Anyone who has tried making macarons will know how disheartening and frustrating they can be. There are so many independent variables involved in the making of these little beauties that even when everything seems so right it can still go oh-so wrong. Trust me, I have been there many a time. I have tried several recipes and techniques, aged egg whites, fresh egg whites, heating the baking sheet, doubling up baking sheets, leaving the oven door open a crack, keeping it closed, higher temperatures, lower temperatures and I have encountered some serious mathematical equations that I never knew existed in the world of baking before my macaron journey began.
Then one day, after many a failed attempt and wasted egg white, I did it.
I reached the ‘holy grail’ of baking. I’m not even going to pretend that I didn’t squeal with glee when I pulled these out of the oven. Picture the scene, midnight on a Thursday and I’m running around my kitchen in pyjamas and slippers, donning a fluro-pink polka dot apron, kicking my heels together and eating buttercream frosting straight out of the bowl in celebration. And all thanks to Helene Dujardin of Tartelette and this article. Genius.
I barely played with her recipe (crawl before you can walk and all that) and the resulting macarons were both delicious and pretty, with little feet, an egg shell-like exterior and a chewy centre. After that first success I’m looking forward to playing with other methods, colours and flavours in my quest to becoming a bad ass macaron maestro (dreams can come true), so expect more successes to appear on here in the future.
Vanilla Macarons with Coffee Chocolate Buttercream
Makes 30 macarons, 60 shells
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper/silicone baking mat*
For the macarons:
100g egg whites
25g caster sugar
110g ground blanched almonds
200g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the coffee chocolate buttercream:
300g icing sugar
150g unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1-2 teaspoons coffee extract
Milk if needed
Add the ground almonds and icing sugar to a blender and blitz for around 30 seconds until super fine. Sift this into a large bowl and discard any large bits that aren’t finely ground and stay in the sifter.
To make the meringue, in another bowl begin to whisk the egg whites until frothy and then start to add the caster sugar a little at a time as you whisk. You’re going to want to whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks have just formed and you’re left with a glossy meringue. One tip Helene mentions in the aforementioned article is to tip the bowl as you whisk, and once the egg whites no longer slide around then you’re meringue is ready.
Add a tablespoon of the meringue to the almond/sugar powder and mix quite roughly, then add the rest of the meringue in one go and fold with fairly quick strokes at first, then slow the strokes down, making sure to scrape the mixture along the sides of the bowl as you do this. The whole process should take no more than 50 strokes and the correct consistency should be neither too thick or runny, but rather smooth and fall back ribbon-like and disperse after a couple of seconds. To test, place a small amount on a flat surface and if it begins to spread slightly then you’re go to go.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a round nozzle with the macaron mixture and pipe 1.5″ circles onto your prepared baking sheet. Rap each baking sheet gently against the worktop to flatten any peaks. Preheat the oven to 150°c and then leave the macarons to sit out for an hour in order for the shells to harden.
Bake for around 15 minutes, rotating the tray half way through cooking. I decided to bake one tray at a time. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before gently peeling off of the baking paper.
To make the buttercream filling sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder then beat together with the butter. Add coffee extract to taste and a splash of milk if necessary to achieve a smooth consistency. Fill a pastry bag with the buttercream and pipe little mounds onto the bottom of one shell and sandwich together with another of a similar size.
*I found that using a silicone baking mat ensured a much more stable cooking temperature and when I have used just parchment paper I found it necessary to double the baking trays.