In the course of one morning, these candy cane macarons have easily become my favorite Christmas cookies ever. They are light and delicate, with just a hint of peppermint flavor from the crushed candy canes. The almond from the macaron shells, vanilla bean from the buttercream and peppermint from the candy mingle together perfectly to form a delightfully Christmasy treat. It probably doesn’t hurt that these are the best looking macarons I’ve made to date – practice makes perfect, I guess! While they can be finicky, and certainly aren’t the quickest cookies to mix up, the end result is 100% worth it. Bring these to your next holiday party, and your friends and family are sure to be impressed. Or do what we did, and keep them all for yourself – they’ll disappear faster than you think! (Just kidding, I’m not THAT greedy – half went to my sister-in-law since we made them together. So only halfway greedy.)
These make me want to get right back in the kitchen and whip up another batch of macarons. Vanilla bean with raspberry filling? Pistachio with cocoa nib ganache? S’mores macarons?! Lucky for me, we have our first snow day of the year tomorrow (more like first snow day in 3 years), which will leave me plenty of time for baking!
For a more detailed post complete with step-by-step pictures, check out my macaron tutorial.
For the shells:
- 212 grams almond meal OR blanched almonds
- 212 grams confectioners’ sugar
- 82 and 90 grams egg whites, divided*
- 236 grams granulated sugar, plus a pinch
- 158 grams water
For the filling**:
- 1 2/3 cup (11 5/8 ounces) granulated sugar, plus a pinch
- 1/3 cup water
- 5 large egg whites
- 3 sticks unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- seeds from 1 vanilla bean
- Crushed candy canes, for decorating
*One large egg white should weigh about 30 grams.
**This will make about double the amount of buttercream you will need to fill the macaron shells; use the rest for something else, or just halve the recipe!
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
If using blanched almonds, combine the almonds and the confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Sift the mixture through a fine mesh sieve placed over a large mixing bowl to ensure that no large chunks get into the batter. You may have to re-process the leftover almond bits until they are ground small enough. If you are using almond meal, you may still want to run it briefly through the food processor to make sure it’s finely ground enough.
In a small bowl, weigh out 82 grams of egg whites, being careful not to get any yolk into the whites. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg whites; mix until thoroughly combined. The resulting mixture will be very thick.
Combine the water and 236 grams granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Begin heating over medium heat, monitoring the temperature with a digital or candy thermometer. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 90 grams egg whites and a pinch of granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. When the sugar syrup reaches 220°F, begin whipping the egg whites on medium speed. Continue whipping until the egg whites form soft peaks, then turn the mixer to low just to keep the whites moving.
As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 248°F, remove it from the heat and turn the stand mixer back to medium speed. With the mixer running, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites in a steady stream. “Slowly” is the key word here – you don’t want to accidentally scramble your egg whites by adding too much heat too quickly. Once the sugar syrup is fully incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and continue whipping until stiff, glossy peaks have formed.
Add about 1/3 of the meringue into the dry ingredients and fold in until combined. Continue adding in the meringue in parts, folding gently but firmly. Keep adding in meringue until the batter runs off the spatula in thick ribbons and reincorporates within about 20-30 seconds.
Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip. Pipe rounds of batter about 1-inch in diameter onto your prepared baking sheets. If the batter is the right consistency, it shouldn’t spread much, so you can pipe the shells fairly close together. You may see small peaks right after piping, but these should smooth out within a minute or so. Once your shells are piped, rap your baking sheet hard against the counter to get rid of any air bubbles. You might get some air bubbles that rise to the surface but don’t break; pop these with a toothpick.
Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until the tops are set on their feet (not too wiggly). You can also test their doneness by trying to peel one off the baking sheet; if the top comes off of the feet, they’re not done. Let the shells cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
To make the filling, combine the granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and place over medium heat, monitoring the temperature with a digital or candy thermometer. Continue heating until the mixture reaches 240°F. While the sugar mixture is heating, place the egg whites and a pinch of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin whipping the egg whites on medium-low speed until frothy. Increase the speed to medium and continue whipping until the egg whites form soft peaks, then turn the mixer to low. When the sugar mixture reaches the correct temperature, increase the mixer speed back to medium and slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the mixing bowl. When the sugar syrup is fully incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and continue whipping until stiff peaks have formed.
Once you have reached stiff peaks, begin adding the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once the previous addition is incorporated. When all the butter has been added, increase the speed to medium-high and continue whipping until the mixture comes together as frosting. It may look soupy or curdled for a while; don’t worry about it – just keep whipping. When the frosting comes back together, add the vanilla extract and beans, then whip until incorporated.
To assemble the macarons, transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip. Pipe rounds of buttercream onto half the macaron shells and top with the remaining shells, pushing down gently until the buttercream extends just slightly past the sides of the shells. Put your crushed candy cane onto a shallow dish, and roll the assembled macarons through it so the candy sticks to the buttercream. Store in an airtight container.
Yield: about 4 dozen macarons
Source: concept inspired by Annie’s Eats