new year's macarons with vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream and pop rocks candy
Erin and I are now in the 11th month of our year-long macaron-of-the-month collab and we have both agreed, we can’t just stop next month! We’re only getting started. Looking back on 2018, that was foreplay. We're starting 2019 with an easy-to-bake yet fun-to-eat macaron and we’re calling it New Year’s Macaron. It's made with vanilla bean Swiss meringue butter cream and a pop rocks center. Yes, pop rocks.
Do you remember those fireworks for the tongue candy of the late 80’s? As a kid of the 80’s, these played a major roll in me and my brother's extracurricular activities. We were obsessed with anything sweet and used to beg our parents for money so we could walk to the store down the street to buy these—along with blue cream sodas (yes, that’s a real thing and yes, it’s beyond bright blue and sweet AF!)—and when we’d get home, we'd eat some of the pop rocks and then... we’d do the weirdest thing. We’d throw them in the toilet and listen to the snap-crackle-pop as they flushed down the drain. Please don’t ask me why we did this. I haven’t a clue! I was a weird kid and have no answers for many of my life stories. Okay, back to macarons!
We wanted to make this one very versatile for any occasion of the year. We're calling them New Year’s macarons, but really, you can change the colors of the sprinkles and buttercream to suit your celebration. The pop rocks add that exciting pop in the center, like the effervescent bubbles of champagne. Since these are coming right after the craziness of the holidays, we've kept the prep very low-key: a simple Swiss meringue buttercream, a simple vanilla shell, a little spoonful of pop rocks, and... BANG! Very little work for extremely exciting results.
As always, most of the components may be made ahead of time, which will make for an even easier baking day. Also, please check out my Good to Knows, where I have consolidated a bunch of tips for perfecting this particular recipe, as well as baking macarons in general. I hope you enjoy these as much as two kids who just discovered what happens when you add water.
…Good to Knows…
To save space and prevent you from scrolling for hours, I've compiled 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, tricks and/or tips.
When it comes to colors, this is completely up to your liking. These are meant to be a celebration, so customize the sprinkles and buttercream colors to your special occasions. Be creative and have fun!! If you do bake these, I’d love to share in the moment with you. Tag me on instagram @foxandcrane and use my hashtag #foxandcrane so I may see your macaron adventures.
Be aware of the type of sprinkles you are using! There are some that can melt and can cause craters in the shell. Many sprinkle mixes use chocolate balls or sugar-coated candy that, when heated, may melt and disrupt the shell by falling through or disintegrating altogether!
Erin also discovered an amazing parchment. It's seriously macaron magic paper. We haven't had any macarons stick since. You can order this non-stick parchment paper on amazon.
Since we are in the middle of winter, please be aware that heating units create dry air that can speed up the drying of the macaron shells. Erin and I are very cautious of how weather affects the drying times and bakes of the shells. Shells can become over-dried in a split second. With this winter being exceptionally cold, our drying times have been cut in half. So be cautious of this if you haven’t baked macarons in a few months. If your home is on the warmer side, I suggest you turn off your heat while you’re in the drying process.
new year's macarons
with vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream and pop rocks candy
…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
colorful sprinkles of your choice - we used fancy sprinkles
Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream
123g (1/2 cup) large brown egg whites (about 4 large brown eggs)
200g (1 cup) granulated white sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
455g (16oz, or four sticks) room temp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or the seeds from one vanilla bean pod
americolor gel food coloring - we used three colors that matched the sprinkles
pop rocks candy - we used strawberry but you may choose your own flavor
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. You will need to print two sheets and lay them side by side to fit 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 americolor gel food coloring, if using color, 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 too 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.
At this time, after you have piped all your shells and before they have formed a skin, ONLY if you’re using a topping such as sprinkles, spices, streusel etc, generously sprinkle the shells with the topping designated for this recipe. If you prefer more or less per macaron, please use your desecration as to how you would like the shells to be topped. Allow shells to start drying.
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.
Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Place the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or a heat proof bowl. Place over a pot of simmering water, ensuring that the water does not touch the bowl. Heat mixture, whisking constantly, until the mixture registers 160˚f / 70˚c on a digital thermometer. Make sure the sugar has dissolved completely. To check this, take a small amount of the mixture and rub between your fingers. If the gritty texture is gone, then the sugar is dissolved. Carefully transfer the bowl to the mixer (fitted with the whisk attachment) and whip the mixture on high until the mixture is bright white and can fold a medium peak, approx. 7-10 minutes.
Now slowly start adding the butter, one piece at a time. Wait until each piece of butter has become incorporated before adding the next piece. This takes some time, approx. 5 -10 mins. Beware that the buttercream mixture may look curdled during this process, but rest assured this is just one of the stages the buttercream will go through. Keep mixing. Once all the butter has been incorporated, the mixture will become the creamy texture you're looking for. Once the butter is fully incorporated, continue to whip the buttercream for another 5 minutes.
The buttercream should now be smooth and creamy. At this time, add the vanilla bean paste and whip for another 2-3 minutes. Now switch to the paddle attachment and slowly mix the buttercream on low for just 1 minute. This will knock out and remove any air bubbles that may be in the buttercream. This will prevent any air pockets when piping your buttercream.
Now in four small bowls, divide the buttercream and add your choice of gel food coloring. Mix those into the buttercream using a rubber spatula, making sure not to create any air pockets which may cause uneven piping. Transfer colored buttercream to prepared piping bags fitted with small french star and star piping tips.
…ASSEMBLY and SERVE…
It’s time to play matchmaker! Pair your shells with matching mates of equal size, then pipe alternating color stars onto the bottom shell, making sure you evenly cover the shell. Sprinkle the center with a small amount of pop rocks candy. 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 interior texture with that perfect crisp exterior. Macarons may be refrigerated for about one week or frozen in the freezer for a few months in an airtight container. Enjoy!
Surface: Erickson Surfaces
Baking Pan: Vintage Dansk
Porcelain Dishes : Vintage