For the Macarons
- 1 cup super-fine almond flour
- 3/ 4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon meringue powder
- 3 large egg whites
- 1/ 2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/ 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the Chocolate Filling
- 1/ 2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/ 3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, (preferably Hershey's Special Dark)
- 2/ 3 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon meringue powder
- 1/ 8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon milk, or cream, if needed
To Make the Macarons
Prepare your baking sheet with a parchment paper template. Turn your parchment over and use a coin or another round item measuring 1 1/2 inches in diameter and a marker to trace circles onto the paper, leaving about an inch in between each circle. Flip the paper back over (so that the marked side is underneath and does not touch the macarons).
Sift together almond flour and powdered sugar through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Whisk in the meringue powder and set aside.
Set a pan or stock pot filled with a few inches of water on the stove and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, combine the egg whites and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. (If you don't have a stand mixer, you can just use a regular mixing bowl, but I highly recommend a stand mixer for whipping the meringue.) When the water is simmering, set the bowl over the hot water and whisk constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved (feel it with your finger to make sure there's no grittiness from the sugar remaining) and the egg whites are frothy; this should take about 2 minutes.
Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and sugar on high speed until the meringue forms stiff peaks that do not flop over when you lift the whisk out; this could take 4-5 minutes. Scrape the bowl down occasionally and check if you have stiff peaks, then continue whipping until the meringue is stiff.
Add the vanilla bean paste and the sifted almond flour and powdered sugar, then beat on medium speed for 10 seconds. Now use a spatula to finish mixing and to make sure the batter is mixed correctly; using your spatula, scrape the sides and fold the batter into itself, repeating until the consistency flows off the spatula in a very slow drizzle. Many people compare the correct consistency to hot lava flowing, and if you can drizzle a figure 8 without the batter breaking, then stop mixing; it's important not to under-mix or over-mix.
Fit a piping bag with a large round piping tip (I used Wilton #2A) and scoop the batter into the bag. To pipe your macarons, position your tip directly in the center of your template, perpendicular to the baking sheet (holding the top at an angle can result in an oblong or misshapen macaron). Squeeze the batter just until it almost fills the circle, then release the pressure from your hands and give a quick swirl on top (there are many, many YouTube videos you can watch to see the technique). After you've piped all the macarons, bang the pan firmly against the counter 5-6 times to pop any air bubbles; rotate the pan and bang it again.
Now you need to let the macarons sit and dry on the counter for 30 minutes before baking. While the macarons are drying, preheat the oven to 300ºF, making sure a rack is positioned in the center of the oven, not too near the top or bottom heating elements.
Bake the macarons for 14-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Cool the macarons on the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
To Make the Chocolate Filling
With an electric mixer, mix the ingredients on low to combine, then beat on medium speed for 4-5 minutes until very light and fluffy.
Inspect your macarons, separating the best ones from the less-than-perfect ones. The pretty ones can be used for the tops, and any that may have cracked, or have little bumps, etc, can be used for the bottoms. Match up your tops and bottoms, according to size. Pipe the buttercream (recipe below) onto one half, then press the other cookie on top. Store the filled cookies in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Let your egg whites "age" a bit by separating the yolks from the whites and storing the whites in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for a day or two. This step will dehydrate the whites a little, allowing for a better stiff meringue.
- Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar through a mesh sieve. If you don't, you could end up with lumps in your batter, which don't make for a pretty macaron.
- Watch the consistency of your batter carefully after you mix the almond flour and powdered sugar into your meringue. Do not under-mix or over-mix; the consistency should be very viscous, like slowly-flowing lava.
- After piping your macarons, do not skip the step of banging your pan several times on the counter to pop the air bubbles. Not just a gentle tap; give it a hard bang. Then let them dry at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
- Once the cookies are baked, cooled and filled, they should be stored in the refrigerator. Cold from the fridge, they're wonderfully soft and chewy. They can even be made in advance and frozen for later.