French Macaron Part Deux

Just let that freak flag fly, baby!

Yesterday I made my first attempt at a hot food trend: French Macarons!  I am thrilled to report that I pretty much nailed it on the first try, which is evidently not easy to do as French Macarons are notoriously tricky and temperamental.  I’m sure I have these fabulous foodies to thank for making my macaron deflowering a success:

Sue of Boulangier a la Maison
AmberLee of GiversLog
Paula of Bell’alimento
Helen of Tartelette

Although I was pleased with the technical aspect of my results, I have to admit, my fillings pretty much fell short.  (I used store-bought preserves, curd, and nocciola.)  I realized after my first bite that the macaron shell is quite sweet, and the ideal filling should balance that sweetness.

So today I worked on tweaking my basic macaron formula with a fancy filling.

Buttercream.  Buttercream= Powdered Sugar + Butter.  Right?  Wrong.  Contrary to what many cupcake shops would have us believe, this formula does not a true buttercream make.  My first taste of a real buttercream was a revelation.  Silky, faintly sweet, with a richness that belies it’s lighter-than-air texture.  Words cannot do justice…  Ok, I realize I’m letting my food-freak flag fly here.  Oh yeah, it’s at full-mast baby.

There are many methods for making a true buttercream but I will share my favorite with you now.  I stumbled across it accidentally, after years of toiling over a pot of molten hot sugar.  It was originally published by Rose Levy Beranbaum, in The Cake Bible, as “Classic Egg White Chocolate Buttercream.”  At the time, I happened to need a chocolate buttercream recipe, and I loved this one because it gave me the same result as her Classic and Neoclassic Buttercream Recipes, without the risk of third degree burns associated with a 238 degree bob syrup.  The recipe worked out so well I decided to try it with other flavorings besides chocolate.  (It is a mystery to me why Ms. Levy-Beranbaum does not mention this possibility.)  I tinkered around and found that it works beautifully.  This is now my go-to buttercream by virtue of it’s utter simplicity.

I’ve quartered her quantities for our purposes, as a typical batch of macarons does not require nearly as much buttercream as an iced layer cake.

Allie (& Rose’s) Simple (yet no less Transcendant) Basic Buttercream for Macarons Filling

1 stick of softened butter
1 large, room temperature egg white
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Put the egg white in the bowl of a stand mixer and crank it at full speed.  When it gets foamy and white…

Start gradually adding the sugar.  Whip it- whip it good.  We’re looking to get it good and stiff food freaks…

There’s a nice meringue now.  Start adding the soft butter about a tablespoon at a time.  It will start to look all wrong…

like it’s broken/split… you may want to panic but don’t- I promise you it will come together.  Continue slowly adding the butter until it’s all in and you are absolutely convinced that I have no buttercreaming idea what I’m talking about because what you have on your hands is one hot mess but okay just keep on whipping- and then, by sheer magic, you have a beautiful little lump of velvety-smooth, buttery-rich and thick buttercream.

For my little lovely simple basic almond macarons shells that I shared with you yesterday, I thought a chai-spiced buttercream would play so nicely with that sweet cookie shell, so I added:

1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice Powder (which gives chai-spice bang for your buck      with a combination of anise, cinnamon, clove, star anise, and ginger)
1/4 teaspoon Vietnamese Cinnamon (I like it extra cinnamony)
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
about 15-20 grinds fresh black pepper (or preferably white if you have it)
contents of 1 cardamom pod, ground in a mortar & pestle (or 1 pinch pre-ground)

Spread carefully on a delicate macaron shell…

And sandwich.

Sugar, spice and everything nice.  They’re like the daughters I never had.

Click here for the Intro to this Series (2012 Food Trends for the Home Cook)
Click here for Part 1 of this Series (Basic Macarons for the First-Timer)
Click here for Part 3 of this Series (Red Velvet Macarons for Valentine’s Day)
Click here for Part 4 of this Series (Green Tea Macarons with Orange White Chocolate Buttercream)


2 thoughts on “French Macaron Part Deux

  1. Rose is one of my pastry idols! I keep her books close to me.

    I love using Italian buttercream for all of my cake needs – in love how you write about the gooey, thick, sugary film supermarkets ice their cakes with. Whenever I am making cakes for friends, I always warn them that my icing isn’t the type they grew up with; it’s way better!

    When making your buttercream for the macarons, did you use pasteurized egg whites?

    How’d the kids like them?

    • You bring up an excellent point, Mo, This buttercream does contain raw egg whites, so if you are elderly, very young, pregnant, or just generally shy about that sort of thing, you should definitely look for pasteurized eggs. I, however, like to live dangerously and just use eggs from a trusted local hatchery (one benefit of living in the sticks!). In a future I may try using powedered egg white, which is also safer, and we’ll see if that could be another alternative. Great comment! ;o)

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