Day five of my Advent holiday delights is the ever-elusive French macaron. I have made my fair share of macarons--enough to last more than a lifetime, surely. But something about these little pastries is whimsical, and the vanilla bean macaron recipe I'm sharing below is packed with the flavors of potent, fresh vanilla beans from the world's highest quality producers--Madagascar, Tahiti, and Mexico.
Day 5: Vanilla Bean Macarons
Difficulty: Impressive Challenge
Anyone can make macarons. Like most things in life, the more you do it, the better you become at it. It helps if you have a steady hand, as you'll need that steadiness when you are piping the macaron shells. Using a piping bag can be tricky and takes practice, but eventually, you'll get the hang of it.
I was inspired to make these somewhat daunting desserts back in 2011 when I was living in France. My roommate came home with a macaron cookbook, and even though she had practically no baking experience, she was able to successfully follow the recipe and make some decent-looking, excellent-tasting macarons. I made up my mind then that if she could do it, I could too.
After much trial and error, and using a book completely in French and the metric system (including strange oven settings such as, "mark 1"), eventually, I mastered these. There is more than one way to make a macron--such as which type of meringue to use for the shells. But, they all contain the same ingredients: pulverized almonds, sugar, egg whites, and a filling.
If you are a perfectionist who is devastated by mistakes, this recipe is not for you! If you aren't afraid to try new things and enjoy spending half a day in the kitchen, then step out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself, and try this recipe!
- FOR THE SHELLS
- 300 grams of almond flour (finely ground almonds)
- 300 grams powdered sugar
- 110 grams + 110 grams egg whites (for a total of 220 grams)
- 300 grams granulated sugar
- 75 grams water
- FOR THE FILLING
- 350 grams heavy whipping cream
- 6 vanilla whole vanilla bean pods
- 440 grams highest quality white chocolate, finely chopped
- PREPARE THE VANILLA BEAN WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE FILLING
- Place the finely chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Add the heaving whipping cream to a small pot. Cut the vanilla bean pods in half. With a spoon, carefully scrape out the vanilla beans, and add to the heavy whipping cream, along with the vanilla bean pods. Heat the whipping cream on low heat. Bring to just a boil, then remove from heat. Carefully "wring out" the vanilla bean pods. Then, pour the hot whipping cream over the finely chopped chocolate. Allow to sit for 30 seconds. Then, using a rubber spatula, mix it until the chocolate has melted completely. Then, cover with plastic.
- PREPARE THE MACARON SHELLS
- Sift the almond flour with the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Add 110 grams of egg whites, and using a rubber spatula, fold until the egg whites are completely incorporated.
- Place the remaining 110 grams of egg white into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk on low. Here is the tricky part: You want to gradually increase the speed on the stand mixer so that the egg whites are forming between medium and stiff peaks just as the next step reaches 235F.
- While the egg whites are whisking, place the water and granulated sugar in small pot. Bring to a boil. Using a candy thermometer, heat until it reaches the "soft ball" candy stage (235F).
- Once it reaches 235F, remove from the heat, and slowly pour it into egg whites as the stand mixer is vigorously whisking, at it's highest or near-highest speed. [CAUTION: SLOWLY pour the hot sugar water. Otherwise, it will splatter and burn you, while simultaneously cooking the egg whites!]
- Continue whisking a high speed until the mixture has cooled to 122F. Don't worry about over-mixing at this point. Unlike egg whites, it is impossible to "overmix" a meringue (which is what you have just created!)
- Now, you must work quickly. Remove the meringue from the bowl, and fold it into the almond flour/powdered sugar/egg white mixture. Be careful not to overmix, but make sure the meringue is completely and thoroughly incorporated.
- Then, transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with an 11 pt tip, and pipe into equal-sized rounds on a parchment paper or silplat-lined baking sheet, of 1.5-2 inches in size.
- Then, allow the macaron shells to sit for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325F. Pick up the cookie sheet about two inches off of the table, and then drop it. This step assists in the formation of the "feet" of the macaron shells. Then, transfer the cookie sheet to the center rack of the oven and bake for about 12 minutes. They should be completely dry, but not yet brown. Remove from the oven and immediately remove the parchment paper or silplat and place it on a cooling rack. Allow the shells to cool completely. Then, remove from the paper and group the like sizes together in pairs.
- Check your ganache to make sure it isn't runny. If it is, stick it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Then, add the ganache to a piping bag with an 11-pt tip. Pipe the ganache onto half of the macaron shells. Then, place the other half on top of the ganache.
- Store the macarons in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. When ready to eat, allow them to sit until they reach room temperature.