Vanilla Bean Macarons with Dark Chocolate Amaretto Ganache Filling
This recipe can be a little involved, but these cookies are worth it. I’ve seen them at many places – one of which is the France pavilion at EPCOT. Since I’m not going to be there for awhile, I decided I couldn’t wait, and wanted to make them at home. They’re light, delicate, and packed full of flavor – an excellent dessert for a special occasion or any day of the week! As a bonus, they are also gluten free, so if you are GF, then these are a fabulous dessert option.
These cookies are not as hard as you’d think. However, if you did it like I did, you can make it more difficult than it needs to be.
The recipe has no flour – it uses almond flour instead. The best place I’ve found for this has been Trader Joe’s – they sell a bag (I think its a pound or half pound package) for the cheapest price I’ve found. That being said, I apparently used my bag of almond flour, because when I went to retrieve it from the pantry, all I found was the BJ’s bag of almonds.
You can see where this is going, right?
Almond flour, if you didn’t know, is just ground almonds. So, if I have a bag of almonds, I can make my own almond flour. Easy, right? Yeah. Except for the part where I decided to use the food processor to grind them, rather than my spice grinder. Don’t do that. If you have the spice grinder, even if it takes you longer, use it. I used the food processor, and after sifting in what I could, had to put it through the processor twice more before I broke down and used the spice grinder. And I made a ton of difference. I will say that no matter which one you use, pulse it, and don’t process it too long, or you’ll end up with almond butter. While tasty, you’ll have to scrape it out and start over with new almonds. And you don’t want that.
Once you have your dry ingredients sifted together, use a whisk to combine them. You don’t have to do that, but because you’re folding this into egg whites later, I like to have it thoroughly mixed before I start folding it in.
You’re going to need to prep your pan now that you’ve got this part going. Use parchment paper and line a cookie sheet. You can free form your macarons, or you can draw 1″ circles on the back of the parchment (that way you don’t get ink or pencil on your cookies) to use as a guide.
Once your pan is ready, you need to beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. You’ll want to use room temperature eggs – if you use cold ones they’ll be harder to separate and they’ll be WAY harder to whip. I also always use a metal mixing bowl for eggs, and I usually dampen a paper towel with a little vinegar and wipe out the inside of the bowl before I put the eggs in. It is supposed to wipe away any leftover residue that might be clinging to a bowl (even a clean one). I don’t remember where I heard that tip, but it does seem to help.
I beat the eggs on a lower speed until they get a little frothy, then I crank it up and pour in the granulated sugar, slowly. Then beat the eggs until they form stiff, glossy peaks. The best way to tell if they are done? When you pull out the beater and the peak stands straight up without falling at all, OR you can hold the bowl upside down and nothing moves. I then cut my vanilla bean down the center and scrape out the seeds into the egg whites, and add the vanilla extract. You do not have to use vanilla beans! Just extract will still make a delicious macaron! Give it a couple more quick beats, and then get out a spatula and your dry ingredients.
You’re going to dump all the dry in there, and then fold them in. If it makes you feel better, you can do it in three parts. But I like just getting it over with. For this recipe, it worked. You don’t want to over mix, but you want to make sure its all incorporated. It takes about 20-30 strokes, and I usually end up doing a figure eight motion through the batter. When its all mixed, it will have the consistency of a very thick but still pourable milkshake. Other people often say it has the consistency of lava. I’ve never actually seen lava, so I’ll take their word for it.
Now we’re onto the fun part!
Pour your mixture into a large resealable bag or disposable piping bag. Snip off the corner (or end) and then use your parchment circles as a guide to pipe the macarons onto the pan. If you end up with a little “peak” on top of your cookie, don’t worry – it will even out. If you’re afraid it won’t, just wet your finger in a little water and tap them down. The water will keep the meringue mixture from sticking to you. Once you’ve got the pan finished, give it a good tap on the counter. It will help get any air bubbles out.
Now, you need to let these sit for 30-60 minutes to dry out a bit. I leave mine for an hour. While they sit, you can get the filling made!
You can use any filling you like – jam would work just fine! For these, I’m making a dark chocolate amaretto ganache. Its harder to say and write than it is to make. Seriously.
You need to get 4 ounces of dark chocolate – whatever you have on hand will work. I used the remains of a Ghiradelli bar. Chop it up and put it in a heat safe bowl.
Then pour your cream (you can also use half and half) into a sauce pan and heat until its simmering. Take it off the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let it stand for one minute, and then stir it together with a whisk.
The heat from the cream will melt the chocolate. Add in the tablespoon and a half of butter, and your amaretto and mix again. It will still be pretty warm. I poured mine into a disposable piping bag (you can use a resealable baggie) that was propped up in a cup. Then put it in the fridge to firm up.
Now go sit and have a drink and surf the internet while you finishing waiting for the macarons to dry out.
When the hour is nearly up, you want to move the oven rack to the bottom third of your oven and preheat it to 350. Be sure to only put one pan at a time in the oven, and rotate the pan halfway through baking so they’re all even. You’re going to bake the macarons for 11-13 minutes, until they have risen and set. They’re going to dry out, but you don’t want them to get any color. After they’ve baked, take them out and let them cool on the baking sheet.
Once they’ve cooled, you can pull out your filling, snip off the corner of the bag, and pipe your ganache onto the flat side of a macaron. Top it with another cookie and viola – you’ve made a dessert that everyone will be drooling over! Next time, I may save back some cookies and try to fill them with ice cream like the ones I’ve seen people posting about from Les Artisans des Glaces in the France pavilion. 🙂
These are a little time consuming, but totally worth it!
- 108 grams almond flour
- 176 grams confectioner's sugar
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 80 grams granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla bean
- 4 oz dark chocolate, chopped fine
- 1 1/2 tbsp butter
- 2 tsp amaretto liqueur
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
Move your oven rack to the lower third of the oven. Preheat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, on the back of which you can draw one inch circles to help guide your piping.
Sift the almond flour and confectioner's sugar together into a bowl through a fine sieve. You can put any large pieces of almond flour left behind through a spice grinder and sift again into the bowl.
In a metal mixer bowl, beat 3 large egg whites with the granulated sugar until stiff, glossy peaks form.
Add the vanilla extract, and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the beaten egg whites. beat for 5 seconds to incorporate.
Dump all the dry ingredients into the bowl. Using a spatula, fold the mixture in, using 20-30 strokes. The mixture will be thick, with a consistency similar to a thick milkshake.
Pour the macaron mixture into a piping bag with a large round tip, or snip off the end of a disposable piping bag. You could also use a resealable plastic bag with one corner snipped off.
Pipe the meringue mixture onto your baking sheet, filling int he circles. Let these sit for 20-60 minutes until a skin forms on top. How long this takes depends on the heat and humidity of your kitchen.
Put one pan in the oven at a time. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through, until the cookies have risen and set, but not browned.
Remove from oven and let cool on the pan.
Chop your dark chocolate fine and place in a heat-safe bowl.
Heat the cream to a simmer on the stove. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for one minute.
Stir the chocolate and cream, until it has melted together. Add the butter and amaretto and whisk together until all is incorporated.
Let the mixture cool until it is thick, but still pourable. Pour into a resealable bag or piping bag and continue to let it cool until it reaches a frosting consistency.
Pipe onto the bottom of a macaron cookie, and then cover with a second cookie to make a sandwich.
Wrap any leftover cookies tightly in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container in the freezer.