Vanilla bean macarons with ganache filling

One of the benefits of starting this little blog 3 years ago is learning to make many things I'd otherwise buy. I've discovered lots of great recipes and I'm constantly craving something I've made before and itching to get in the kitchen to make it again.
Learning to make macarons has been one of the more memorable challenges.   It's not necessarily hard but a little unpredictable.  The learning process was a drawn-out one of trial and error (with a change in oven thrown in the midst) and to this day, I never know how a batch will turn out.  But, ironically enough, doing this blog has loosened me up a lot in the last few years.  I don't stress about things turning out perfectly (because they don't and you need to do things for the joy of it) though I'm obviously hopeful for a tasty outcome.  And with macarons, every time we spend $2.50-$3.00 buying one of them, I think to myself: I've got to make a batch so I don't get rusty! 
I won't be so silly as to compare my homemade macarons with the ones at the pastry shop but boy, you save so much money making them yourself - and a girl has to be practical sometimes!  Honestly, they taste great even if they don't turn out with perfect feet or in one uniform size.  

At home, I stick with the basics (chocolatecoffeepistachioetc.) and this time, I decided to make "plain" vanilla bean macarons with my default filling, chocolate ganache.  I attempted to fill some with strawberry preserves (and really, the almond-vanilla macaron shells are great to fill with just about any flavors you like) but I found it too thin as a macaron filling.  It's curious because I've often seen fruit jams as an option for macaron filling but I'm starting to think you'd need to reduce/thicken it a bit first, or stir it into some white chocolate ganache.  My mind always reverts to chocolate.
Macarons always make me think of Ladurée, the Parisian house where it all started. About 2 years ago, a Ladurée boutique opened in midtown Manhattan and earlier this year, another opened in Soho.  This location in Soho is not only a boutique but also a tea salon/restaurant.  Needless to say, I've been wanting to go and my fellas and I finally had a lovely breakfast there recently.
Living in New Jersey, we try to hop into Manhattan some weekends to do a little exploring and eating.  On this recent weekend morning, I had to be in the city for another appointment and having a quiet, early breakfast at Ladurée sounded like a great option since that rather-rambunctious 9-year old of ours would be in attendance.  We had tea, hot chocolate, croissants, breads, and dessert!  We had a lot to cover on my first sit-down visit.  And my, I had a lovely time - a better time than I expected, actually. Ladurée is a place that is somehow at once both whimsical and sophisticated.  I loved the ambiance and their signature color palette of pastels.  If I could convince someone to sell me those plates and cups, I would be in heaven.  

The visit to Ladurée definitely encouraged me to go home and "whip up" a batch macarons for myself.  


I continue to use the French method of making macarons.  It's hard to shake the boat and try something new when you feel you've finally managed one method (it's how I was "taught" in Paris too!).  That said, I would like to try making macarons using the Italian method (starting with Italian meringue).  I hear it makes for a more stable meringue, more predictable results, and I'm definitely intrigued to compare the difference.  I will get to it one day!  
The recipe I do use right now it one cobbled together from Tartelette with tips I picked up from Alice Medrich in one of her books.  

I did something a little different this time.  I was feeling a little lazy and instead of grinding the almonds myself, I took advantage of my package of Bob's Red Meal almond flour and used that.  I didn't grind anything.  Typically, I grind slivered almonds with confectioners' sugar, pass it through a medium-sieve, and repeat the process 2-3 times.  In this case, I took the fine almond flour and passed it through the sieve with the confectioner's sugar, without a food processor in sight!  I'm not sure if I should be proud of myself or if I should just duck my head and feel lucky (I've seen recipes that ask you to grind even the almond flour).  I just know this shortcut worked well for me here.  And when making macarons for everyday enjoyment at home with my family, I'd do it this way again (not having to lug out and clean my food processor saves a lot of time)!
I'm so glad I've come to love and appreciate "plain" vanilla so much.  It's a beautiful flavor that's hard to put your finger on, and works so well with so many other flavors in pastry.
Speaking of pastry, I'll leave you with these little masterpieces from Ladurée's display case that morning we visited.  They really are small works on art.  They're a joy to look at and you almost can't bear to eat it.
Some pastries from Laduree Soho

Recipe:

Vanilla Bean Macarons with Ganache
Recipe for macaron shells adapted from Tartelette (incorporating techniques I learned in other places that has what worked for me); Ganache recipe adapted from David Lebovitz

Macaron Shells:

- Makes approximately 22 filled cookies, depending on their size -

110 grams almond flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)*
200 grams confectioners'/powdered sugar
90 grams egg whites, or from about 3 eggs (aged 1-2 days**)
30 grams granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean

* Typically, I start with blanched, slivered almonds which I grind in a food processor with the confectioner's sugar.  I then pass the mixture through a sieve, take the lumps at the bottom of the sieve to process again in the food processor, and repeating this 2-3 times.  For a shortcut, I used the almond flour, which was fine enough to be used without grinding further.  You can do either.   

**Aging the egg whites: Separate the egg whites and place in a bowl, covered, at room temperature for 24 hours. For longer than 24 hours (up to 5 days), store whites in the fridge and bring to room temperature before starting. The purpose of this is to eliminate moisture from the egg whites so that the batter will be thicker and you have an edge in your macaron making.

Pass the fine almond flour and confectioners' sugar through a medium-coarse sieve. Press any remaining lumps of almonds through as much as possible and you should be left with a small amount at the bottom that I discard.  (If there is more than a tablespoon or so of almonds remaining, you'll need to grind it using a small food processor.)  Whisk to combine.

In the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam.   Then gradually add the granulated sugar until you get a stiff, glossy meringue.   Right before the egg whites reach that stage, split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds using a sharp paring knife.  Add vanilla bean seeds to the meringue to combine.  Do not overbeat the meringue or it will be too dry and the macarons won't work.

Add the dry mixture all at once to the meringue.   Give it a quick fold to break up some air and then carefully fold the mixture together. You want the whites to be incorporated and the mixture to be thick and lava like.   Test the batter by placing a dollop on a plate. If it holds its shape but the top flattens on its own, it is ready.   Otherwise, give the batter a couple more folds. The process should take less than 50 strokes; it is better to fold once and check rather than over do it.

Fill the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip that has about a 1/2 inch opening (I use Ateco #807).   Pipe 1 1/2 inch rounds onto parchment or silpat lined baking sheets at least an inch apart.  Rap the sheets 2-3 times firmly on the counter.   Let the macarons sit for about 20-30 minutes until the surface of the shells are slightly dry.

While the macaron shells are sitting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place baking sheets into the upper and lower thirds of the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 300 degrees.   Bake for 15-20 minutes (depending on size).   Let cool completely before removing and placing on cooling racks.

When fully cooled, spread ganache onto one macaron shell and sandwich with another. Many people say macarons taste better with a little rest in the refrigerator.   Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days and bring them up to room temperature before eating.


Chocolate Ganache Filling

- Makes more than enough to amply fill the macaron shells in the recipe above -

4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

Place chopped chocolate and espresso powder into a heatproof bowl.  Heat the cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan.  Remove the cream from the heat once it begins to boil.  Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let sit for one minute.

Beginning at the center, slowly whisk the chocolate and cream together until combined.  Stir in the butter until smooth.  Let the mixture sit at room temperature, whisking occasionally, until the ganache is fully cooled and just thick enough to spread.  (You can place the ganache in the refrigerator, if necessary, to speed up the process but make sure to check on it frequently since it will harden.)



40 comments:

  1. These macarons look fantastic! I love to see the vanilla seeds. Rich ganche filling is the best! Macarons always have the wow-factor and they can be made a few days ahead. Great for party and holidays gifts.

    I have heard so much about Laduree, but I still haven't gotten a chance to try it! They are located all over the world, but just not LA... :(

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    1. Thanks so much. What is it about those black specks that are so mesmerizing for some reason! I don't think my macarons are 'polished' enough for holiday gifts but I get a kick out of making these myself at home.
      And I have a feeling Laduree in CA is just around the corner. Their expansion is getting serious.

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  2. Oh Monica, these macarons are absolutely perfect and beautiful! I feel the same way, the blog has definitely helped me try to make new things I would never have attempted before. Your macarons definitely look like they belong in a pasty shop window - I love that you made a classic flavor, those are always my favorite! I wish we had a chance to visit Ladurée when we were in Paris but we never got a chance too so hopefully one day I will have a chance to check out the one in Manhattan :)

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    1. You are too kind, Kelly. I wouldn't have made a fraction of the things I've made w/o the blog, it's so true. I'm definitely 'boring' in terms of preferring classics and sticking with what I like. I need to branch out more, I'm sure! When we went to Paris, the main Laduree location - their tea room upstairs - was under construction. We bought pastries but didn't get to sit-down (there's not nearly enough time to do everything you want in Paris!) so I'm glad I went in NYC. It was really lovely. I'm sure you will get the chance to go to one soon. There were a surprising amount of kids there at my early hour, btw. The mama's have to bring the kids. ; )

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  3. It's been ages since I made macarons. I went crazy with them when I started out, with quite a failed attempts of course. You have inspired me to make them again. These are so pretty and the flavour is the best..nothing beats vanilla and chocolate.

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    1. I hear you! I OD'ed on them for a while, too...and the 'craze' may be gone for me but I still appreciate them and when I do eat one, I remember why I have a soft spot for them and why it's such a phenomenon for people.

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  4. Wow! These are gorgeous macarons! I've never tried them myself, but these inspire me. It makes me want to try to make them, so I can eat them all! :-)

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    1. How sweet of you, Kristi. There are a million things to make and hard to chip away at that list, isn't it! I try not to think about it too much and just make things when the whim hits and the time is right.

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  5. I love macarons!! They are the best. These look wonderful ;)

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    1. Thank you! They are such pretty little things, and taste wonderful too!

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  6. These macarons look so heavenly Monica! <3 And I totally agree with you about the way blogging causes you to start making stuff that you once would only ever buy! I remember when I thought it was weird to *bake* brownies...That's life under a rock for you haha! Have a fab weekend x

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    1. haha - I totally get it! Thanks, Tashiana.

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  7. Your macarons have turned out great with those even little feet, Monica.

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    1. How crazy is it we're always talking about the "feet" of these cookies. It's so curious.

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  8. Hi Monica, looks like your macarons turned out perfect, will put these on my baking list. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip to Manhattan. Happy week-end to you!

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    1. Thanks, Cheri. I love dropping into NYC. The vibe and diversity is a great way to recharge.

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  9. wow, what a exclusive photograph!!!
    you should cross your finger above your head then my friend

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  10. I was lucky enough to try one of Laduree's macarons when I was in Paris a few years ago and it was magnificent. But yours look awesome too! I'm all for time-savers that still taste good.

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    1. Nothing like eating them right in Paris, Beth. We were lucky to finally go there a couple of years ago. We sampled some macarons, madeleines and financiers but no time to sit down.

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  11. I have never tried making macaroons but will have to try after reading your detailed post. They look utterly delicious!

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    1. Thanks! Since they are made with almond flour, might be a good dessert choice for you. : )

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  12. Ooooh, macarons! Yours are so cute and look delicious. :)

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  13. Your macs are GORGEOUS and I love the simply vanilla flavor. It's a classic for a reason! There's actually a laduree near where I live on the UES, but they don't have a sit-down area...just macs! I must visit the Soho store!

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    1. You are very kind. : ) Your ginger ones are so seasonal and look absolutely sensational. I don't know how you do it!
      The one on the upper east is so lovely! I've been there a couple of times but going for a sit-down is so nice. I hope you go one day when you have time and let me know what you think.

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  14. These are so perfectly gorgeous Monica! I've also enjoying learning to make macarons and after numerous failed batches, and numerous successful ones too, I am partial to the Italian method. Hope you'll give them a try too - such fun!

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    1. I definitely want to try the Italian method...I remember yours came out beautifully!

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  15. Splurging at Laduree's by laying my hands on every kind of dessert possible is on my bucket list and some day I'm going to tick it off that list. But for now, I am just going to stare at these beautiful macarons you made!!!! I have to agree with you, although there are many fancy flavors for macarons, the classic vanilla - chocolate combination will always be a winner! I love the feet of your macarons and that shiny ganache is just making me drooooooool

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    1. The place is absolutely a feast for the eyes...then there's the bonus of things tasting as good as they look! Thanks, Samina.

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  16. Gorgeous macarons! And I love your new site design!

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  17. Wow!
    These look so professional! You have done a phenomenal job on these! If I try making macarons , it will be this recipe!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words. I'm always amazed when I peek into the oven and the little feet materialize... : )

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  18. VERY impressive Monica. These are divine and a work of art. Love the vanilla bean flavour...

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    1. It's crazy to think how the macarons are such an empire! I am happy to settle for these inexpensive homemade ones most of the time. : )

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  19. Monica, I totally agree with you that one of the most rewarding aspects of blogging is learning to make a lot of the desserts that I would've just bought from the store once upon a time. And it's pretty nice to just be chill about mistakes and deviations from the recipe; sometimes it leads to great creations! Your vanilla bean macarons are beautiful, and I love the ganache filling! And wow, the Laduree's pastries look divine!! (P.S. I think there's a typo in your post title.)

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    1. Thank you for pointing out the misspelling, Monica! You'd think I know how to spell ganache given how much I love it! ; ) I trust you'd be the type of friend who'd tell me if I had toilet paper stuck to my shoe, so thank you. haha

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