Ok, it’s been awhile (an incredibly long while I know), since my first attempt at macarons. Since that time, I have made the wonderful discovery of a new, ingenious way of creating vegan meringue. The reality is, I first read/ heard about this not that long after my first macaron attempt, but for some reason, I’ve been lazy and kept not giving this a try. What is this mysterious new technique? Why it is quite simply the magic of what has been deemed “Aquafaba” (it even sounds like a magic word that could be the start of many a newly minted vegan creation). What is this crazy word that I’ve just thrown in your face you ask? It is nothing more complicated than the brine in which you find canned chickpeas soaking (apparently you can use the brine from other canned beans as well, but chickpeas appear to be the internet favourite, so who am I to argue with Big Data?). Talk about your recycling! I mean, maybe you used to have some crazy purpose for that gloopy mess, but I would typically just rinse what I’m now discovering is liquid gold, straight down the sink. So many opportunities lost 🙁 .
I was reminded of this recently though because Kevin was perusing other nonsense on the interwebs and called out to me “Hey Amber, did you know that you can apparently use canned chickpea goop to make vegan meringue?” and I was all smug and said “Of course! I read about that ages ago.” “Oh, have you tried this before then?” *embarrassed face* “umm..no…I’m lazy and I should really get on that.” So…macarons anyone?
Channelling my inner snobby French baker, I promptly plastered on a pencil thin twirlable moustache and beret and got to work.
Ok, I know it’s hard to believe based on my photoshopping abilities, but this photo was actually taken in New Zealand about 5 years ago, so not French at all, but I’m embracing the internationality of it all 😉
These are a bit of a slog to make if I’m being perfectly honest (and I’ve obviously been extremely honest in this blog in general, but even more so when it comes to my macarons…remember these “differently beautiful” cookies?:
Ah, the memories. I’m sure we can all agree that the ones I’ve made this time around have at least a soupçon more macaron authenticity than the original attempt). If you’re channelling your inner Parisian however, you should enjoy every moment of it. Excuse to prance around while wearing a beret and speaking in a French accent to the annoyance of those around you for hours on end? Count me in! Besides, aren’t the best things in life worth waiting for? (and annoying others with? Plus, they can’t really stay mad at you for being annoying when you hand them a delicious macaron as a reward for putting up with you 😉 ).
Despite me literally just telling you they’re a slog to make, they’re not really that difficult, they’re just really time consuming. And really, most of that time involves waiting, so it’s not like you have to actually do anything – e.g. bake cookies, pipe on to cookie sheet, let sit for 2-3 hours before baking etc.
I decided to be mildly less ambitious this time around in the “variety of flavours” department as you can see. I thought with the disaster (at least visually) of my previous batch of macarons, maybe I should instead focus on getting the cookies to actually look the way they’re supposed to before I get all crazy and creative with flavours. So on that note, there are only chocolate mint and lemon mint (sounds weird still I know, but a) it’s delicious trust me, and b) I had leftover lemon icing from my cookies last week. My usual methodology of using up small amounts of leftover icing is to put it in my coffee for the next week or so. I would’ve had to have lemon flavoured coffee for something like 2 months with the amount I had leftover however. And although lemon flavoured coffee is actually a surprisingly good combination – would maybe sound less bad if I dubbed it “Lemon Pie Latte” or something of that ilk – I really didn’t want to be forced into having flavoured coffee for the rest of my life).
I absolutely cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I was with how these turned out. And that’s despite the fact that I made a big, irreversible error right off the bat. They still turned out! I hear that macarons are finicky and the slightest error totally screws them up, but that really wasn’t my experience (these don’t look 100% perfect, but a) a million times better than my initial attempt and b) the flavour was also pretty close to spot on with my memories of Parisian macarons so “Huzzah!” (the shells are maybe slightly less soft, but, first of all, I messed up as I said, and I’ve also only eaten them straight from the refrigerator at this point, so possibly if I wasn’t so impatient and actually allowed them to warm up a bit, they’d be a bit softer? UPDATE: They get to be the perfect consistency if you can actually manage to keep your hands off them for a day or so. Good luck with that 😉 ).
Yield: 24 cookies
NOTE: THIS RECIPE NEEDS TO BE STARTED A DAY BEFORE YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO MAKE THEM!!! (I hate when recipes don’t tell me this and then I get partway through making something and have to say “oh crap, why didn’t I read all the instructions first”, so I’m trying to save you from my stupidity 🙂 ).
- 1 1/4 cups ground almonds
- 1 cup icing sugar
- Aquafaba – aka liquid from a can of chickpeas (reserve chickpeas for another use. May I humbly suggest hummus?) – should have about a cup’s worth
- ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1/2 cup cane sugar pulsed a few times in a food processor or spice grinder to make it finer
- 1 teaspoon mint extract
- cocoa powder for dusting (optional)
- 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup canned coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon mint extract
- 2 tablespoons cup vegan butter
- 2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese (I used Tofutti)
- 1 cup icing sugar
- zest from 1/2 a lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
- At least a day before you want to make your macarons, make the aquafaba. In a small saucepan, pour all the strained juice from a can of chickpeas and bring to a boil. Lower heat and allow to simmer until it’s reduced to about 1/3 of a cup. I just kept a large glass measuring cup nearby and checked on it periodically. Once it’s reduced, remove from heat and allow to cool. Place in a covered container and refrigerate at least overnight or until ready to use.
- In a food processor, combine the ground almond and icing sugar and pulse for about 1 minute. Sift almond-icing sugar mixture into a bowl to make sure no lumps remain (this will take a bit of time to force through your sifter. At least it did for me, so not to worry).
- If you happen to have a stand mixer, you can use that. I however, do not, so you may also do as I do and feel free to use an electric hand mixer for the following steps. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine aquafaba, cream of tartar and sea salt. Mix on high with mixer until mixture turns foamy and resembles frothy egg whites with no separated liquid left in the bottom of your bowl. This should take several minutes.
- Gradually add in your pulsed cane sugar. I did this in 3 batches making sure each batch was mixed in before adding more.
- Add in your mint extract and mix for another 1-2 minutes or until you get a thick, glossy meringue-like substance.
- Add half of your almond/icing sugar mixture into the meringue, and fold gently with a spatula until it’s incorporated with the meringue. Add the second half of your almond/icing sugar mixture, and continue to fold it into the batter. Continue folding until you end up with a mixture that resembles thick lava. Be careful not too overmix your batter however (you don’t want it to become too runny)
- Fill a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle with macaron mixture and pipe into 2 inch rounds on a Silpat. You’ll probably want to have 2-3 trays ready. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can feel free to just do what I always used to do before I bought one and cut off the corner of a plastic sandwich baggie and pipe that way (it will definitely be messier and more of a pain, but totally doable).
- Once you’ve piped out all your pretty little rounds, slam the tray down hard (just try and wake up that baby who lives next door to you 😉 ) on your kitchen counter to eliminate any air bubbles in your piped macaron mixture.
- Allow your macaron trays to rest in a coolish area (basically not on the stove) for 2-3 hours. They’re ready to bake when they have turned matte and you are able to gently touch the surface of the shells without anything sticking to your finger.
- (FYI – this is the part that will be a bit of a pain) Preheat oven to 220F and bake each tray individually for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn off the oven and leave macarons in there for another 10 minutes with the door closed, then a further 10 minutes with the door open. Repeat for remaining trays of macarons.
- While your macarons are baking, prepare your fillings. For the mint ganache, pour chocolate chips and mint extract into a small bowl. Either on the stove or in the microwave, heat up your coconut milk until just starting to boil. Pour over chocolate-mint mixture and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Stir until chocolate is melted. This will thicken as it cools down (put in the fridge to cool down more quickly).
- For the lemon filling, in a small mixing bowl, cream together the vegan butter and vegan cream cheese. Mix in the lemon zest and lemon extract. Add the icing sugar 1/4 cup at a time until it reaches a spreadable consistency.
- Spread fillings between 2 macaron shells to create sandwiches.
- Dust with cocoa powder if desired.