Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Vanilla Bean French Macarons

Macarons, French Macarons, Vanilla Bean Macarons, Black and White Macarons, Vanilla Chocolate Macarons, Macaron Tips, Black and White CookiesI remember the first time I tasted a macaron.  My husband and I attended his company Christmas party at the Hyatt in downtown Denver, and it was a very fancy, catered affair with an unbelievable amount of food, drinks and gaming tables.

The dessert table was full of tiny, bite-sized treats, little cakes, tartlets and macarons in so many colors and flavors.  And after trying one or two, we had to go back for a couple more.  They were the most intriguing little cookie I'd ever tasted.  Crisp on the outside, soft, sweet and chewy inside, with creamy fillings in any flavor you could want.  And so pretty.  I love pretty treats.


This was before macarons were all over Instagram and Pinterest, and they weren't something that was readily available, so a few years went by and I didn't think much more about them while I was so busy trying to start a cake business.  But then people started decorating cakes with macarons, and I wondered, where is everyone getting their macarons?  Are they making them or buying them?  Probably a little of both, I'm sure.

Last year, I decided I was going to master macaronage.  Don't you just love that the making of macarons even has its own term?  What I thought would come naturally to me - since I'm a pretty experienced baker - was a disaster.  After 4-5 attempts, each batch was worse than the last, with my macarons turning out flat as pancakes, hollow, burned, cracked, awful.  And so, I gave up.  I was out of patience. And almond flour.  And that stuff isn't cheap.




Macarons, French Macarons, Vanilla Bean Macarons, Black and White Macarons, Vanilla Chocolate Macarons, Macaron Tips, Black and White Cookies

Macarons, French Macarons, Vanilla Bean Macarons, Black and White Macarons, Vanilla Chocolate Macarons, Macaron Tips, Black and White Cookies

Macarons, French Macarons, Vanilla Bean Macarons, Black and White Macarons, Vanilla Chocolate Macarons, Macaron Tips, Black and White Cookies

Macarons, French Macarons, Vanilla Bean Macarons, Black and White Macarons, Vanilla Chocolate Macarons, Macaron Tips, Black and White Cookies



But I still wanted to get my hands on some beautiful macarons, and decided I was just going to have to pay a visit to a local bakery.  But before I could schedule a trip (when you have a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old, your days run on schedules), I happened to find some boxes of macarons at Home Goods, and then, the very next day, found a package of them in the bakery of my grocery store.  Excitedly, I brought them home but felt completely deflated when I tasted one.  They really weren't very good.  Outwardly, they looked like a macaron, but the flavor was bland and the texture all wrong.  Nothing like the delightful cookies I remember eating years ago.  So I tucked those boxes into the freezer to save them for cake decorating.

Then I happened to read this post on macaron making, which addressed the difference between French meringue (uncooked egg whites) and Swiss meringue (warmed egg whites).  By warming the egg whites and sugar in a double boiler until the sugar dissolves, and then whipping the meringue into stiff peaks, the result is a much more stable base that isn't nearly so finicky.  The ingredient list, too, was a bit different.  While all recipes call for egg whites, granulated sugar, almond flour and powdered sugar, plus flavorings, most recipes are all over the place in their ratios of ingredients.  This one called for equal amounts - 100 grams - of the four main ingredients.  I was intrigued, and decided I had to give these another try.

For my own tweak, I decided to add a tablespoon of meringue powder.  It's an ingredient I always add to my buttercream, just to help stabilize it, and I wondered if it might help with a finicky macaron batter.  I was so sure I'd be able to make a successful batch of macarons this time, I even used my reserved bottle of good vanilla bean paste in the batter.




Macarons, French Macarons, Vanilla Bean Macarons, Black and White Macarons, Vanilla Chocolate Macarons, Macaron Tips, Black and White Cookies

Macarons, French Macarons, Vanilla Bean Macarons, Black and White Macarons, Vanilla Chocolate Macarons, Macaron Tips, Black and White Cookies

Macarons, French Macarons, Vanilla Bean Macarons, Black and White Macarons, Vanilla Chocolate Macarons, Macaron Tips, Black and White Cookies

Macarons, French Macarons, Vanilla Bean Macarons, Black and White Macarons, Vanilla Chocolate Macarons, Macaron Tips, Black and White Cookies




Just see how lovely they are.  And they taste even better than they look.  The vanilla bean in the cookies was pronounced and perfectly complemented the flavor of the almond powder.  I filled them with a dark chocolate buttercream from my freezer stash, and they were simply irresistible.

After sampling a few, and watching my delighted toddler eat one, I had to put the rest away, as I have decorating plans for these on a future cake.




Macarons, French Macarons, Vanilla Bean Macarons, Black and White Macarons, Vanilla Chocolate Macarons, Macaron Tips, Black and White Cookies

Macarons, French Macarons, Vanilla Bean Macarons, Black and White Macarons, Vanilla Chocolate Macarons, Macaron Tips, Black and White Cookies

Macarons, French Macarons, Vanilla Bean Macarons, Black and White Macarons, Vanilla Chocolate Macarons, Macaron Tips, Black and White Cookies

Macarons, French Macarons, Vanilla Bean Macarons, Black and White Macarons, Vanilla Chocolate Macarons, Macaron Tips, Black and White Cookies

Macarons, French Macarons, Vanilla Bean Macarons, Black and White Macarons, Vanilla Chocolate Macarons, Macaron Tips, Black and White Cookies





Tips:
  1. Let your egg whites "age" a bit by separating the yolks from the whites and storing the whites in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for a day or two.  This step will dehydrate the whites a little, allowing for a better stiff meringue.
  2. Unlike every other recipe on my site which uses American volume measurements, I've only included weights for the ingredients in this recipe.  This is because precision is crucial to the success of macarons.  A kitchen scale isn't very expensive, but if you don't have one, you can look up the weight-to-volume conversions of the ingredients.  If you must.  But I don't recommend it.
  3. Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar through a mesh sieve.  If you don't, you could end up with lumps in your batter, which don't make for a pretty macaron.
  4. Watch the consistency of your batter carefully after you mix the almond flour and powdered sugar into your meringue.  Do not under-mix or over-mix; the consistency should be very viscous, like slowly-flowing lava.
  5. After piping your macarons, do not skip the step of banging your pan several times on the counter to pop the air bubbles.  Not just a gentle tap; give it a hard bang.  Then let them dry at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
  6. Once the cookies are baked, cooled and filled, they should be stored in the refrigerator.  Cold from the fridge, they're wonderfully soft and chewy.  They can even be made in advance and frozen for later.


Vanilla Bean French Macarons
printable

  • 100 grams super fine almond flour
  • 100 grams powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 100 grams egg whites (3 large egg whites)
  • 100 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
First prepare your baking sheet with a parchment paper template.  Turn your parchment over and use a coin or another round item measuring 1 1/2 inches in diameter and a marker to trace circles onto the paper, leaving about an inch in between each circle.  Flip the paper back over (so that the marked side is underneath and does not touch the macarons).

Weigh out the almond flour and powdered sugar, then sift together into a bowl, through a fine mesh sieve.  Whisk in the meringue powder and set aside.

Set a pan or stock pot filled with a few inches of water on the stove and bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile, weigh out the egg whites and granulated sugar into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer.  (If you don't have a stand mixer, you can just use a regular mixing bowl, but I highly recommend a stand mixer for whipping the meringue.)  When the water is simmering, set the bowl over the hot water and whisk constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved (feel it with your finger to make sure there's no grittiness from the sugar remaining) and the egg whites are frothy; this should take about 2 minutes.

Now attach the bowl to your stand mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and sugar on high speed until the meringue forms stiff peaks that do not flop over when you lift the whisk out; this could take 4-5 minutes.  Scrape the bowl down occasionally and check if you have stiff peaks, then continue whipping until the meringue is stiff.

Add the vanilla bean paste and the sifted almond flour and powdered sugar, then beat on medium speed for 10 seconds.  Now use a spatula to finish mixing and to make sure the batter is mixed correctly; using your spatula, scrape the sides and fold the batter into itself, repeating until the consistency flows off the spatula in a very slow drizzle.  Many people compare the correct consistency to hot lava flowing, and if you can drizzle a figure 8 without the batter breaking, then stop mixing; it's important not to under-mix or over-mix.

Fit a piping bag with a large round piping tip (I used Wilton #2A) and scoop the batter into the bag.  To pipe your macarons, position your tip directly in the center of your template, perpendicular to the baking sheet (holding the top at an angle can result in an oblong or misshapen macaron).  Squeeze the batter just until it almost fills the circle, then release the pressure from your hands and give a quick swirl on top (there are many, many YouTube videos you can watch to see the technique).  After you've piped all the macarons, bang the pan firmly against the counter 5-6 times to pop any air bubbles; rotate the pan and bang it again.

Now you need to let the macarons sit and dry on the counter for 30 minutes before baking.  While the macarons are drying, preheat the oven to 300, making sure a rack is positioned in the center of the oven, not too near the top or bottom heating elements.

Bake the macarons for 14-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.  Cool the macarons on the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Now inspect your macarons, separating the best ones from the less-than-perfect ones.  The pretty ones can be used for the tops, and any that may have cracked, or have little bumps, etc, can be used for the bottoms.  Match up your tops and bottoms, according to size.  Pipe the buttercream (recipe below) onto one half, then press the other cookie on top.  Store the filled cookies in the refrigerator or freezer.

Yields 40 macarons (20 filled)

Recipe adapted from Broma Bakery


Chocolate Buttercream
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I prefer Hershey's Special Dark)
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon meringue powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon milk or cream, if needed
With an electric mixer, mix the ingredients on low to combine, then beat on medium speed for 4-5 minutes until very light and fluffy.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

7 comments :

  1. I agree the ones in the box at TJ's or HGs are not good..Costco..carries some that are much better!:)
    I love making them..don't make them hardly ever enough..never made any as pretty as yours.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll have to check Costco next time I'm there, then. They always have great stuff!

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  2. Hi Heather, is this recepie for high altitude ? Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, all the recipes on my blog are for high altitude. :)

      Delete
  3. Hi Heather
    This may seem like a silly question but if all your recipes are for high altitude will they work the same if you are not in a high altitude area? Thanks for your reply

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not a silly question at all! Yes, and no. Altitude can affect many things, even something basic like how long it takes water to boil, but for cooking and baking, it primarily affects recipes that rise with leaveners, so cookies, muffins and especially cakes. Generally speaking, recipes for high altitude have a bit more flour and liquid and a little less leaveners and sugar. The adjustments are easy, though, and there are articles online that offer advice on how to adjust a recipe one way or the other. I wouldn't think that this macaron recipe would be affected, though.

      Delete
    2. Humidity, though, now that can play a big factor when making macarons!

      Delete

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