oh, boy. if you like all things delicious, you are in for the treat of all treats.
though macarons have become trendy in the past few years, they are a classic french pastry that has been around for much longer than i have. i first grew to love them when learning how to make them in pastry school; i was amazed that a simple combination of four basic ingredients could result, when made properly, in a multi-textural phenomenon of a cookie. the key to making a macaron lies in technique, so it can be difficult to learn without first seeing it demonstrated. once you get the hang of it, though, you will love making these simple treats (and impressing your friends) whenever the whim strikes.
when my lovely and talented photographer friend, shannon, asked me to teach her how to make a flavor i’d made for her a few times, i was excited for two reasons; first, i love teaching, and second, shannon is a killer photographer. shannon kindly agreed to photograph the process, thus, hopefully, helping better demonstrate the technique. have i mentioned how great she is? to see more of her gorgeous photos, check out shannonjeancole.com.
if you want to change the flavor (though i cannot encourage you enough to at least try these bad boys), replace the lavender with another herb, finely ground coffee, matcha, etc. or omit entirely. you can also add a teaspoon of extract to the meringue for flavoring. lastly, you can use an alternative nut flour like pistachio or pecan meal in lieu of or in combination with the almond flour, just make sure your final amount of nut flour equals the recipe’s. your options are virtually endless, so have at it!
Lavender Macarons with Honey Buttercream and Lemon Curd
makes roughly 18 sandwiched cookies
- 2 oz egg whites
- 1.75 oz granulated sugar
- 3 oz confectioner’s sugar
- 2.15 oz almond flour
- 1 tsp small dried lavender
- 2 oz egg whites
- 4 oz granulated sugar
- 6 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 Tbs honey
- i cheat. i use trader joe’s lemon curd🙂
directions for cookies:
- sift almond meal, confectioner’s sugar, and lavender into a bowl and set aside
- in a separate mixing bowl (a kitchenaid or hand mixer makes a huge difference when making meringue) begin to whip your egg whites, slowly at first and increasing the speed steadily. when the whites are foamy (kind of like the head of a beer), turn the speed to high and add granulated sugar in a steady stream. let meringue develop and whip until medium to firm peaks develop. a great way to check is to turn the whisk on its side and check to see if the meringue resembles a bird’s (maybe a hawk or eagle?) beak. once it does, it’s ready
- add half of your dry ingredients into the meringue and gently fold a few times. add the rest and fold into a batter.
- now comes the fun part–it’s time to macaronner. this technique is where people often have trouble, but it can be quite simple if you take your time. this process is where the cookie gets its name, if that helps you understand its importance. to macaronner, you will use your spatula to smear the batter along the sides of the bowl. do this a couple times, then check the batter’s consistency, reincorporating the smeared batter into any in the bottom of the bowl. by doing this you are deflating your meringue and loosening the batter, and you are looking for it to get to a point where, when smeared against the sides of the bowl, the batter holds for a second or two before gently sliding down the sides of the bowl. another way to check is to smear, mix, and lift and drop a small amount of batter onto the rest; if it keeps a peak for a moment then settles smooth, it’s ready. again, just work slowly through this step; you can always deflate more air from the batter, but you can’t add it back in once it’s gone.
- when your batter is ready, transfer it to a piping bag with a medium sized round tip and pipe it on a tray prepared with parchment paper or a silpat, leaving 3/4″ to 1″ between each cookie. i keep mine around the size of a dollar coin, you know, the sacagawea one. just like in the bowl, your piped rounds should hold their peak for a few seconds before smoothing out; they shouldn’t spread like crazy once piped as this is a sign that you have deflated too much air from the batter.
- once you are finished piping, preheat your oven to 350f and let the tray sit so your cookies’ shells can develop. as they sit at room temperature, the protein, fat, and sugars will coagulate to form a barrier that will protect the meringue as it bakes. this step can take anywhere between 10 minutes and an hour depending on the humidity, temperature, and other factors in your kitchen. i like to speed it up buy turning on a fan to help air circulate near the pan, and i usually make the buttercream while i wait. as the shell develops, the sheen of the batter will turn from glossy to satiny, and the cookies are ready when the batter is no longer sticky to the touch. you should be able to touch and almost dent the cookie without having any residue on your finger.
- place the tray in the middle of the oven and immediately drop the temperature to 325f. bake for 7 minutes, turn the tray, and bake for another minute. remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool for a couple minutes. try gently lifting a cookie of the tray; if it comes off without breaking, they are ready. if it doesn’t, bake for another minute. once the cookies have cooled, stick the tray in the freezer for a few minutes (this will make them easier to remove from the paper). when ready, remove all cookies from paper and transfer to a clean surface. now they’re ready to be filled!
directions for buttercream:
- heat a small pot of shallow water on the stove
- combine egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl, stirring to thoroughly incorporate, then place over pot of water to heat as a double boiler (keep heat on medium-low)
- as the mixture heats, the sugar will slowly dissolve. stir occasionally (otherwise you’ll end up with sweetly scrambled eggs), and check the consistency of the mixture with your fingers. when it is hot to the touch and feels smooth instead of gritty, take it off the heat
- whip until a stiff meringue develops and the sides of the bowl are cool, then slowly add chunks of butter (around 1 oz at a time)
- as buttercream whips and thickens, drizzle honey into the mixture. scrape down the sides of the bowl, then whip again until a thick frosting has formed.
- great news: your buttercream is ready! now how easy is that?
to finish cookies, partner them into pairs based on size, and turn half of each pair upside down. using a piping bag, pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge of each cookie. once all the cookies have their frosting, fill inside the ring with lemon curd. sandwich your macs and raise your fist in the air victoriously. you’ve done it!