April 2, 2012

Earl Grey Macarons with Honey & Rosewater Buttercream

Earl Grey and Honey Rosewater Macarons



Macarons seem to be popping up all over the Internet recently.  They're pretty, dainty, delicate little pastries, and I very quickly decided I wanted to give them a try.  After reading about some of the interesting flavor variations (basil & lime! black sesame! champagne!) I became even more intrigued.  They seem like a very versatile little cookie.  And buttercream is often sandwiched between them.  I do love buttercream...

Earl Grey and Honey Rosewater Macarons


My excitement to try these tasty little pastries was quickly quashed as I read blog post after blog post about how difficult and finicky they can be.  Although I was sufficiently scared off, I remained oddly fascinated by macarons.  One day, while pouring over yet more macaron blog entries, I came across Brave Tart's "Macaron Mythbusters" post.  In it, Stella rejects the necessity of several "essential" steps to prevent macaron failure (such as "aging" the egg whites, drying the almond flour, waiting until the weather is good, etc).  I then moved on to Stella's "Ten Commandments" of macarons post, which enumerated the steps that are essential.  I found these posts very encouraging, mostly because of the message that there was nothing magical about macarons.  Encouraged, I decided once more to give them a try.

Earl Grey and Honey Rosewater Macarons

I decided to make Earl Grey cookies (which violated Brave Tart's commandment to start with the basic recipe...sorry!) and to fill with two kinds of buttercream: honey and rosewater.  I didn't have too much trouble with the recipe until it came time to mix the dry ingredients (almond flour and powdered sugar) with the meringue.  I think this is where experience is key.  You don't want to overmix, you don't want to undermix, and it's very difficult to tell when the consistency is correct.  I stopped when the batter was kind of a slow-moving ooze.  After piping them onto parchment paper, I popped the first tray into the oven, turned on the oven light, and sat down on the crusty kitchen floor to watch what I hoped would be 18 minutes of macaron magic.

Cataclysmic failure!  I sat and watched in horror as cracks formed on the surfaces of my beautiful cookies.  I was devastated.

Cracked macarons
Tasty, tasty failure.

I put the second tray of macarons in, turned the oven light off, and went to play with the cat to cheer myself up.  When I took them out, amazingly, there was one perfect macaron (the rest were still cracked, but a bit less so).  I remembered reading on Brave Tart's post that overmixed macarons did benefit from drying out for a while before going in the oven.  While the first batch was baking, that's what these were doing.  Also, I had put these on the top rack (the first batch was on the bottom).

Determined to see macaron success, I made another batch.  This time, after piping them onto the parchment paper, I left them out for an hour.  Then, I put them on the top rack of the oven and used two cookie sheets stacked on top of each other to try and reduce the heat on the bottom of the macarons.

Earl Grey and Honey Rosewater Macarons

Sweet, sweet success!  I still had a couple cracked macarons in each batch, but the majority had smooth caps and little macaron feet.  Woot!  I'm not entirely sure if it was the drying time, the double cookie sheets, or if I just mixed these correctly this time (most probable I think). I'll have to keep experimenting...

I had never actually eaten a macaron before, and I thought they were quite tasty!  They're surprisingly soft and chewy on the inside (my husband called them "fluffy"), even without the buttercream.  The Earl Grey in the cookie came through very nicely (as did a touch of lavender in the Earl Grey) and the buttercreams were delicious as always (the honey buttercream was my favorite).  Also, the cracked macarons were still tasty, just not pretty.

Earl Grey and Honey Rosewater Macarons
Nom

I'll definitely be trying these again.  They're not very time-consuming (unless you mess them up and have to make another batch like me) and the flavor possibilities make them very compelling.

Earl Grey and Honey Rosewater Macarons
Pretty macarons!

Earl Grey Macarons
Ingredients
115g almond flour* (I used Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour)
4g Earl Grey tea (about 2 tea bags - I used Choice Earl Grey Tea with Lavender)
230g powdered sugar
144g egg whites (about 5 eggs' worth)
72g sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
*Blanched almonds will work as well, but you will need to grind them with the powdered sugar.  

Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 300° F.  You might want to invest in an oven thermometer to ensure your temperature is correct.
  2. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  If you'd like to ensure macarons of the same size, trace some guide circles on the parchment paper, and then flip it over (so that you don't get pen in your cookies!).
  3. In a food processor, grind the almond flour with the Earl Grey tea leaves for about 30 seconds.
  4. Sift the almond flour/tea and the powdered sugar together and set aside.
  5. Combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt and mix with beaters on medium for 3 minutes.
  6. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip another 3 minutes, then go to high and whip for another 3 minutes.
  7. Add the vanilla and beat for one more minute on high.
  8. Dump the dry ingredients into your meringue.  Mix with a spatula.  I stopped mixing my macarons at about 60 strokes with the spatula.  Stella says that the batter should melt back down in 20 seconds after being spooned out and dropped back in.
  9. Transfer the batter to a piping bag with a plain tip.  Holding the bag straight up, pipe batter out until you almost fill the circle you drew.
  10. After all the macarons have been piped out, bang the cookie sheet onto your counter top a few times to get the air bubbles out.
  11. Let the macarons sit for an hour (this may or may not be necessary, but probably doesn't hurt, especially if you're not sure about if you've over/under-mixed). 
  12. Bake the macarons for 18 minutes (19 if you're doubling cookie sheets).
  13. Remove, and cool completely before peeling the macarons off of the parchment paper.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Ingredients
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter
½ tbsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Method
  1. Cube the butter and leave out at room temperature (make sure you don't leave it over the dishwasher or oven or it will get too warm).
  2. Whisk the eggs whites and sugar together in the top part of a double broiler.  Make sure that the water in the bottom part is simmering, not boiling.  Keep whisking until a candy thermometer reads 160 degrees (Fahrenheit).  Transfer to a stand mixer with the whisk attachment installed.  Whip at a medium speed until the mixture is at room temperature (the bowl feels neutral when you touch it).
  3. Lower the mixing speed and add the butter, one cube at a time.  Keep mixing until there is an obvious change in the consistency of the buttercream - from soupy to much more solid (you can usually hear the mixer start making different noises).  If it stays soupy for a very long time, throw the bowl in the refrigerator for ten minutes or so and retry.
  4. Finally, add your vanilla and salt and keep mixing until they are incorporated.
With Honey

Add honey to taste.  Add yellow and orange food coloring if you'd like to get a "honey" color.

With Rosewater

Add 1 tsp rosewater extract.  Add pink food coloring if desired. 

Assembly
  1. Match similar-sized macaron pairs.
  2. Fill a piping bag with a plain tip with buttercream.
  3. Pipe some buttercream on the bottom of a macaron, and carefully sandwich with its pair until the buttercream reaches the edges.



13 comments:

  1. Those failed macarons were pretty tasty. Wish I could have tried a success!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They tasted the same, really. The failed macarons were just a bit uglier.

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  2. It was the drying time! This is really important for keeping the tops smooth and intact, and letting them pop. Mixing is very important, but you describe it as slow moving ooze, which is what you want.
    I love the tea in the shell Idea, I'll be trying that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I'll keep drying the macarons before baking.

      Delete
  3. these turned out beautiful! great job! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. look nice..i should try it one day~

    ReplyDelete
  5. Looks good:D which one was better with honey or rosewater:D I should try these combinations:D

    BTW i am in love with your tea set? Is it from a brand? could i ask where did you get those beauties:D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Honey was definitely my favorite between the two flavors!

      I inherited the little teacups (I think they're for espresso actually - they're very small) from my grandmother, so unfortunately, I don't know where you can get them. In fact, I think they are pretty old, so they're probably not in production anymore.

      Delete
  6. Oh WOW! These look so good! I am obsessed with earl grey at the moment - I was thinking of making earl grey cupcakes but I think everyone at work is sick of cupcakes at the moment (I've made once a week for the past 3 weeks!) I am definitely going to try these with a vanilla buttercream... Here's hoping it all goes well!

    ReplyDelete
  7. AnonymousJuly 16, 2013

    Hi :) Happy to hear you got them right after just two batches. I have a few questions.
    What kind of oven do you have? Is it a convection oven? Is it gas or electric? Does the heat of the oven originate from the bottom or top?
    If you were to touch the macarons right after they leave the oven, would they break?
    Have you ever tried to halve the recipe? How did that turn out, if you did?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I got them right after two batches, but I still do mess up batches of macarons from time to time - they're tricky little cookies. When I wrote this post, I had an electric non-convection oven. While baking (not preheating) the heat came from the bottom. I actually used an oven thermometer to make sure the temperature in this oven was right, and I found that the oven actually takes 30-45 minutes to preheat fully (even though the oven was saying it was preheated in 10 minutes or so, it wasn't). I have since moved to a new house with a gas oven (non-convection, heated from bottom). I've found that with a gas oven it's best to lower the temperature a little (5-10 degrees F). Otherwise the macarons come out dry and "crumbly".

      If you touch the macarons right after leaving the oven, I don't think they should break. They should have the hard little shells on top and should actually come off the parchment paper pretty easily. I have tried halving the recipe - in fact, my pecan macaron recipe is a halved recipe (http://buildingbuttercream.blogspot.com/2013/01/pecan-macarons.html). It should turn out fine. I highly recommend Brave Tart's step-by-step macaron guide - http://bravetart.com/recipes/Macarons. I found it very helpful.

      Delete
  8. What do you do if you've placed the buttercream into the fridge multiple times and still comes out in a super liquid texture?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmm. I might try throwing some more room-temperature butter (maybe half a stick) into the buttercream to see if that helps. My recipe is very low-butter since I find that the higher butter recipes can come out tasting only like butter (blech).

      Delete

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