kaffir lime macarons
Well, it’s been a long time coming! I’m finally sitting down to write my very first blog post. I already know I have a lot to share and I’m excited to have a space for more in-depth stories - so much roomier than Instagram!
Full discloser: I’m a total naivest in the kitchen and I think that’s why I enjoy it so much. The only culinary training I have came while working in many restaurants as FOH from Napa to Brooklyn, poking my head into the BOH and asking whatever I deemed appropriate - EVERYTHING. Being part of this world set the stage for a lifetime of curiosity and obsession over the ways people view and talk about food. From growing, cooking, serving to dining, I'm in love with all aspects of food. Just over two years ago, 'fox and crane' was just a thought bubble based on the idea of giving my views and thoughts a home. So here you'll find my adventures in baking, cooking and entertaining, as well as the many tidbits I’ve collected along the way.
One of the greatest challenges I gave myself was learning how to make macarons, which brings me to my first post!
Macaron-a-Month collab with Erin of Cloudy Kitchen!
A few months ago, I had Erin over so she could see how I made macarons at home. At the time, they were her baking Achilles heels, and during that first baking day together we realized our kitchen manners were very similar. And after discussing many of her tips and many of mine, she went home and POW she started whipping up batch after batch of perfect macarons. That’s when we decided we needed to have a macaron-a-month collab!
My favorite thus far are the kaffir lime we made for April! I am brand new to kaffir lime leaves and I now want to use them in everything. [I’m also planning on getting a little tree of my own to have in my apartment so I have them on hand at all times. They can be found year-round in almost every Thai grocery store or you can find them online too. The limes themselves are only available in the early summer months. I can't wait to get my hands on some of those.]
I want to note a section called "Good to Knows" - it’s a phrase my husband says I use quiet often when I’m mental-noting or learning something for the first time. He says he can tell when I find something to be of significance because I’ll say “good to know!”. Good to Knows is where you'll find a running list of pointers, tips and helpful tidbits I note for each recipe that I feel will better help you with your baking adventures.
As you read through my recipes and make them in your own homes, I’d love for you to share your successes and pitfalls, just like I'll do here. So please leave a comment or drop me a line - I can't wait to hear from you!
…Good to Knows…
To save space and to prevent you from scrolling for hours, I've complied a section for all my macaron notes from my kitchen journal here! I'll keep this list updated and current as I discover new ideas, trick and/or tips.
You may make the kaffir lime custard a few days in-advance and store it in your fridge in an airtight container until you're ready to make buttercream.
If you are new to making German buttercream, here is my favorite Youtube tutorial. Please note this is not the recipe I use but it's a good guide on how to make this style of buttercream.
If your local grocery store doesn't have a Thai food section, you may order kaffir lime leaves online.
kaffir lime macarons
…makes around 24 sandwich cookies…
170g ground almond flour
300g powdered sugar
180g large brown egg whites (about 5-6 large brown eggs), at room temperature
160g granulated white sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or the seeds from one vanilla bean pod
pale green gel food coloring - we used 10 drops of americolor 'avocado'
Kaffir Lime German Buttercream
255g (1 cup plus 2 tbsp) granulated white sugar
24g (3 tbsp) corn starch
1 large brown egg
2 large brown egg yolks
just a pinch of salt
375ml (1 1/2 cups) whole milk
10 fresh kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped, separating out 2 chopped leaves
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste, extract, or the seeds from one vanilla bean pod
675g (3 cups or 6 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature.
2 tbsp granulated white sugar
Cut four sheets of light colored parchment paper to fit your baking sheets. Draw 1.5 inch (3.81cm) circles on one sheet of your pre-cut parchment paper to be used as your template guide for piping evenly shaped macarons, spacing them at least ¾ -1 inch apart and about 2 inch from the edge of the pan.
To save you time, here is a printable template. Note: This templet is 8x11 and you will need to print two sheets and lay side by side to fit on a half sheet pan.
Scale all dry ingredients. Separate your egg whites and yolks and prepare your equipment.
Sift almond flour and confectioners’ sugar through a medium-mesh sieve and place in a bowl. Repeat this step, discarding any bits that are too big to go through the sieve. Set mixture aside.
Some people like to place the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor and pulse them together before sieving. This is usually a great step if your almond flour is not finely ground or if you are making almond flour at home. I use a store-bought flour with a consistency that works great for me, so I don’t do this step but please feel free to try it out for yourself and see what’s best for you.
In your stand mixer bowl, hand whisk your room-temp egg whites till bubbles start to form then beat them on high speed with the whisk attachment until they start to foam and become cloudy white. Turn down to medium speed, and gradually add granulated sugar to the egg whites until all sugar is incorporated. Turn speed back to high and beat until you start to see stiff, glossy peaks form (about 5 minutes). At this time, add your pale green gel food coloring and continue to whip the meringue on medium for a minute more, making sure you don’t over beat your meringue.
For a great guide to measuring meringue peaks and to see what is under-, perfect and over-whipped, check out Zoë François’s instagram stories @zoebakes and her website zoebakes.com. She has the most amazing how-to’s and tip tutorials. Zoë is an invaluable resource for baking!
Once your meringue reaches optimal peaks, slowly start adding your almond flour/confectioner sugar mixture. I like to add this 1/4 at a time. Start to fold the mixture into your meringue using a flat spatula. Tilt the mixing bowl to a 45 degree angle, mix the dry ingredients (1/4 at a time) into the meringue, scooping from the bottom towards you and folding everything onto itself while maintaining the body of your meringue. (Smashing through the center of the mixture will cause the meringue to deflate and we’d need to start from scratch.) Continue to add the dry ingredients with this folding method until everything is added.
At this time, start pressing and spreading the batter against the bowl’s walls. This step, which I think is the hardest to perfect and to understand, is called macaronage.
Scoop the batter from the bottom and turn it upside down. Repeat this process about 15-30 times.
So here is where I want to explain some things I’ve learned over the years. There are NO set times, folds or strokes. It really depends on how your batter is looking and feeling. While you are folding, pressing and spreading the batter, you want to constantly check the consistency. You are looking for something that resembles a nice lava that slowly flows off your spatula. Erin mentioned to me that as it falls off the spatula, you should be able to draw a figure 8 into the bowl without the stream breaking. The 8 in the bowl should then slowly incorporate back into itself.
Once the batter is to a thick lava consistency, you are ready to pipe your shells. Here is the youtube video I still use as reference for getting my macaronage techniques down.
Now get your prepared piping bag with a round ateco #805 tip. [Make sure to twist and seal the tip of the bag with a clothes pin so the batter doesn’t leak out.] I like to place my pastry bag into a large glass so the bag is upright and sturdy.
Pour all batter into piping bag and again twist and seal the top of the bag with a clothes pin so it’s not exposed to air.
I don’t always do this trick, but sometimes I will seal the top of the bag with a rubber band to make it a bit easier and cleaner when piping. This recipe does make a large amount of batter, so if you aren’t yet confident with holding a larger pastry bag, the rubber band will help. Or you can split this amount into two smaller bags.
It’s now time to pipe your shells. Pipe the batter onto your prepared parchment lined sheet pans fitted with your printed or drawn circle templets. Hold the pastry bag at a 90 degree angle and, with the tip very close to the parchment, pipe the batter until you’ve filled the circle. Quickly lift and twist the bag away creating a small tail to point. If your macaronage is correct, this will fall back into itself and the top will become smooth. The shells will spread just a bit. That is why having a inch of space between them is important.
Once the tray is full, carefully slide out the template and repeat on your other prepared sheet pans. After the trays are full, I like to take a small dab of batter and adhere the corners of the parchment to the sheet pan to make sure the parchment stay in in place during baking.
Firmly tap the sheet pan against the counter or a flat surface a few times. Keep the distribution of the vibrations as even as possible to prevent from deforming your circles to ovals. This step helps the shells hold their rounded shape and knock out as many air bubbles as possible.
Pointer from I Heart Macarons: As macarons bake, small pleat-like frills form at the bottom of each shell. This pleat is called a pied, or “foot”. Without it, the pastry cannot be called a macaron. Some bakers attribute the pied to the macaronage, some to the oven temperature, and some to a good tap of the sheet pan on the counter before baking.
Preheat your oven to 300˚f/150˚c and place your rack in the center of the oven, along with an empty sheet pan. You are going to preheat this sheet pan to use as the bottom sheet pan for baking the shells. You always want to have them double tray’d to prevent the bottom of the cookies from burning. I have found that when preheating the second pan, it helps give the shells some extra lift compared to a pan at room temp.
While your oven and sheet pan are preheating, let your shells dry uncovered at room temperature for 15-45 minutes. There’s no “set in stone" time for drying. It’s going to depend on the temperature of your space, the weather and time of year.
As they dry, you are looking for thin skin to form on top like heated milk. You should be able to gently slide your finger across and leave no marks. I like to designate one or two shell as my testers in case one is still tacky and I scar the top.
Once the shells have their skin, place the sheet pan onto the preheated sheet pan and bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the trays once halfway through baking. At the 15-minute mark, check them by lightly pressing on the shell with the back of your finger. If it’s sturdy without movement, they are done. If there’s a little movement on the pied “foot” (the ruffled bottom part), any jiggling at all, they need another minute or two. I will now set the timer at 1-minute intervals and watch them very, very closely. They can go from underdone to overdone in a matter of 60 seconds.
Maracons are a learning experience and no two bakes are the same. Sometimes I have different baking times for the same batch of shells. The key is to be alert to each of your macarons’ needs.
Once they are fully set, place sheet pans on wire racks to cool, leaving the shells on the parchment and on the pan for 15-30 minutes. When the macarons are completely cooled, very carefully remove them from parchment paper by pulling the parchment paper away from the sell. If they are still sticking to the paper, toss into freezer for a few minutes and they’ll easily release from the paper.
Kaffir Lime German Buttercream
In a medium non-stick saucepan, heat the whole milk, 8 of the chopped kaffir lime leaves and vanilla until they are just moments from simmering. (You're looking for those wisps of seam but no bubbles.) Remove milk mixture from the heat.
In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, corn starch, whole egg, egg yolks and salt until will combine.
Now continue whisking with one hand and pour just a bit (about a half cup or so) of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture so that you are tempering the eggs. You do not want to cook them - they will turn to scrambled eggs! Then, while still whisking, add half of the milk mixture and whisk until it's combined, followed by the remaining portion of milk. Once everything is combined, pour the milk/egg mixture back into the medium saucepan.
Now heat the milk/egg mixture over medium heat, again constantly whisking, until it begins to bubble. You do not want it to boil so do not look away. This thickens quickly. Once it has thickened and can coat the back of a spoon, cook for just one minute more. Remove from the heat and pour into a container or mixing bowl and press plastic wrap over the surface. This is a must so that you avoid a think skin from forming and altering the texture.
Place into the refrigerator until cold - minimum four hours, however for bast results preferably overnight. You want the kaffir leaves to infuse as much as possible.
When your macaron shells are ready for filling, place your whisk attachment on your mixer.
Place the remaining 2 chopped kaffir lime leaves and the 2 Tbsp sugar in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, and process until finely ground. Add the sugar mixture and the room-temp butter to the bowl of your mixer. Cream these together for a few minutes on high spreed until the butter has become a pale yellow, the sugar is incorporated and it's doubled in size.
Press the cool pastry cream through a sieve in order to remove any kaffir leaves and bits of cooked egg. Slowly add the custard mixture to the butter on medium speed until everything has been added and your buttercream looks creamy, fluffy and lump-free.
Transfer buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a large french star ateco #867 tip.
It’s time to play match maker! Pair your shells with matching mates of equal size, then pipe a mound of kaffir lime buttercream in the center. Gently top with its corresponding shell. It is best to store your finished macarons in the fridge for a few hours (for optimal results, overnight) to allow the flavors to mingle and “mature” so they develop that ideal soft texture. Macarons may be refrigerated for about one week or frozen in the freezer for a few months in an airtight container. Enjoy!