The stars aligned, the best macaron I have ever made

Those who have attempted macarons know they are simple in ingredients required.  The steps are simple when described.  However, there are relatively finicky when it comes to the execution that causes the texture to have great variance. This seems to be part of the appeal for me.  The challenge to perfect these steps and ingredients to get the beautiful macaron.

As many batches as I have made, here is the first and only one that I would say is near perfect.  I present my blueberry curd lemon shell macaron.

Blueberry Lemon macarons

Blueberry Lemon macarons


What did I do differently? I really am not sure. This only fuels the fire to continue to make them.  More to come about these, but I wanted to share this moment of bliss.

Macarons 2014 – Batches 13 and 14 – NewBo style

Cedar Rapids, IA has this fantastic little main street district called Czech Village/New Bohemia or NewBo for short.  It includes a fun indoor farmer’s market, NewBo City Market, an independent book store, coffee shop and artist studios.  It was in one of these artist studios where my macarons made their public début in Iowa.  It was a combo party – studio opening for Russ Fagle and 50th birthday party for a dear friend.

Posing in front of a Russ Fagle print getting ready to celebrate NewBo style

Posing in front of a Russ Fagle print getting ready to celebrate NewBo style

Russ Fagle has a great variety of work – in medium, subject and style.  I am a fan of his NewBo poster series.

A great number of people came to the party. And I must say the folks of Cedar Rapids are quite fabulous. I recommend checking out the area if you ever find yourself in the neighborhood.

As for the macarons, I have already written about the woes of the lemon curd macarons in Batch 12.  Batches 13 and 14 were made on the same day.

Action pose by nephew as he pretends to eat the salted caramel macaron

Action pose by nephew as he pretends to eat the salted caramel macaron

They were an improvement as I mostly figured out the temperature to use in my sister’s oven. I also cut the sugar mixed into the egg whites by 50 grams for Batches 13 and 14.

They still had some “character” and were not ideal in their form, but were still tasty enough to share.

The filling for Batch 13 was my go-to salted caramel recipe with a slight twist.  Instead of mixing the caramel with butter, I used cream cheese.  This is my go-to recipe because I tried it and I had success.  I have since been able to repeat the success, so I figure why fix what ain’t broke.

Batch 14 was a chocolate ganache – heavy cream, vanilla, coffee and dark chocolate.  These are my go to flavors when serving a crowd and not wanting to be adventurous.

The macarons had some great company at the dessert table.  Cakes made and decorated by my dear childhood friend (her husband was the one celebrating the big 5-0). He is a big fan of Bob Dylan and it has become a tradition for her to decorate his birthday cake with a Bob Dylan image.

The whole experience was well worth the wee bit of adventure in a snowstorm.

Macarons had some great company on the dessert table

Macarons had some great company on the dessert table

Macarons 2014 – Batch 12 – Snowstorms and learning a new oven

Batches 12, 13, and 14 were going to be so straight forward…more of an exercise aiming for consistency rather then experimentation.  Straight forward because they were intended to be a gift to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday in Iowa. I had an entire day planned to leisurely make three batches and three fillings.  I had aged my egg whites.   I was ready to make my best macarons – EVER.   Then I looked at the weather…temperatures dropping and a SNOWSTORM…timed to make my originally planned travel day not an option.

After a couple of hours reviewing the different weather forecasts, researching options for revising my car rental in hopes of not spending a ridiculous amount of money, and packing; I finally decided to travel instead of making the macarons.

I drove for about six hours going 40 mph or less on highways mostly looking like this:

Driving on Interstate 35 in the snowstorm.

Driving on Interstate 35 in the snowstorm.

The trip normally takes 3.5 hours.  It was a long, exhausting day, not the blissful macaron making day I had planned.

This was not enough to stop me from making macarons.  That is right, I am obsessed. I still had a whole day to make the macarons, but now there were challenges.  I was no longer going to be making them in my own little kitchen where I know my oven.  Thankfully, I have used my sister’s oven before so I knew it ran hot.

The challenge I hadn’t planned on was having to whip egg whites by hand.  But I was able to do it!!  I did learn that when whipping egg whites by hand, don’t add the sugar until you reach soft peaks.  It takes much longer if you do it sooner – something I never really cared about when using my stand mixer.

Whipping egg whites to stiff peaks by hand.

Whipping egg whites to stiff peaks by hand.

To add to the challenge, I agreed to do chauffeur services for the niece and nephews.  Three kids with three different school schedules.  This meant almost always someone around to watch over and no nice big chunk of time to crank these out.

The first batch – batch 12 – had some serious variation while I experimented with resting times and oven temperatures.  The result:

Variations within one batch of macaron shells

Variations within one batch of macaron shells


  • I clearly didn’t fold long enough as there are still little peaks.
  • Shells (left most) looked the best with little to no resting and an over around 225 degrees with a double pan at 16 minutes.

I am actually quite please with how they turned out.  I thought I was going to have an entire batch completely screwed up, instead I got mediocre.

The recipe for the shells was from Les Petits Macaron.  For the filling, I used the lemon curd recipe from the same book.  This was my first making of lemon curd, and I think it was quite a success.  I look forward to trying more in the future.

Filling the macaron shells with lemon curd.

Filling the macaron shells with lemon curd.

It was not all hard work.  We did take the time to enjoy some tea and silliness.  More on batches 13 and 14 to come in the next post.

Tea party during the middle of macaron making.

Tea party during the middle of macaron making.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

Islands of Adventure - Seuss landing

Islands of Adventure – Seuss landing

Dr. Seuss has a lasting impression on me.  He was one of the first authors who created a world that I wanted to live in – visually.  The closest I have come to this world is visiting Seuss Landing at the Islands of Adventure. Today is his birthday, so I thought I would look around for some Dr. Seuss inspired macarons.

The Lorax is a popular choice in the shapely macaron category.

There is the Cat in the Hat for color inspiration.  You know that Dr. Seussian red and blue combo.  A truly inspired choice for coloring and flavor – Kool-Aid.  Thing 1 and Thing 2 are an easy reference with a little decorative writing.

Sam I am and his Green Eggs and Ham.   While these are not Dr. Seuss – the technique for piping could be used to make some green eggs.

I wasn’t able to find a lot of them, so I think I will consider this in my future macaron making.  It seems like there is a place for these fantastic colorful little cookie in the world of Dr. Seuss.

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Macarons 2014 – Batch 11 – Purple Chocolate

Testing out the piping skills by creating initial macarons

Testing out the piping skills by creating initial macarons

…AND more birthday macarons.  This time for a friend with some RAD initials.

Almost all of my adventurous energy went into the coconut flour version, so these were kept simple.  Basic Mad about Macarons shells colored purple inspired by purple bangs.

The filling is a coffee chocolate ganache.  I heated whipping cream (same amount by weight as the chocolate) with instant coffee (one tablespoon) over medium heat until just too warm to touch.  Then poured through a sieve onto broken Chocolove chocolate bar.

Birthday chocolate macaron

Birthday chocolate macarons

After letting sit for three minutes, stirred until the chocolate was smooth.  Added a splash of almond extract.

Result: 56.5 (113 shells) approximately the size of a quarter plus three initials.

Aerial view of birthday macaron batch 11

Aerial view of birthday macaron batch 11


Dreaming – Ice Cream

I’ll have a cup of tea and tell you of my dreaming
Dreaming is free – Blondie

I love plotting my next macaron adventures. I am having a craving for ice cream, perhaps it is the upcoming weekend of above zero temperatures (with the possibility of going above zero, oh my).  Today’s dreaming list is all about using macarons to make a sophisticated ice cream sandwich.

First, a little video inspiration from Francois Payard demonstrating making Mango and Coconut Ice Cream macaron. I adore him. Watch how he gets all the sugar syrup in the meringue with his Italian method and not stuck to the side of the mixing bowl.

Other ideas:

Pumpkin Ice Cream and Pepitas – with suggestion of pistachios instead of pepitas

Almond Ice Cream – keeping it simple

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream – Breakfast?

Ice Cream Cone – Freakin’ cute ice cream cone shape

Black Sesame Matcha – green tea love

Roasted Pistachio – roasted goodness

Pistachio – bonus: uses yolks for the ice cream (oh and pretty stenciling)

Mint chocolate chip – ok – so this is a recipe for mint chocolate chip buttercream – but wouldn’t it be lovely with mint chocolate chip ice cream instead

Neopolitan – I wonder if I would have the urge to leave all the strawberry shells behind.



Macarons 2014 – Batch 10 – Chocolate Peanut Butter

Birthday inchworm cake with macaron eyes

Birthday inchworm cake with macaron eyes

More birthday macarons.  Most of the family do not like German Chocolate so another flavor was needed for brother’s birthday macarons – Chocolate Peanut Butter.  These were also the back-up flavor in case the German Chocolate was a complete fail.

Keeping it simple and familiar, chocolate shells were made using the Mad about Macarons recipe. The filling is peanut butter – ground peanuts from the Co-op – no sugar added.  About half of them also were filled with a bit of chocolate coffee ganache.  The adventurous portion was testing out my piping skills to make couple of macarons in the shape of my brother’s initials – J.K. – no joke!

Inchworm cake aerial view

Inchworm cake aerial view

In addition to the macarons, I made an inchworm cake (most obvious choice). My five year old niece helped out by decorating the presentation board.  A turtle and a little❤.

My sister claims these beat out the salted caramel. I am not so sure, but I do agree they rank high.  The bonus is the ease of having a ready made filing option.

Made 54 (108 shells) approximately the size of a quarter plus two initials.

Aerial view of the Chocolate Peanut Butter macarons

Aerial view of the Chocolate Peanut Butter macarons


Macarons 2014 – Batch 9 – Coconut Flour?

German chocolate macarons for brother's birthday

German chocolate macarons for brother’s birthday

Birthdays are a great excuse to make macarons.  My brother’s favorite cake is German Chocolate, so naturally that is the flavor I chose.  Somehow the usual chocolate shells filled with the coconut pecan frosting seemed too simple.

Bob's Red Mill Coconut Flour

Bob’s Red Mill Coconut Flour

I decided to try substituting coconut flour for almond flour to get even more coconutty goodness.  I was warned coconut flour sucks up the moisture so I used a little less and upped the egg whites.  I even added a dash of oil.   The result – taste was spot on yummy, texture was a SUPER FAIL.  You can see the cracked desert texture instead of the usual smooth top and only a small foot.  They were so crunchy I think my sister may have broke a tooth with her sampling.

The texture did improve a bit after letting them sit filled, but still not the usual awesomeness.  The flavor is so nice, I will attempt this again.  However, I need to do more research before attempting.


  • 160 grams egg whites whipped to stiff peaks

    Coconut flour macaron shell just piped and resting.

    Coconut flour macaron shell just piped and resting.

  • 30 grams egg whites added to the mix after started mixing
  • 90 grams coconut flour
  • 40 grams almond flour
  • 100 grams granulated sugar
  • 270 grams powdered sugar
  • 1 T oil
  • 20 grams cocoa powder

Next time I may use more almond flour and less coconut flour.  Also, I think I will use more egg whites mixing half with the dry ingredients without whipping.German chocolate macaron

Macarons 2014 – Batch 8, the Grammy Edition

0126141614Batch 8 was a last minute request. I was invited to a friends’ house for fajitas and watching the Grammys.  When I asked if I could bring something, the request came for macarons. I initially said there wasn’t enough time because I do prefer to have the macarons mature for at least 24 hours after being filled.

When scanning the cupboards and refrigerator for some other dessert inspiration to strike, I saw my already separated ageing egg whites and remaining buttered popcorn filling (from macaron making earlier in the week).  I couldn’t resist the challenge.  So I whipped up a batch of macarons using the ingredient ratio in Les Petits Macarons and my usual mixing and baking technique (14 mins at 300 degrees).  I chose to color them pink in honor of P!nk who would be performing at the Grammys and for whom my friends are big fans.

You can see from the picture I rushed the mixing a bit as the last little peak didn’t go away.  Just a couple of more folds and they would have been picture perfect.   They sat for about five hours before the first nibbles, so they were a bit chewy.  The flavor of the buttered popcorn filling was still quite lovely.  I bet the ones I left behind were fantastic the next day both in texture and flavor.

This is why I should just make some to freeze for spontaneous little gifts.  Can I trust myself to have them sitting in the freezer?

I didn’t stick around for all of the Grammys, but I did stay long enough to enjoy watching P!nk and her acrobatic performance.

Macarons 2014 – Batches 4, 5, 6 and 7

Les Petits Macarons

Big ol’ tray o’ macarons

These macarons happened because I discovered the book Les Petits Macarons.  I love this book.

The book gives details of four methods for making the shells: Italian method, Swiss method, French method and Easy French method.  Inspired the “right” method is the one that works for you, and the only method I had used so far had been the French method.  I had to confirm there wasn’t a better method for me out there.

Now I didn’t follow the book exactly because I wanted to really compare apples to apples.

For all batches, I used the same quantity of almond meal, sugar, and egg whites as written in the book.  I didn’t add anything else that was called for in some, such as cream of tartar or egg white powder.  Also, I didn’t follow the baking directions.  Instead, I did my usual rest for thirty minutes (give or take) and baking at 300 degrees for 14-16 minutes.

Les Petits Macaron results

Side by side comparison of the different methods, left to right: Italian, Swiss, French, Easy French

The French method was the clear winner.  Besides looking the best, I actually enjoy the process the best. Italian method was a close second as far as appearances, but I totally botched it with the heating sugar part.  Most of it ended up on the side of the mixing bowl – FAIL.  I enjoyed the Swiss method as I do enjoy whipping over a double boiler, but they look crazy.  As crazy as they look, they were impressively consistent in they craziness.  The little hats were askew on all of them in almost the same way.  The Easy French method may be appealing to some, but they look funny and I didn’t enjoy the process.

In addition to the shell recipes, there are some fabulous flavor/filling ideas.  The strangest sounding one was the Buttered Popcorn filling, so that is what I made.  It is subtle on the popcorn, but quite delightful.  I am fairly certain I will be making that one again.  Actually all the fillings I did this day are worth repeating.

Look at all that sugar that ended up on the side of the mixing bowl

Look at all that sugar that ended up on the side of the mixing bowl


Batch 4 – meh:

  • Italian method – pouring hot sugar syrup into the egg whites
  • Color: Blue
  • Filling: Buttered Popcorn (recipe: Les Petits Macarons)

Batch 5 – ruh-roh:

  • Swiss method – partially cooking the egg whites and sugar by whipping over a double boiler before whipping to stiff peaks
  • Color: Green
  • Filling: Wasabi white chocolate (based on recipe in Mad About Macarons) – Note: next time I will double the wasabi, too subtle for my taste.

Batch 6 – Woohoo!:

  • French method – just pouring the granulated sugar into the egg whites
  • Color: Yellow
  • Filling: Buttered Popcorn

Batch 7 – ruh-roh:

  • Easy French method – no egg white whipping, but batter resting
  • Color: Purple
  • Filling: Balsamic Fig (ricotta cheese mixed with fig jam and balsamic vinegar to taste) – fabulous quick and easy filling

These were shared with my peers who are always willing tasters – even when the macarons do not look the part of proper macarons.