"Food: Science, Art, Passion, Pleasure, Adventure & Exploration"

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Baking Adventure 13: Vanilla Macarons With Beurre Noisette Buttercream

Did you know that I was able to hear the pitter-patter of little feet today? That's right! My raw, infant macaron circlets quickly graduated to toddler status once a little bit of time and heat love was applied to them. 

I took the plunge and finally made macarons at home. I've made them several times in workshops, but this was my first domestic try. I think many bakers, whether they are seasoned, somewhat experienced, professional, or brand-spanking new to the game, fear making these small, wondrous, French treats. The recipe is oh so simple, but a number of things can go wrong in the preparation stage, especially if the recipe calls for a more complex flavor profile. 

Chocolate macarons, for example, are notoriously moody and said to be the hardest to make. They crack often, oven doors must be propped open so that they develop just right, and many people often burn them because of the camouflage nature of their dark coloring.

Macarons are quite the expensive sweet fare in bakeshops all across the globe. In North America, macarons individually range from $1.40 to $3.00, depending on extra special ingredients added to them, and their size -- from mini, to standard, to big round whoppers that resemble miniature pastry hamburgers with creamy dessert "patties."

Almond flour is the main ingredient in macarons that makes these treats pricey, regardless of the inclusion of any other specialty ingredients. I also think the price is adjusted for the level of elegant precision that goes into making them. After all, making perfect-looking macarons is a science and an art.

There are so many parfums (flavors) that I can make macarons in, but I decided to stick with a basic flavor in my baking adventure. That was vanilla. They are the simplest to make and are great paired with any filling flavor. At first I was going to make salted caramel filling because I love the stuff, but I decided to hold off and use my own beurre noisette (meaning "hazelnut butter" in French because of the toasty nutty aroma) buttercream as a filler. You can't go wrong pairing the addictive, nutty flavor of browned butter with the intensity of natural vanilla.

I am in need of a new food processor AND an electronic digital scale, so that increased the apprehension that I felt about making these. So many people have emphasized that they need to be made with sharp precision. Alas...using Pyrex measuring cups and whisking the dry mixture by hand was going to be as precise as I could be this night.

I found space challenging while making these. I needed enough room to pipe out several sheets of macarons and let them stick around on my kitchen island and counters for drying out, and I say this with a kitchen on the larger side. You can't just leave macaron batter sitting in a bowl for a long time. The meringue's weight will collapse onto itself, this taking away the batter's texture quality, so it all needs to be piped onto parchment sheets or silmats right away.

The first batch had some cracked results, but they came out with a great flavor and I had absolutely no problem with any of the batches sticking to my parchment paper. They came off effortlessly and cleanly. I guess I can be proud of such an outcome since stickiness is a common complaint for many domestic, would-be macaron masters.

Anyway, the following batches were smoother results with clean tops and a nice eggshell coloring that varied only slightly between each macaron coque (coque is the word for the macaron shells). In utter baker's joy, I was able to see the development of little feet on each macaron and they all had that distinctive texture combination of crispy outer shell and chewy, rich center. That's just how I like them.

I will be making more macarons this weekend as I had tons of fun making these and my addiction for them has increased (if you can believe it), so there will be more photos. The batches I made are already gone! Everyone loved them.

Here is the recipe for the vanilla macarons:

Vanilla Macarons with Beurre Noisette Buttercream 


2 cups of almond flour
2 cups of powdered sugar
6 egg whites (room temperature)
1 cup of baker's sugar (super fine white sugar)
1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste / vanilla extract 

  1. Crack 6 eggs and separate the whites. Leave egg whites out to reach room temperature. They can be left out just until they reach room temp., overnight, or for a day. Keep them covered if they are left out for a longer time period.
  2. Blend the almond flour and powdered sugar into a food processor for a few pulses or use a whisk by hand in a bowl. (I did the latter until there were no clumps and disparate spots in the dry mix)

  1. Use a metal or glass bowl to begin beating your egg whites. Beat until soft peak stage and then slowly add in the baker's sugar.

  1. Add the vanilla bean paste or extract and continue to beat the egg whites until the meringue forms stiff peaks.
  2. Fold the dry almond-sugar mixture in 3 parts into the meringue. Fold just until the macaron batter resembles a thick magma-looking texture and can form "ribbons" by letting the batter drop back into itself with a spatula spoon. However, make sure the almond-sugar mixture is loosely but thoroughly incorporated but not over-folded into the meringue (Yeah, this is an area where you can screw up by not getting the proper texture. You can wind up over-folding or under-folding rather easily).

  1. Take out parchment paper and fit sheets onto a large baking tray and begin piping out the meringue mixture into even circles (I eyed as I piped, but you can be more precise by creating circle templates and marking your parchment paper on the reverse side). 
  2. Let the circlets sit out for 30 minutes to an hour so that a soft "skin" can develop on top.

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325. Turn the oven down to 300 after the macarons are in for a few minutes. Let them bake for a total of 12-15 minutes. Keep a watch on them as they bake quickly, so that they don't burn. Good luck on seeing any feet develop!
  2. Take them out and let them cool for 10 minutes and begin filling them with any kind of filling you desire. The best fillings are ganaches, buttercreams, jams, and caramels. 

Beurre Noisette Buttercream

4 cups of powdered sugar
5 oz. of butter
1 vanilla bean or 2.5 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste *
6 Tablespoons of heavy cream

  1. Brown the butter in a saucepan. (*You can slice open a vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds and place the entire pod in the browning butter to infuse a strong vanilla flavor)
  2. In a bowl combine your sugar and cream. If you chose brown the butter by itself, then add the vanilla bean paste or extract with the sugar and cream.
  3. Pour the hot browned butter into sugar-cream mixture and beat until a smooth consistency. 
  4. Spoon dabs of buttercream onto macarons.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the comment on my blog (Macaron tips and tricks). The article is there to help other macaron makers on their journey. I get really excited when I see all the visits that my little blog gets. I am so happy to share it with others. There is so much good information out in the Web now. It is great. Don't worry about the feet, your feet are looking good (like my first feet - what an experience when you first see feet - mind blowing!!! - YES!!! WE HAVE FEET!!!) You have the macaronage technique down so your feet will get bigger as you work your oven out. Different ovens give different results. When working with my friends, using same technique, but different ovens, we get different feet every time. Different recipes also give different results. Just play and experiment. "Practice makes perfect" - Cheers!