Vanilla Macarons with French Buttercream


Vanilla is probably the most versatile flavour in the whole world. Vanilla extract or vanilla beans are added to pretty much every dessert and baked good, even if the overall flavour is something like pumpkin, chocolate, or strawberry. It just makes every other flavour taste better.

And yet, vanilla gets a bad rap. It's 'boring', 'plain', and 'average' to some people. The fact that it is such a widely used flavour makes it nothing special. I'm here to tell you that that is wrong! Vanilla is a delicious, intense, and wonderful flavour. Have you ever smelled a vanilla bean? It's like sniffing those smelly markers back in elementary school, you couldn't get enough. You just keep on sniffing until eventually you get marker on your nose.


Vanilla is a strong, independent flavour that don't need no other flavours! Vanilla is classic, simple, and elegant, not boring. It's about time that vanilla is recognized for the amazing flavour it is and these macarons are the perfect way to do that. 


If I'm being honest here, I had my first macaron last week. I've been dying to make macarons for months but I figured that if I didn't know what a really good one tasted like, how will I know if I made bad ones? And I couldn't have just any macaron. It had to be one of the best.


So, last week, on a miserable, rainy day, I went to one of the nicest bakeries I know of and bought myself six macarons - three vanilla and three chocolate. I didn't want to go crazy on the flavours on my first time. I ate one on the way to the book store and was enthralled. The crunchy exterior, chewy interior, and creamy filling was unexpected in the best way possible. Despite the rain and the fact that my hood was making my forehead itchy, I was incredibly happy. 

I restrained myself and waited until I was out of the rain to eat the rest, but it was mostly so my macarons wouldn't get wet. I sat on the ground at the bookstore, reading baking books, and eating macarons.  I'm not a 6 year old, I promise.


I found an amazing baking book that day, Bouchon Bakery. Everything about it seems wonderful - the layout, the recipes, the photos, the notes! Beautiful. It has everyday recipes - cookies and muffins - but also more complex and challenging recipes - croissants, various types of bread, puff pastry, etc. I tend to be intimidated by those recipes, but the notes and tips that Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel give demystify them. There's adorable personal notes of childhood memories or visiting local farmers.


I may have only made one recipe from the book so far (this recipe), but I'm in love. Another thing that I really like about it is that everything is given in both measurements and weight, including eggs. In this recipe, they don't give the typical '4 eggs', it's a weight or a measurement, which doesn't always add up to a whole number of eggs. This makes everything more precise and controlled, as eggs can come in a variety of sizes. When you think about it, weighing ingredients is a much more efficient and precise way of baking.


Macarons are notoriously temperamental, but please don't let that put you off. When I was mixing the ingredients before piping them, I was sure that I had added too much meringue and it was going to be a massive macaron failure. But, lo and behold, they worked! They were not exactly perfect in appearance, but for my first time, I think I did a pretty good job. Even if you think you've done something wrong, keep on going because they might still turn out great.


Ugh, the buttercream. I'm usually not a big fan of American buttercream. I find it too sweet and the texture is just not right. But this. This buttercream. I mean, the French are the masters of butter and cream, so it's no surprise that they make a mean buttercream. It's like creme anglaise, but as a frosting. It's velvety, smooth, creamy, and rich. I can only imagine what a cake frosted with this would taste like. Oh my.


The recipes from this book are very detailed and long. It's intimidating to look at a recipe and see paragraphs and paragraphs of instructions, I know, but it's just minor details and tips for making the best macarons possible. Give it a read through and you'll see it's not that bad.

Vanilla Macarons with French Buttercream
Recipe from Bouchon Bakery

French Buttercream
38 g (3 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon) granulated sugar
38 g (3 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon) granulated sugar
63 g (1/4 cup + 1/2 teaspoon) egg yolks
75 g (1/4 cup + 2 1/4 teaspoons) whole milk
250 g (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, at room temperature
1/2 vanilla bean

Vanilla Macarons
212 g (1 3/4 cups + 2 1/2 tabespoons) almond flour/meal
212 g (1 3/4 cups + 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons) powdered sugar
82 g (1/4 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons) egg whites
90 g (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) egg whites
1 vanilla bean
236 g (1 cup + 3 tablespoons) granulated sugar
158 g (2/3 cup) water

First, make the buttercream. If you wish, the buttercream can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. Take the buttercream out of the fridge thirty minutes before you need to use it and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow it to soften and then mix on low speed until it is the proper consistency.

Whisk 38 grams sugar and the yolks together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine the milk and remaining 38 grams of sugar in a medium saucepan, set over medium heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar. When the milk is just below a simmer, remove the pan from the heat and, whisking constantly, pour it into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the pan and place over medium heat. Whisking constantly, bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for 1 minute, lowering the heat if necessary to prevent the mixture from curdling. It should be very thick.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer. fit the mixer with a whisk attachment, turn the mixture to medium, and whisk for about 8 minutes, until the mixture is completely cool.

Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, to the egg yolk mixture. If at any point the mixture looks broken, increase the speed to re-emulsify it, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter. Check the consistency: if the buttercream is too loose to hod its shape, it should be refrigerated for a few hours to harden, then beaten again to return it to the proper consistency.

Scrape the seeds from half a vanilla bean into the buttercream and fold in. 

The macarons need to be as close in size as possible and a template is the easiest way to ensure that. Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a work surface with the long side facing you. Trace four evenly spaced 2 1/4 inch circles along the top edge (these make large macarons, modify the size if you wish, but keep in mind, the baking time will be shorter). Make sure to leave 1 inch of space between them. Trace three circles below each of those four, to make 3 x 4 macarons. Turn the parchment over and lay it on a sheet pan. Lift up each corner of the parchment and spray with non-stick spray to keep it from blowing up while the cookies are baking. Repeat with a second sheet.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl and whisk together. Make a well in the center, leaving a layer of flour at the bottom. Pour in the 82 grams egg whites and combine with a spatula. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the mixture, stirring until evenly distributed. Set aside.

Place the remaining 90 grams egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Combine the 236 grams sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 203 F/110 C.

Letting the syrup continue to cook, add a pinch of sugar to the egg whites, turn the mixer to medium speed, and whip to soft peaks. If the whites reach soft peaks before the syrup reaches 248 F/120 C, reduce the speed to the lowest setting, just to keep them moving.

When the syrup reaches 248 F/120 C, remove the pan from the heat. Turn the mixer to medium-low speed and slowly add the syrup, pouring it between the side of the bowl and the whisk. The meringue will deflate. Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5 minutes, or until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Although the bowl will still be warm, the meringue should have cooled. If not, continue to whip until it is cool.

Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond mixture, then continue adding the whites a little at  time (you may not use them all) until when you fold a portion of the batter over on itself, the "ribbon" slowly moves. The mixture shouldn't be so stiff that it holds its shape without moving at all, but it shouldn't be so loose that it dissolves into itself and does not maintain the ribbon; it is better for the mixture to be sightly stiff than too loose.

Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip. Hold the bag upright 1/2 inch above the center of one of the traced circles and pipe out enough to fill in the circle. Lift away the pastry bag and fill the remaining circles on the first pan. Lift up the sheet pan and tap the bottom of the pan to spread the batter evenly and smooth any peaks left by the bag.

Place the sheet pan in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees again.

Pipe the remaining meringue mixture into the circles of the second sheet pan and bake as directed above. Let cool completely.

Transfer the buttercream to the pastry bag with the 3/8 inch tip. Remove the macarons from the parchment paper. Turn half of them over. Starting in the center, pipe 15 g/1 tablespoon of buttercream in a spiral pattern on one upside down macaron, not quite reaching the edges. Top with a second macaron and gently press to spread the buttercream to the edges. Repeat with remaining macarons and filling.

The macarons are best if wrapped individually in a few layers of plastic wrap and frozen for at least 24 hours or up to 2 weeks. Defrost in the refrigerator for 3 hours, then bring to room temperature before seving. They can be served the day they are made or stored in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 2 days.


24 comments:

  1. how many egg yolks did you use for the buttercream filling? also when can i add food coloring?

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  2. also how many small sized macaroons will the filling make for your recipe?

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    1. Egg yolks can range in weight from about 10 g to 25 g, depending on the size of your eggs. It's tough to say how many exactly because it can vary so much. I used 4 yolks, but I would highly suggest weighing your yolks as you go, just in case yours are smaller or bigger than the ones I used.

      If you want to add food colouring to the shells, add it to the meringue after it's cooled. If you want to add food colouring to the buttercream, add it at the very end, once the buttercream has come together.

      When I made these macarons, I only had about 50 g of filling left over, so it's a pretty good fit. The recipe I used made roughly 20 completed macarons (40 individual shells), but I made mine 2 1/4 inch in diameter, which is quite large. If yours are smaller, you will have more.

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. Wow! My mouth is watering, can't wait to make.

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  5. how many servings does this make?

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  6. It depends on how big you make your macaron shells. When I make this recipe, I make my shells about 1 inch in diameter. This will be me roughy 18-20 completed macarons, meaning I would have 36-40 individual shells.

    The buttercream recipe makes a little more than you need for that amount of shells.

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  7. I made this recipe twice and came out failed..

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    1. I'm bummed to hear that! Macarons are pretty tricky, though. You have to follow the instructions very precisely, especially when it comes to the egg whites and sugar syrup. That's what is going to make or break the macaroons. It's also tricky trying to get the ribbon right. If you're willing to give it another go, try and have all your ingredients and tools ready ahead of time. For example, before I even start the recipe, I do the following:

      - Circles traced and parchment placed on baking sheets
      - Piping bag with tip placed in a pitcher with the lip folded down
      - Candy thermometer (a Thermapen, in my case) ready and waiting
      - Perfectly clean and dry saucepan (for sugar) and mixing bowl and whip (for egg whites)
      - Oven preheated
      - Mixing bowls out on the counter
      - Silicone spatula out on the counter

      Only when I've done all that do I start measuring our ingredients. Even then, I measure everything out before I turn on the heat on anything. You want to have everything ready before you start so when you do start, you just do the recipe and focus on that, not focusing on, "Oh, where did I put that bowl? I had my spatula here just a minute ago... Ah, I forgot to trace my circles!" and then having your sugar syrup go over temperature while you're doing those things. Getting everything ready before hand is called mis-en-place.

      Now, I'm not saying you didn't do any of this, but this is a common problem I find. You may have done all this, but simply overworked the batter. Or your oven might be running too hot (mine does). But making sure you have your mis-en-place is something that everyone should do with every recipe.

      I hope this helps! If you have any questions, please ask! I've made this recipe abut a dozen times and it's worked every time for me, so I am pretty confident that it's a good recipe.

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    2. Hi :)
      If your "fail" means the macarons have no "feet", then maybe you can try to leave the batter to sit for about 20-30minutes after piping it out.
      Something else you can try to do is to check whether your oven has constant temperature or the temperature you want it to be at. You may set the temp to 300 but it may end up being 270. Getting to know your oven is a trick to baking.

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  8. Instead of vanilla bean, how much vanilla extract should I add for as a substitute?

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    1. In the buttercream, I would say about 1 to 2 teaspoons. In the macarons, only about 1/2 teaspoon.

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    2. Is there a difference if I use vanilla essence or powder? It'll still end up tasting the same right?

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    3. Vanilla powder is dried vanilla beans, ground very finely into a powder whereas essence (or extract) is made from soaking the beans in an alcohol. Vanilla powder will be much stronger, so you would use quite a bit less. I'm not sure on the exact conversion for extract to powder, but it's a flavour thing, so I would add a small amount, taste, then add more, taste, etc. As long as you don't go too overboard with vanilla powder, it will all taste the same.

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    4. Wow that's really informative. Thanks for the help!

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  9. Hi! I loved the recipe! The flavor is great, only that they did not get the little feet and almost all of them cracked. Do you know what could have gone wrong?
    Thank you!

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    1. The cracked feet is a common problem with macarons - I've had a few batches of cracked ones! The most likely culprit is that your oven is too hot. You may be setting it to the perfect temperature but it may actually be hotter than that! Lower it by about 15 degrees or double up on your baking sheets.

      Another possibility is the consistency of the batter. They also may have been overworked. Its better to be too stiff than too loose.

      It could also be that you left the macarons to sit for too long after piping and before baking. This is less likely, but still a possibility.

      I know, its tough to not have an exact problem and solution. Lots of different problems with macarons result in the same faults so it can be tough to "diagnose" the problem.

      I really hope you give them another go and they turn out well! It can be frustrating to put all the time and effort into something that doesnt turn out well, but thats how it goes sometimes. Practice, practice, practice!

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    2. Hi Megan! Thank you for replying, I'll take note on all of the points you mentioned and I'll keep on trying until i get the perfect ones, my family will be eating lots of sugar lol :D
      Again big thank you for your advice, I really appreciate it :D

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  10. The buttercream was fabulous, and preferred over the chocolate ganache I made at the same time. I love this buttercream recipe because it's using the yolks from the macaron recipe. I added rosewater to the buttercream and it was substantial enough to hold the extra liquid.

    Once I get a candy thermometer, I will attempt the sugar syrup version here. For now, I'm using the "baker's" macaron, which cheats with granulated sugar in the whipped egg whites.

    Thank you for sharing, the pictures are gorgeous. Hi from Vancouver!

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    1. I'm glad you like it! Yeah, it's pretty handy that you can use the leftover yolks so they don't go to waste.

      That's actually just a macaron using a french meringue instead of an italian meringue. They look a bit different but are mostly the same! If you can make them with a french meringue, you can make them with an italian meringue!

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  11. Last weekend I decided to treat myself (birthday treat so calories don't count, really, yep) went for a drive up to Yountville & made the pilgrimage to Bouchon Bakery. After about 30 min of baking in the summer sun listening to the bubble headed banter of tourists in line with me and being tortured by the scent of bread baking (yeah, they bake throughout the day it seems now filling downtown Yountville with an amazing aroma) I had my turn at the magical pastry counter. Everything I've ever tasted at Bouchon has exceeded expectations, I could fill several pages with loving descriptions of eclairs, tarts & almond croissants but my heart really belongs to the macarons. I stick with vanilla & pistachio, classic & oh so tasty. They've introduced macarons enrobed in lovely chocolate, those are amazing but I find the basic vanilla to be the best. Those jems are little time machines, one bite transports me back to my childhood when flavors were so much more intense. Wow, just wow. I stocked up & stored a few carefully wrapped in my freezer. Last night I enjoyed the last of my stash, this morning, over breakfast I came across your blog. Yay!

    There's a number of fine places for pastry in the area, quite a few try to imitate Bouchon, none succeed.
    Thanks Megan!

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    1. Oh my gosh, I'm so jealous!! I absolutely love the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook and one of my chef instructor at pastry school was a pastry chef at Bouchon, but I have never been there myself! I've made so many recipes from the book and every one has been just awesome, so I wish I could go there and have the real thing.

      You should make these and let me know how they compare to the actual ones! One day I'll get there and try them myself, but for now I will just have to make do with their recipe.

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    2. I'm planning to go back at the end of the month when I go to Calistoga on my annual vacation, I'll do a side by side tasting then. Hey, any excuse for a visit to that place is a good one LoL.
      You must pay a visit to the Napa valley once in your life, so much to experience. there's a little bakery in St Helena, called model bakery, I've been going there ever since was a wee foodie. They're famous for their English muffins & rightly so I might add. But I have fond memories of their coconut macaroons, those beauties were unlike anything I've found since (sadly they no longer make these treats). I've tried to figure out the recipe for years now but to no avail. They were these bumpy little mounds that had this wonderful brown outer shell of crunchy caramelized goodness and held moist coconut filling much tastier than the filling in a Mounds (tm) candy bar. Hmm, I love food memories

      Have a great one
      M

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