Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches

Yesterday was my sister’s birthday. Since I wasn’t able to see her in person, I decided to make her these ice cream sandwiches as a virtual “Happy Birthday” of sorts. It’s technically arriving one day late, but then again so is her birthday present…better late than never, right?For the longest time, my sister has wanted me to do a post on French Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches. I think she might have come across some of these tasty treats in a swanky part of Orange County somewhere. I’ve never tried one myself, but to me, an elegant, ice cream-filled French macaron certainly sounded like a recipe worth trying!

The key to making an attractive Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich is to use a cookie cutter not only as a piping guide for your macarons, but also as a tool to cut out thick wedges of ice cream. Big or small, round or square, choose a shape that has clean lines without intricate details. And just after piping the macarons, feel free to generously scatter the funfetti and sprinkles on! As far as I’m concerned, the more kid-like and festive you make these sammies, the better!

Matcha ice cream isn’t always easy to find, so I make my own. By simply using a food processor to blend frozen vanilla Greek yogurt with sifted matcha powder, you get a healthier version of matcha ice cream–a frozen yogurt ready for shaping and re-freezing. You can technically use any ice cream you like here, just choose one that pairs well with the flavor of the chocolate macaron shell.The easiest way to fill a macaron with frozen yogurt or ice cream is by first packing softened ice cream into a 9″ x 9″ baking pan. Allow the ice cream “cake” to freeze completely before cutting out wedges with your handy cookie cutter. After constructing the sandwiches, it’s important for them to be quickly placed in the freezer to harden completely. The cookie shells and ice cream need to be same ultra-cold temperature so that you can take a bite of the sandwich without all the ice cream oozing out the sides.

For easy serving, give the sandwiches a parchment sleeve and tie of twine. It’s also a good idea to take the treats out to thaw for about 2 minutes before indulging. The ice cream will have melded with the shell by then, and the macaron will take on a tender and slightly chewy texture. If you enjoy the results, you can thank my sister for them, and perhaps even wish her a belated Happy Birthday too!

French Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches

10 sammies, each 1 1/4″ by  5″ (the # of sammies you get depends on the size of your cookie cutter)

Ingredients:

{Macaron Shells}

2 Tbsp cocoa powder

1.5 quarts (1 tub) frozen vanilla Greek yogurt

3 Tbsp matcha, sifted

sprinkles and funfetti

Equipment:

edible marker or pencil

cookie cutter, smooth or straight-edged, preferably with sides at least 1″ thick ( I used 1 1/4″ by 5″ rectangle cutter)

sifter

food processor

9″ x 9″ baking pan, fitted with parchment on bottom of pan

rubber spatula

work surface

parchment pieces and twine

Directions:

1.)  Make the Macaron Shells. To make chocolate macaron shells, substitute cocoa powder for matcha in the shell recipe. Using an edible marker or pencil, trace impressions of your cookie cutter shape on one side of the 2 sheets of parchment paper. For my sized rectangle cutter, I was able to trace 10 rectangles on each parchment piece. Turn the parchment over, and pipe the macarons to fit inside of your traced outlines, then scatter generously with sprinkles. Adjust baking time according to how small or large your cutter size is. My rectangular macaron shells took about 16 minutes to bake. After baking, set macaron shells aside to cool, then place them in an airtight container, and then into the fridge.

2.)  Make an Ice Cream “Cake.” Let the frozen Greek yogurt sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes until slightly softened. Scoop out 1/3 of the tub (1/2 a quart) into a food processor, then add 1 Tbsp of the sifted matcha powder and process until the ice cream is smooth. Pour this into the prepared baking pan, then repeat this process 2 more times. The baking pan will fit the entire tub of processed matcha ice cream. Smooth the top of the ice cream with a rubber spatula, then place the baking pan in the freezer to chill for at least 4 hours.

3.)  Make the Sandwiches. Lay the macaron shells on a work surface. Use any unattractive shells to make the bottom of the sandwiches. Remove the ice cream from the freezer. Use your cookie cutter to cut out wedges of the ice cream. Run the cutter under warm water if the ice cream doesn’t cut easily. Dry off excess water drops on the cutter with a paper towel before cutting the ice cream cake with it. Place a cut wedge of ice cream on the “bottom” macaron shells, then top with another macaron shell to make a sandwich. Freeze sandwiches in a single layer in a closed container for 4-24 hours, until completely hardened.

4.)  Store the Sandwiches. After the sandwiches are completely hardened, make a small sleeve of parchment  for the sandwich, and secure it with a tied piece of twine. Wrap the sandwiches completely with small pieces of plastic wrap, then store them in the freezer in an airtight container. The sandwiches will last for 4-6 weeks in the freezer. Let the sandwiches thaw for 2 minutes before enjoying.

Happy Birthday Melissa!

Green Tea Macarons with Red Bean Buttercream

Ah yes…yet another French macaron recipe this week!  Today it’s Green Tea French Macarons with a rich Red Bean Buttercream.  Traditional Asian flavors like grassy matcha green tea and smooth azuki red bean paste join with classic French technique here to make for one very unique and delicious macaron!

The inspiration for these macarons comes from my love of Chinese and Japanese rice cakes called mochi, which very commonly pair green tea with sweet red beans.  This is a flavor combination that has stood the test of time in the Asian dessert realm, and with this recipe I’m hoping to take these ingredients to the next level of sophistication.

I’ve seen other recipes use pure red bean paste as a filling for similarly flavored macarons, but if you’ve ever tasted red bean paste before you probably know that it is rather dense, heavy, and a bit cloying.  Since we are making this filling to pair with delicate, airy French macaron shells that are already sweet, I thought that lightening the paste into a buttercream might make for a more harmonious marriage of flavors and textures.

A hot cup of Taiwanese oolong or Japanese sencha will make this tea break complete!

I’m taking these pictures from my parent’s house today, so I’m lucky enough to use a dish from my mom’s cherished Chinese China set.  Purchased circa 1980, the set holds special meaning for me, as valuable and timeless as a piece of Wedgwood or Royal Doulton.

The better quality matcha powder you use here, the more brilliantly green your macarons will be.  If you like a more pronounced green tea taste, add up to a tablespoon more when making the macaron shells.  Be very careful not to overcook the shells as this will cause their color to become dull and brownish.

Red bean paste is found in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean markets on shelves (not refrigerated) in a standard tin can or even in sealed bags.  Make sure to look for the red beans that are already processed into a smooth paste, not the red beans still left whole (think of creamed corn vs. whole kernel corn).  Both of these varieties of red beans are available, but the paste is what we want here.  If all else fails and it’s unclear from the writing, just look at the picture on the label.  For Japanese brands, go for the azuki beans called koshian.

If you are anticipating warm weather or want a stiffer filling, add up to ¼ cup of cornstarch to the buttercream.  I only mention this because just last week in Los Angeles it hit 92 degrees in mid-November.  As a baker you never want to invest time, effort, and money into making macarons only to have the weather ruin your beautiful creations.  If you think that you need to, mix in the cornstarch to the filling one tablespoon at a time until you reach a desired piping consistency.

I am using the Italian Meringue Method for my macarons here, but feel free to use the French Meringue Method if that works out better for you.

Green Tea Macarons with Red Bean Buttercream

Makes about 35 sandwiched 1.5″ macarons.  Recipe is easily halved using a hand-held mixer instead of a stand mixer.

Ingredients:

{Green Tea Macaron Shells}

{Red Bean Buttercream}

1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

6 Tbsp smooth red bean paste

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup cornstarch (optional)

Directions:

1.)  Make macaron shells.  Feel free to add another tablespoon of green tea matcha powder if you like a stronger green tea flavor.

2.)  Make Red Bean Buttercream Filling.  In a large bowl, cream butter and powdered sugar together to a fluffy consistency.  Mix in red bean paste and vanilla extract.  If using cornstarch, gradually add one tablespoon at a time until a desired consistency is achieved.

3.)  Pair macaron shells together based on size and shape, then fill one cookie of each pair with a dollop of buttercream using a 1/2 inch pastry tip and pastry bag.  Sandwich top and bottom cookies together to create a finished macaron and enjoy!

And for the passionate and inspired French macaron makers out there, please check out my other posts on macaron baking tips, macaron towers, and macaron pops!

Fillings for Macaron Pops

Seems pretty straight forward putting a stick into a macaron and getting a macaron pop, but it isn’t always that simple.  Runny, oozy macaron fillings aren’t good for regular macarons and could totally wreck an adventurous attempt to make macaron pops.  French macaron makers know that humidity is the enemy of the macaron shell, and this is also true for macaron fillings if you are wanting to make them into lollipops.  Softer buttercream fillings or jams that haven’t been thickened up enough could end up making your pops look more like flops.  At the end of the day, it’s important to control the moisture content of a macaron filling so that you are providing a tacky mixture for the lollipop sticks to grab on to. Here are a few tips for filling your macarons if you plan on having them look beautiful and stay vertical.

1.  Buttercream

Depending on your sweet-o-meter or taste preference, add some more confectioners’ sugar or even cornstarch to a buttercream mixture to stiffen it up.  My preference is always cornstarch because it adds thickness without adding sweetness.  In my experience, it is very common for frosting recipes to recommend powdered sugar as the solution for thickening, but I must admit, I have ruined many a dessert this way.  More sugar is not always better especially for something already sweet like a macaron.  Italian buttercreams also make great fillings because they are stiffened up with cooked egg whites.  Another option is to use non-hydrogenated shortening to replace a portion of butter in a recipe.  With this substitute, the buttercream is more stable and less apt to soften at room temperature.

2.  Fruit Jams

If you are making your own jam, use some more pectin than the recipe calls for.  For instance, if the recipe calls for a tablespoon, add a tablespoon and a half.  If you are going with store-bought jam, place an amount into a saucepan and cook down on low heat for 5-10 minutes to reduce some of the water content.

3.  Nut Butters and Cookie Spreads

As with buttercreams, you can add some extra confectioners’ sugar or cornstarch to tighten up the nut butter.  You can also add some of the same type of ground nuts.  For instance, you can add ground hazelnuts to Nutella or some peanut powder to natural peanut butter if you are making PB&J macarons.  Probably a mixture of both the ground nuts and the cornstarch (or powdered sugar) will work best.  If you are using cookie spread or speculoos as a filling, add ground cookies of a similar flavor to thicken up the spread.  These tips come in handy when nut butters are natural and don’t have any hydrogenated fats added to keep them solid at room temperature.

4.  Citrus Curds

If you are making something like a fresh lemon curd to fill your macarons with you want to add an extra yolk or whole egg to stiffen up the curd.  Alternatively, you could slightly lessen the amount of butter added to the curd by a tablespoon or so.  If you are using a store-bought curd you can reheat it on a very low heat over the stove top and mix in some bloomed gelatin.

5.  Ganache

Ganache is so simple to make and is easily the most delicious no brainer macaron filling out there.  It’s so easy to infuse ganaches with all sorts of fancy flavors like framboise (raspberry), cassis (currant), Kahlua (coffee), Frangelico (hazelnut), or Chambord (cherry) liquors.  If you are planning to spike a ganache with liquor you must take this into account before you start making the ganache.  What this means is that you need to lessen the amount of cream you are adding to the chocolate, so that even after you add the liquor the ganache will still be on the thicker side.  If you’ve went too far and the ganache is too thin, add some more pure melted chocolate into the ganache and mix it in well.

6.  Caramel

If you are filling your macs with caramel, then you definitely want to decrease the amount of cream added.  Seek out a recipe for soft caramel candies (not caramel sauce) and add a tad more cream so that the resulting caramel will be a soft solid at room temperature.

7.  Bonus Tip

The process of “aging,” or allowing a macaron to mature, is a very important last step in making French macarons.  For macaron pops, it especially important.  Plan to make and fill your macaron shells at least day or two before you plan on serving them, making sure to place the lollipop stick only half way through the diameter of the macaron shell.  Macaron shells act as sponges and absorb a bit of moisture from fillings, so the aging process not only helps to develop flavor and texture but also allows for the cookie and the stick to bond together.

Macaron pops are a cute twist on the French classic, and are really fun to make as long as the fillings are cooperative.  Getting a macaron filling right is just as important as getting the shell part right, so hopefully these tips will make the process just a bit more simple for you.  Fillings are the finishing touch of this delicate cookie and ultimately make a macaron memorable, so a bit of extra attention to detail will go a long way.

And for some tips on making macaron shells, look here.

Macarons In and Around France

Laduree, Rue Royal in Paris

The Original Laduree, 16 Rue Royal in Paris

On any given day in Paris you can find women, tourists, and good boyfriends in line for French macarons at Laduree.  There isn’t a better place in Paris to get your pastel sugar fix. Laduree is considered by many to be the mecca of French macarons.  What’s hard to imagine that when Louis Ernest Laduree first opened his bakery in 1862, this delicate little sandwich cookie was no where to be found!  It wasn’t until the early 1900’s, and after Louis’ wife decided to transform the patisserie into a tea salon or salon de the’ that a second cousin of Laduree decided to create the enchanting confection we now know as the macaron (mah-kah-rohn).  Brilliant woman, clever man.

Without giving it a second thought, many may think of this delicacy as a distinctively French specialty.  Italians will probably disagree.  The cookie that sold on Rue Royal before cousin Pierre Desfontaines’s moment of genius was likely similar to the Italian amaretti cookie–a simplified version of the macaron, but still made with a base of almonds, sugar, and egg whites.

Laduree Tea

Gorgeous boxes of tea at Laduree

According to folklore, Catherine de Medici brought macarons over from Italy in 1533, the year of her marriage to Henry the II of France.  The word “macaron” actually originates from the Italian word “macaroni,” a pasta dish cooked with cheese.  I know you are probably thinking of the blue and orange box, but to do justice to this artful cookie we should stop you right there.  Simply, what macarons and macaroni have in common is that they both derive from a paste of flour, whether sweet or savory.

Fauchon at the Place de la Madeleine

Ultra chic macarons at Fauchon on Place de la Madeleine

Paul Bakery

Macarons from Paul Bakery

In some smaller cities outside of Paris, macarons seem to take on a much more rustic appearance and texture, an echo of what they might have looked like before their early twentieth century Parisian makeover.  No gilded boxes here but still perfectly imperfect in their own charming way.

Macarons from Patisserie Bigot in Amboise, France

Macarons from Patisserie Bigot in Amboise

Macarons from P. Gerard in Amboise

Macarons from P. Gerard in Amboise

At the end of the day, shiny or not, I’ll take a thoughtfully crafted macaron over a Nutter Butter any day.  And if it’s made in France, even better.

Tips for Making Good French Macarons

Green Tea Macarons with Raspberry Buttercream Tea Pairing: Mariage Freres Sweet Shanghai (Green Tea) Teacup: Vintage Bone China, Hammersley & Co, Made in England

Green Tea Macarons with Raspberry Buttercream
Tea Pairing: Mariage Freres “Sweet Shanghai” (Green Tea)
Teacup: Vintage Bone China, Hammersley & Co, Made in England

Having arrived back from France just over three weeks ago, it’s only right for an obsessed baker like myself to give French macarons yet another shot, for the fiftieth time.  Okay, not the fiftieth, but it certainly feels like it.  Any seasoned baker knows that macarons–the French ones in particular–are no easy feat.  From thinning batter to stuck shells to excessive browning, the possibilities of mess-ups are endless.  I embarked on the quest to make macarons years back, but time after time, the attempts were never matched with success.

Two days after arriving back home from France and after reminiscing about the incredibly elegant macarons I found there, I decided to study a recipe from acclaimed food photographer, Helene Dujardin.  I ran off to the market for yet another dozen of organic eggs and attempted to pay heed to her wisdom.  “Practice, practice, practice” she says.  And, as any persistent student knows, more often than not, practice actually does pay off.

French macaron making is all about practice, precision, and patience.  Nothing less will be fully rewarded.

Do’s and Dont’s of French Macaron Making:

DO

  • AGE  your egg whites for at least 3 hours and up to 5 days in the fridge with some air flow allowed
  • BRING egg whites to room temperature before using
  • UTILIZE the FRENCH MERINGUE method if you are a beginner
  • BUY pre-ground almond flour
  • MEASURE by weight on a scale for accuracy
  • WEIGH egg whites after aging
  • ADD dry powdered egg whites to your egg white base for extra protein structure
  • ATTAIN a birds beak consistency for your whipped egg whites before adding the sugar-almond flour mixture
  • PROCESS & SIFT your sugar-almond flour mixture
  • PRINT OUT this template to use as a piping guide
  • USE parchment paper to pipe on for easier cleanup and release
  • PIPE with a gentle yet steady hand
  • SLAM baking sheets 3 times over to release entrapped air in the piped macarons
  • DRY OUT piped macarons for about 30 minutes prior to baking
  • KNOW your oven and it’s tendencies
  • SPRINKLE water under parchment for easier release
  • PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

DON’T

  • BUY egg whites from a carton expecting them to work for macarons- no, no, no!
  • EXPECT that almond flour is cheap
  • USE off-tasting confectioner’s sugar–if it isn’t a new bag or sealed airtight, taste it before using
  • OVERMIX the batter
  • STEP AWAY from your boiling sugar if you are using the ITALIAN MERINGUE method
  • POUR boiling sugar syrup on top of the whisk beater when mixing sugar syrup into the egg whites–this will prevent the syrup from being splattered on to the sides of the bowl (ITALIAN MERINGUE)
  • FREAK OUT if your macarons aren’t perfectly round, smooth, and/or shiny…they still taste yummy!

So after all the failed attempts and re-strategizing, one might ask why would someone go through all of this work to simply make a little cookie.  At the end of the day, French macarons are coveted for their style, their taste, and because they transport us to the place where we would most like to be (France, of course!).  For the baker who makes them, the most unique thing about French macarons is that this cute little confection has the power to make people stop to savor a very special moment in gastronomic time.  Macarons aren’t just food, they are an art.  So, the next time you are inspired to get baking, you might want to consider attempting the French macaron–a culinary tradition that hasn’t failed to impress for over 1oo years.  At the very least, it will help to explain why your next mac run will likely cost you a pretty penny.