Macarons have been on my list of things I wanted to make for awhile now, but they're a daunting proposition. Luckily I had Elina to help tackle the challenge :) Prior to our macaron date, I did some reading online. There's lots of "advice" out there, but I found posts from 6 Bittersweets, An Edible Mosaic, Tartelette (Demystifying Macarons), and BraveTart (here and here) to be particularly helpful. Feel free to check them out for more step-by-step photos and even some videos!
Things went pretty smoothly for our first time, but I still learned some things along the way!
Lesson 1: Use 1/2" tip with a pastry bag or cut an appropriately small hole in a plastic bag to use for piping the macarons.
Lesson 2: Don't overmix the batter! On one batch, I forgot to add the food coloring until it was a bit too late, and my batter was the consistency of pancake batter. This, combined with a poorly cut "tip" in my plastic bag and my macarons were hard to pipe and came out quite large.
Lesson 3: Don't make your macaron shells too large. They'll start to brown on top long before they have cooked all the way through. Macarons that aren't completely cooked don't come off parchment paper easily.
Lavender Macarons w/Honey-Vanilla Mascarpone
adapted from Gourmantine and Tartalette
I only used about half of the mascarpone for one batch of the shells... I'd recommend making another batch of shells ;) While my shells look under-filled, you could definitely still taste the filling, so I'm not sure I would change a thing!
For the macaron shells:
110g [aged] egg whites, RT*
25g evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
100g sifted almond flour
200g powdered sugar
1T dried lavender
food coloring, optional
For the Honey-Vanilla Mascarpone:
2 vanilla beans
2T honey (I used clover honey and eye-balled it)
Sift powdered sugar into a medium bowl and then add sifted almond flour. Grind lavender in a coffee grinder (or use a mortar and pestle) and then rub through the sifter to make sure you have a fine powder. Whisk together powdered sugar, almond flour and lavender.
Using a stand or handheld mixer, whip egg whites and salt on medium-low until foamy. Add the evaporated cane juice and continue beating, on medium high until you have flossy, medium-stiff peaks. If you pick up the beater, the egg whites shouldn't drip off.
Add almond flour/powdered sugar mix to the egg whites. Add food coloring to a rubber spatula (if using) and then get ready for the macronage! Macronage, or the combining of egg whites with the almond flour/sugar mixture, actually deflates the egg whites so you don't have to be too careful with the folding. Fold, vigorously at first, then a bit slower to evaluate the batter consistency. The whole process shouldn't take more than 50 strokes (I didn't count).
What should perfectly-mixed batter looked like? I've seen it described several ways, but the easiest way for me to test was to put a small amount on a plate; it should form a smooth dome when ready, if it forms a peak it is under-mixed and requires a few more folds. You want to avoid over-mixed batter, which will be a bit runny and have the consistency of pancake batter. Alternatively, you can use your spatula to lift and drop the batter onto itself; if the ribbon gradually disappears into the batter within 30sec, it's ready to go.
Spoon the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2" tip or a plastic ziploc bag. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and pipe batter into 1" circles, leaving ~1" in between each macaron shell. I found a great template to use for piping the shells from Kevin and Amanda that I slide under the parchment paper to get the appropriate size. Don't forget to remove the paper template before baking! Tap the baking sheet (firmly!) on the counter several times to dislodge any air bubbles that might cause cracks when they're baking.
Let the macaron shells sit at RT for 30-60min, during which time the shell should become dry to the touch.
Preheat your oven to 300deg. (I did this about the 30min mark, and by the time it was preheated it was about 60min after piping the macarons)
Bake macarons in preheated oven for 15-20min, or until the parchment peels away cleanly from the macaron. If you see wet batter below the shell, it's not done yet. Once the macaron shells have baked, let them cool completely on the pan.
The shells can be made a few days ahead and stored in a ziploc bag until you fill them.
To prepare the filling, split the vanilla beans and scrape out the seeds and add them to the mascarpone. Add honey and mix well (I did this in the mascarpone container, but you could certainly use a bowl).
To assemble the macarons (should be done at least 24hrs before you need them!), match up similarly sized macarons. Pipe or spoon filling onto the bottom of one macaron, then place another on top of the filling (I actually used a spatula). I didn't measure the filling, I just didn't want to overfill them so the buttercream oozed out the sides when I transported them.
Store assembled macarons in a parchment-lined airtight container and store in the fridge for at least 24hrs (up to a week or so). Let the macarons come to room temperature before serving (an hour or so should do).
*For one batch, I separated my egg whites/yolks and aged them in the fridge for four days before bringing them to RT the day I made them. Another batch got separated and aged for two days at RT before use. Both seemed to work just fine!
These were pretty incredible, and a favorite of many who got to taste the two flavors I made for the baby shower :) (It was a Thing 1 & Thing 2 theme for twins, hence the color!) You'll have to stay tuned for the recipe for #2!
Have you ever made macarons?? Any tips to share? Do you have a favorite place to eat them?