Birthday Macarons

I am not a natural baker, which is funny because the name of my blog kind of indicates the opposite! Unlike cooking, baking requires concentration and most importantly, discipline. Though I am learning to curb my naughty baking ways, I still find it hard to follow the rules sometimes. I am impatient, I skip steps, I open the oven door during baking, and I (gasp!) guesstimate.

This time, I tried really hard to do exactly as told. I suppose knowing that I would be presenting what I made as a gift helped 😛

My friend Uchi (Ursula 🙂 ) celebrated her birthday this weekend. When I was contemplating what gift to get her, I decided it would be really fun to make little French macarons: they’re sweet and petite, just like Uchi!

As this was my first time, I decided to invest in a few essentials that every baker should have (especially someone claiming to be The Little Baker SF). I bought a Silpat, a pastry bag and a piping tip. So the Silpat cost $20 at Sur La Table, which I wasn’t so excited about, but I figure I’m saving in the long-run since I’ll never have to buy parchment paper again.

The recipe I ended up putting together was inspired by three sources: Tartelette for the macaron ingredients and measurements, Food for Torte for the method, and Life’s A Feast for the buttercream. I decided to do two flavors: classic with a fresh strawberry buttercream filling (I had a few berries left over from my CSA) and coconut with dulce de leche (Wanted to use up the rest of my manjar blanco from Peru).

I was all set to follow the rules. I tried—really, I did. I did my research, read through the recipe to make sure I understood all the steps, figured out all the measurements, and still, things didn’t go exactly as planned. (Sigh…maybe one day they will 😛 ) My first batch was so frustrating. I had no idea what I was doing and ended up underbaking them and having to put them BACK in the oven for another 10 minutes. They turned alright, but were not as fine as I had imagined they would be.

The second (coconut) batch, on the other hand, came out lovely. Such dainty, elegant little things, I was shocked that one batch could be so ugly and the next so gorgeous. I suppose being a little less clueless that time made a difference.

I’ve noted in the recipe below all the things I found helpful in the process. I think, however, that you just have to be brave and do it. It’ll come together in the end!

I’m in love with them. They are the cutest things I have ever made, not to mention a mini triumph for this Little Baker. Makes me feel like I’m finally finding my baker’s feet, or more appropriately, hands. 🙂 The strawberry buttercream is pure love: the softest pink in color, tenderly tart and sweet, and so smooth. That sandwiched between almond macarons is the perfect combination of crunchy bite and soft, chewy meringue. As for the coconut macarons with dulce de leche filling, they’re sticky, gooey caramel treats. Both versions tasted good, but if I had to choose, I’d say the strawberry cream filled ones were the standout.

Enjoy!

Dual Flavor Macarons: Classic with Strawberry Buttercream Filling and Coconut with Dulce de Leche Filling (adapted from Tartelette and Food for Torte)

90 g egg whites (between 2 and 3 eggs)

30 g sugar

200 g confectioners’ sugar

110 g ground almonds (For the classic batch, I used 55 g almonds; for the coconut, I used 45 g, plus 10 g shredded and sweetened coconut)

Fresh Strawberry Buttercream Filling (recipe adapted from Life’s A Feast)

175 g confectioners’ sugar

50 g unsalted butter, at room temp.

2-3 fresh strawberries, roughly chopped (or squished with the back of a fork, which is what I did)

1-2 tbsp boiling water

METHOD

  1. Using a food processor, process the confectioners’ sugar and ground almonds until combined and well ground.  (At this point, I split the mixture into two, measuring out 145 g and adding 10 g shredded coconut for the coconut batch and leaving the remaining 155 g for the classic.)
  2. Separate the eggs. Then, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape (soft peaks).  Add the white sugar 1-2 tbsp at a time and beat in well.  Be careful not to overbeat your eggs. (If doing 2 different flavored batches, whip 2 batches, 45 g egg whites and 15 g sugar, or whip the whole amount and split by eye.)
  3. Fold—don’t stir—the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a rubber spatula.  It will seem very dry at first, but will eventually come together; just keep folding under. (If you are adding food colouring, do so now and combine well.  I didn’t do this.)
  4. When the mixture is smooth and there are no streaks of egg whites, scrape the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a small circular piping tip (I used a #4, 3/8-inch tip). Pipe small rounds of mixture onto a baking tray covered with baking paper.  Leave enough room in between each round—they will spread! Note: If a piece of almond blocks the filling from coming out, don’t squeeze harder. Use a toothpick or tip of a needle to dislodge it; this way is more effective and will also save you a lot of tears should you squeeze and the pastry bag were to burst. (I did the piping and baking in two batches: classic then coconut.)
  5. Leave them out so their surface begins to harden up.  This will help the macarons form their shiny shell and ‘foot’.  Rest them for as long as it takes to heat up the oven to 355 F (180 C).
  6. Place the macarons on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes (I needed the entire 15).  Remove them from the oven then let them cool completely before peeling them gently off the baking paper or your Silpat. (I had stickage issues and ended up sliding a piece of thread underneath cookie to unstick them. This worked really well.)
  7. While the macarons are baking, prepare the strawberry buttercream: Using an electric mixer, cream together the softened butter and confectioners’ sugar. Scrape down the sides.
  8. Add the chopped (or squished) strawberries to the mixture and the boiling water. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Set aside until ready for spreading. (Don’t refrigerate; it will harden and become hard to spread.)
  9. Spoon or pipe (I spooned; it was easier) a generous tsp of buttercream onto one half of a macaron, then sandwich together with the other half. together.

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