Vanilla Bean Almond Macarons? Oui! Oui!

Kiddo rarely asks for my help these days...unless you count help with his hair, help finding his shoes, help ironing his shirt...especially with school work.

vanilla bean almond macarons from @bakeat350
Last week, he came home from school and said that in his final French class of the school year, they'd be having a party with French food and could I... 
Before the sentence was out of his mouth, I think I shouted, "MACARONS!"

An excuse to make macarons?  I'm on it!

And yes, I packaged them in leftover treat packaging from Christmas.  Not pictured, the snowflake cellophane. 

vanilla bean almond macarons from @bakeat350
I used Mindy Cone's book Gourmet French Macarons for recipe inspiration this time, and I always love to read Stella's wisdom on mac making each time before baking them.

For me, making a template on parchment by tracing circles is key for macarons of even(ish) size.  Last time I made macarons, they lifted so neatly off of the parchment that I wiped down the sheets and saved them.  Good idea IN THEORY, except that apparently I didn't store them so nicely and they got wrinkled.  

Of course, I tried to use them still...and this happened.  Misshapen macs:
vanilla bean macarons piped photo vanillabeanmacarons1of11.jpg
Don't be like me.

vanilla bean macarons piped 2 photo vanillabeanmacarons2of11.jpg
{You'll find a picture of a (non-wrinkled) template in this post.  Also, you'll need a scale for this recipe...this is the one I have.)

vanilla bean almond macarons from @bakeat350
print recipe photo printrecipe.jpg
French Vanilla Almond Macarons
{adapted from Gourmet French Macarons}

for the macarons:
200 grams powdered sugar
110 grams almond flour
100 grams egg whites
pinch kosher salt
35 grams superfine (caster) sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

for the vanilla bean buttercream filling:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 TBSP milk

Use a 1 and 1/2" cookie cutter to trace a templates on 2 sheets of parchment paper.  Flip the paper over and line cookie sheets.  You should get about 20 circles per sheet.

Process the powdered sugar and almond flour in a food processor until finely ground.  Sift the mixture.  If more than 2 tablespoons remain in the sifter, too large to sift, process again.  If 2 tablespoons or less remain, just pour those larger pieces into the bowl with the sifted mixture.  Set aside.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and pinch salt on medium-low for 3 minutes.  The mixture will look slightly foamy.

Increase the speed to medium and whip until soft peaks form (about 3 minutes).  Slowly, pour in the superfine sugar.  Once all of the sugar has been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, increase the speed to medium high and whip another 3 minutes or until stiff peaks form.

Add in the vanilla bean paste and beat on high for one more minute.  The meringue should clump in the center of the whisk attachment.  Tap the beater on the side of the bowl to release the meringue.  Remove bowl from the mixer.

Dump about 1/3 of the powdered sugar/almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold with a silicone spatula.  Once that is incorporated, add the remaining mixture and continue folding.  You want to deflate the egg whites, so no need to be super gentle.

Stir just until the batter comes to a lava-like consistency.  You'll want to drop a ribbon of batter back into the bowl and have it incorporate back into the rest in 20-30 seconds.  Batter that is too stiff will leave you with peaks on your macarons...too loose and the batter will run when piped.  Towards the end of folding, evaluate every 1 or 2 stokes.

Transfer this mixture to a piping a fitted with a large round tip, such as a #12.  Pipe the batter onto the parchment-lined sheets using the templates as a guide.  The batter will spread just a bit.

Once the sheets are filled, rap the sheets on the counter, rotating the sheets and rapping a few times. ("I said a hip hop, Hippie to the hippie, The hip, hip a hop, and you don't stop, a rock it to the bang bang boogie, say, up jump the boogie, to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat..." not that kind of rap.)
Let the macarons rest for 15 minutes or so while the oven preheats to 325.

Bake the macarons for 10-12 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through.  Check for doneness by gently lifting he macarons from the parchment.  If they release easily, they are done.  If not, pop back in the oven for another minute or two.

Cool on the pans, then gently lift from the parchment.  Use a thin spatula if needed. (The vanilla bean paste can make these a little stickier than normal.)

Refrigerate the cooled shells, or fill first, then refrigerate.  

Make the filling:

Cream the butter and powdered sugar together until fluffy.  Add in the vanilla bean paste, almond extract and salt.  Mix until combined.  Beat in the milk until smooth.

Transfer the filling to a piping bag, snip off the tip.  Pipe onto the bottoms of half of the macaron shells.  Sandwich with the remaining shells.
vanilla bean almond macarons from @bakeat350 Refrigerate at least 12 hours before serving. (OK, go ahead and test a few.)  Macarons tastes best after they've been refrigerated 1-2 days.  

WARNING: this makes more filling than you'll need.  I found myself eating the extra straight out of the bowl with a spoon. 

vanilla bean almond macarons from @bakeat350
Macarons?  Oui!  Oui!

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