The suggested recipe on the MacTweets site is from Helen at Tartelette, and it is very similar to the recipe in the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. I followed Helen's recipe exactly with Jaimie's suggestion for adding a little cocoa powder and espresso powder. I also heard from Jaimie that she uses pre-ground almonds rather than grinding them in a food processor, and I did that as well. So, the almond meal was whisked with confectioner's sugar, and then cocoa powder and finely ground espresso were added. Egg whites were whipped with granulated sugar, and then the almond meal mixture was folded into the meringue. I saw a useful tip in the Martha recipe for marking circles on a baking sheet by repeatedly dipping a one and half inch round cutter into flour and then pressing it on the silpat. Then, when piping the meringue, you have a guide for making the cookies all the same size. I was sure I owned some large, plain, piping tips, but when I went searching for them I found I only have star tips. I should take an inventory of my kitchen supplies. So, I went the cut a hole in a disposable piping bag route. The first hole I cut was, of course, too big, and the cookies spread a bit after being piped and I had to start over. The second time around, I made them very petite, inside the marked circles, and sprinkled a few bits of sanding sugar on top of each. I baked them at 280 degrees F, as instructed, and couldn't believe it when I saw that pretty, ruffled feet had formed.
I followed Helen's instructions for making a vanilla buttercream, and can I pause for a moment to dwell on the silky deliciousness that was that buttercream? One more moment. After letting the macarons cool, and then ever so gently peeling the silpat from the backs of them, and seeing a few of them crack and shatter, I filled the rest with that buttercream. For a touch of holiday spirit, I rolled the edges of exposed filling in crushed candy cane pieces. These cookies are a fun challenge in the kitchen, and the possible flavor combinations are endless. I don't think they'll ever become my favorite cookie to eat, whether I've made them or purchased them. They are light with a barely there crunch on the surface and a hint of chewiness, and the filling was extremely good, but they're also a little on the sweet side even for a cookie. I am thrilled, though, to have finally made French macarons and the experience has only increased my respect for those bakers who make them look so colorful, delicious, and effortless.