I attended a baby shower on the weekend for my lovely friend J.  I took along some mini pistachio macarons, which were selected specifically so I could colour the little mouth sized treats with the party theme colour – mint.

I was a little nervous about sharing my macarons on such a wide scale as some of my recent macaron attempts have ended up with a slightly thicker than desirable shell.  Y at Lemonpi and Duncan from Syrup and Tang both suggested slightly increasing the baking temperature and decreasing the resting time to counter this.  I wanted these macarons as perfect as possible so I decided to bake this batch of macarons in line with this advice.

Everything seemed to come together well.  The sugar syrup was not over heated, the nut / sugar mixture was blended carefully, and the overall batter was mixed well.  When I started to pipe the macarons out, however, I noticed they did not form well.  They held a slight peak.  I gave the batter a couple more turns and tried again.  Same thing.  Worried that I could over-mix the batter, I piped out all the little macarons anyway.  I wrapped the baking sheets a few times on the counter to help flattened them out.

Disappointingly, these macarons did not form as well as previous attempts.  Quite a number of them cracked, and were absent of their cute little ‘feet’.  After a couple of batches, I decided to lower the oven temperature closer to my previous attempts.  Interestingly, the last batch seemed to have the most successful number of perfect macarons.  Bizarre.

Despite the little hiccups they were probably the best tasting macarons I have made.  The shells were perfectly delicate and gave way to a slightly chewy centre.  The pistachio was a delicious flavour, too.   I guess the true test is the speed with which these little macarons disappeared at the party – they flew off the stand so quickly that some people did not even have a chance to sample one at all.  So not all bad, I suppose.

Next time though, I’ll crack it.  Fingers crossed!

{ Pistachio macarons }

* Ingredients *

100g egg whites
3g egg white powder
65g almond meal
60g ground pistachios
125g icing sugar
Extra ground pistachios for garnish
Food colour
For the syrup:
150g sugar and 50ml water

* Directions *

Process the almond meal, pistachio and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  At the final changes of whipping the meringue, add the colouring.  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond / pistachio mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with extra ground pistachios.  Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Bake at 180C for 10-12 minutes.  Fill with ganache or filling of your choice.  Refrigerate to set.

{ Vanilla buttercream } adapted from Epicurious

* Ingredients *

4 large egg whites at room temperature for 30 minutes
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup water
1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces and softened
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

* Directions *

Combine whites and salt in a very large bowl. Stir together water and 1 1/3 cups sugar in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan until sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil over moderate heat, without stirring, brushing any sugar crystals down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water.

When syrup reaches a boil, start beating egg whites with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until frothy, then gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat at medium speed until whites just hold soft peaks. (Do not beat again until sugar syrup is ready.)

Meanwhile, put thermometer into sugar syrup and continue boiling until syrup registers 117C or 242°F. Immediately remove from heat and, with mixer at high speed, slowly pour hot syrup in a thin stream down side of bowl into whites, beating constantly. Beat, scraping down side of bowl with a rubber spatula, until meringue is cool to the touch, about 10 minutes in a standing mixer or 15 with a handheld. (It is important that meringue is properly cooled before proceeding.)

With mixer at medium speed, gradually add butter 1 piece at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated. (Buttercream will look soupy after some butter is added if meringue is still warm. If so, briefly chill bottom of bowl in a large bowl filled with ice water for a few seconds before continuing to beat in remaining butter.) Continue beating until buttercream is smooth. (Mixture may look curdled before all of butter is added but will come back together by the time beating is finished.) Add vanilla bean paste and beat 1 minute more.