Succulent Watercolor Macarons

This is the most annoyingly trendy post, I know. And when I set out to make this recipe, I really intended on only painting “watercolor” flowers, but succulents are so darn cute I couldn’t stop! Anyway- still got about 20 inches of snow on the ground here in DC. I know other cities get this amount of snow on the reg, but the nation’s capital was NOT prepared for this. First snow plow sighting was 72 hours after the snow started…72 HOURS! Needless to say, I got a lot done in the kitchen this weekend.

This post is really about edible watercolor painting technique, but with it comes more learnings about “macaronage”. Some tips:

  • Using food coloring (gel or liquid) in macaron shells requires the baking time to be almost doubled. Totally doable, but if it is your first time I recommend sticking to the basics.
  • You’ll find slightly different recipes everywhere, but they are all the same. Pick a recipe that requires a kitchen scale, and stick with it.
  • Bang the shit outta those pans! Getting all the air bubbles out is imperative.
  • Let macarons cool completely before removing from the sheet.
  • If all macarons have cracked tops: you over whipped the merengue, or overmixed the batter. If only some macarons have cracked tops: that was from inconsistency in batter. It may have been unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl that weren’t incorporated. Make good use of those 30 folds- get all contents off the sides of the bowl and into your batter!

With that, here’s my go-to recipe:
4 ounces (115g) blanched almonds or almond flour
8 ounces (230g) powdered sugar
5 ounces egg whites (144g), give two days to breathe in the fridge, then bring to room temperature before using them.
2 1/2 ounce (72g) sugar
the scrapings of 1 whole vanilla bean
1/2 tsp (2g) kosher salt

The Shells

1. Measure the almond flour and powdered sugar, and place together in the food processor. Pulse on and off for a minute, or until the mixture is homogenous in color and there is no almond flour stuck to the bottom of the bowl.

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2. Sift the mixture carefully and you should end up with about 2 teaspoons of these sneaky little pieces of almond. Too big to go through the sieve, too small to get chopped by the processor. Dispose of the extra almond nibs. Leave the sifted mixture in a bowl and set aside.

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3. Place the aged room temp egg whites, sugar, vanilla bean, and salt in the electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

It is VERY important there is no remnants of oil on the attachment or in your bowl. I’ve wasted dozens of eggs due to oil-in-the-merengue disease, so I actually bought a separate bowl and only use it for oil free recipes (a little bit crazy I know).

Whip according to the following steps-

SPEED 4 –> 3 minutes

SPEED 7 –> 3 minutes

SPEED 8 –> 3 minutes (after this step is when you add any food coloring or flavoring extracts)

SPEED 10 –> 1 minute

The mixture should look like a smooth, shiny marshmallow fluff consistency. If at any point you see the mixture start to break apart or get a bubble-bath-foam texture, stop right away and you may be able to salvage it. Foamy is okay, but when it starts to break apart instead of being a cohesive mixture… that ain’t good.

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hello, beautiful 🙂edited_12864. Unfortunately no pics of this step. Shake the merengue off of the whisk and pour ENTIRE dry mixture into the bowl at once. Now you are going to do the classic macaron fold. Fold for appx 30 strokes- alternating between folding the dry mixture with the egg mixture, and then mashing the mixture on the side of the bowl with your spatula. Fold, mash, fold, mash. Go slowly….check your mixture after every stroke…..and make sure to get every bit (even the edges of the bowl) mixed in.

The mixture shouldn’t be runny, but should be cohesive and smooth enough that when dolloped, the dollop takes 20 seconds to re-join the mixture.

5. Place in a piping bag fitted with a wide tip (I didn’t use one this time). If you’re not used to controlling a piping bag, I would fill halfway and do a few batches.

edited_12886. Pipe small symmetrical circles by keeping the piping bag still and pushing until your circle is a little less than 1/4 inch thick. Do not move the piping bag in a circle while you pipe or your macarons will look like snail shells. Your macarons will expand so give them space- I got a little impatient below.

7. Now the fun part- take your pans immediately and BANG them against the counter 4 or 5 times. You should see tiny little air bubbles escaping from the top.

8. Let sit for 30 minutes before baking.edited_1289

9. Bake at 300* (some ovens need 315*, know your oven!) for 18 minutes. LET COOL before you even try to touch these puppiesedited_1291

The Filling

I did a basic buttercream for the frosting and then used homemade blackberry jam that a co-worker made and canned this summer! Thanks Dave!

8 tbsp butter

4 cups powdered sugar

3 tbsp whipping cream

1/2 cup jam

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The watercolor- use small NEW paintbrushes and use drops of gel food coloring as your paint. Mix plenty of water with each color and experiment from there! At first, my colors were too vibrant so I continued to add water. Here’s my “canvas”:

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Roommate even helped paint some! She lived in Paris and has a deep love for three things- baseball, french macarons, and cheerios.

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I’ve made french macarons many a time and continue to learn new things/tips every time. I was super happy with these because they passed all of the french macaron criteria: the perfectly smooth top, exactly the same size (thanks to my new silpat), and they grew beautiful little feet at the bottom. Can’t wait to play with some valentines macarons!

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