Over the Christmas holidays, my sister-in-law bought something for us to share as we were opening our gifts together on Christmas morning. It was wrapped in a cute white box with a beautiful ribbon. My father-in-law opened the box and had us guess the contents by giving us one clue: Yo-Yo.
It was such a mysterious clue, and we fired many questions his way in order to guess the surprise contents of the box. I was the last person to guess it correctly, and I only guessed after my husband pointed out that I had made it before.
Now I am always reminded of how macarons look like yo-yo’s! So as my first recipe of 2013, I decided to remember the holidays with a new macaron recipe I created incorporating my Asian roots. Asians definitely love taro! A little taro flavor added into the mix gives these macarons a splash of pizazz and a beautiful lavender color. It’s also not too sweet, to balance out the sweetness of the vanilla buttercream.
I shared some macarons with my colleagues at the hospital who were completely unfamiliar with the taste of taro, and they devoured them. It always fills me with delight when my guests fight for seconds of what I made, especially when it was an experimental recipe that turned out well!
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
1 1/4 cups almond flour
3 tbsp taro powder
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
For the vanilla buttercream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
Pinch kosher salt
Line 3 completely flat baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Be sure the parchment paper is cut the right size so that it lays flat on the baking sheet.
Tip: It’s a good idea to draw 4 cm circles on the parchment paper with a pencil ahead of time. That way, when you pipe the batter onto the baking sheets, you can use the circles as a guide. Just be sure to turn the parchment paper over so that the pencil is facing downwards before piping the batter.
Sift the confectioner’s sugar, almond flour, and taro powder together into a large bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy and the wires of the whisk leave a trail (about 1 to 2 minutes).
Add 1 tbsp of the granulated sugar and continue to whip for another 45 seconds. Repeat 3 times with the remaining granulated sugar.
Once all the sugar is mixed in, continue beating on medium-high speed until the egg whites turn glossy and stiff (about 4 to 8 minutes). When you lift the beater from the bowl, the whites should hold a straight peak that doesn’t curl at the tip.
With a large rubber spatula, fold in half of the confectioner’s sugar mixture. Once most of it has been incorporated, fold in the remaining mixture until just combined.
Scoop the batter into a piping bag fitted with the Ateco #11 round tip (7 mm diameter). Pipe the batter onto the prepared baking sheets of parchment paper in rounds that are about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, spaced about 1 1/2 inches apart. Hold the piping bag perpendicular to the baking sheet as you pipe and flick the tip of the bag as you finish each cookie to minimize the peaks.
Tap the baking sheets against the counter several times to flatten the mounds and pop any large air bubbles. Let rest on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes until the batter mounds no longer feel sticky. Test the surface of the batter by touching it very lightly with your finger. If it still sticks to your finger, let it rest for a few minutes more before baking, to ensure that the cookies form a crisp, delicate top when baked.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325oF with one oven rack on the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Put 2 of the baking sheets in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 300oF. Bake, rotating the sheets and swapping positions after 8 minutes, until the meringues are very pale golden (about 15 to 20 minutes total). Cool completely on the baking sheets on racks. Return the oven temperature to 325oF and bake the third baking sheet as above.
Make the vanilla buttercream. In a small heatproof bowl, whisk the granulated sugar and egg whites. In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Set the bowl over the simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water) and heat the mixture, whisking occasionally, until hot to the touch (4 to 6 minutes). It will thin out as the sugar melts.
Remove the bowl from the heat and scrape the mixture into the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until the mixture is light, white, and cool to the touch (about 4 to 6 minutes). Reduce the speed to low and add the chunks of butter one at a time. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the buttercream is smooth (about 5 minutes). Mix in the vanilla bean seeds and salt.
Using a piping bag with the same size tip used to pipe the meringues, pipe 1 to 1 1/2 tsp of the vanilla buttercream onto half of the cookies. Top the filled halves with their pairs.
The cookies are best when eaten the same day, but you can store them at room temperature or in the fridge in an airtight container for 2 days.