I hope I’m not making anyone anxious by withholding photos from our Iceland trip and just not really talking about it in general on the blog yet. Or maybe no one even noticed… Either way, let me preface this post by saying that YES Iceland was all kinds of amazing and there will be a post about it in the near future. But for now, is it ok if we talk about these macarons and a baby shower!!!
As an only child who grew up in a big extended family, I’ve always felt really lucky to be so included and warmly accepted into Roy’s family – which is this pretty huge and proudly Croatian, meaning there are lots of hugs and kisses and cookies and always a whole lot of love. Roy’s sister is having her first baby and I’m so excited to have an excuse to look at baby clothes and lamb themed nursery decorations and be at the receiving end of ultrasound photos and baby updates.
This weekend was her baby shower, themed Bonjour Bebe, and of course that meant there needed to be french inspired sweets at the dessert table – along with all the Croatian sweets. Seriously though, this family is a huge dessert family! I volunteered to make macarons, which was both a good and bad thing. Good, because it forced me to work on my macaron making skills again. But bad because, well, it forced me to work on my macaron making skills again. MACARONS ARE SO FRUSTRATING! Just as the human brain tends to forget pain, I must have forgotten how much of a struggle these picky little cookies can take to get right. Can we please have a moment for silence for all the little macaron shells that didn’t make it.
After Iceland, Roy and I made a quick stopover in Vegas to celebrate his mama’s birthday. We had brunch at Bouchon Bakery in The Venetian and that’s where I came across the Bouchon Bakery book and Thomas Keller’s macaron recipe, in which he includes tips and tricks for the Italian method. I’ve had success before with the French method of making macarons, but I’ve heard time and time again that the Italian method is the way to go. So I tried it, I tried it! And yes, it produces more stable results and all that jazz but things can still go very wrong and give you a headache. In total, I made about four batches of macarons, which comes out to about 100 pairs, or 200 individual shells. That’s why I have so many egg yolks in the freezer.
I learned a few important things making macarons again, and wanted to share them in the hopes that you won’t have to make so many batches before you master Italian Method macarons!
If you’re worried about your feet not being large enough, or the shells burning before being completely done, pipe your shells out smaller. A smaller shell will make the feet appear larger and give them a better chance to rise with less weight to push up. They’ll also have a shorter baking time, which means less of a risk of burning.
I didn’t whip the meringue long enough the first time and this prevented any feet from developing on my shells at all. Save yourself a headache and make sure you have a candy thermometer and a small enough pot to heat the sugar and water in so you’ll get an accurate read.
My best macaron shells were made after letting them dry out on the counter for almost an hour and a half. By that point, the top of the shells almost felt hard and mostly dried out. With such a thick skin, the shells had only one way to go but up! This is a key step in making macarons, one that I have always made sure to use previously. The Bouchon recipe says you can bake the shells immediately after being piped, but I found that this caused them to spread and crack and absolutely zero feet formation too.
I was a victim of this many times. It took me a while to find the right baking temperature and time for the macarons that worked with my oven. I highly recommend buying an oven thermometer for accuracy. An oven that is too hot will burn the shells and may result in underdeveloped feet. You can read more info about it here.
Oh, and a little disclaimer: I know these cookies are *blue* but Nicole is having a baby girl! This color really wasn’t my initial goal. I was originally hoping for a cotton-candy-esque look with pastel swirls of pink and blue. The funny thing is that for some reason blue food coloring is always way more potent than pink is, and I guess I should know this after my Color Theory class, but that left the cookies quite basically blue in color. So if you’re hoping for more pinkish shells, make sure to use a lot of pink food coloring!
for the macaron shells:
212g almond meal
212g powdered sugar
82g and 90g egg whites, divided
236g granulated white sugar
pink, purple, and blue food coloring
1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position in the oven. Line two baking trays with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. I suggest using a printable template underneath or drawing out 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 in. circles a few inches apart. Set aside.
2. In a food processor, whizz the almond meal to aerate it and break up any large pieces. Add the almond meal to a large mixing bowl. Sift in the powdered sugar. Whisk the two together. Add in the 82g of egg whites. Use a spatula to fold the egg whites into the almond meal and powdered sugar until you get a thick paste-like consistency. Set aside.
3. In a small saucepan, combine the granulated white sugar and the water. Attach a candy thermometer to the side. Heat the mixture on medium. Let it cook and make sure not to stir the mixture.
4. Once the mixture reaches 200F, add the 90g of egg whites and a pinch of granulated sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip the egg whites on medium-low until soft peaks form. If the sugar syrup has not reached 248F at this point, continue to whip the meringue on the lowest speed to keep it moving.
5. When the sugar syrup reaches 248F, remove it from the heat immediately. Whip the egg whites on medium-high and pour the syrup down the side of the bowl. Once the syrup has been all poured in, turn the speed up to high until the meringue reaches stiff peaks.
6. Add 1/3 of the meringue mixture to the almond meal paste. Fold it together with a spatula. Add more meringue as needed (I used only 1/2 of it) and continue to fold until the macaron batter falls like molten lava off the spatula. I recommend watching the two videos* linked above for visual reference. When the batter is finished, add a tiny bit of food coloring using a toothpick dipped in each color and streaking it through the batter. Fold a few more times to create a marbled looking batter. Transfer the macaron batter to two pastry bags fitted with a 1/2″ round tip.
7. Pipe the macarons out onto the baking trays. Tap them against the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles and settle the macarons batter. Let them dry out on the counter for 1-2 hours, or until a skin has formed. When you touch the macaron, it should not stick to your finger.
8. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F on convection (I found that 300F with the convection fan turned on worked best for me). Bake each tray one at a time at the middle position in the oven. Baking for 8-10 minutes is recommended but I found I had to bake for 13-15 minutes. You may need to adjust the oven temperature and baking times according to your own oven.
9. When the shells are done baking, let them cool completely then remove them from the baking tray. Match each macaron with another that’s about the same size.
for the buttercream filling:
100g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
200g powdered sugar, sifted
1 tbsp whole milk
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste
pink, purple, and blue food coloring
10. For the buttercream fillings, cream the butter on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until pale and fluffy.
11. Add in half of the powdered sugar. Starting on a low speed and increasing to high, mix for 2-3 minutes. Add in the last half and repeat.
12. Turn the mixer down to low and add in the milk and vanilla extract. Mix on high speed for another 2-3 minutes.
Stop the mixer and using a toothpick, add in very small dabs of pink, purple, and blue food coloring. Turn the mixer on at the lowest speed for a few seconds to slightly swirl the food coloring into the buttercream. Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a large french tip.
13. Pipe small dabs of the buttercream onto one of the macaron shells and lightly secure a second shell to the other side. Stay away from the edges when piping out the buttercream. The filling will spread slightly when the second shell is pressed on.
14. Insert a lollipop stick into the filling of each macaron. Tie with a black ribbon and you may use an edible marker to write on the macarons.