In the weeks leading up to Easter, Bouchon Bakery sells this very special version of their famous macarons, which are colored to resemble speckled robins’ eggs. Typically filled with a malted buttercream frosting, Bouchon is now making them with K+M Extravirgin Chocolate Dark-Milk Ecuador. You could choose any variety of K+M Extravirgin Chocolate you like. The dark-milk has a malty flavor that lends itself to the macaron, but the intense dark varieties work equally well.
Luckily, if you don’t live close to the bakery, you can make these springtime treats at home if you have a bit of time and patience. To make this recipe you’ll need a candy thermometer, a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch (12-mm) plain tip, and a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch (1 cm) plain tip. If you have a convection oven, now is the time to use it: the tops of macarons baked in a standard oven often develop small speckles, which can affect the texture (though not the flavor).
Because the cookies will be sandwiched, it is important that they be as close in size as possible. Even if you are proficient with a pastry bag, we suggest making a template. Use a compass or a cookie cutter as a guide and a dark marking pen, such as a fine-tip Sharpie. Lay a sheet of parchment paper on the work surface with a long side closest to you. Trace 4 evenly spaced 2 1/4-inch (5.5-cm) circles along the top long edge, leaving 1 inch (2.5 cm) of space around them. Trace 3 circles below them, spacing them between the first circles.
Continue with another row of 4, followed by another row of 3. Turn the parchment over and lay it on a sheet pan. Lift up each corner of the parchment and spray the underside with nonstick spray to keep it from moving while the cookies are baking. Repeat with a second baking sheet and piece of parchment paper.
Bouchon Robin’s Egg Macarons
For the shells:
- 1 3/4 cups + 2 1/2 Tbs. (212 g) almond flour/meal
- 1 3/4 cups + 1 Tbs. + 2 tsp. confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 cup + 3 1/2 Tbs. (172 g) egg whites
- 6 drops blue gel food coloring (we use Chefmaster Liqua-Gel Royal Blue)
- 1 drop brown gel food coloring, plus more for splattering (we use Chefmaster Buckeye Brown Liqua-Gel)
- 1 cup + 3 Tbs. (236 g) granulated sugar, plus a pinch for the egg whites
- 2/3 cup (158 g) water
- A few drops of vodka, if needed
For the buttercream filling:
- 3.175 oz. (90 g) K+M Extravirgin Chocolate Dark-Milk Ecuador, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup + 1 Tbs. egg whites
- 3/4 cup (150 g) plus 2 Tbs. plus 2 1/4 tsp. (33 g) granulated sugar
- 3 Tbs. + 1 tsp. (42 grams) water
- 8 oz. (227 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces, at room temperature
To make the shells:
1. Preheat a convection oven to 350°F (180°C) or a standard oven to 400°F (200°C).
2. Place the almond flour in a food processor and pulse to grind it as finely as possible.
3. Sift the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl and whisk together. Mound the almond flour mixture, then make a 4-inch (10-cm) well in the center, leaving a layer of the flour at the bottom. Pour in 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 Tbs. (82 g) of the egg whites. Add the blue and brown food coloring and combine with a spatula. Set aside.
4. Place the remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (90 g) of the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Combine the 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (236 g) granulated sugar and the water in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 203°F (110°C).
5. Letting the syrup continue to cook, add the pinch of sugar to the egg whites, turn the mixer to medium speed and whip to soft peaks. If the whites reach soft peaks before the syrup reaches 248°F (120°C), reduce the speed to the lowest setting, just to keep them moving.
6. When the syrup reaches 248°F (120°C), remove the pan from the heat. Turn the mixer to medium-low speed and slowly add the syrup, pouring it between the side of the bowl and the whisk; the meringue will deflate. Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5 minutes, or until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Although the bowl will still be warm to the touch, the meringue should have cooled; if not, continue to whip until it is cool.
7. Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond mixture, then continue adding the whites a little at a time (you may not use them all) until when you fold a portion of the batter over on itself, the “ribbon” slowly moves. The mixture shouldn’t be so stiff that it holds its shape without moving at all, but it shouldn’t be so loose that it dissolves into itself and does not maintain the ribbon; it is better for the mixture to be slightly stiff than too loose.
8. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch (12-mm) tip. Hold the bag upright 1/2 inch (12 mm) above the center of one of the traced circles and pipe out enough of the mixture to fill in the circle. Lift away the pastry bag and fill the remaining circles on the first pan. Lift up the sheet pan and tap the bottom of the pan to spread the batter evenly and smooth any peaks left by the pastry bag.
9. To create the speckles, place several drops of the brown food coloring in a ramekin or very small bowl. If the gel is thick, stir in a few drops of vodka to loosen it. (Don’t use water, because it will add too much moisture to the shells and the color won’t dry properly.) Using a small, clean paint brush or wooden coffee stirrer, splatter the shells lightly with a few drops of the food coloring. Be careful not to use too much, as it will cause the macarons to split while baking.
10. If using a convection oven, bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp. If using a standard oven, place the sheet pan in the oven, immediately lower the oven temperature to 325°F (165°C), and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely. If using a standard oven, preheat it to 350°F (180°C). Pipe the remaining meringue mixture into the circles on the second sheet pan and bake as directed above. Let cool completely.
To make the buttercream filling:
1. Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl over a warm water bath. Stir frequently until the chocolate is melted, being careful to melt it slowly so you don’t burn it. Leave the chocolate over warm but not hot water.
2. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
3. Place the 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar in a small saucepan, add the water and stir to moisten the sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, and simmer until the syrup reaches 230° (100°C).
4. Letting the syrup continue to cook, turn the mixer to medium speed, gradually pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons plus 2 1/4 tsp. (33 g) sugar into the whites, and whip until the whites are beginning to form very loose peaks. If the whites are ready before the syrup reaches 248°F (120°C), turn the mixer to the lowest setting just to keep them moving.
5. When the syrup reaches 248°F (120°C), remove the pan from the heat. Turn the mixer to medium-low speed and slowly add the syrup to the whites, pouring it between the side of the bowl and the whisk. Increase the speed to medium-high and whisk for 15 minutes, or until the bottom of the bowl is at room temperature and the whites hold stiff peaks. (If the mixture is warm, it will melt the butter.)
6. Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, a few pieces at a time. If at any time the mixture looks broken, increase the speed and beat to re-emulsify it, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter. Check the consistency; If the buttercream is too loose to hold its shape, it should be refrigerated for a few hours to harden, then beaten again to return it to the proper consistency. Add the melted chocolate to the buttercream and continue beating until the mixture is smooth and emulsified.
7. The buttercream can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month. (This recipe makes more buttercream than you will need for the macarons, so save the rest for filling a cake or frosting your favoring cupcakes.) Defrost frozen buttercream in the refrigerator overnight before using. Thirty minutes before using the buttercream, place it in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and allow to soften. Then mix on low speed to return the buttercream to the proper consistency for piping or spreading.
To fill the macarons:
1. Transfer the buttercream to a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch (1-cm) tip. Remove the macarons from the parchment paper. Turn half of them over. Starting in the center, pipe 1 Tbs. (15 g) of the buttercream in a spiral pattern on one upside-down macaron, not quite reaching the edges. Top with a second macaron and press gently to spread the buttercream to the edges. Repeat with the remaining macarons and filling.
2. The macarons are best if wrapped individually in a few layers of plastic wrap and frozen for at least 24 hours or up to 2 weeks. Defrost in the refrigerator for 3 hours, then bring to room temperature before serving. They can be served the day they are made or stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Makes 14 macarons.
Excerpted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2012