Making macarons requires passion. How else could one be expected to regularly subject themselves to defeat at the hands of egg whites? I’ve upped my classic flavors of macarons (the ones that are always available) to include a sixth flavor: vanilla bean. Nothing could seem simpler, and nothing could be further from the truth.
The possibilities for vanilla bean filling came down to two prominent options: vanilla buttercream or vanilla ganache. I recently put the choice up on my Facebook page as a fan poll, and the winner was ganache. Determined to please my clients, I set off to the bakery and got to work.
Vanilla macarons are my dream flavor to make. Without the adulteration of flavorings or food coloring, they turn out perfectly every time. The feet always rise evenly, the shells firm up in the perfect amount of time, and they never crack. I whipped up a batch of the shells in no time, and moved on to the filling.
The essence of a ganache: heat up your cream and vanilla bean, pour it over white chocolate, stir in butter. I took a nip and cringed. Much too sweet! I spread a layer across one of the shells and tried it in tandem. Worse! Vanilla ganache without another partner (pistachio paste, passion fruit purée, etc.) is boring. Too sweet and no complexity.
Now I’ve made vanilla macarons a few times, but I’ve always made them with vanilla butter cream. A nice Italian meringue buttercream has a very similar consistency to fresh whipped cream, but lasts a lot longer. Scrape out some vanilla beans and mix them in, you have a perfect macaron filling that, in my opinion, makes the ultimate accompaniment to a glass of Vidal icewine.
I had to make a decision, and my gut told me to go with the buttercream. I’ve been told that I tend to be a “pleaser,” trying to always make others happy. In this case, I decided that, as the professional, it’s my job to tell my clients what they want, even if they think otherwise. I look for the same trait in other professionals I depend on every day. If I go to a restaurant and order a special that wasn’t a hit that night, I would hope my server would give me the evil eye. In the past, I’ve seen articles on chefs who refuse to allow substitutions to their menu, and for the first time ever, I understand why.
For those of you who picked the ganache, I apologize for not pleasing you. But I promise, you wouldn’t have liked it anyway.