Vanilla French macarons, those elegant, shatteringly-crisp meringue cookies sandwiching delectable fillings, are a little finicky. My first attempt at making French macarons was so abysmal that I didn’t even bother making a buttercream or ganache to fill the misshapen, overbrowned things. I’m sure my persistence had something to do with my infatuation with them, a serious affliction since January of 2010, when I ate my first pistachio macaron in Paris and fell desperately in love with the ethereal pastry.
The first time I attempted them, the shells went straight into the trash. See my failure here, if you’re so inclined. Pretty awful, right? I’m surprised I didn’t give up right then and there and decide macaron (pronounced mac-a-RON, and don’t you forget it) making was just not in the cards for me.
So I tried it again, the very same day. This time, I corrected a few things. I used the exact same recipe, but mixed the macaronage (the French word for the step in which you incorporate the meringue into the almond flour) much more delicately. I found out, through reading some other macaron blogs (Stella Parks‘ BraveTart, especially) that the reason mine were so runny was because I was a bit too overzealous in the mixing. I also probably didn’t have a stiff enough meringue to start. The third time is, apparently, the charm. I’m not going to lie. I squealed when I saw that the shells had feet (the ruffly things on the bottom of each cookie). I babysat them, peering through my oven door, while they baked, refusing to allow them to brown even infinitesimally.
This was four years ago, and I’ve made hundreds of macarons since. (Shhhh…don’t tell the others, but pistachio is one of my favorites). But these Vanilla French macarons are pretty fabulous, too.
That isn’t to say I don’t still mess them up. This past week, I made a successful batch of Vanilla French macarons the day after a failed (cracked shells) batch of grapefruit-pistachio. The one thing I will say for failed macarons is that they still taste delicious. Although I have a soft spot for plain-Jane vanilla bean, I kicked this batch up a notch with a tea-infused buttercream. I used the adorable tin of Royal Scottish Balmoral Blend tea we got as a gift from our sumptuous afternoon tea there in the Palm Court. There really isn’t anything better than afternoon tea.
I hope you’re now inspired to make your own french macarons. Trust me, they’re not that hard, and the sense of accomplishment is immense. Stay tuned for some more spring macaron posts in the coming weeks!
Vanilla French Macarons
I have opted to give you a master recipe here for vanilla french macarons instead of my flavor variations. See the notes for instructions on how to infuse the cream with tea leaves to flavor the buttercream.
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1/2 cup egg whites in a glass measuring cup
- pinch salt
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 stick of butter softened
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 vanilla bean optional
Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 300 degrees (275 if you have a hot oven). Sift together the powdered sugar and almond meal into a large bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until frothy. Add sugar and beat until stiff and glossy (stiff peaks). Add the extract and mix until fully incorporated.
Pour almond mixture in the bowl, and using a rubber spatula, fold the ingredients together. It should take no more than 20 strokes. Deflate the egg whites but be gentle.
Stop once it oozes like lava but is nowhere near runny.
Using a spatula, transfer mixture to a gallon Ziplock bag.
Squeeze all the air and twist it closed. Snip the corner with scissors so that you have about a 1/4 inch opening.
Pipe dollops of batter slightly bigger than a Hershey's kiss onto the parchment.
Lightly rap each sheet on the counter to get rid of air bubbles.
Let them sit (after all have been piped) for at least 20 minutes.
They should be slightly dry to the touch and not sticky. If it's humid, turn on the air conditioner in your kitchen or blow a fan.
Bake in the oven (watching carefully) one batch at a time for 10-12 minutes.
You know they're done when they are hard and stiff to the touch.
Let them cool completely on the parchment while you prepare your buttercream.
Beat the butter in the mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. When it's light and fluffy, add the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until it's proper consistency. Add the cream. Add more sugar if it's too runny, more cream if it's too thick. Be sure to scrape the bottom,
To fill them, match each cookie to another of the same size. Pipe the filling, (in a Ziplock bag with the tip snipped) starting from the outer edge in a circle and ending in the middle. Sandwich the two halves.
No filling should be on the edges.
Refrigerate for 24 hours and up to 3-4 days.
Take some out an hour before you want to eat them and let them come to room temp. Enjoy!
To infuse the cream for a tea-infused buttercream, heat the cream over low heat in a small saucepan with one tea bag or a tablespoon of tea leaves (strain the cream before adding it to the buttercream). You may need to add more powdered sugar to bring it back to the right consistency after adding the cream.