Vanilla Crème Brûlée Macarons

I see a lot of "fusion" baked goods around the internet. You know, the "cheesecake brownie loaf" and the "cookie cupcake" and the "pie ice cream milkshake". Sometimes, they go too far and the combos are just a bit ridiculous. I prefer to keep my brownies as brownies, my cookies as cookies, and my cheesecakes as non-existent because I don't like cheesecake.

But trust me when I say that these crème brûlée macarons are the best fusion dessert ever.

Sure, these might not be as easy as making a cheesecake brownie cupcake, what with the open flame and burning hot sugar, but they're not as difficult as you might think. Do you have a handheld butane torch? If you do, you're 90% there. If not, well… Amazon ships pretty quickly and you'd be surprised with how often you end up using a handheld torch. 

Créme brûlée and macarons are two things that people find intimidating. Granted, hot caramel and open flames are scary and can cause wicked burns (I know all too well), but once you get used to it, it's a piece of (pie flavoured cheesecake cup)cake!

Macarons are kind of annoyingly finicky and get the reputation of being really difficult. In truth, they just require a really specific method and require you to stick to that exact method. Your oven might be too hot or your kitchen too humid or your batter slightly over mixed and so the macarons will be like, "You know what? Nah, I'm not gonna work out today. Just not feeling it." 

And it's frustrating. But, like the high maintenance friend that everybody has and kinda doesn't like, you eventually learn the right circumstances for which the macarons to thrive in. But unlike the high maintenance friend, macarons give back by being delicious and wonderful instead of just annoying.

Vanilla Crème Brûlée Macarons

Caramel Jam
Recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery Cookbook

85 g glucose
125 g sugar
20 g unsalted butter
130 g heavy cream

Recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery Cookbook

212 g almond flour/meal
212 g powdered sugar
82 g egg whites
90 g egg whites
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
236 g granulated sugar
158 g water

Vanilla French Buttercream
Recipe from Bouchon Bakery

38 g granulated sugar
63 g egg yolks
75 g whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
250 g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, at room temperature

Simple syrup
Granulated sugar

For the caramel jam, place the glucose in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the sugar one-third at a time, stirring just enough to incorporate before adding the next batch. Adding all the sugar at once could cause the sugar to caramelize too quickly and unevenly. 

After about 3 minutes, when the sugar has dissolved, the bubbles are a rich amber colour, and the temperature is 350 F/177 C, reduce the heat to medium. Working quickly, stir in the butter. Once the butter has melted, gradually stir in the cream. Continue to cook, stirring and scraping to keep the mixture from scorching, until it reaches 248 F/120 C. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve into a container; let cool.

The jam can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. To liquefy it, warm it slowly in a microwave or on the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water.

First, make the buttercream. If you wish, the buttercream can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. Take the buttercream out of the fridge thirty minutes before you need to use it and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow it to soften and then mix on low speed until it is the proper consistency.

Whisk 38 grams sugar and the yolks together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the milk and seeds from the vanilla bean in a medium saucepan, set over medium heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar. When the milk is just below a simmer, remove the pan from the heat and, whisking constantly, pour it into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the pan and place over medium heat. Whisking constantly, bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for 1 minute, lowering the heat if necessary to prevent the mixture from curdling. It should be very thick.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk for about 8 minutes on medium speed, until the mixture is completely cool.

Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, to the egg yolk mixture. If at any point the mixture looks broken, increase the speed to re-emulsify it, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter. Check the consistency: if the buttercream is too loose to hod its shape, it should be refrigerated for a few hours to harden, then beaten again to return it to the proper consistency.

Start on the macarons. The macarons need to be as close in size as possible and a template is the easiest way to ensure that. Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a work surface with the long side facing you. Using a glass or bowl, trace the desired size of your macaroons (I used a 1.5 inch diameter for these). Make sure to leave 1 inch of space between them. Turn the parchment over and lay it on a sheet pan. Lift up each corner of the parchment and spray with non-stick spray to keep it from blowing up while the cookies are baking. Repeat with a second sheet.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl and whisk together. Make a well in the center, leaving a layer of flour at the bottom. Pour in the 82 grams egg whites and combine with a spatula. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the mixture, stirring until evenly distributed. Set aside.

Place the remaining 90 grams egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Combine the 236 grams sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 203 F/110 C.

Letting the syrup continue to cook, add a pinch of sugar to the egg whites, turn the mixer to medium speed, and whip to soft peaks. If the whites reach soft peaks before the syrup reaches 248 F/120 C, reduce the speed to the lowest setting, just to keep them moving.

When the syrup reaches 248 F/120 C, remove the pan from the heat. Turn the mixer to medium-low speed and slowly add the syrup, pouring it between the side of the bowl and 
the whisk. The meringue will deflate. Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5 minutes, or until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Although the bowl will still be warm, the meringue should have cooled. If not, continue to whip until it is cool.

Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond mixture, then continue adding the whites a little at a time (you may not use them all) until when you fold a portion of the batter over on itself, the "ribbon" slowly moves. The mixture shouldn't be so stiff that it holds its shape without moving at all, but it shouldn't be so loose that it dissolves into itself and does not maintain the ribbon; it is better for the mixture to be sightly stiff than too loose.

Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip. Hold the bag upright 1/2 inch above the center of one of the traced circles and pipe out enough to fill in the circle. Lift away the pastry bag and fill the remaining circles on the first pan. Lift up the sheet pan and tap the bottom of the pan to spread the batter evenly and smooth any peaks left by the bag.

Place the sheet pan in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees again.

Pipe the remaining macaron mixture into the circles of the second sheet pan and bake as directed above. Let cool completely.

Remove the macarons from the parchment paper. Lightly brush the top a macaron with simple syrup, then immediately dip into the granulated sugar. Place the macaron on the bottom of a sheet pan or baking pan and torch until the sugar has caramelized. Repeat with  the remaining half of the macarons. 

Transfer the buttercream to the pastry bag with the 3/8 inch tip. Transfer the caramel jam to a pastry bag with the 1/8 inch tip. Pipe a ring of buttercream, not quite reaching the edge of the macaron. Fill the hole with caramel jam. Top with a second macaron and gently press to spread the buttercream to the edges. Repeat with remaining macarons and filling.

The macarons are best if wrapped individually in a few layers of plastic wrap and frozen for at least 24 hours or up to 2 weeks. Defrost in the refrigerator for 3 hours, then bring to room temperature before seving. They can be served the day they are made or stored in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 2 days.