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Just let that freak flag fly, baby!

**This post originally appeared on YinMomYangMom.com**

Yesterday I made my first attempt at a hot food trend: French Macarons!  I am thrilled to report that I pretty much nailed it on the first try, which is evidently not easy to do as French Macarons are notoriously tricky and temperamental.  I’m sure I have these fabulous foodies to thank for making my macaron deflowering a success:

Sue of Boulangier a la Maison
AmberLee of GiversLog
Paula of Bell’alimento
Helen of Tartelette

Although I was pleased with the technical aspect of my results, I have to admit, my fillings pretty much fell short.  (I used store-bought preserves, curd, and nocciola.)  I realized after my first bite that the macaron shell is quite sweet, and the ideal filling should balance that sweetness.

So today I worked on tweaking my basic macaron formula with a fancy filling.

Buttercream.  Buttercream= Powdered Sugar + Butter.  Right?  Wrong.  Contrary to what many cupcake shops would have us believe, this formula does not a true buttercream make.  My first taste of a real buttercream was a revelation.  Silky, faintly sweet, with a richness that belies it’s lighter-than-air texture.  Words cannot do justice…  Ok, I realize I’m letting my food-freak flag fly here.  Oh yeah, it’s at full-mast baby.

There are many methods for making a true buttercream but I will share my favorite with you now.  I stumbled across it accidentally, after years of toiling over a pot of molten hot sugar.  It was originally published by Rose Levy Beranbaum, in The Cake Bible, as “Classic Egg White Chocolate Buttercream.”  At the time, I happened to need a chocolate buttercream recipe, and I loved this one because it gave me the same result as her Classic and Neoclassic Buttercream Recipes, without the risk of third degree burns associated with a 238 degree bob syrup.  The recipe worked out so well I decided to try it with other flavorings besides chocolate.  (It is a mystery to me why Ms. Levy-Beranbaum does not mention this possibility.)  I tinkered around and found that it works beautifully.  This is now my go-to buttercream by virtue of it’s utter simplicity.

I’ve quartered her quantities for our purposes, as a typical batch of macarons does not require nearly as much buttercream as an iced layer cake.

Allie (& Rose’s) Simple (yet no less Transcendant) Basic Buttercream for Macarons Filling

1 stick of softened butter
1 large, room temperature egg white
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Put the egg white in the bowl of a stand mixer and crank it at full speed.  When it gets foamy and white…

Start gradually adding the sugar.  Whip it- whip it good.  We’re looking to get it good and stiff food freaks…

There’s a nice meringue now.  Start adding the soft butter about a tablespoon at a time.  It will start to look all wrong…

like it’s broken/split… you may want to panic but don’t- I promise you it will come together.  Continue slowly adding the butter until it’s all in and you are absolutely convinced that I have no buttercreaming idea what I’m talking about because what you have on your hands is one hot mess but okay just keep on whipping- and then, by sheer magic, you have a beautiful little lump of velvety-smooth, buttery-rich and thick buttercream.

For my little lovely simple basic almond macarons shells that I shared with you yesterday, I thought a chai-spiced buttercream would play so nicely with that sweet cookie shell, so I added:

1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice Powder (which gives chai-spice bang for your buck      with a combination of anise, cinnamon, clove, star anise, and ginger)
1/4 teaspoon Vietnamese Cinnamon (I like it extra cinnamony)
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
about 15-20 grinds fresh black pepper (or preferably white if you have it)
contents of 1 cardamom pod, ground in a mortar & pestle (or 1 pinch pre-ground)

Spread carefully on a delicate macaron shell…

And sandwich.

Sugar, spice and everything nice.  They’re like the daughters I never had.

Click here for the Intro to this Series (2012 Food Trends for the Home Cook)
Click here for Part 1 of this Series (Basic Macarons for the First-Timer)
Click here for Part 3 of this Series (Red Velvet Macarons for Valentine’s Day)
Click here for Part 4 of this Series (Green Tea Macarons with Orange White Chocolate Buttercream)