Almond Praline Macarons

Macarons with almond praline crunch vanilla buttercream.

I’ve been making this buttercream forever. One day when I was first out of pastry school I was playing around in the kitchen and decided to throw some of this into a vanilla buttercream and it quickly became my favorite flavor. I have used this flavor a lot in chocolate layer cakes when I want to break up all the flavors and not have everything chocolate chocolate. The praline once you grind it up in the processor; lasts- dare I say almost forever; but as food safety I guess I should really say less; but being honest I’ve had it stored well over a couple months as long as its kept in an airtight container. You can vary the nuts- using pecans, peanuts etc- but almond is still my favorite.

Praline:

1/2 Cup sugar

2 Tbsp. water

3/4 Cup whole almonds

Prepare a 1/2 sheet lined with a Silpat liner or similar silicon liner. In a small saucepan place the water, then add the sugar and stir with a clean finger until mixture is like wet sand. Place over medium heat and allow to come to a boil and heat until it is medium-dark amber color, stopping occasionally to swirl the pan above off the heat to distribute an even color. Once desired color is reached; take off the heat and stir in the almonds moving quickly to ensure they are coated completely, then turn out onto the sheet pan and distribute in an even layer by pushing gently with a heat proof spatula, and allow to cool completely. Once cooked break apart into about 2 inch pieces and place in a food processor and pulse until you get small pieces; similar size pieces you’d find in a chunky peanut butter as well as a large portion pulsed to very fine. Store in an airtight container. I like to keep some of it in a more coarse texture too to roll the finished macs in. I love to have extra on hand for other uses in baked goods.

Praline Swiss Meringue Buttercream

(Makes 2 Cups buttercream )

3 egg whites

3/4 Cup sugar,

small pinch of salt

2 sticks (1 Cup) unsalted butter, softened, but still slightly cool to touch

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste

1/2 Cup of the prepared praline crunch from above. (You will have some leftover)

Prepare a bain marie and place the sugar, salt, and egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer (I have a Kitchen Aide); so if your bowl doesn’t fit over a saucepan place a metal or glass bowl over your pan that allows it to fit without touching the water in the pot. Place the mixer bowl over the bain marie and heat the mixture until it reaches 160° F. Take off the heat place on the mixer with whisk attachment until you reach a stiff meringue. Add in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated, then mix in the vanilla. Change to a paddle attachment and mix until smooth. Stir in the praline crunch by hand. Add more if you like a more pronounced flavor. Note you will have leftover praline- keep in an airtight container- it will keep for several weeks.

Macaron Shells

124 g confectioners sugar

140 g almond flour

108 g fresh egg whites (I don’t age mine)

110 g granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

  1. In a food processor place the almond flour and confectioners sugar and run for 30 seconds. Stop and scrape down the sides so the mixture settles into the processor bowl. Repeat this 2 more times, then sift mixture through a strainer (it doesn’t have to be fine) over a large bowl (I use a 5 quart size stainless steel bowl). Preheat the oven to 300° F convection, 325° F for non convection setting. (If you want to try a different drying technique and/temperature see below about drying). Prepare two baking sheets with Silpat mats. I use these mats by Velesco (you can get 2 for 13 dollars on Amazon).
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer place the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar and whisk by hand to combine. Place over a ban marie and stir gently for about 5 minutes until the mixture reaches about 130 F or when you touch the mixture with your index and thumb fingers you don’t feel any sugar crystals. Remove from the heat and place on the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and start the meringue by running mixer on power level 4 (Kitchen Aide) and run for about 3 minutes.  Stop once to scrape the sides of the bowl to push down the mixture that appears on the sides.
  3. Increase mixer then to power level 6 and run for 3 minutes.~ 3 minutes.
  4. Stop mixer and with a bamboo skewer or toothpick add in a bit of desired gel food color (optional).
  5. Increase mixer to power level high (10) and run until the meringue is stiff peaks and it has started leaving tracks in the meringue and a good portion has collected inside the whisk . A sign that meringue is ready is there will be a good amount collected within the whisk and if you turn the bowl upside down the meringue will not slip or move. If you stop the mixer and tap the whisk gently on the side of the mixer bowl it will look like a bird beak; the meringue is stiff but it has a slight hooked curve when holding the whisk horizontally. If the color does not appear to be mixer to your liking at this point I add in any color and mix gently by; being careful not to overmix.
  6. Add one half of almond flour/sugar mix and start folding with a rubber spatula until mixture starts to look cohesive. Add in the remaining half and continue to gently fold, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. After the almond/sugar mixture is all added, I do about 4 reps of where I smash the mixture against the walls of the bowl with either my spatula or bowl scraper, stopping after each time to test the “flow” of the batter.. The batter is perfect when you lift up the spatula and tip the pointed end of the spatula down and ribbons of batter fall smoothly back into the bowl. I like to gauge its ready when I can count 6-7 ribbons falling without breaking and I can “draw” a figure 8 with the batter when lifting the spatula and letting it fall into the bowl. Fill your pastry bag by using a heavy tall cup or mason jar to hold your pastry bag with the top folded over the glass. When preparing your bag after you drop in your round tip (I use Ateco 804), twist the bag right above the larger end of the tip and push it down into tip. Fold the top 4 inches of the bag over the jar or glass.
  7. Let the batter fall right into the bottom of the bag and continue filling to ensure you don’t get air bubbles. When ready to pipe and all of the batter is in the bag, twist the top of the bag and when ready to pipe, push down with your dominant hand to force the bottom of the tip to open.
  8. Pipe the batter onto prepared baking sheet with 30 macarons per sheet. Six across the long side, and five rows perpendicular. Take the sheet pan and let it drop onto the counter about 5-7 times, then look for any visible air bubbles and pop with a toothpick or bamboo skewer.
  9. I bake the macarons one tray at a time in a preheated (convection oven ) for NON convection oven* you’ll want to play around and determine what the perfect temp for you is; generally it would be 20 degrees hotter than convection) for about 15 minutes or until the cookie does not wiggle when attempting to check by carefully grabbing both sides of a cookie and gently testing. Let the tray rest on a wire rack and then bake the second tray. Cool the cookies completely and pipe the buttercream between two cookies and sandwich together.
  10. I recently started drying my macs in a different way using the technique known by “Sugarbean” on Youtube. She has a technique whereby she dries her macs in lower degree oven for 2-3 minutes with the door ajar and then she increases the temp and bakes at the higher temperature. After a few thousand trials #kiddingnotkidding I finally (for me) arrived at the perfect temp for my oven at a convection temp of 248° F for drying and then 293° F for baking and here is the process I use.

Drying macs w/ oven method: (known as the Sugar Bean method). She has videos on you tube if you search for her.

I preheat my oven to 248° degrees F before I have piped my macs. I place one tray in the oven and immediately turn off the oven, then open the oven and place something like an oven mitt or something to keep it ajar a couple inches. Then I immediately turn back on the oven at 248° F again, and time for 2-3 minutes. After 3 minutes I close the oven door and turn up the oven to 293° F. Once the oven temp comes up to 293° F, I then start timing my bake time for 15 minutes. After the bake time I open the door and check a macaron; if it’s super wiggly still I bake for another minute. If it barely wiggles or not at all, I turn off the oven and open the oven door ajar and time for another 2-3 minutes; “Sugar bean” calls this the “oven shower”. After the 3 minutes, I remove the tray and then let them cool over a wire rack. Now; since the second tray has already been drying at room temperature; I usually only oven dry for 1.5 minutes and repeat the bake as I did for the first tray.

*A word about oven temperatures: EVERY one’s oven is different and after painstaking doing several batches of macarons I determined that in MY oven 293 F convection setting is best for me. Check your oven temperature against a thermometer placed in the middle of your oven. Some people bake there’s at 285, 290, 310 etc. unfortunately it’s something that you have to play around with and determine what is best for you and your oven. 


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