Of Mice and Macarons

ehehehe

Living in the countryside has its upsides. For instance, the air is less likely to suffocate you, and you’re less likely to be struck by a vehicle. Funny how when I stayed in Beijing, my first “country girl in the big city” experience, both of these events happened to me. I actually coughed up black phlegm, courtesy of the ever-present Beijing smog, and casually got hit by a motorcycle while stepping from the cab to the sidewalk.

In China, traffic laws are treated more like gentle suggestions, laughed off by motorists who proceed to drive as if pedestrians do not exist. In the meanwhile, us walkers must scurry across streets, ever vigilant of rogue motorcycles and even cars that venture onto the sidewalk.

But I digress. Though the countryside is a wonderful place, it also has its downsides, namely, animals and insects see your home as their home. Today, I accidentally boiled a stinkbug, intentionally cooked a centipede in the rice cooker, and spotted traces (read: poop) of a mouse in the basement. Just another normal day in the country.

Anyways, I needed a little treat after having heroically(?) defeated the centipede, so I decided to try my hand at macarons. I’ve heard horror stories about oozing dough and hollow shells so I approached the recipe with trepidation. (Literally though, I spent at least an hour yesterday reading through all tips on how to make macarons.) However, they actually came out surprisingly delicious and with decent texture! They had feet, they were crispy on the outside yet chewy on the inside, and the matcha buttercream was perfectly buttery with a little bitter kick.

Don’t mind me, I’m going to just keep patting myself on the back here. And keep dipping my finger in the left over matcha buttercream. Narcissism truly does not get any better – or more delicious – than this.

Almond Macarons with Matcha Buttercream (adapted from Bravetart)

*Serving size: since this was an experiment, I didn’t use all the batter, and I got about 20 pretty sizable macarons. Bravetart says the recipe makes ~40 macarons)

4 oz (115 g) almond flour
8 oz (230 g) powdered sugar
5 oz (144 g) egg whites, temperature and age not important
2 1/2 oz (72 g) sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp (2 g) kosher salt

Matcha buttercream (makes enough to generously frost an 8-in cake):

10 oz  egg whites
10 oz sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 lb unsalted butter, cut into 2-in chunks and softened to spreadable state (I used less butter, adding chunks until the consistency was sufficiently buttery)
1-2 tbsp matcha

Preheat oven to 300F and prepare pastry bag fitted with plain tip. Also prepare 2 parchment-lined sheet pans.

Optional: Trace 1 1/2 in circles on parchment paper as piping guidelines

Sift almond flour and powdered sugar together into a bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg whites, sugar, and salt and turn mixer to medium (4 on a Kitchenaid). Whip for 3 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high (6 on a Kitchenaid) and whip for another 3 minutes, then at high speed (8 on a Kitchenaid) for another 3 minutes. Turn the mixer off and add any extracts, flavoring, or color, then whip for 1 minute at the highest speed setting. You should have a very stiff, dry meringue.

Add dry ingredients all at once and fold them in with a rubber spatula, using both a folding motion and a rubbing/smearing action to incorporate the dry ingredients while deflating the meringue. The first 25 turns/strokes will yield a lumpy and stiff texture, the last 15 strokes will result in a smoother, “molten” texture. The macaron batter should mound on itself but melt back down in ~20 seconds.

Transfer batter to pastry bag, filling bag until it is 3/4 full. Pipe batter into pre-drawn circles, stopping just shy of the borders of the circle, as batter will continue to spread a bit.

After piping macarons, hit sheet pan hard against counter. Rotate pan 90 degrees and rap two more times, dislodging air bubbles that could cause cracks in the shells. (I rotated and rapped all sides of the sheet pan, just to be safe.)

Bake for 18 minutes, until you can cleanly peel the parchment paper away from the macaron. Cool thoroughly on the pans before peeling the macarons from the parchment. (I peeled mine off immediately and cooled them upside down.)

While the macarons are baking, combine the egg whites, sugar, and kosher salt in a clean bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of water and turn the heat on low. Whisk frequently until the temperature reads 145-150F. When the mixture is sufficiently hot, use the whisk attachment on medium speed  (I used 6 on my Kitchenaid) to whip until the mixture has doubled in volume and is snowy white. Continue whipping until the meringue is cool. It must be cool with no trace of warmth. 

Turn the mixer to medium low and incorporate butter chunks, one at a time. Splash in vanilla extract and fold in matcha, then mix until evenly incorporated.

Fill a pastry bag 3/4 full with buttercream and pipe a quarter-sized mound of buttercream into half the shells, then sandwich them with their naked halves. (Honestly, I just used a spoon and put a quarter-sized dollop of buttercream on the shells.)

Macarons taste better as they age, so ideally, you should leave them out for at least 24 hours before enjoying.

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