Have you heard of the show The Great British Bake Off? I spent all morning in bed yesterday binge-watching episode after episode on YouTube, cheering when the contestants’ bakes rose properly, despairing when they wound up with soggy bottoms, and rooting for my favorites right up until the bitter end. Finally, I couldn’t take it any more. I stormed into the kitchen to do some baking of my own!
Last month, Kelsey and I took a macaron baking class at Sur la Table, and I’ve been meaning to practice my skills ever since. It’s a fickle little cookie to bake, the macaron, and ridiculously trendy, but it has limitless flavor combinations that are oh so fun to play around with. For yesterday’s baking extravaganza, I decided to make a grapefruit macaron with a homemade grapefruit buttercream filling. (Is anyone else obsessed with grapefruit everything this time of year?) I’ll be the first to admit that my macarons did not turn out very pretty, but they taste incredible and honestly, isn’t that all that matters?
For the cookies:
7 ounces confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
4 ounces almond flour or finely ground almond meal (Baker’s Note: I used almond meal that was not ground fine enough, hence the “freckles” in my macarons)
5 ounces egg whites (about 4 large), room temperature
3.5 ounces granulated sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 Tablespoon grapefruit zest
Red gel food coloring (optional)
Yellow gel food coloring (optional)
For the buttercream:
2.5 ounces (about 2 large) egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup (5.25 ounces) granulated sugar
12 Tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grapefruit zest
1 Tablespoon grapefruit juice
Red gel food coloring (optional)
To make the cookies:
Making a macaron batter is a three-step process: First, you sift together your base ingredients, the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour, and add any dry flavorings. Then you make a meringue. Finally, you fold the meringue into your base ingredients to create the macaron batter. It is best if you measure out all of your ingredients before you begin. The following are detailed instructions:
Sift together the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour into a large mixing bowl. Mix in the grapefruit zest and set aside.
To make the meringue: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a wire whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium speed to soft peak stage. Gradually add 1/4 of the granulated sugar and whisk for 10 seconds. Repeat until all of the sugar is added. Add the cream of tartar, scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula, add food coloring (if desired), and increase speed to high, whisking until stiff, firm, glossy peaks form.
To make the batter: Using a spatula, add 1/3 of the meringue to the bowl with the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in it and gently fold the meringue into the dry ingredients until just combined. Repeat two times with the second and third-thirds of the meringue, gently folding until you have a firm, glossy batter that drips slowly from the spatula.
To pipe your macarons: Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip (#12), or if you don’t have a piping bag, use a large Ziplock bag with the corner snipped off. Pipe batter into about 1.5-inch diameter circles. (I found it incredibly useful to slip a template under my parchment paper to ensure my cookies were the same size and shape.) Pick up your baking sheets and drop them onto the counter several times to release any trapped air in the batter. To get a flat, smooth cookie, wet your finger and smooth out any bumpy bits on the top of the cookie batter. Let piped batter stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until a slight crust forms (the macarons should not stick to your finger when lightly touched).
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake one sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until the macarons are crisp and firm, about 12 to 15 minutes. If the top of the macarons look crinkled or cracked, your oven may be too hot. There are a multitude of other things that can go wrong when baking this challenging little cookie – you can find a few troubleshooting tips here.
Let macarons cool on baking sheets for 2 to 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the buttercream:
Place egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water. Stir with a whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 141 degrees F. (If you don’t have a thermometer, put your fingers in the mixture. It should feel hot, but bearable to touch.)
Remove bowl from heat and attach to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to high and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 2 minutes more. Reduce speed to medium and add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking well after each addition. Once all butter is incorporated, return to high speed and whisk for 1 minute until fluffy.
With mixer on low, add vanilla extract, grapefruit zest, grapefruit juice, and one small drop of red gel food coloring and mix for 1 minute until thoroughly incorporated. Use buttercream immediately or cover and refrigerate. If refrigerating, bring to room temperature and beat on low speed until smooth before using.
To assemble the macarons:
Take two cookie pieces that are the same size. Use a small offset spatula to gently spread about a teaspoonful of buttercream on the flat side of one of the cookies and gently sandwich with the other cookie.