loves?

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