Desserts/Pastries

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Macarons – Happy Macaron Day!

Macarons

It’s a double whammy today!

Not only is it the first day of Spring (yahoooooo!) but it also happens to be MACARON DAY!

Now that is a food holiday I can get behind.

Macarons3

It just so happened that we were celebrating my niece’s very belated birthday last week and I had volunteered to make the cake. A few things about our Maya…..

She loves the chocolate and peanut butter combo –and she ADORES macarons. Smart girl, right?

So I set about finding as many ways to incorporate that flavor combo into the cake as possible–and that included adorning the tops with Chocolate and Peanut Butter Macarons.

Over the top?

Hell yes.

Macarons4

I’ve shared a few macaron recipes will you all before — so you know a few things I have to do when baking them:

  • Age the egg whites
  • Double, if not TRIPLE, sift the ground almonds or almond meals
  • Don’t over whip the meringue
  • Gently tap the baking sheets a few times after you pipe the macaron batter to release air bubbles
  • Allow the shells to harden before baking

But even with those steps, I still get flops from time to time. It’s usually because I wasn’t meticulous enough with the meringues, haven’t allowed the shells to harden enough prior to baking (because I’m impatient) and because my oven has hot spots. I swear if I get a new oven, the first thing I’ll ask the salesperson is “Will it bake consistent macarons?!?!?!”.

But that’s a whole other story for another time…..

Macarons2
Once the shells were baked and done, I filled them with the same Peanut Butter Buttercream I used to frost the cake with. It was rich, sticky and SUPER peanut-buttery. PERFECT!

They were a hit with the birthday girl and maybe next time I’ll swap it so that the shells are peanut flavored and will fill them with chocolate ganache. The options are endless!

HAPPY MACARON DAY!
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Chocolate and Peanut Butter Macarons
Makes 28-30 macarons

Ingredients:

Macaron Shells:
110 grams double sifted almond meal or blanched almonds
15 grams high quality cocoa powder
170 grams confectioner’s sugar
100 grams egg whites, aged at room temperature for 24-48 hours
40 grams granulated sugar

If using blanched almonds, pulse the almonds in a food processor until it becomes finely ground. Sift it twice before measuring out the 110 grams. In a bowl, sift together the almond meal/ground almonds with cocoa powder and the confectioner’s sugar. Set aside.

In a mixing stand fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites until frothy. Slowly add granulated sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks are barely formed. Carefully begin incorporating the dry mixture into the meringue, gently folding until all items have been integrated and a smooth batter has been formed.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, pipe small rounds of the mixture onto baking sheets lined with silicon mats. Rounds should be about 1-1½ inches in diameter. Once the baking sheets are filled, carefully tap the sheets on the counter to remove any possible air pockets. Let the macaron shells sit on the counter for 45-60 minutes to harden the outer shell before baking. Humidity will affect how long it takes for the “skin” to form but the shells should not be sticky when you gently touch them.

Bake the shells at 290 degrees F for 18-20 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to cooling racks and cool completely before removing shells from the sheets. Macarons shells can be made up to 24 hours in advance before filling and should be stored in airtight containers.

Peanut Butter Buttercream
1 cup smooth peanut butter
6 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons milk
2-3 pinches sea salt

In a large mixer bowl, whip the peanut butter and butter together for several minutes until very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar a few spoonfuls at a time until incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and then slowly drizzle in the milk, sea salt and whip until combined.

Using a piping bag filled with the peanut butter buttercream or with a small knife, fill the flat side of a macaron shell and sandwich with another shell. Filled macarons can be kept up to 2 days in airtight containers.

 

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Desserts/Pastries

Ring in the New Year with Earl Grey Macarons

Earl Grey Macarons

Whether you’re at a large gala, intimate gathering or a cozy night at home — your New Year’s Eve countdown absolutely must have bubbly.

#MyFav

Earl Grey Macarons

And you know what is the perfect accompaniment to bubbly?

Parisian Macarons of course! The sweet little gems are a wonderful pairing to the dry sparkling wine. An absolute match made in heaven.

 

Earl Grey Macarons

Ever since I started baking macarons, my seester T had been trying to convince me to make an Earl Grey version — an homage to her favorite macarons from Bottega Louie in LA.

This past summer, I finally was able to get the proportions down and they even made an appearance at my seester P’s baby shower. The shells have a great floral scent with a bit of spice–stemming from the bergamot of the tea. The little specks of tea with a sprinkle of disco dust add to the charm to the shells as well.

Earl Grey Macarons

I know I have a propensity towards filling almost all of my macarons with chocolate ganache, but I promise, it really is the perfect filling for the Earl Grey flavor. But if you prefer a non-chocolate approach (which is both strange and crazy to me), I’d recommend a myer lemon curd or even an Earl Grey Buttercream.

Earl Grey Macarons

However you choose to fill it, you must have these little beauties for your countdown to 2015. What better way to ring in the year than with the perfect little sweet treat.

And with that dear friends, Happy New Year!!!

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Earl Grey Macarons filled with Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:

 

Macaron Shells:
110 grams almond meal or blanched almonds
15 grams loose Earl Grey tea leaves (about 2 tea bags)
170 grams confectioner’s sugar
100 grams egg whites, aged at room temperature for 24 hours
40 grams granulated sugar
powdered food color (optional)
edible glitter (optional)

If using blanched almonds, pulse the almonds in a food processor until it becomes finely ground. In a spice grinder, grind the tea leaves into a fine powder. In a bowl, sift together the ground almonds (or almond meal), tea powder and the confectioner’s sugar. Set aside.

In a mixing stand fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites until frothy. Slowly add granulated sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks are formed. Carefully begin incorporating the dry mixture into the meringue, gently folding until all items have been integrated and a smooth batter has been formed. Optional: Halfway through the folding, add in the food color.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, pipe small rounds of the mixture onto baking sheets lined with silicon mats. Rounds should be about 1-1½ inches in diameter. Once the baking sheets are filled, carefully tap the sheets on the counter to remove any possible air pockets. Let the macaron shells sit on the counter for 45-60 minutes to harden the outer shell before baking. Humidity will affect how long it takes for the “skin” to form but the shells should not be sticky when you gently touch them. Optional: If you choose to use edible glitter, sprinkle on the shells after it’s dried for 15 minutes.

Bake the shells at 290 degrees F for 18-20 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to cooling racks and cool completely before removing shells. Macarons shells can be made up to 24 hours in advance before filling and should be stored in airtight containers.

Chocolate Ganache
4 ounces heavy cream
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream just to a boil. Remove and pour the scalded cream through a fine-meshed sieve directly into the bowl of the chopped chocolate. Let the mixture sit for 1 to 2 minutes and then gently whisk until the ganache is smooth and glossy. Allow the ganache to sit for 20-30 minutes at room temperature until it becomes thick enough to pipe.

Fill the flat side of a macaron shell with ganache and sandwich with another shell. Filled macarons can be kept up to 2 days in airtight containers.

 

Desserts/Pastries

Vanilla Bean Macarons with Dulce de Leche Buttercream

Vanilla Bean Macarons with Dulce de Leche Buttercream

Ever since I made my Vanilla Bean Cupcakes filled with Dulce de Leche, I was convinced that those two flavors were a match made in heaven.

I’ve tried pairing them in every form I could think of—-cookies, ice cream, brownies. And then it came to me…………

Why not in Macarons!

Vanilla Bean Macarons with Dulce de Leche Buttercream

I decided to flavor the shells with vanilla beans instead of using extracts or oils. The beans left a pretty speckled look to the shells that I just loved.

For the filling, I went with the “Easy Peasy” method of making dulce de leche by slowly cooking a can of sweetened condensed milk in a crock pot. It’s ridiculously easy to make and results in a beautifully luscious product. You simply MUST try it if you haven’t done it before.

I had intended to just fill the macarons with dulce de leche but it ended up oozing over the sides of the shells. And although it still would have tasted yummy, it didn’t look too eye-appealing. I decided to make a quick buttercream with the Dulce de Leche to give the same flavor but with a better consistency. Just as yummy in my opinion 🙂

Vanilla Bean Macarons with Dulce de Leche Buttercream

I must admit that I was a bit sloppy with these little buggers. When I bake macarons, I am usually so meticulous and focus solely on them.  But this time I was attempting to multitask in the kitchen and was trying to do a ton of different things at once. As a result, I was a bit careless when I piped the shells and they came out in all sizes and shapes—-My Bad!

But even though they weren’t Pierre Hermé perfect, it did prove once again that Vanilla Beans and Dulce de Leche are the new “IT” couple!

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Vanilla Bean Macarons with Dulce de Leche Buttercream
Makes 18-20 Macarons

Ingredients:

Macarons Shells:
115 Grams Almond Meal
180 Grams Confectioners’ Sugar
100 Grams Egg Whites, aged at room temperature for 24 hours
25 Grams Granulated Sugar
Seeds from 1/2 Vanilla Bean Pod

Dulce de Leche Buttercream:
1 to 2 Cups Confectioners Sugar, sifted
½ Cup Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
3 to 4 Tablespoons Dulce de Leche

In a large bowl sift together almond meal and confectioners’ sugar to remove any lumps. Set aside.

In a mixing stand, whisk egg whites until frothy. Add vanilla beans and slowly add granulated sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks are formed. Carefully begin incorporating dry mixture into the meringue—gently folding until all items have been integrated. This should take no more than 50 strokes.

Using a piping bag fitted with a large round tip, pipe small rounds of the mixture onto Silpat lined baking sheets. Rounds should be about 1½ inches in diameter. Once baking sheets are filled, tap the sheet carefully but firmly on the counter to remove any possible air pockets. Let baking sheets sit on the counter for 45 minutes to harden the outer shell before baking.

Bake at 280 degrees for 16-18 minutes. Transfer the pans to cooling rack and cool completely before removing shells from mats.

While shells are cooling, prepare the buttercream. In a large mixer bowl, whip the butter for several minutes until very light and fluffy. Slowly add the confectioners sugar until the butter becomes thicker and stiff. Add the Dulce de Leche and whip until combined. If needed, add a few more spoons of confectioners sugar until desired consistency is reached.

Transfer buttercream to a piping bag. Fill a macaron shell with the buttercream and sandwich with another shell.. Macarons can be stored in airtight containers for 3 to 4 days.

Note: The buttercream is on the sweeter side so I would suggest filling only a minimal amount 🙂

Desserts/Pastries

Coconut Macarons with White Chocolate-Mango Ganache

Coconut Macarons with White Chocolate-Mango Ganache

Coconut again?! Yup. This time in Macaron form. What can I say, I’m a coco-nutty kind of gal.

I learned my lessons from our first Parisian Macarons experience and paid heed to do the following:

  • Use a scale to measure the weight of ingredients;
  • Age the egg whites;
  • Let the shells “harden” for at least 30 minutes before baking;

Initially I had wanted to fill the Coconut Shells with a Passion Fruit-flavor filling but was unsuccessful in finding a pure concentrate or nectar flavoring agent. But since I had Mango extract on hand, I figured it would be a nice tropical “oompf” for the white chocolate ganache filling. Unfortunately it didn’t bring out as much of the mango flavor as I had hoped—though the end result was still quite tasty. Next time, I’m taking my sister’s advice and use a pineapple filling. Coconut Shells + Pineapple Filling = Piña Colada Macarons. And that, dear friends, is a Nguyen-Win Situation at its best 🙂


Coconut Macarons
Piped shells “aging” for 45 minutes. I only had almond meal that had almonds ground with their skins in tact—thus the pretty speckled pattern.


Coconut Macarons
Les pieds des Macarons!!!! Oh YES– the feet 🙂

I have to admit that I did exhale a sigh a relief after making these little treats. Thank goodness that it wasn’t just beginner’s luck last time! But on the next try, I think I’m going Caramel flavored.

So until my next kitchen adventure Mes Amis, a tout le heure!


Coconut Macarons with White Chocolate-Mango Ganache

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Coconut Macarons with White Chocolate-Mango Ganache

Ingredients:

Macarons Shells:
110 Grams Almond Meal
180 Grams Confectioners’ Sugar
25 Grams Ground Desiccated Coconut
100 Grams Egg Whites, aged at room temperature for 24 hours
50 Grams Granulated Sugar

White Chocolate-Mango Ganache
8 Ounces White Chocolate, finely chopped
4 Ounces Heavy Cream
1 Teaspoon Pure Mango Extract
1-2 Drops Yellow Food Coloring (optional)

Grind almond meal, desiccated coconuts, and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor to remove any lumps. Sift mixture into another bowl and set aside.

In a mixing stand, whisk egg whites until frothy. Slowly add granulated sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks are formed. Carefully begin incorporating dry mixture into the meringue—gently folding until all items have been integrated.

Using a piping bag fitted with a large round tip, pipe small rounds of the mixture onto Silpat lined baking sheets. Rounds should be about 1½ inches in diameter. Once baking sheets are filled, tap the sheet carefully but firmly on the counter to remove any possible air pockets. Let baking sheets sit on the counter for 45 minutes to harden the outer shell before baking.

Bake at 300 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Transfer the pans to cooling rack and cool completely before removing shells.

In a saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Remove from heat and strain the hot cream through a fine-meshed sieve directly into the bowl of the chopped chocolate. Let the mixture sit 1 to 2 minutes without stirring, and then gently whisk until the chocolate is entirely melted. Stir in the mango extract and food coloring. Cover with plastic wrap and chill about 20 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

Transfer ganache to a piping bag and fill the macaron shells.

 

Coconut Macarons with White Chocolate-Mango Ganache

Desserts/Pastries

French Macarons…..The Holy Grail of Pastries

 

Chocolate Macaron with Chocolate Espresso Ganache

 

I finally did it. Or more accurately, WE finally did it.

I, along with thousands of other aspiring bakers, have been meaning to try my hand at the elusive French Macarons. But for some reason or another, I always found myself pushing it off. “Why?”– you ask. Well, as the song goes….

“At first I was afraid, I was petrified……….”

It’s true. These finicky “Cookie Sandwiches” had me extremely intimidated. Simple in the number of ingredients—yet so much room for possible error. The amount of precision required to create them was simply daunting. But ever since I had my first bite of a Macaron from the famed Bouchon Bakery, I’ve been dreaming about them….Macarons—The Holy Grail of Pastries.

I cannot recount how many posts and articles I have read about Macarons to prepare myself for the day that I could muster up the courage to make them. But reading can only do so much—as I highly doubt I could fly a plane by just reading instructions alone! If I wanted to make Macarons, I’d just have to do it! Time to put on my big girl panties (or apron, in this case) and face my fears!

I entered this daunting experiment with my friend Carol and her sister Christine. Both ladies are quite the bakers and I figured it may be better to attack in numbers. In fact, the few days leading before our big baking day were filled with emails back and forth with various recipes and grocery lists. Heck, we were prepared!

I will not bore you all with the nitty gritty details of all 4+ hours we had in the kitchen but I will simply fast forward to the results (and some pointers). After all the stress and the worry, we were pretty darn successful!! We ended up making two types of Macarons that day. The first, a Chocolate Macaron with Chocolate Espresso Ganache (care of Annie Eat’s) and the second, a Lemon Macaron with Lemon Buttercream (care of Tartlette). Our Chocolate Macarons were the highlight of our day, warranting in my opinion a B+. Unfortunately, our Lemon Macarons were not so successful—-actually kind of a hot mess! The shells (or cookie) were suprisingly quite flavorful but just looked terrible….C- . Strangely enough, we did better with our first Macaron (chocolate) then our second batch (lemon)! We’re hoping it’s not beginners luck!

Here are some notes from our Chocolate Macaron with Chocolate Espresso Ganache:

  • We used Almond Meal that was ground with their skins intact (figured it was going to be chocolate so the speckles should be ok). Next time, I’ll try the Almond Meal without skins as the shells were a tad bumpy;
  • We had VERY good success using silpat mats but did not try parchment paper. Hey, why mess with a good thing?;
  • Getting a stiff peak with the egg whites is quite important before incorporating dry ingredients;
  • We tried both piping methods—piping “straight with a point” and as “commas”. The straight point yielded better tops – don’t worry about the points as they flattened anyhow;
  • We piped our shells on the slightly larger side–almost 2.5 inches. I’d recommend a little bit smaller…perhaps 1.5 inches;
  • Cookies were left for about 30-40 minutes to get the “hard shell” before baking
  • We baked each sheet for 9 minutes but it could have gone another 1-2 minutes (unfortunately there is no way to tell if they’re done than taking a bite into it). Also, the Macarons appeared to taste better the next day. “Aging” may possibly assist in texture/consistency;
  • If filling with Ganache, a thicker consistency is much easier to handle;
  • Using a scale to weigh things (as opposed to measuring) makes a difference.

Allowing the batter to rest after piping is imperative to achieve the macaron “crust”

Hallelujah!!! We have FEET!

Chocolate Macaron with Chocolate Espresso Ganache…..these little guys make me smile.


Here are some notes about our Lemon Macaron with Lemon Buttercream:

  • We didn’t weigh out everything but measured with cups, spoons, etc. to see if it made a difference. Turns out, it does.;
  • Egg Whites may not have been the precise measurement (see above);
  • We ground Almond Slivers instead of using Almond Meal and could not get a fine enough grind that resulted in grainy batter;
  • By using Almond Slivers, there potentially could have been more natural oils in the mixture thus causing inconsistency in the batter;
  • The meringue we added was very stiff….perhaps too stiff;
  • We could have used more confectioner sugar in the buttercream.

At this point, they still looked like they had potential…..

AGGGHH!! These aren’t French Macarons—they look like shiny cookies!

Ladies and Gentlemen…..this is what you call a HOT MESS! EEEeekk! (Photo by Carol Le)

I do have to reiterate that although our Lemon Macarons looked a bit crazy, it tasted REALLY yummy! The freshly ground almonds gave a wonderful, “true” almond flavor to the shells. We even considered just calling them a cookie versus a macaron. That way, we’d feel better about it 🙂

Our Little Babies (Photo by Carol Le)

Now, with the first attempt out of the way, I’m happy to report that it wasn’t as ridiculous as I had expected. Tedious, yes…but not impossible. It did help TREMENDOUSLY to have two great gals to work with (a little sparkling wine didn’t hurt either!) to whom we could each bounce back ideas and suggestions to. Thanks Carol and Christine–I’d bake with you two anytime!

The Moral of the Story? I’ll have to quote Julia Child on this one:

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

I’m am sure that other attempts are in my near future 🙂