week 11. vanilla bean macs x birthday cake buttercream

using my base recipe, I subbed out cocoa powder for the equivalent amount of almond powder, and then flavored with the pulp of 1 vanilla bean.

these were delicious. my husband and mother-in-law had birthdays this week, so I let that dictate the theme. for the 2nd week in a row, none of them had cracks! this definitely has to do with having figured out the right amount of meringue mixing as well as having the piped macs sit out for a bit before putting them in the oven. I also used non-organic confectioner's sugar instead of organic powdered sugar. the shells and buttercream both turned out much smoother and a better, whiter color. I usually use the best organic/pasture-raised/etc. ingredients for everything, but I'm going to make an exception from now on with the powdered sugar.

ingredients | shells

mixture a:                  
almond flour                                                 37g

vanilla bean pulp                                       from 1 bean
almond TPT*                                                300g
powdered sugar                                        38g

egg whites                                                      73g     

mixture b:
egg whites                                                      73g
salt                                                                       0.5g
water                                                                  50g
sugar                                                                  188g
light corn syrup                                          10g

* TPT means equal parts powdered sugar and another ingredient, in this case it’s almond flour, and you will use 150g of each to equal the 300g.

method | shells

bring all ingredients to room temperature.

use a paring knife to slice the vanilla bean in half, lengthwise. then use the knife to scrape out the pulp.

from “mixture a,” sift together the almond flour, vanilla bean pulp, almond TPT, and powdered sugar into a large bowl and set aside. (it’s important to sift to make sure everything is very fine).

from “mixture b” whisk the egg whites and salt in a standing mixer with the whisk attachment set to 4 and leave it there while you make a syrup.

make a syrup from “mixture b.” first add the water, then the sugar, then the corn syrup into a small saucepan. pour the sugar in very slowly so that it all gets incorporated into the water, being very careful not to get any on the sides of the saucepan or your syrup can crystallize. do not stir!! stirring can also cause crystallization. just let it do its thing.

heat this syrup on medium until it boils and reaches 248°F. really, don’t stir it!

tip: you can take the chill off the eggs if you hold the bowl over the heating saucepan for a few seconds while swirling it around or whisking it (I like to whisk).

turn up the standing mixer to 8 to create soft peaks while the syrup is still heating up to the right temperature.

to create the meringue, slowly pour the hot syrup along the side of the bowl into the mixing egg whites and let it mix until it’s stiff, but still shiny.

take the egg whites from “mixture a,” plus a spatula full of the meringue and mix it into the sifted vanilla bean, almond, powdered sugar mixture that you made earlier. fold this together with a spatula until you form a thick paste.

fold the rest of the meringue into that paste until it becomes glossy and slightly runny. (you’ll know when it’s done when the batter slowly falls off your spatula like a thick ribbon and settles into itself in the bowl after a few seconds. you don’t want it to be any runnier than that because you don’t want the mixture to spread once it’s piped).

scoop batter into a pastry bag fitted with about a 10mm piping tip, and pipe quarter sized bulbs onto parchment paper or a silicone baking mat on a sheet pan.

tip: if a little nub from where you released the piping bag doesn’t settle into itself, you can use a small paintbrush to tap it down.

tap the bottom of the pan a couple times to prevent any air bubbles while baking. (i actually tap it like 30 times because it's fun and it really does get the air bubbles out)

top half, or all of your macs with some rainbow sprinkles.

let your macs sit out for at least 10 minutes before going in the oven. this recipe uses the italian method, and I've read that you really don't have to do this unless you're using the french method. but ever since my successful, crack-less shells from week 10, I will continue to incorporate this step.

bake on your oven’s convection setting at 280° for 15 minutes. for the first 5 minutes with the oven door closed, and the remaining 11 minutes with a wooden spoon propping the oven door open a bit.

let cool completely before filling.

ingredients | birthday cake buttercream

unsalted butter                                        1/2 cup
powdered sugar                                       1   1/2 cup

homemade yellow cake mix*         1/3 cup
salt                                                                      1/4 tsp
vanilla extract                                             1 tsp

heavy cream                                               2 tbsp
rainbow sprinkles                                    however much you want

* you can use yellow cake mix from the box, but I wanted to make it from scratch to avoid any unecessary additives that comewith a pre-made boxed mix. also, I made a small cake with the remaining mix that didn't go into the frosting, and it was AMAZING.

here's the recipe for homemade yellow cake mix that I found on dontwastethecrumbs.com

1-1 gluten free flour                                 21/4 cup
sugar                                                                1   1/4 cup

baking powder                                           3 1/2 tsp
salt                                                                      1 tsp

method | birthday cake buttercream

bring butter to room temperature.

use a hand mixer or paddle attachment on a standing mixer, set on medium-high, to cream the butter until light and creamy.

add the cake mix and mix on low until totally incorporated.

add the powdered sugar and mix on low until totally incorporated, then turn mixer up to medium-high for a minute, scraping down the sides a couple times.

add the vanilla extract and salt and beat on medium high for a couple minutes until fluffy.

beat in the heavy cream, 1 tbsp at a time, then mix on high for a couple minutes until well combined and creamy.

dump in however many sprinkles you'd like to use and mix on low until well-distributed.

pipe bulbs of buttercream to fill your mac sandwiches.

refrigerate these guys when you're done. they actually taste better after a day of refrigeration than they do right after baking.

tip: the sizes of all of your shells will tend to be slightly different, so make sure you buddy up your shells to similarly sized partners so that the entire cookie is a consistent size.