For Vanilla Bean Shells
- 180 grams (1¾ cups) of powdered sugar
- 150 grams (1½ cups) of finely-ground almond flour
- 3 large egg whites (about 90 grams) from fresh eggs (save the yolks for the buttercream)
- 60 grams (¼ cup + 2 tablespoons) of granulated sugar
- Seeds of 1 vanilla bean pod or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- ⅛ of a teaspoon (a tiny pinch) of cream of tartar, optional
For French Buttercream
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons of water
- 3 egg yolks
- 4 ounces or 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened but not quite room temperature (for dairy-free substitute plant-based "butter")
- Seeds of 1 vanilla bean pod or 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- Bring the eggs to room temperature. Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a heat-proof mixing bowl for the buttercream. You don't need to "age" or dry out your egg whites by setting them out overnight. But you can if you like.
- Measure and prepare. Preheat your oven to 300° F. Slice the vanilla bean open lengthwise and scrape the seeds out with the back of a knife. Ready your pastry bag by snipping a small opening, inserting the tip, and pushing part of the bag into the tip to prevent leaking when you add the batter. Set the pastry bag inside a tall drinking glass and pull the opening of the bag down around the rim. Line at least two baking pans or cookie sheets with parchment paper and place printable macaron templates underneath. Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar together.
- Whip the meringue. Place the egg whites in your mixer or mixing bowl, and beat them on medium speed until they're foamy. Keep beating and slowly rain in the granulated sugar. If adding cream of tartar, pinch a little in once the whites are opaque. Raise the mixer to high speed (or Level 8 on a stand mixer) and whip the meringue to firm peaks. When you lift the beaters or the whisk out of the meringue, it will form little peaks that stick nearly straight up.
- Beat in the vanilla seeds. Add the vanilla seeds to the meringue and beat briefly to distribute them.
- Add the dry ingredients. Fold the sifted dry ingredients into the whipped meringue with a large flexible spatula in a few batches. Mix firmly at first to get it to all come together. Then use a classic folding motion, scraping the sides of the bowl then under the mass of batter, and up over the top in a circular motion. Cut through the middle every other stroke. The batter is the right consistency when it ribbons off the spatula easily, and settles back into itself in ten or fifteen seconds. Err on the side of slightly under-mixing, over-mixed batter won't rise nicely in the oven.
- Pipe the batter. Pour the batter into your piping bag, and lay it flat to push it toward the tip. Twist the top of the bag to seal it off. Then hold the bag tightly with your dominant hand. Pipe circles of batter by holding the pastry bag completely vertical and a quarter-inch above the center of the first round template. Squeeze until the batter reaches the inner edges of the black. Then immediately stop squeezing and flick the tip away in a tiny circular motion.
- Tap and rest the shells. After you've piped all of your batter on one pan, lift the pan up and tap the bottoms gently to help the batter settle and eliminate air pockets. Rest the piped batter on the countertop for 10 to 20 minutes, until the tops are dry and you can run a finger along them without leaving a mark.
- Bake. Bake the macarons for 14 to 18 minutes depending on what size template you chose. Larger macarons take longer to set. Macarons are done when the tops are dull and don't shift away from the bottoms when gently nudged with a finger. They should lift easily away from the parchment or baking mat once out of the oven and nearly cooled. To remove the shells from the parchment, push up on each shell from underneath the paper while peeling it off gently with the other hand.
- Make the French buttercream. In a very small pot (1 quart or smaller) combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. While the sugar comes to a boil, beat the egg yolks with a hand mixer on medium-high speed until they are pale yellow and ribbony. Once the syrup reaches 236° F on a candy or meat thermometer, begin beating the egg yolks again on low speed while very slowly drizzling in the hot syrup. Then beat on high speed until the mixture cools down to room temperature. Beat in the softened (but not warm) butter a tablespoon at a time. Beat in vanilla seeds and/or paste or vanilla extract. Transfer the buttercream to a pastry bag and snip a small hole in the corner.
- Fill the shells. Flip half of the baked macaron shells over and pipe a round of buttercream on each. Leave space between the edges of the macaron shell and the edge of the buttercream. Top with the remaining macaron shells, matching them up according to size.
- Mature the macarons. Macarons are best after a day of maturing in the refrigerator with the filling. The shells absorb moisture from the filling, the crumb inside expands, and the entire meringue softens wonderfully.
- Store. Keep macarons stored chilled for up to a week. But always serve them at room temperature.
On the Vanilla
The recipe calls for fresh vanilla bean seeds because they are the most aromatic, purest form of vanilla. And since their moisture content is minimal they can be added right to the macaron batter. But you can use any vanilla extract you have on hand. If you add liquid vanilla extract to the batter, only use half of a teaspoon and let the piped batter rest for 25 minutes. You can also omit vanilla entirely from the shells and double up on it in the buttercream filling.
On Making Buttercream
This is a small batch of buttercream, and it's hard to make in a stand mixer because the whisk attachment will sling the hot syrup all over the bowl. With a bowl and a hand mixer, it's easy to aim the hot syrup away from but close to the moving beaters.
It can be hard to measure the temperature of just a little bit of boiling syrup with a typical thermometer when it doesn't come very high up inside the pot. So if you don't have a pot around 1 quart in size (most say on the bottom) it may be easier to double the batch and freeze the extra. You will want to beat frozen buttercream after thawing to revive its texture.
For like-size macarons that are easy to match up, place a printable template underneath your parchment paper. Silicone macaron baking mats are expensive. But my templates are free and parchment is cheap in comparison to the mats.
Piping is a bit of an art, and definitely an acquired skill. Go slow, and expect batter all over the pan if this is your first time out.
The first thing I do when baking macarons is to check the oven's true temperature. An inexpensive oven thermometer works great, and then you can adjust up or down as needed. Aim for a temperature around 300° F, or even slightly less to avoid hollow shells.
On the Nutrition Information
The nutrient amounts below are based on the recipe as written, with 24 finished macarons and assume you use every last bit of buttercream (but you might not, I usually have a bit leftover to eat off a spoon).
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 14-18 minutes
- Category: Macarons
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: French
- Diet: Gluten Free
- Serving Size: 1 Vanilla Macaron
- Calories: 131
- Sugar: 13.4 g
- Sodium: 8.6 mg
- Fat: 5.5 g
- Saturated Fat: 2.6 g
- Trans Fat:
- Carbohydrates: 14.5 g
- Fiber: 0.2 g
- Protein: 1.7 g
- Cholesterol: 33.2 mg
Keywords: vanilla macaron recipe, vanilla bean macarons, French buttercream, vanilla macarons