Monday 25 July 2011

Let it snow: Vanilla macarons with rose quince buttercream

"They're crispy on the outside but chewy on the inside and taste very hard to make" ~ my husband when he tasted his first macaron.

Macarons: delicate little cookie sandwiches that are the epitome of french baking chic.  These wee things may look pretty and delectable but macarons are notoriously difficult to make.  Apparently even seasoned patisserie chefs can get a dud batch depending on the humidity, weather and a million other mysterious variables.

I have never got the guts up to try to make macarons.  Yes, the thought of making these dainty morsels scared the bejeebers out of me!  Until finally, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to face my fear. I decided to make macarons.

Seems appropriate that seeing as it is snowing outside today, I blog about my attempt at tackling my culinary Everest: Macarons, by making snowy white Vanilla Macarons with Rose Quince Buttercream.

{snowed in: road closed, lectures cancelled...time for a cuppa}
"Can the Snow Queen come in?" said the little girl.
"Only let her come in!" said the little boy. "Then I'd put her on the stove, and she'd melt."

~ Hans Christian Andersen

Was this cookie just as hard to make as I thought it would be? You bet!

It used practically every bowl and mixing instrument in my kitchen.  And the difference between the good batch (albeit slightly undermixed) and the bad batch (overmixed) was literally an extra ten strokes of the mixture.  Ten strokes!

Finickity little things.

But when they came out of the oven with feet glorious feet, I burst into a happy dance in the kitchen, squealing and clapping and all.  Pow! Take that bad macaron mojo - I got FEET! 

The buttercream was less than ideal though.  I used loads of quince paste but since the quince flavour is so subtle and ever-so-slightly rosy as well, the rosewater overpowered it.  Next time I might just stick cubes of quince paste in the middle rather than mix it.

However, even though you couldn't taste the quince, I still loved the combo of vanilla and rose.  The macarons are just so delightfully light and ethereal,  the floral rose flavour goes with it perfectly.

I think I've fallen in love with macarons.  The chewy gooey centre with at crisp outer shell is the most incredible mix of textures.  The nutty hint from the ground almond makes these cookies totally moorish.  And the million different flavour combinations you can make, make you want to go out and make every one of them.

But are macarons the new cupcakes as so many have speculated?

{waiting for the shells to set before baking}

Personally, I don't reckon they are.  As delicious as they are, they are still pretty darn fussy to make and you put in a heck of a lot of effort for a not very big batch of cookies.  Cupcakes on the other hand are so much more substantial, have a bigger wow factor and are more accessible to more bakers.

But why should it be one or the other?  There is definitely place for both in my belly.

Vanilla Macarons with Rose Quince Buttercream

recipe from the Demystifying Macarons article by Helene Dujardin in Desserts Magazine

3 egg whites (~100g)
50 g white sugar
200g icing sugar
110g ground almonds
1 tsp vanilla

1. Age the eggs whites on a sealed container in the fridge for 24 - 48 hours or heat in microwave on medium-low for 10 seconds to mimic aging process.  Beat egg whites to soft floppy peaks.  Add sugar gradually beating continuously till glossy and shiny.

2. In food processor blend together the icing sugar and ground almonds.

3. Macaronage: Tip half the almond/icing sugar mixture into the egg whites.  Fold in gently for around 20 strokes.  Add the rest of the almond/sugar mixture and vanilla and fold for another 20 strokes.  Now, this is a real tricky part to judge and apparently you only know when it's ready with experience but the mixture should look like lava and it should take no more than around 50 folds. (I thought my mixture looked undermixed so went ahead and mixed another 10 folds, so 60 in total, and it was enough to overmix it....rookie mistake!).

4. Scoop mixture into a piping bag with a round nozzle and pipe on to lined cookie trays into roughly 1 inch circles.  Drop the trays on to the bench a couple of times to get the bubbles to come to the surface and pop them with a toothpick.  Leave the trays of piped cookies to air for 30-60 minutes for the shells to form skins (this will help the cookies get the highly sought after feet.)

5.  Bake at 150oC for 10-12 minutes.  Cool completely before piping buttercream and making into sandwiches.  Put into an airtight container in the fridge overnight to "mature" before eating.  If you can wait that long that is!  It is supposed to improve the flavour and allow the macarons to absorb some moisture from the filling to get the perfect chewy texture.

Quince and Rose Flour Buttercream

This is not your normal buttercream recipe.  It uses a flour and milk roux-like base so you use less butter and sugar.

3 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
120 g butter
3-4 Tbsp quince paste
1/2 - 1 tsp rose water (to taste)
few drops pink food colouring

1. Whisk the flour and sugar in a small sauce pan to remove lumps.  Add milk and heat on medium heat, stirring constantly till the mixture thickens.  It will thicken all of a sudden and turn into almost a opaque paste.

2. Take off the heat and let cool until warm.  Add rosewater and beat on high for 5-7 minutes until completely cool.

3. With the beater on medium, add the butter around 5-6 cubes at a time.  When all the butter is added, beat on high until fluffy.  Add food colouring to your desired pinkiness. (I added the quince paste here and beat it in but I reckon the flavour would be way stronger if I had just added little cubes in the middle of each cookie in the buttercream).

4.  Pipe onto a macaron shell using a round tip and squish it down with a second shell.


  1. ohh they look so lovely! hmm i think if i had to choose one foodstuff before i die, i would choose a (pistachio) macaron over a cupcake! but then i do love buttercream icing/frosting, & i tend to eat cupcakes more frequently...

    Inspired by your post, maybe i will give these a go (last time i attempted macarons they ended up not soft enough, maybe i over-baked them..)

    Great photos too, mouth-watering!

    Katie x

  2. It's true that it's the new cupcake. But it's not true that it's damn difficult, macarons were standard pastry chefs repertoire even when I used to be one in Perth back in 2003-2004. Shame, it wasn't a popular thing back then. It was just another cookie.
    I love the filling that you put in. Very earthy and matches well with a good cuppa coffee. Especially during the snow huh?

  3. Wow absolutely gorgeous macs. I love the flavors. Bravo!

  4. These are beautiful! I've made macarons a couple of times but haven't got them quite right. I think my mixing may have let me down so thanks for your tip of counting strokes! Gorgeous photos too.

  5. These look so good, you got mad skills! :P Not something I'd attempt though, they look way too fussy and you have to wait to eat them? That's madness. But they do look oh so pretty, nice work!

  6. I am having such a tough time with my macaron making :( Yours look GORGEOUS! I'm jealous!!!

  7. congratulation on getting the feet! gosh they look gorgeous, my fear has never let me to give them a try, felt encouraging to try sometime and loved the filling :)

  8. Katie: Pistachio macarons are my fav too! I'm working my way up to making them. I reckon if someone else was making them for me I'd choose macarons over cupcakes too!

    PFx: Oh to have the skills you do!!! It was my only first attempt and hopefully will get a better hang of it with more practice? Any tips?? :)

    Lora: Thanks heaps Lora!!! I've definitely caught the mac bug!!! Aw thanks Jemma! Love your macs too!!

    Linno: Thanks lovely! They are pretty fussy but you somehow purposely by accident forget how much of a hassle they are to make when you finish. I'm already amping to make more!!

    Pretty. Good. Food.: I think I totally got beginners luck with the feet! Can't wait to try new flavours!!!

    Ananda Rajashekar: Thanks Ananda! I have always been scared to try too but I'm so glad I did. Super rewarding seeing these little treats that you've made with your own hands :)



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