Orange Blossom-Saffron-Vanilla Macarons

I consider myself to be a fairly proficient baker, but I’ve always been intimidated by macarons. They are so dainty and beautiful, so difficult to get right, and so easy to get horribly wrong. I’ve had dreadful macarons at very posh restaurants.  I don’t care what anybody says, but it IS surprisingly hard to find a good macaron in the United States. On one memorable occasion I even had inferior macarons from Ladurée. And as for achieving perfection at home and hitting every note – the flawless shiny smooth patina on the shell, the well-risen feet, the ever-so-slightly crisp shell and perfectly yielding, tender interior . . . there is just so much to bollocks up. (I’d use a ruder word, but this is a family friendly site.) Literally for months I stalked macaron recipes online. There are hundreds, if not thousands. And SO much advice, much of it conflicting. To Italian meringue, or not to Italian meringue? Should I age my egg whites? What about the almond flour? Should I grind my own and/or air-dry it?

After loads more research I settled on a recipe that had numerous delighted comments from successful home bakers. It called for Italian meringue, meaning that a hot sugar syrup was beat into the egg whites. From lofty hindsight, I think I know what went wrong: I didn’t get my meringue stiff enough before adding the almonds and powdered sugar, and I added way, WAY too much food coloring paste. Whatever it was that I screwed up, my mixture was grainy, my macaron shells never dried properly before baking, and after baking what I produced looked like toxic day-glo orange cowpats. (Sorry, there are no photographs, as the finished product was relegated to the dustbin of history.)

In despair, I turned to that authoritative, unimpeachable source, Twitter. The lovely @whatjulookinat came to my rescue almost immediately with a recipe that she claimed had never failed her. She referred me to @thebravetart, whom I shall henceforth simply call, “my saviour.” So I should make this very plain: other than the flavourings, the recipe that follows is not AT ALL mine. All credit goes to The Brave Tart, AKA Stella Parks.

Even with my virtual friends cheering me on in 140 characters or less, my next effort still was a failure, by any objective measure:These, I think,were the result of undermixed batter, resulting in unsightly, lumpy macarons.

My third effort, however, were much better – so much so that I’m blogging them. They’re not perfect – the feet protrude, which is probably the result of overmixing.But the height and patina are right, the texture and flavour are lovely, and I now feel like macarons are achievable – all thanks to Stella’s fantastic recipe. So have courage! You can do it too!

It is crucial before you begin, however, that you read Stella’s 10 Myths and 10 Commandments of macaron-making. And since I want to give her all the credit she so richly deserves, this is the link to her recipe for French macarons, in which she brilliantly and with clarity explains exactly what to do. It is not that difficult, if you follow her instructions.

And here is her recipe for Swiss buttercream, which I also used.

I have the following notes:

a) I found that five ounces of egg whites is almost exactly equivalent to the whites of two large eggs.

b) You will need much less food colouring than you think, particularly if you’re using food colouring paste (which I recommend).

c) In London I don’t have a stand mixer. I still made nice macarons using a hand-held mixer.

d) To make orange blossom-saffron-vanilla macarons, (1) omit the vanilla bean/extract  and add 1.5 teaspoons orange flower water and a bit of orange food colouring when you have finished mixing your meringue but before stirring in the almond/powdered sugar mixture, and (2) for the filling, add a generous pinch of saffron, bloomed in a tablespoon of hot water (which you have then allowed to cool), two tablespoons powdered (icing) sugar, and two teaspoons vanilla extract to eight ounces of buttercream base.

And here is a pictorial guide to my experience, mainly because photos are fun (and informative!):

Meringue mixture, after being beaten for three minutes at medium-high speed

Three additional minutes of mixing, speed increased slightly. Meringue is stiffening but still runny

After three more minutes of mixing at high speed, meringue is stiff and dry. I have added but not yet incorporated a tiny amount of food coloring paste.

Meringue after the food coloring has been incorporated.

I've completed my macaronage (the process of folding and flattening the batter). The mixture has a molten lava-like consistency.

Piped and ready to bake! (I got greedy and piped them a little close together.)

Out of the oven. You see the result of my greedily cramming too many on one baking sheet.

This recipe made two dozen two-inch macarons (or about 18 standard sized macarons).

Good luck! Go forth and macaron! And have fun!

37 thoughts on “Orange Blossom-Saffron-Vanilla Macarons

  1. They look pretty perfect to me! Lovely colour too. I’m so keen to get my mitts on a piping bag, yours look great. Spooning them on doesn’t half as good. I’ve also heard that you should let them sit on their baking tray for 30mins before baking, so they form a “shell” on the top….I’m too impatient…!

    • Thanks for the nice comment! A piping bag is a worthwhile investment, and they’re pretty cheap. Stella says it is not necessary to let them sit on the baking tray while they form a shell, and during my last effort I was rushing out to meet a friend for lunch so I didn’t do it, and they still came out very well. Good luck and happy baking!

    • Thank you Jane! I feel a ridiculously huge sense of achievement. Now, I think I’ll probably be obsessed for the next six months. Looking forward to experimenting with berry powders and exotic flavours!

  2. Thank you for this. The step-by-step is incredibly helpful, as are the resources you found!

    Your macarons are a beautiful color, feet or no feet.

    I will definitely be turning to this post the next time I make macarons!

    • Thank you! I suspect they are not beyond your grasp, and Stella’s very nice blog entries debunking the myths and providing clear explanations are wonderful, I think.

      • I’ve had one or two lovely macarons in this country, from an artisan baker who sources local ingredients, but I just had dreadful macarons in Paris from a reputable maker (who shall remain nameless: gummy and boring, although they looked beautiful as so much in Paris does). I suspect macarons might not be one of my favorite things, despite their beauty.

        • I am very choosy about my macarons. I like Pierre Hermes and I like a place called Yauatcha, a Michelin-starred dim sum place, that makes macarons with very interesting flavors. Sorry to hear your Paris macaron was less than satisfactory.

  3. Fantastically written and beautifully photographed as usual! I was only introduced to macarons about 2 years ago. A friend asked me if I liked macaroons. I said I did, she was thrilled and brought in what she thought were the best macaroons ever. They were fantastic, but they were macarons. You can imagine my surprise when I looked in the box expecting the coconut goodness of macaroons and instead was greeted by beautiful pastel meringue. Little laugh, little research and here we are!

  4. Oh congratulations, how fantastic. They are a beautiful sight and it is only up and away from here. What good research you did!. ( PS have never made them myself but intend to give them a go!)

      • How frustrating! (WordPress I mean). Please leave your URL on your comments — I approve them as soon as I see them — as your blog is so lovely, and I would love to help drive up your traffic. If you remember to do so, do comment back if you make them — I’d be very interested to hear your ‘recipe notes.’

  5. Well done! These look perfect to me. I’ve had a go at macarons and loved eating them but haven’t managed to make them look anywhere near this good. In fact, I’m sure you’d have thrown away my batch if you’d made them!

  6. Perfect timing, I have only just begun to consider giving the Macaroon a go. I quite honestly hadn’t thought they could be that difficult until a work colleague shared her disasterous attempt, and since then I have been scouring Internet pages in search of the perfect recipe. I will be trying this one! Thanks for sharing- they look beautiful.

    • Wonderful! Inspiring others to try is exactly the reason why I posted this. Please report back and let me know how they turned out, and what flavour you made!

  7. Stella rocks! See how awesome we are here in Kentucky? But don’t look to me for any macarons. I’ll either just drive to Lexington for Stella’s or fly to Paris for Gérard Mulot’s. Sure, I could possibly master them, after a long and obsessive struggle. But then I’d just have to eat the whole batch before they got stale. Yours are beautiful, by the way. Bravo!

  8. Your Macarons look amazing! Great job and I love the color! I was thinking about trying to make some … it sounds somewhat daunting but I’ll give it a try! Thanks for the great post.

  9. A couple of weeks ago Toronto had a Macaron Day where a bunch of superbe patisseries have away free macarons to raise funds for a women’s shelter. It’s a great success but the line ups are horrendous. I consoled myself with sour grape eclairs, and vowed to find the best macaron recipe to make my own. Et viola!

  10. BRAVA! I’ve never got the courage to make macarons and they’re my absolute favorites. Maybe, I can inch a bit closer to attempting them, with your inspiration. Yours came out beautifully. Lovely color and flavor combination. I do agree that it’s hard to find good ones here, and I’ve tried them all over the US. Most bakeries make them overly sweet and articial tasting. I did find the pistachio macarons at Vanilla Bake Shop in Santa Monica to be the best pistachio ones in the US. Laduree opened in NYC last year, but even theirs didn’t blow me away.

    You are my hero!


    • Daisy what a wonderful comment! It is so reassuring to know that even a baker like you is intimidated by macarons! After I made these, I had dinner with a friend who worked at a wonderful French restaurant here, and she said they always made them with Italian meringue and filled them with white chocolate ganache (to which other flavors were added, natch). So I see more macaron trials in my future. TBC…

  11. I LOVE macarons and haven’t found any as wonderful as those in France. And I am totally intimidated by the process. Yours are so gorgeous – such a lovely peachy color. And perfect for that Mother’s Day luncheon or other social gathering. But I don’t know if I am up to this challenge. I am wildly applauding yours!

  12. These are beautiful! And orange and saffron sounds delicious…I’m still intimidated by macarons…I’m trying to get over my fear of bread baking, so macarons will have to wait.

  13. Pingback: Le Macaron « krisstonedotcom

Leave a Reply to thekalechronicles Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s