Vanilla Macarons with Chocolate Ganache
French macarons hold a very special place in my cookbook. They first caught my interest as the first thing to really challenge me in the baking world, and later held that interest with the infinite possibilities of flavor and color combinations. Start with almonds, hazelnuts, or pecans. Pick any color of the rainbow (or all of them). Shape them like your favorite Ghibli characters. Fill with buttercream, ganache, jam... Or how about matcha macarons with adzuki bean filling?
But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. As with all baking endeavors, we must begin at the beginning. Vanilla shells, chocolate filling. Simple, right? Maybe. I see a lot of blogs posting macaron recipes noting that they're "really not that hard!" and whatnot, but I'll be honest - they're pretty time consuming and you probably won't get it right the first time. Don't let that discourage you from trying, though! Part of the joy in this is practicing and learning new things, not just pounding through the same cookie recipe you've made fifty times. If this were simply about the output, I could condense all of my recipes to two steps: go to local bakery, purchase desired item.
Putting the recipe in words is probably a bit esoteric - aging, macaronage, maturation, what? I honestly struggled a bit with presenting this, as so much of it has become ingrained "feel" over time. So, I've linked a few other reference resources throughout the recipe to give you some visual references. Sally's Baking Addiction (great site please follow) has a nice preparation picture series and there's a wealth of macaron information here if you'd like to delve in deeper. In particular, you may find the troubleshooting guide useful. I know, I know - "Troubleshooting?! I just wanted to make pretty confections, not install a router!" There's good info in there. Trust.
Aaaaaanyways... now that all the serious, scary groundwork is laid out, I look forward to sharing some more fun macaron recipes with you in the future. GLHF!
Recipe makes 20 macarons (40 shells)
- 120g almond flour
- 200g confectioner's sugar
- 100g egg whites (takes about 3 large eggs), aged*
- dash of salt
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 30g granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 170g chocolate (I prefer bittersweet, ~70% cacao here)
- 85g heavy cream
- chocolate wafers for drizzling (optional)**
- Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Set aside.
- Combine almond flour and confectioner's sugar in a food processor. Pulse for about 30 seconds to thoroughly sift and combine. Set aside.
- Place egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer*** with the balloon whisk attachment. Mix on medium speed until slightly foamy, about 1 minute.
- Slowly add sugar to egg white while mixer is running. Increase to medium-high speed and mix until firm peaks have formed, about 3 minutes.
- Add vanilla extract and increase speed to high. Mix just until peaks have stiffened, about 1 more minute.****
- Gently fold processed almond flour and confectioner's sugar into the mixture using a rubber spatula until batter reaches a viscous, slow flowing consistency (think lava). More detail on macaronage technique can be found here.
- Fit a piping bag with a large, plain tip and fill with batter. Pipe evenly sized rounds onto prepared baking sheets. Hold the bag upright and close to the baking sheet. Pipe straight down in one spot and allow the batter to flow out to form the desired circle.
- Tap baking sheets firmly on the counter a few times to eliminate air bubbles. Blend out surface air bubbles with a toothpick if there are any.
- Prepare the oven. Position one oven rack at the upper third and another rack at the lower third. Place an empty baking sheet on the top third rack. This will act as a shield to keep the tops of the macarons below from burning. Pre-heat to 300°F*****.
- Allow the piped rounds to sit in open air for about 30 minutes or until they are tacky and dry to touch. Timing will vary by consistency of batter and humidity.
- Bake one sheet at a time for 20 minutes on the lower third rack. Rotate the sheet at the 10 minute mark to heat more evenly. Allow shells to cool completely on baking sheet before removing for filling.
- Prepare the chocolate ganache. Melt chocolate and cream together in a double boiler or in the microwave. If using the microwave, heat in 30 second intervals at medium power, stirring in between cycles. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes to thicken to desired consistency.
- Fill (using an icing spatula, small scoop or piping bag) and sandwich shells together.
- [Optional] Melt chocolate wafers and drizzle over the tops of the macarons using the tines of a fork or piping bag. Allow chocolate to cool to room temperature or place in refrigerator to set.
- The filling will blend into the shells over time. Refrigerate macarons in an airtight container to mature for at least 8 hours. Macarons keep well in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Prep-ahead tip: Macaron shells can be made and frozen for up to one month in advance, then thawed and filled as desired.
* Leave egg whites uncovered at room temperature for at least one hour to age
** Chocolate bar or chips could also be used here. Chocolate wafers made for melting are just a bit easier to work with.
*** This can all be done by hand. I've done it out of necessity a couple times, but I absolutely don't recommend it unless you're a veteran of making meringues by hand.
**** A guide to peak nomenclature can be found here.
***** Accurate oven temperature is pretty important here, so be sure to let your oven pre-heat long enough and get yourself an oven thermometer if you don't already have one.