Relationships often have early omens that signal whether they are meant to last. When I met my husband in college, it was clear that our mutual love for Star Wars (I know, I know -- nerd alert!), amusement parks, late night runs to Jack in the Box, and practice of couch potatoism were harbingers of a long life together. But oddly enough, what sealed the deal was meeting his parents. It happened at an elegant Chinese banquet restaurant over the largest meal you have ever seen. His dad took charge ordering for the four of us, and soon four 5-course meals appeared followed by five or six additional heaping platters. We had so much food, the waiters couldn't fit it all on our table. We had so much food, boxing it up in doggie bags seemed like a futile effort. We had so much food, his mom got violently ill later that night. I knew I was in love with him, but I guess I kind of sort of fell in love with them, too.
Then I met his sister, and all of the pieces fell into place. She shares my love of baking (though she shares their dad's scientific curiosity and patience, whereas I am impatient and want it to work the first time), and within the last few years took up the task of creating the perfect macaron. Mind you, she has been a full time grad student living on her own in NYC, so where she finds the time I have no idea. But her creations are lovely, and while she was visiting this past week, she taught me her fine art.
The recipe and tips for making macarons right this way.
Macarons are highly temperamental, and every macaron maker has their own advice on ingredients and temperature, but everyone will agree that it's all about the technique. From the consistency of the meringue to the airiness of the batter, the only way you can expect a result anywhere resembling a macaron is to master proper folding and piping. But one taste, and I knew that this, too, was a relationship worth pursuing!
Black sesame macarons with pink vanilla buttercream and matcha buttercream
For the macaron batter:
- 2 eggs whites
- 5 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1/2 c. almond meal
- 1 c. confectioners sugar
- 3 tbsp. sesame powder
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites on medium-high. When the whites begin to foam, begin adding granulated sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Beat egg white-sugar mixture until it is glossy and forms stiff peaks, then remove bowl from the mixer.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together almond meal, confectioners sugar, and sesame powder until well blended. Add half of the dry ingredients to the egg whites and begin gently folding with a rubber spatula, from the outside in, until they are just incorporated. Add the remaining dry ingredients and repeat the folding. Be careful to not overmix, but make sure that the dry ingredients are well distributed throughout the batter.
- Scrape down the bowl. Scoop up some batter with the spatula and allow it to drip back into the bowl. It should resemble magma, slowly absorbing back into the rest of the batter. If it drops heavily, use the spatula to press out some of the air by scraping from the outside in and pressing down on the batter. Repeat only a few times and test the viscosity of the batter again. Be careful to not press out too much air. If the batter drips freely (more like a liquid), you have removed too much air and will need to start over, so it's important to check frequently the consistency of the batter.
- Line two baking sheets with Silpat liners or parchment paper (using parchment paper will allow you to trace even circles, 1/2"-1" apart, to guide you as you squeeze out the macarons). Pour the batter into a pastry bag or Ziploc bag, pressing it gently towards a bottom corner, and twist the top to seal. Cut a 1/4" snip from the corner of the bag. Begin squeezing out the batter onto a prepared baking sheet forming 1-1/2"-2" circles, spacing each about 1/2"-1" apart. When you have completed both baking sheets, lightly rap them against the counter, and let them rest for 15-30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300ª with the rack in the upper middle position.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes (in my oven, it takes 13 minutes), keeping an eye on the tops to ensure they do not begin to brown. Remove from the oven and cool on parchment paper on wire racks. When they cool completely, they are ready for filling.
For vanilla buttercream:
- 1/4 c. granulated sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 3-1/2 tbsp. milk
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 7 tbsp. butter, softened at room temperature
- Food coloring
- In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and egg yolks until light and creamy. Add milk and vanilla and whisk well to incorporate.
- Pour mixture into a small saucepan over low heat and whisk constantly until thick and custard-like. Remove from heat, pour back into bowl and whisk to cool.
- Add butter, and stir until mixture takes on the consistency of mayonnaise. Add food coloring (for pink, we used liquid food coloring with a ratio of 3 red:1 blue), and stir well until evenly distributed.
To assemble: Spread buttercream on flat side of one macaron half with a butter knife (or pipe with a pastry bag), and sandwich with another half, squeezing gently until buttercream reaches the edges of the macaron.
Matcha macarons with matcha buttercream:
Black sesame macarons (lavender coloring) with vanilla buttercream and matcha buttercream: