Vanilla Macarons with Sweet Custard Filling
One of my goals this year is to perfect the macarons. I have tried these in the past and I knew that they were going to be a real challenge but I am totally up for it. And wouldn’t you know it, I found a recipe that I love and that I am going to work from. Of COURSE I had to share it with you. Its St. Patricks Day here in the US so I decided to make the macarons light green in honor of the holiday. I should have made the filing orange (hindsight is always 20/20 right?
Now, I will say for those of you who are new to the baking world, I know the desire to try these amazing cookies, but if I have learned anything over the past 5 years its to really learn how the skills of advanced baking before trying these things. Not because of the amount of effort it may take but these do take precision when it comes to the process. I have tried them a few times and am still working to make them perfect. I would also say that if you do choose to give these a shot, don’t get discouraged and not make them again. These are pretty delicate cookies and trial and error is the way we get to be amazing at what we do!
That being said. Let’s talk about a few terms that you may or may not know about when it comes to baking. You will need to know how to these when making this recipe:
- Parchment Paper: Sounds like a simple term right? People often confuse parchment paper with wax paper, when they are, in fact, not the same thing. So make sure you have the correct one before beginning.
- Almond meal: This is very finely ground almost, very similar to the consistence of flour. You can make this on your own, of for sake of ease, you can buy this in the whole foods of your supermarket.
- Punch Down: This is when you take a item and punch a hole in the middle, with the intent to do something with the process. Often times, people punch pizza dough to add seasoning, this would be the same thing, only to add air.
- Folding: Folding is when you take a rubber spatula and while scraping the sides of the bowl, you push the dough into the center, repeating the process over and over again.
- Pied Footing: This is the little ruffle that is at the base of the macaron. This is created by gently tapping the pan on the counter when you dispense the dough onto the baking sheet.
- Stiff Peaks: When you are making merengue, you want to make sure that you have “Stiff Peaks.” This means that when you lift your mixer out of the egg white, it should appear as if it we mountain peaks. See the image below to see the perfect peak! You also don’t want to over mix your merengue so much that it gets clumpy – that will give you really chunky macarons.
- 2/3 cup almond meal or ground almonds
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature and preferably aged up to 3 days
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 1/2 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 280ºF, and position 2 racks in the lower section of the oven. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. If you have time, draw 1-inch circles on the back of each sheet, spacing the circles at least 1/2-inch apart.
- If your almond meal is very coarse, grind it with the powdered sugar in a food processor until fine. Sift the almond meal-powdered sugar mixture twice through a mesh sieve.
- Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer), and begin to beat on medium-high. When the eggs are frothy, gradually add granulated sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated. Continue to beat the egg white mixture until glossy and stiff peaks form when you lift the beaters. Gently stir in the vanilla extract. Be careful to not overbeat the meringue (e.g., the meringue takes on a clumpy texture).
- Add half of the sifted almond mixture, and gently fold it into the meringue using a flexible silicone spatula. Lift from the bottom, up around the sides, and toward the middle, being careful to not overagitate the meringue and lose too much air. Once the almond mixture is predominantly incorporated, add the second half and repeat the folding motion.
- When the almond mixture is just incorporated, you will need to transform the batter into the appropriate texture. Using the flat of the spatula, "punch" down into the center of the batter, then scrape more batter from the sides to the center, and punch again. You will need to repeat this 10-15 times (or more, depending on your arm strength and the beginning texture of your batter) until the batter slowly and continuously drips back into the bowl when you scoop it up with the spatula. Think of the consistency of molten lava. For the best results, punch the batter a few times, check the consistency, then punch a few more times, etc. Do not make the batter too runny or the macarons won't rise as they should, and you could end up with oil stains on the surface.
- Pour batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 0.4-inch tip. In a pinch, you can also use a gallon-size Ziploc bag: just snip a teeny bit from one of the bottom corners. Twist and clip the top of the bag to avoid overflow. On your prepared baking sheets, pipe out 1-inch rounds in the circles you drew (remember to draw the circles on the back side of your parchment to avoid ink or pencil stains on your macarons!).
- Holding the baking sheet in both hands, rap each baking sheet firmly on the counter two or three times. This smooths out the tops and helps form the "pied" or frilly foot on the bottoms of the macarons. Allow the piped macarons to dry, uncovered, for at least 15 minutes. The macarons should form a very thin, smooth crust where, if you tap it lightly with your finger, the batter will not stick to your finger. If after 15 minutes, the batter is still sticky, let it dry longer. This may take up to an hour on humid days.
- Place both baking sheets in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes. After the first 2 minutes, open the oven to allow any excess humidity to escape. Halfway through, swap oven racks and rotate the sheets for even baking. The macarons are done when they are baked all the way through and the shells are just hard. Take care to not underbake (insides will still be mushy) or overbake (tops will begin to brown). Remove them from the oven, and cool on baking sheet placed on a wire rack.
- When fully cooled, assemble the macarons with your choice of filling. The assembled macarons can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
- Cut butter into pieces, and mash with a spatula until the consistency resembles mayonnaise.
- In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then add the granulated sugar, and whisk until the mixture lightens to an off-white and you can no longer see the granules of sugar. Add the milk, and whisk to combine.
- Pour the egg mixture into a small saucepan, and heat over low heat, whisking frequently to ensure that the mixture does not curdle or scorch. Cook until the mixture becomes thick and custardy, like pudding.
- Pour the egg mixture back into its bowl, and whisk constantly until it returns to room temperature. Whisk in the butter in three batches, add the vanilla, and stir until smooth and all ingredients are fully combined. Pipe or spread onto one macaron half and sandwich between the other.