Vanilla Bean French Macarons
Here is the real pot of gold! My very first french macaron recipe share! I'm pretty excited about it y'all! I am not going to write a huge intro here because you all probably know what macarons are or have at least seen them around. They are cookies made from angel clouds and fairy dust. But seriously, they are super soft, chewy and indescribable flavor wise. You just need to have one. I've made these a million times for the bakery (dozens per month for years) so I promise to tell everything I know here! I mean not to brag but literally everyone that has ever had one of my macs has said they are the best they have ever had... soooo *hair flick*. lol You gotta make them. Because it's the first mac post I wanted to start with the basics, vanilla bean! I'm including some basic information of making these bad boys too because if you hadn't heard yet, these are tricky little cookies to make. Step one, is "pray to macarons gods". haha I'm only kidding, slightly.... I promise to make this beginner friendly though and no matter what happens at the end of this, your results will taste out of this world. Girl code pinky promise!
You should know that my recipe below (and absolute favorite stress free way of making macarons) is using the French method. I use a variation of Kathryn Gorden's recipe from her book "Les Petits Macarons". She is awesome! There are three main methods to make macs. The Italian way, the Swiss way, and the French way. The Italian and Swiss way is not my cup of tea because it involves heating sugar syrup on the stove with a candy thermometer to make your meringue and it's just too much work personally. I mean these things are already complicated enough without adding that mess to it (and more dishes! who wants that?). Also, I have tried other "short cut" recipes people claim work for making macarons and they have literally never worked for me. I stopped trying because I already have a tried and true method that is basically magic so why would I waste anymore $9 almond flour? :)
Ok, so first know that the vanilla bean flavor in these comes from the buttercream I fill them with, NOT the cookie itself. French macarons are probably the only thing in existence that are so unimaginably good without anything extra that it's almost a crime to add flavoring to them. (There are also a lot of rules to adding flavoring as well because of the delicacy of the cookie so, know that going in. Oils will ruin the entire batch! seriously... so you gotta know your stuff of what you can and can't use) Now, this recipe is for almond shells. That's what a plain macaron is referred to, almond shell. Got it? K. With that information given, I am sharing my super special secret American Buttercream recipe too now. I have never shared it with anyone before but when I tell you that people constantly freak over it, I am not exaggerating. Oh! And I show you how to pipe out perfect rainbow filling too so you definitely want to check it out. Click here for the recipe!
Alright this is going to be a long post. Seriously. And I'm gonna be honest with you that typically your first batch doesn't come out super pretty just because you will have to tweak things for your own kitchen and environment and there is literally nothing you can do about that except practice. You need to accept this now. Practice makes perfect. We say "pray to the macaron gods" because you can have made these a million times and do everything right and still just have a bad day where they don't come out. It's just a thing and it happens so don't beat yourself up. I promise even the most experienced baker has had their face pressed up against the oven door watching these things bake and probably shed a tear or two at some point. The best thing is though, that even "not pretty" macs are still like the yummiest thing. They taste exactly the same and you'll still eat them faster than you'd look at them anyways.
Because of the amount of information that I could give here (I mean it could literally be an entire book), I am creating a separate document for "ANYONE'S GUIDE TO THE PERFECT MACARONS" with a compiled list of my learned tips and tricks over the years. I highly suggest giving that a read too before starting this adventure. Believe me, you want absolutely all the help you can get and you'll be surprised at how the tiniest of things can have a big impact. It's just good to do your homework with these.
OK, whew. Next up, is tools! Yes, tools. You will need special kitchen tools to make french macarons. You just do. There is no way around this unless you want to have failed macs 9 times out of 10.
Number 1 is the kitchen scale. This is so important that I am not even giving you an option in my recipe to measure out your ingredients EXCEPT in grams. You need this. Don't argue, just go get one. You can buy them for less than $20 at walmart, target, online.... a lot of places now. I bought mine off Amazon (like this one) and I've had it for over 2 years without issue. If you're an avid baker than you already know most professional recipes are measured in weight anyways and it is pretty important for the simple fact that baking is more of a science. Measuring your ingredients in weight eliminates the ability to have messed up the recipe with too much or too little of something. It's just another variable that you can control and you should. You don't want to waste time and money. It's not always AS important depending on difficulty of what you're baking but for this one it's an absolute must.
Number two is silicon baking mats. They sell multiple varieties and brands of these now. The most common is Silpat. They are a little pricier. I bought mine off Amazon (an off brand) for a little cheaper and they have been awesome, lasted over 2 years. I actually bought ones with the macaron circle guides on them and I did use those starting out. It was a huge help when learning how to pipe them so they are all uniform in size and bake more evenly. Eventually you wont need the guides but great none the less. I linked the ones I use here. Other recipes say you can use parchment paper and other "macaron mats" that have these weird raised circle edges on them. I have tried all of them and I'm here to tell you, that crap doesn't work. Do not waste your time or money. Parchment paper crinkles under the macarons during baking leaving you with wrinkly uneven shells. There are tips out there on how to keep it held down in the oven...blah blah blah. No , not worth it, doesn't work. And those other special macaron mats that come in macaron kits too I could literally just roll my eyes at. DO NOT BUY those things. Some of them even have weird squeezy things to pipe your batter out in...no, just no. It's all just a scam trying to get your money. Ok, rant over. The point is just buy silicon baking mats. They can be used for a thousand other things too so they're a great investment.
Number 3 is a stand mixer. Ok, you don't necessarily NEED this. You can use a handheld mixer with a whisk attachment but it takes a good 7-10 minutes to whip your meringue properly and its just easier if you aren't standing over a bowl the whole time. Believe me you're gonna get your arm work out in later with the macaronage stage that you have to do by hand anyways.
Number 4 is a piping bag, or bags depending on how many colors you make. For this recipe you will just need one 16in (the large one!) piping bag. I use Wilton and I buy them from Michaels. They are great quality and always work perfectly for me. You can find them here. You do not need any piping tips.
Number 5 is a sifter. I use a large fine mesh flour sifter. There are so many varieties of these and I recommend just googling them if you don't have one. They are pretty common so you might already have one as many recipes advise you to sift flour or dry ingredients. Just use what you got. I will say the larger one helps the process go a little faster but honestly they all work.
Number 6 is a rubber spatula. This is really common and I'm sure you have one but you need it. You will use it during the macaronage stage to fold your dry ingredients into your meringue. I promise to explain in all the detail later but for now just know you need this.
Ok, I think that's all for the "tools" section, Now let's move onto ingredients.
Firstly (and probably most importantly) you need almond flour. Macarons are basically almond flour, sugar, and egg whites.....so the almond flour is kinda a big deal. I have tried other brands but the very best results I get are from Bob's Red Mill. And no, this is not an ad. I am just being honest. Try to get "super fine almond flour from blanched whole almonds" . Unblanched almonds have their skins on and while you can use this ( I have many times) it leaves little specks of brown in your macs and doesn't sift as well leaving you with not as smooth shells. The taste is exactly the same though so you do you boo. At the end of the day it's up to you.
Secondly, you want these two bad boys, meringue powder and cream or tartar. They are meringue stabilizers and are your secret helpers for the perfect macs. In fact I also use cream of tartar in my cakes as a leavener if I don't use buttermilk (to keep them fluffy) AND I use meringue powder to make my royal icing. So, they are definitely worth the place in your pantry. You can find cream of tartar at any grocery store in the spices sections and you can find powdered egg whites (aka: meringue powder) at Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Wal-mart and almost any baking specialty store. You can also get it offline.
This one is on my "ANYONE'S GUIDE TO THE PERFECT MACARONS" but I'll mention it here as well, AGED egg whites. Yep, you read that right, aged egg whites. I bet you're wondering "what the heck is that? I've never seen that at the store before." Relax, it's not hard and its just regular eggs for the most part. . My macaron recipe calls for 115 grams egg whites. Now, you can use fresh egg whites, meaning you just crack open the eggs same day, separate the whites and let them come to room temp. However, if you have the time (and the brain to plan ahead, mom brain is real y'all) I highly recommend aging your egg whites. It's super simple. Simply crack, separate the whites into bowl or cup, cover with saran wrap and poke some holes in the top with a fork and place it in the fridge for 24-48 hours before you plan on making your macs. Take them out day of and let them come to room temp. Ta-da! Now your egg whites are aged. And why would you do this? Well because the longer your whites "age" the stronger the proteins in them get giving you a stronger meringue and more stable batter. In other words another thing on your side in this conquest of mac making. Using aged whites is the traditional french way as well.
The rest of the ingredients will be common pantry items such as powdered sugar, white granulated sugar, and a pinch of salt. For this recipe we are not adding any food coloring to the shells. They will be the natural color which tends to be an off white variation. We are adding small sprinkles if you'd like but not necessary. IF you want to color your macs, the easiest way is to add your coloring to the meringue itself before adding your dry ingredients. DO NOT USE REGULAR FOOD COLORING. You do not want any extra moisture added or it could break your meringue. You need to use gel coloring such as the Wilton or Americolor brand.
OK are you ready for this? You are. I know it. Let's do this beautiful!
*READ THROUGH TWICE BEFORE STARTING*
PERFECT FRENCH MACARONS
PREP TIME: 3 hours
BAKE TIME: 8-12 minutes per sheet
MAKES: 42 macaron shells (piped out at 1 inch)
FOR THE SHELLS:
165 grams almond flour (try unblanched)
165 grams powdered (confectioners) sugar
a pinch of salt
5 grams meringue powder (powdered egg whites)
3 grams cream of tartar
150 grams granulated white sugar
115 grams aged egg whites (from roughly 4 eggs)
Rainbow non-parallels sprinkles (optional)
FOR THE FILLING:
vanilla bean buttercream (you can find the recipe here)
1. All ingredients should be room temperature before beginning.
2. Pour your almond flour, powdered sugar, and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl. Mix together with whisk until its all incorporated together.
3. Lay out a large piece of parchment paper (you can also use another large bowl but the paper makes it easier to pour from later on) .
4. Sift your almond flour mixture onto parchment paper, doing a little at a time until done. You may have to use a rubber spatula here to help you break up any lumps in your sifter and its going to take longer than just sifting white flour would take. Also, you will probably have a tiny bit leftover (like 1 teaspoon or so) that just wont sift because the almond pieces don't fit through your sifter and that is OK! Just try your best here but yes it takes a few minutes to complete. This step is important because it makes your shells smooth. Set aside for now.
5. Add your measured out meringue powder, cream of tartar, granulated sugar, and egg whites to your (VERY clean and dry) stand mixing bowl.
6. Using the whisk attachment for your mixer to hand whisk the ingredients first to make sure nothing is stuck to the side of the bowl.
7. Turn on your mixer now with the whisk attachment on medium speed to start whipping up your meringue. This will take about 9-11 minutes. Seriously. You can stop it about 7 minutes in to scrape the sides and see where you're at but the end result should be very stiff glossy peaks. You should be able to turn the bowl over and nothing move inside. When you lift the whisk out of the bowl it will be stiff peaks and smooth. See pic below.
8. Once your meringue is done remove the whisk attachment and it aside. You do not need it anymore. Add your sifted almond flour mix into your bowl all at once.
9. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and using a rubber spatula start folding (if you don't know how to fold I recommend googling it) the dry mix into your meringue. This is the macaronage process and it takes about 5-10 minutes. There is no rushing this process and your arm will feel like its going to fall off by the end. It's all normal. You CANNOT use your mixer and you cannot just stir it. You need to fold and fold and fold. It will look like it's never going to come together but it does, I promise. You are looking for it to start resembling a lava like consistency. The smoother it is the smoother your shells will be, just don't go too far. When you lift the spatula out of the mix it should slowly start running off, like lava. See below.
10. Place a 16in piping bag into a cup standing up on your counter and then pour all your batter inside. (Your bag does not need any piping tips fitted inside unless you really want to. If you do, then use a Wilton number 12 tip for that perfect round hole size) Twist the end of your bag and tie it off using a rubber band or a twist tie.
11. Place your batter aside and let it rest for 1 hour. I find this SUPER helpful if you have the time. Otherwise you can start piping right away.
12. Get your baking mats ready and place one on a baking sheet. Cut the tip of your piping bag about an inch up. This gives you about the same size as a #12 tip would give you. For reference purposes the hole should be about the same size round as the top of your pinky finger.
13. Start piping out your macarons by squeezing your bag in one place until a circle forms about 3/4 of an inch size wise. If your using a circle guide on your mats then fill the circle until you get to just about the edges. The macarons will spread after piping a bit so keep this in mind. To finish piping do a mini swish to cut off the batter flow and move onto the next one. There will be a small "tail" that will settle into the cookie so don't worry about it right now. Practice makes perfect so you just have to keep at it and piping will become easier. Don't stress it if they aren't perfect circles, you more want to worry about size relevance so they all bake evenly on the same mat. You want about an inch at least in between cookies as to not crowd them.
14. Once you finish piping a mat full place your batter bag to the side and start banging the crap out of your baking sheet. You have to do this right after piping so no skins form before this step. You want to bang out all the air bubbles in the cookies so seriously BANG them hard. I thought this was a joke at first by the way, but it's not. This is important. You can actually see the bubbles rise and pop as you do this. You can also use a tooth pick to '"pop" any visible bubbles at the surface but try not to disturb the batter any more than you need to. Your "tail" from piping should have completely disappeared by now.
15. Set that mat aside and start the whole process again of piping and banging out the rest of them until your are done. You can sprinkle on sprinkles now if you want or leave them nakey.
16. Now you are going to leave your piped out cookies nice and still (and alone) for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. I say this because it seriously depends on your environment here. The temperature, humidity, and sea level of your house will all play into how long it take for your macarons to dry out. Be patient and just keep checking every 10 minutes or so. You are waiting for skins to develop here. The skin is the top of the cookie and you will know when they are dried out because it will be dry to the touch. Gently touch the top of a mac to test and your finger should not stick to it at all. It will literally have a skin formed on it. It's ok if they sit out a little longer after the skin is formed. It wont hurt the cookie unless it's like 10 hours or something like that so no need to rush here.
17. Once your skin is formed turn your oven on to 300 degrees. I say this because the longer time your oven sits on preheated the more opportunity it has for the internal temperature to be wrong and get too hot. As soon as I hear my oven beep to preheated at 300 I pop the first sheet in. NOW I will say this is a touchy subject for mac making. Everyone seems to have a different baking time and temps that is suited for them. I have tired multiple ones and this is just the one that works for me more than any of the others. I do not have a fancy oven (yet), no convection, and it's just normal. If you do, awesome! You may have to alter your time and temp to suit that.
18. As I said before I don't have a convection oven so I place my sheet on the middle rack in my oven and set my timer for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes I rotate the tray inside the oven to help baking evenly. I set the time for another 5 minutes and check. They are usually done at this point but sometimes may need another minute or two. They should have little "feet" formed under the tops now and the shells would have puffed up.
19. So this is tricky, figuring out when they are done. You don't want ANYTHING to brown when making macarons. Once the bottoms start to brown they are becoming over baked. This part is harder with white macs too because the brown shows instantly unlike colored shells that offer some forgiveness. Don't stress this part though. They will still be fine even if they do get a little beige on the bottom. Now if the tops start to brown then they will be hard upon cooling and crack.
20. Once you take them out of the oven, you will set aside to cool gently. DO not move around too much because they are still soft at this point and can break on you. Cool about 15 minutes.
o21. They should easily pop right off your baking mat now. You can peel it out from under each shell and if they are sticking at all that means they are slightly under baked. Just notate that for the next batch you put it and adjust your time. It's all trial and error until you get the right baking times that work for you.
22. Once you get all your shells baked and cooled then you can start filling them. Yay!
23. Find matches for the little sandwiches and lay them out next to each other. Pipe your buttercream on one side and place its' top on. You're done!! Eat them and enjoy!! Try one plain too and tell me it's not the best cookie ever ;)
You can store these at room temp in a air tight container for a few days or you can place them in the fridge in an air tight container for up to a week. Traditional macarons are filled and stored in a fridge for 24 hours before serving so the cookies can soak up the filling. But I personally like them right away more. You can freeze them as well for about 3 weeks.
Slopped over shells- Uneven oven temp. Turn your baking sheets more often.
Air Pocket under shell- Slam your sheets harder after piping to remove air pockets OR possible oven heat too high. Try adjusting your oven heat lower and bake for a couple minutes longer.
Cracking of shells: Oven heat too low OR folding time too long. Try adjusting you oven heat and make sure you don't over fold the batter making it too runny.
Holy crap, I think I just wrote a book! Whew. Ask me anything! Lots of love!!