Monday, June 23, 2014

Macaron Monday: Vanilla French Macarons with Honeysuckle Buttercream Filling

Sometimes I think there is a garden genie on our PA property. When we closed on the house in the month of March, I had a long list of what I wanted to plant in the garden. The good Dr. said to just wait and see what would come up first. Wise words. One by one the items I desired got struck off my list as soon as they bloomed or flowered. 

Recently I found myself wishing I had a honeysuckle bush. Less than a day later I found one in full boogie with big fat bees buzzing around it up on the hill on the side of the house. Unfortunately, by the time I got around to harvesting the blossoms, they had gone. 

Then I spied a picture posted by friends living in the next town over of their lovely honeysuckle bush in full bloom and immediately begged a cup or two full of flowers.

Consequently, these macarons are brought to you today by the generosity of friends and the awesome power of social media.

There may or may not have been a few juvenile remarks (mostly mine) about who was raiding whose bush in the process. Whatevs. The result was phenomenal and decidedly way more upscale and elegant.

The vanilla shells were made using vanilla sugar instead of adding vanilla extract to the recipe. This saves a risky step of adding liquid to the often finicky French macaron batter. I added chopped blossoms to homemade buttercream to fill the macarons and made a large batch of honeysuckle simple syrup with the rest.

These were extra sweet and the vanilla/honeysuckle aroma = heavenly.

Vanilla French Macarons with 
Honeysuckle Buttercream Filling

For the vanilla shells

Use a kitchen scale for precise measurements.

  • 90 grams of egg whites - aged at least 2 days. Let them sit out on the counter uncovered.
  • 25-50 grams of fine granulated vanilla flavored sugar
  • 200 grams of powdered sugar
  • 110 Grams of almond flour*
  • Pinch of cream of tarter
  • Pinch of salt
*You can buy almond flour that has been ground with or without the skin. I use the later (blanched). The former looks really nice if you are not coloring the shells. You can also grind your own almond flour by putting whole or sliced almonds in a food processor or blender. If you do, make sure you throw a little of the powdered sugar in to prevent the almonds from forming a paste.

  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or use a silpat.
  • Sift the powdered sugar and almond flour together or pulse them together briefly in a food processor. Make sure there are no large pieces. 
  • Whip the egg whites. When they start to get foamy, slowly add the vanilla sugar. Continue whipping until you can turn the bowl upside down and nothing slides out. Add the pinches of salt and cream of tartar.
  • Add the powdered sugar/almond mixture to the egg white mixture and fold, using quick strokes at first then slow down. The batter should have a "flowing like lava" consistency. Make a peak of the batter and if it does not disappear after 5-7 seconds, keep folding. If it's running all over the place, you will probably have to start over. Place a pastry bag fitted with a round shaped tip in a tall water and and fold the edges down around the glass.
  • Fill the pastry bag with the macaron batter, twist the open top to secure and pipe circles onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or on a Silpat. 
  • Let the macarons dry for about a half hour or until they harden.
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Place the macarons on the middle rack in the oven. I keep the oven door propped open with a dish towel or wooden spoon.
  • I place another empty baking sheet on top to prevent the shells from becoming toasted and discolored.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes.
  • When checking them after 10 minutes or so, if the ones in the back of the sheet seem to be cooking faster that the ones in front, flip the tray around.
  • To test to see if they are done, peel the baking paper or silpat back, if the shell comes off easily, they are done.
  • If you do have a problem with the shells sticking to the surface when removed from the oven, lift up the baking paper and pour a bit of water underneath. this will steam them off the paper.
  • Transfer to a baking rack and let cool completely before matching up the shells into pairs according to size.
  • Load the filling into a pastry bag and fill the shells
For the honeysuckle buttercream:

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh honeysuckle blossoms, rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel.
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 stick butter at room temperature
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • Place butter, 2 cups of the powdered sugar and milk in a mixer and cream together.
  • Add the rest of the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until combined. If the mixture is too liquid, add more powdered sugar.
  • Add the blossoms.
  • Fit a pastry bag with a large round tip and fill the shells with the buttercream.

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