The past week has been a whirlwind. A romantic, magical, slightly jet-lagged whirlwind. In the last 7 days Ryan and I spent a little over 24 hours in London, four days in Paris, saw our good friend tie the knot steps from the Seine, and have been recovering back home ever since. To celebrate this epic wedding weekend here on the blog, I’ve conquered one of my biggest baking goals – French macarons. Ever since my semester abroad in Paris I’ve shared a love affair with these delicate sweet treats, and seems like most of the blogging world is right there with me the past few years. I’ve seen numerous tutorials and countless flavor combinations on many of my favorite blogs, but the intimidation factor of getting everything *just right* kept me from taking the macaron plunge. Well, this little Parisian getaway of ours motivated me to muster up the courage to give these a shot, and I’m pretty proud of what came out of my oven – c’est magnifique!
Unlike some bloggers, I haven’t tried twenty different recipes with different techniques and equipment, and I am by no means an all star here – I just got extremely lucky my first time around and am here to share with you what I did! I mostly just followed the instructions of BraveTart and watched a few Youtube videos beforehand to get a sense of what perfectly mixed macaron batter looks like. I didn’t do fancy things like age my egg whites or use a copper bowl – but I did go to Whole Foods to get almond flour and freeze-dried strawberries if you consider that a little out of the ordinary. I was convinced that my first try would be a flop, but when I peeked in the oven to see “feet” (the little ruffle on the bottom of the cookies) forming, I literally jumped for joy. Macarons are definitely a technique-sensitive cookie, and it was very exciting for me to have put that expensive almond flour to good use on the first try!
When in Paris, Ryan and I stopped by the original Pierre Herme bakery shop in the 6th arrondisement to pick up a healthy batch of macarons. Herme is one of the more famous Parisian macaron makers, up there with La Duree (which was closed during our stroll down the Champs D’Elysee), and I knew I couldn’t leave Paris without getting my hands on some. I needed to do some taste testing purely for blog research :). In comparison my macarons were a little wimpy, chewier, and less vibrant – but it’s hard to compare yourself to one of the macaron masters! Aside from stuffing our faces with French food, Ryan and I also got to celebrate the wedding of our friends Mara and Conrad. I made sure to include a photo below of Mara’s amazing dress that I’m sure you’ll agree fit the bill for a wedding set in Paris. It was such a beautiful evening and I definitely have my work cut out for me if I hope to plan an equally magnificent soiree in June!
I chose a strawberry/chocolate combo for these because I wanted to stick with something basic but classic and pretty. The macarons are colored by the freeze-dried strawberries and a few drops of pink food coloring, and I love the soft pink color alongside the chocolate buttercream. This was a great “starter” macaron flavor and I can’t wait to try many more combinations!
Strawberry Macarons with Chocolate Buttercream
Recipe adapted from BraveTart
for the strawberry macarons:
115 grams almond flour
20 grams freeze-dried, unsweetened strawberries
230 grams powdered sugar
144 grams egg whites (144g)
72 grams granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract or the scrapings of 1 vanilla bean
2 grams kosher salt
2 drops pink gel food coloring
for the chocolate buttercream:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp milk
for the strawberry macarons:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and have a large pastry bag fitted with a round tip along with 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. To make sure all of my macarons were the same size, I printed out 1.5" circles onto paper and slipped them under the parchment paper as a guide.
Combine the almond flour, powdered sugar, and freeze-dried strawberries in a food processor and process until strawberries are finely ground. Take out the mixture and sift it, reserving whatever pieces don't pass through the sieve. Add these pieces back to the food processor and process for another minute. Sift again. Some chunkier almond pieces or strawberries may remain, but just add those into the dry mix anyway.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine the egg whites, granulated sugar, vanilla bean (but not the extract if you're using that), and salt and turn the mixer on medium speed. Whip for 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip another 3 minutes, then increase the speed to high and go for another 3 minutes.
Turn the mixer off and add the vanilla extract if you're using that along with a few drops of pink food coloring. Whip for a final minute so the flavors and colors are equally distributed. At this point the meringue should be thick enough so that when you remove the whisk attachment, a big clump of meringue will be stuck in the middle. If it's not, continue beating for another few minutes until it does so.
Now dump in all the dry ingredients at once and fold them in with a rubber spatula. This next part is straight from BraveTart (I like her description of this and wouldn't want to try to paraphrase and risk missing something):
"Use both a folding motion (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a pressing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl. First timers: the dry ingredients/meringue will look hopelessly incompatible. After about 25 turns (or folds or however you want to call “a single stroke of mixing”) the mixture will still have a quite lumpy and stiff texture. Another 15 strokes will see you to “just about right.” Keep in mind that macaronage is about deflating the whites, so don’t feel like you have to treat them oh-so-carefully. You want to knock the air out of them. Essentially, the macaron batter needs enough thickness that it will mound up on itself, but enough fluidity that after 20 seconds, it will melt back down. I’ve heard people describe this consistency as lava-like, or molten, and that’s pretty apt."
Transfer about half the batter to the piping bag and pipe the batter onto the parchment paper, following the guide of the printed circles underneath. Stop piping just a bit shy of the borders of the circles since the batter tends to spread just a bit. Don't forget to carefully remove the papers with circles from underneath the parchment paper before baking! After piping is done, slam the cookie sheet hard against the counter to release any air bubbles. Let the macarons sit out on the counter for 15 minutes before baking.
Bake for about 18 minutes, or until you can cleanly peel the parachment paper away from the macarons. If you try to pick up a macaron and the top comes off in your hand, they need a few more minutes in the oven. Once the macarons have cooled thoroughly on the pans, use your hands or a metal spatula to remove them.
for the chocolate buttercream:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter for 2-3 minutes until soft and creamy. Add the powdered sugar and cocoa and beat on medium speed until well combined.
Increase the mixer speed to medium and add the vanilla extract, salt, and milk. Beat for 3 minutes until everything is nice and creamy, but stiff enough to pipe. Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fit with a small round tip (or just cut off the corner of a ziploc bag) and pipe circles of frosting onto the flat part of a macaron. Then create a sandwich with another macaron cookie and set aside. Now enjoy your hard work and beautiful creations!