As I’ve mentioned, my sister is vegan. Back before she became vegan, when she was just a vegetarian, we would make macarons together when we were both home at our parents’ house. If you’ve never made macarons, you should know that they’re more of a project than your usual dessert recipe. I typically set aside ~4 hours to make a batch, and that doesn’t include the overnight steps. While that is undeniably a lot of time to spend on some cookies, it saves a lot of money because macarons do not have expensive ingredients but are extraordinarily expensive to buy in the store. Even better, I get to use that time to catch up with my sister, and we both feel the accomplishment of making a beautiful dessert that can seem very intimidating. Since going vegan, my sister and I had not made macarons. But I learned about using aquafaba (more on that after the break) in place of the eggs in macarons on the Great British Baking Show, so over Easter we decided to give it a try. All I can say is, boy was my sister pleased with the results!
This recipe is not too much of an invention on my part, and more of a testing and COMBINING of other people’s recipes for a dessert with an ingredient I’ve never used.
Macarons – Starting with the basics, macarons and macaroons are two different cookies. Macarons are sandwich cookies with crunchy, chewy almond meringues for the shells and a variety of fillings. Macaroons are coconut and egg balls often dipped in chocolate. I’m talking about the macaron sandwich cookies. The broad strokes of this recipe are the same as non-vegan macarons. The ingredients in normal macaron shells are very simple – almond flour and meringue. Uncooked meringue contains tons of air trapped in the protein network from the egg whites (see more about the science of meringues in this great blog post). This is why the volume of whipped meringue is many times larger than the volume of the original egg whites. When this air goes into the oven, it allows the macaron shells to remain light and full of holes. The sugar and the almond flour contribute chewiness. The foot, the ruffled edge at the bottom of each shell, is the mark of a good macaron – the bigger the foot the better the macaron. Most macaron shells are almond flavored (despite being dyed different colors) so the flavor from the macaron comes from the filling, which could be buttercream, ganache, or citrus curd like I used here.
A few macaron tips and tricks – Macarons are finicky, and there are a number of helpful tricks that can make the difference between success and failure. Others have done a great job of extensively describing the technique, so I’m just going to highlight a few that really help me:
- Under whipping your meringue will result in your shells not puffing up enough, while over whipping will cause them to crack. Once the meringue is at stiff peaks, stop whipping.
- Fold in the almond meal as gently as possible so you don’t lose too much of the air in the meringue.
- Draw circles in pencil on parchment paper, then flip the paper over and pipe your macaron batter into the stencil. This will keep your shells consistent and make it easier to pair them later into sandwiches.
- Let the uncooked shells sit on the counter to dry out until they are no longer sticky when lightly touched. This skin allows the shells to rise without cracking and helps in the formation of the foot. This could take 20 minutes or an hour, depending on the humidity and temperature of your kitchen.
- Macarons taste best after 24 hours in the fridge, when the filling has helped the shells soften a bit. But it’s ok if you can’t wait that long. I couldn’t either.
Aquafaba – So if the meringue is so crucial to macarons, how on earth are these vegan? The key is a crazy ingredient – aquafaba. Aquafaba is literally the liquid leftover from cooking chickpeas. As in, that gross stuff in the can of chickpeas that you usually throw away. This liquid contains protein, starch, and sugar that mimic egg whites and are able to generate an extremely similar foam with no weird flavors (For more on the science of aquafaba see here and here). Up until the point that I made the meringue and ate the macarons, I was not a believer, but trust me when I say this really is a “miracle” (science) ingredient! As a non-vegan who would like to eat vegan more, it’s ingredients like this that make switching easy – no sacrifice required.
Below, the recipe:
For the cookies:
- 1 cup aquafaba water (water from 2 cans chickpeas)
- 1 cup almond flour
- 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
- 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-3 drops vegan food coloring
- Night before: pour aquafaba into a small saucepan and reduce over medium heat (barely simmering) to about half. Refrigerate overnight
- Day of: Preheat oven to 250 F.
- Place almond flour and confectioners sugar in a food processor and blend for 1 min
- Put the chilled aquafaba in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high with the whisk attachment until soft peaks begin to form. Add vanilla, granulated sugar, and cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks.
- Sift almond meal mixture into whipped aquafaba and gently fold together just until combined, trying very hard to retain air. The mix should be silky and flow like “lava”.
- Transfer the batter to a piping bag.
- Draw 2 inch circles at least 1 inch apart on parchment paper. Flip the parchment paper over (pencil side down) onto a sheet pan and fill the circles with batter.
- Pick up the sheet pan and drop onto the counter from a height of about 8 inches to remove bubbles
- Let sit on the counter for about 30 minutes, or until the batter does not stick to your finger when lightly touched.
- Bake the cookies for 35 min. Once finished, turn off the oven and leave the cookies for 15 min, then crack open the oven door and leave for another 10 min.
- Remove from the oven and cool on the sheet pans before trying to get the cookies off the parchment.
For the lemon curd filling:
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp (packed) lemon zest
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp cold water
- pinch turmeric
- 1 Tbsp vegan butter
- Place lemon juice, lemon zest, and sugar in a small saucepan.
- Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar is melted.
- Mix cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl and set aside for a second.
- Once sugar is melted and mixture starts to boil, add cornstarch mixture to the pan.
- Bring mixture back to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Add a pinch of turmeric to make it a nice deep yellow color.
- Cook mixture for one or two minutes over medium-heat, stirring non-stop, until thickened and smooth. For a second, in the beginning, it might seem like the mixture is lumpy, just keep stirring and it will come together. It will be quite thick.
- Remove from the heat. Add butter and stir until melted.
- Transfer mixture to a bowl. Let it cool down completely. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
These had much tougher shells than the macarons that I normally make, although my sister said they softened up a lot after a day. They also had quite small feet, which was probably caused by the same issue – maybe I under whipped the meringue? However, it’s pretty amazing that you can make something so tasty and so similar to a macaron without eggs.