Vanilla Bean Macarons
I have a confession: I am a Francophile. The name of our blog was no accident– I have a bad addiction to everything French, from wine to cheese to fashion to language to…pastries. It’s no wonder that I call the macaron my favorite cookie. I have a strong aversion to coconut, and I previously stayed clear of French macarons because I confused them with American macaroons, which are quite coconut-y. (Notice: the French version has one “O,” and the two are quite different). The first time I remember trying a true French macaron was 4 years ago when I was studying abroad during college in Bordeaux, France. They were literally everywhere I turned, in every bakery and patisserie. (It’s ironic that by the time I came back to the US the trend had suddenly caught on and I was able to find macarons all over LA, too). I finally tried a salted caramel one from Baillardan, a sweet shop famous for caneles de Bordeaux, but also makes great macarons. One bite and I was hooked.
Macarons are basically two dense meringue cookies sandwiched with some sort of flavored filling like raspberry buttercream or salted caramel. One great benefit is that they are naturally gluten-free. I was a little nervous to tackle these on my own for quite some time, since they look super fancy and hard to make. Plus they sell at around $3-$4 a pop (pretty much one bite…), so I thought they must be very difficult to make, right? Sort of right. Cathy and I ended up taking a macaron making class in Santa Monica last year at the Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savory, which is a fantastic cooking and baking school. Macarons would be fairly easy for someone familiar with meringue (like my Mom, for instance) and following a recipe would be sufficient, but I personally was not. The class we took was worth-while for me to see the subtle techniques like folding the egg whites slowly without mixing, etc. However, I would say after taking this one class, I don’t blink twice.
The ingredients and recipe are actually quite simple, and once you’ve made them one time, it’s easy to become an expert and begin experimenting with flavors and colors. As much as I like experimenting, plain vanilla bean macarons remain my favorite flavor. I also haven’t perfected adding food dye, so the vanilla bean macaron cookies end up having the best texture. So here they are, plain and simple vanilla bean macarons. Put them in a cute box and it makes a great holiday gift!
Vanilla Bean Macarons (Recipe from The Gourmandise School)
4 Egg Whites
1/2 Tsp Cream of Tartar
2 Scant Cups Almond Flour
2 Cups Powdered (Icing) Sugar
A pinch of Salt
6 Tbsp Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean (you will use half for the cookie and half for the filling)
Place almond flour, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse several times. Set aside. Measure the sugar into a small bowl and add 1/2 of the vanilla bean (cut bean lengthwise and in half, and scrape the insides). Mix together and set aside.
In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Slowly add the vanilla sugar remaining on medium-high speed until stiff peaks are formed. Remove from the mixer. Sift 1/3 of the almond flour mixture into the bowl and carefully fold the mixture until just combined. (Note: use a spatula and scrape the bowl in circular movements, occasionally cutting through the center). Add the two remaining thirds one at a time through the sifter, and repeat the same slow combining motion until a ribbon forms.
Spoon batter into a piping bag (or corner of a ziplock bag with the corner cut off), and pipe even circles onto a parchment paper lined tray. (Place piping bag end close to parchment, squeeze and lift). Let set for about an hour.
Pre-heat oven to 300 deg. F and cook for about 12-15 minutes.
Italian Meringue Butter Cream:
5 Egg Whites
1 Cup Sugar
Pinch of Salt
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 Vanilla Bean
1 Pound of Butter at room temperature, cut into pieces
Fill a medium saucepan 1/3 with water and bring to a simmer. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk egg whites, sugar and salt over the saucepan until mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from heat and place on the stand mixer. Whisk until stiff peaks form and the bowl is completely cool to the touch (*This is very important for the butter not to curdle). Continue to whip on medium-high speed and add the butter, one chunk at a time until combined. Add the vanilla extract and vanilla bean, and whip until smooth.
Once macaron cookies have completely cooled, pipe a dollop of the butter cream in the center of a cookie. Add another cookie on top, gently pressing down to spread the buttercream. Macarons keep great in the freezer (remove 5-7 minutes before eating).
- Gluten-Free Coconut Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies | - […] ← Vanilla Bean Macarons […]