A Year of Macaron Recipes

Alright, so not quite a year. I started this journey of writing one new macaron recipe per month in February of last year. At first, I just wanted to practice my macaron making and food photography skills but, somewhere around July’s lavender macarons, I realized what I was really doing was building a series of recipes that I could turn into a proper collection (and maybe even a real cookbook) someday.

I love experimenting with unusual and unconventional seasonal flavours. Even though it can be hard to know how to work with a new flavour, or what to pair it with, especially when you are inventing as you go, I feel like I’ve made some really interesting and delicious macarons this year.

Looking back like this, I can really see how much I’ve learned and how much better I’ve become at making these tricky little pastries. I’m so looking forward to continuing this goal of one new recipe a month for another year. I have a few big ideas in mind and I’m really excited to see what I come up with!

February

Chili Macarons with Bitter Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate Chili Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Blog

A spicy and earthy macaron for Valentine’s Day.

March

Vanilla Macarons with Whiskey Buttercream

Whiskey Cream Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Blog

Skills have already taken a running leap forward as I really learn the importance of humidity. Festive green macarons for St. Patrick’s Day.

April

Froot Loops Macarons with Froot Loops Buttercream

Froot Loops Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Blog

Something weird I had been wanting to try out for a while. It took a few tries to get the size and amount of crushed Froot Loops right, but I love the soft spring colours of this Easter time macaron.

May

Rhubarb Macarons with Rhubarb Pastry Cream

Garden Rhubarb Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Blog

The first time I looked to my garden for inspiration. The summer humidity was arriving and I battled it for these thin shells with small feet. The rhubarb pastry cream was divine but made the cookies soggy after a few days. Definitely a recipe to assemble as needed or for a large party.

June

Matcha Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache

Matcha Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache | Sophster-Toaster

I became obsessed with matcha last summer and drank it almost everyday. I love flavouring things with tea so I am no stranger to the steep, but the fact that matcha is a powder made these one of the easiest flavouring I’ve ever worked with. No one told me white chocolate behaved nothing like regular chocolate, so that was a huge learning curve.

July

Lavender Macarons with Lavender Buttercream

Lavender Macarons Sophster-Toaster Blog

It was a busy month of summer travelling and markets. I was excitedly preparing for a market at a lavender farm and wanted all things lavender, all the time. The summer humidity made it impossible to make shells that didn’t crack or otherwise form correctly in the oven. I had to make several batches of this flavour while I finally gave up on what was to be my “winter recipe” and develop a “summer recipe” that could dry in heavy humidity. I was eating ugly macarons for months.

August

Vanilla Macarons with Peach Buttercream

Peaches & Cream Macarons | Sophster-Toaster

Having figured out the formula for stress free (ie crack-free) summer macarons, this is when I really got bold with colouring.

September

Chocolate Macarons with Cashew Butter

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Macarons | Sophster-Toaster

I was already thinking about Halloween when I made these more classically flavoured shells with a somewhat nontraditional filling.

October

Vanilla Macarons with Absinthe Buttercream

Absinthe Macarons | Sophster-Toaster

These Halloween themed macarons were the best I made all year, in terms of technique. They were high, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and had gorgeous feet. The absinthe buttercream had such classic, old-world flavours while also being incredibly exotic and difficult to pin down. The colours were fun to work with, too.

November

Peppermint Macarons with Peppermint Buttercream

Peppermint Macarons | Sophster-Toaster

Poor November is so boring, it always gets overshadowed by Christmas. I couldn’t help but break out my holiday ideas early. Using peppermint tea as a bit of a twist on a classic Christmastime flavour, these macaron were both traditional and distinctive.

December

Juniper Macarons with Juniper Buttercream

Juniper Macarons | Sophster-Toaster

Finishing strong with something weird. The most delicious Christmas tree you’ve ever tasted.

New Year’s Eve Time Traveller

New Year's Eve Time Traveller | Sophster-Toaster

I’m deep in a 70’s and 80’s obsession. After my 80’s Christmas party look, I’m donning this 70’s inspired New Year’s Eve affair. I bought this Urban Outfitters dress for my 80’s themed birthday party last year, hoping it would also work well as festive wear in the years to come. It hasn’t been right for any of the Christmas parties I’ve attended this year, but, paired with this surprisingly quick Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle up-do, something tells me it’s going to be just the ticket for slipping into the new year.

New Year's Eve Time Traveller | Sophster-Toaster New Year's Eve Time Traveller | Sophster-Toaster New Year's Eve Time Traveller | Sophster-Toaster New Year's Eve Time Traveller | Sophster-Toaster New Year's Eve Time Traveller | Sophster-Toaster New Year's Eve Time Traveller | Sophster-Toaster New Year's Eve Time Traveller | Sophster-Toaster New Year's Eve Time Traveller | Sophster-Toaster New Year's Eve Time Traveller | Sophster-Toaster New Year's Eve Time Traveller | Sophster-Toaster

Dress Urban Outfitters
Nylons Joe Fresh
Jewellery gift
Coat ModCloth
Shoes ModCloth

All photos by me.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

The Ghost of Christmas Past | Sophster-Toaster

I’ve found myself becoming more and more inspired by 1970’s and 80’s fashion this past year. I don’t know what it is. As a child of the late 80’s and 90’s, I used to shudder at the old pictures and clothes my mother would show me. She would pull out a little black dress with way too my colours and ruffles from the back of her closet and we would giggle at it together. My brother and I would loiter around the bathroom while my mom was doing her makeup, waiting for her to take her giant, very thick prescription glasses off so we could snatch them and try them on. Later, we would watch That 70’s Show and my dad would show us pictures of himself dressed just like them when he was in high school. I thought the cuts of the 70’s and colours of the 80’s were tacky and awful and wondered why anyone would ever leave the perfect style of the 60’s behind.

I spent my childhood memorizing the looks from 50’s and 60’s movies and dreaming about having the figure to wear them when I grew up and became a woman. And I did, for a long time, always leaning towards clothing with a touch of mid-century to it. Then, slowly at first, I started to drift into the late 60’s and 70’s. I started buying things with my favourite flower, the daisy, on them. I designed a print using a ubiquitous 70’s font and put it on a ringer tee. I grew out my fringe and started wearing my hair long. Then I committed; I did what I though I would never do and entered the 80’s. I pulled out the costume jewellery I’d had since I was a child, some inherited from my mother, but never worn, and started wearing it. I got some blue eye shadow. I had my hair bleached over several sessions at the salon. I bought this dress. When my optometrist told me one eye had gotten worse, and gave me a new prescription, I ordered these glasses from Warby Parker and was told I look “like the one villain from Orange is the New Black, no offence”. I did not take offence, I love her look.

I can’t believe how much my new hair and glasses make me look like my memories of my mother, and I can’t believe how much it suits me.

The Ghost of Christmas Past | Sophster-Toaster The Ghost of Christmas Past | Sophster-Toaster The Ghost of Christmas Past | Sophster-Toaster The Ghost of Christmas Past | Sophster-Toaster

Dress H&M
Tights Joe Fresh
Shoes ModCloth
Earrings Magnolia & Scout
Glasses Warby Parker

Photos by me and Matt.

Juniper Macarons

Juniper Macarons | Sophster-Toaster

I’m a big fan of weird flavours, especially when it comes to my macarons. I made a more traditional Christmas flavour last month with my Peppermint Macarons, so this month I wanted to try something unusual.

I wanted to provide an unfamiliar but undeniable Christmas flavour. Something that could bring up memories of Christmas morning, even if you’d never tasted anything like it before. I found that flavour in the pungently aromatic juniper berry that is somehow, paradoxically, both bitterly resinous and the sweetest berry you’ve ever tasted. Think about the first time you tried gin and thought it tasted like “Christmas trees” versus how complex and lovely it is now that it’s grown on you: that’s the magic of juniper.

Juniper Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Juniper Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Juniper Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Juniper Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Juniper Macarons | Sophster-Toaster

Ingredients

for the macaron shells

  • 1 cup ground almonds (as finely ground as you can find)
  • 1½ cup icing sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp whole juniper berries (shared with buttercream)
  • “juniper green” gel food colouring

for the buttercream filling

  • 7 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3½ tbsp milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • “juniper green” gel food colouring

Method

for the macaron shells

  1. Prepare your parchment sheets by drawing 1″ circles, ½” apart across the entire sheet (or using silicon baking mats with the circles already printed on them) and placing them on a large flat surface suitable for drying your batter, like a dining table. You will need 2-3 half sheet pan size pieces.
  2. Sift ground almonds and icing sugar together, twice. Set aside.
  3. Grind 2 tsp of whole juniper berries in a mortar and pestle. Sift what will into almond and sugar mixture. Keep larger pieces to flavour the buttercream.
  4. In a large stainless steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites with a hand or stand mixer on high speed until you have a foam with no liquid remaining.
  5. Slowly add the sugar while continuing to beat the egg whites. Beat on high speed until the egg whites reach stiff peaks. You’ve made meringue!
  6. Add the gel food colouring and gently beat in.
  7. Fold your almond and icing sugar mixture into the meringue in two parts.
  8. Here’s the part that takes practice: it’s time for the macaronnage! With a spatula, spread the batter, with some force, against the side of the bowl. Then scoop it up by running the spatula along the side of the bowl again and try to flip it all over and sort-of lightly smack it back into the bottom of the bowl. Gather the batter up again and repeat 15 times. It takes some time to figure out the best way to do this, don’t be afraid to play around with it. When doing the macaronnage correctly, repeating more than 20 times can result in oily, blotchy macarons, but I’ve found that doing it incorrectly doesn’t count towards this limit. If you are doing it right, the batter will take on a noticeable and somewhat sudden change in consistency, this means you are about half-way to that limit. When finished, the batter should be thickened and drip slowly from the spatula. You will have to pipe it onto your baking sheets/mats and it won’t work if the batter is too runny. This is the technique that defines macarons, this is what makes mastery of them impressive.
  9. For perfectly round macarons, use a large, 0.4″ plain tip with a pastry bag, or do it the lazy way and cut a corner off a zip top bag for mostly round macarons. Twist (or don’t yet cut) the bag at the tip and place it, tip side down, in a tall glass. Fill with your batter and twist, close or clip the other end to help keep the messy batter moving in the right direction. Pipe the batter into the centre of the circles on your sheets/mats and stop before reaching the edges as the batter will spread out a bit.
  10. Once finished piping, carefully pick the sheets/mats up and drop them back on to the table from a height of a couple of inches. The theory is that this helps the cookies keep their round shape and form the little bubbles around the bottom (the pied) when you put them in the oven.
  11. Leave the cookies on the table, uncovered, for 15-30 minutes to dry (or more on a humid day). This is a good time to preheat your oven to 350°F. You will know the macarons are dry when they look smooth and are no longer sticky to the touch.
  12. Place an oven rack in the centre of your oven. Place a sheet of macarons on two stacked sheet pans (this will stop the bottoms from getting too hot, resulting in cracked macarons) and bake for about 15 minutes. Rotate the pan half way through baking. At this point, if you want to try to keep your cookies light in colour, place a second oven rack directly below the first and move your cookies down to it, then place a third sheet pan above the cookies on the higher rack to protect them from the heat above. It can be hard to tell when the macaron are done. I pull them out when the kitchen smells sweet and the cookies look crisp, have just started to brown, and don’t look blotchy in the middle.
  13. As soon as the parchment sheet/baking mat is cool enough to handle, take it out of the pan with all the cookies on top and place it on a cooling rack. The macarons will be too sticky to remove from the sheet/mat now; once cooled, they should peel off easily. I usually wait a few minutes for the pans to cool a bit and for the oven to come back to a steady temperature before moving the next sheet to the pans and baking the next round.

for the buttercream

  1. Warm the butter in a double boiler or in the microwave until it is soft but not melted. Beat until creamy.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring milk to a boil and the remainder of the 2 tsp of ground juniper berries. Cover and steep for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in a small bowl and whisk lightly. Add the sugar and beat with a whisk until they are a pale yellow in colour.
  4. Slowly pour the steeped milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
  5. Strain this mixture back into the saucepan and discard the juniper.
  6. Simmer over low heat until the mixture has thickened.
  7. Now pour the mixture into a clean bowl and beat with a whisk until it has cooled and coats the back of a spoon.
  8. Add the butter in three parts and whisk until smooth with each addition.
  9. Add the gel food colouring and whisk through.
  10. Once everything has cooled, place your buttercream in a zip-top bag, snip the corner off  and pipe it onto half of your shells. Then place a similarly sized shell on top and gently press them together.

All photos by me.