vanilla bean macarons

berry macaron | wee eats

Macarons are probably the most finnicky cookie you will ever come across. So, in my laziness, I was overjoyed to learn that I could find them in freezer section of my local Trader Joe’s store. Of course, curiosity will always get the better of me, so I had to try to make them on my own.

This was not the first time I had made macarons, I made them successfully years ago, less successfully once after that, super unsuccessfully about a month and a half ago (That was the recipe’s fault, not mine. Well, my fault for not doing more research I suppose) and finally, this last time, super successfully. With the help of a small refresher from Sur La Table.

So, finally, the masochism paid off and I got my macarons. And they were delicious! So, to spare you the heartbreak of failure, let’s review what I have deemed to be important to your macaron success.

vanilla macaron | wee eats

1. Weigh your ingredients. You will find plenty of recipes that offer cups instead of grams. Just skip those all together. Honestly you should always be weighing things but I’m far too lazy for that so I opt for cups in almost all my recipes. Macarons, however, will not stand for that. They just won’t. So get out your scale and get to weighing. I have an older version of this one and it seems to work fine.

2. Sift, sift, sift! Large chunks do not a happy macaron make, so sift your almond/powdered sugar mixture through a fine mesh sieve and discard any large chunks that are left behind. Your cookies will thank you for it.

3. Gel colors only! Macarons are a very careful balancing act of liquid to solid ratio and you want to disturb that as little as possible. So, if you would like to color your macarons, opt for gel coloring and add it towards the end of your egg-beating (once you have just reached the stiff peak stage). Add more color than you think you need because the color will fade when the macarons bake. I use these colors. The macarons at the top of this page are really just vanilla shells with red gel coloring and berry filling.

4. Find the Goldilocks zone. Overmixing your macarons will give you a runny batter that is impossible to manage. Undermixing will result in a batter that is too thick and the macarons won’t spread or settle properly (you may notice that your macaron has a “point” after it is piped). Your batter should have the consistency of magma – not too thick and not too thin.

macaron magma gif

5. Use a real piping bag and tip. I’m forever cheap and try to avoid buying piping bags when I am convinced a Ziploc bag with the end cut off will do. This will NOT work with macarons (trust me, I’ve tried). It’s not worth the heartache, just cough up the cash for a couple tips and disposable bags and get on your way. I wouldn’t tell you to buy them if I didn’t think you needed them. I promise.

6. Hands off! After you have tapped your baking sheet to release the air bubbles, you can quickly pop any remaining bubbles you see with a toothpick if you like. But then it’s HANDS OFF for at least 30 minutes. Forming this skin is critical to creating the feet for your baby macarons so use this time to make your filling, preheat your oven, or to say a few prayers for your precious baby cookies. You will know enough time has passed when the tops have changed from shiny to dull and you can gently drag your finger across the top without any issue.

7. Time + Temperature are the two keys to success. (AKA: More Goldilocks stuff.) Remember to turn down your oven as soon as you put the macarons in. If you think you will forget this step, you can preheat to the baking temperature of 300F instead of the higher temperature. If you see your cookies are browning too fast, cover them with foil. If you think they’re cooking faster or slower than the specified time, go ahead and follow your instinct. If you over-bake the cookies, they will be dry and crumbly. If you under-bake them, they will be soft and gummy inside. You want a perfect balance of crisp shell with a chewy interior. It might take a few tries to get it right, but when in doubt I always err on the side of slightly under-baked.

Below you can see two sets of macarons – and the ones on the left are NOT chocolate. The left batch baked at too high of a temperature and over-browned. The others I lowered the oven temperature and covered with a bit of foil to prevent over-browning.

overbaked macaron

8. Be creative! You can get creative with your filling – don’t feel like making a buttercream? Go ahead and use a ganache instead, or simply spread a bit of jam or fruit curd between the cookies! Here I did a ring of buttercream with a dollop of jam in the middle.

macaron filling


9. Practice, practice, practice! If at first you don’t succeed, don’t be afraid to try again! Once you make them, you’ll see that they actually come together quite quickly and since you can freeze them you can have like a month’s supply of macarons at the end of all your hard work! I’m far from a macaron master, but I can confidently say that I can make a darn good macaron and plan to get plenty more practice to up my skill level to play with other flavors and techniques.

macaron practice

vanilla bean macarons


    For the macarons:
  • 110 grams almond flour
  • 200 grams confectioners sugar
  • 100 grams egg whites
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 50 grams granulated sugar
  • For the vanilla filling:
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For strawberry filling
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons strawberry jam
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt


    Make the Macarons
  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment and preheat the oven to 375F. YOU WILL TURN THIS DOWN WHEN YOU PUT THE MACARONS IN. DON'T FORGET TO TURN IT DOWN!
  2. Pulse the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor until finely ground and well blended.
  3. Sift almond mixture into a bowl (or onto a large sheet of parchment if you don't feel like dirtying another bowl. Discard any large chunks that will not go through the sieve.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy, then scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod into the mixing bowl.
  5. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until a smooth, shiny meringue with stiff peaks forms, then add vanilla extract and beat a couple seconds more just to incorporate.
  6. Add 1/3 of the ground almond mixture to the meringue THIS IS WHERE YOU WANT TO BE VERY CAREFUL Over-mixing your batter will make it super runny and hard to work with, and your macarons won't get their tiny feet.
  7. Gently fold the 1/3 of almond mixture into the meringue until it is completely incorporated. Add remaining almond mixture and gently fold that in, it will take about 100 strokes (it sounds crazy, I know) - You want it to reach the consistency of "magma' (ha-ha!). So, it should be relatively thick, but still flow easily. When drizzled from above, the ribbon should sit on top of the remaining batter, then slowly be absorbed within about 2 seconds. Another way to check is to run your spatula down the center of the bowl, the two sides should "kiss" within about two seconds (see video in the post above).
  8. Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain wide round tip (I used a 1/4 inch tip because it's all I could find). Pipe into small rounds spaced about 1 to 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets - you want to avoid "spiraling" while you pipe, just pipe into the center and allow the batter to flow outward on its own. Each round should be about 1-1½ inches in diameter.
  9. Once piped, bang your baking sheet on the counter about 2 to 3 times to release any air bubbles that are in the batter. Let sit out uncovered 30 minutes to an hour to form their "skin" - The skin is what will help them grow their feet! They are done when the tops are dull and you can touch them gently without leaving a mark.
  10. When ready to bake, turn the oven temperature down to 300F and place the macarons into the oven. I bake mine one sheet at a time (since sitting on the counter doesn't hurt anything). Bake anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. If they start to brown too quickly, once they have their feet you can cover them with a sheet of foil and continue baking.
  11. When finished baking, place baking sheet on a wire rack and allow cookies to cool completely before moving. When ready to move, use an offset spatula to scrape under the cookies to remove them from the parchment.
  12. Match into approximate pairs that are similar in shape and size for filling.
  13. Make the filling(s):
  14. Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed until it begins to become light and airy. Add powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla bean paste or extract and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add jam (if using) and beat until fully incorporated.
  15. Scrape into piping bag and set aside until ready to pipe.
  16. Fill the cookies:
  17. Fill cookies by piping filling onto one cookie (I do use the spiral method for this, to ensure the filling reaches the edges) and gently pressing the top cookie onto the filling, flat side down.
  18. Once all cookies are filed, place into the freezer for at least 1 hour. I like to wrap mine individually in cello-wrap to keep them fresh and store them in the freezer. You may thaw cookies before eating. Store in refrigerator prior to serving.

[ See the original cookie recipe on Annie’s Eats ]

fruity pebble meringues

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I’ll admit that I have always been a cereal girl. Left to my own devices, I would eat cereal every day: morning, noon, and night. I’m the reason they are still releasing crazy new flavors, because I buy just about every single one. You’re saying that my favorite peanut butter is now a cereal? Sold! What’s that? There’s a cookies and cream cereal? Don’t mind if I do.

If there is a new cereal on the shelf, there’s a darn good chance I’m going to be bringing it home with me.    Continue reading

lucky charms cookies

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I’m usually late to the holiday party, but this year I’ve got it covered. Well, for one holiday at least.. assuming that you even count St. Patrick’s Day as a holiday that should be celebrated… Either way, these cookies are the perfect treat for St. Patrick’s Day or, if you’re not into that, we can just call it Tuesday. What makes them so perfect for St. Patty’s? They are filled with the flavor of our beloved childhood favorite cereal – Lucky Charms! And everyone know their mascot is a leprechaun which means that cereal (and by proxy these cookies) are perfect for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.

Assuming, of course, that you are celebrating the leprechaun-chasing, green-beer-drinking, shamrock-sporting, rainbow-chasing, pot-of-gold version and not the saintly actual St. Patrick version.  You could still celebrate the saintly version with these cookies, but they might not seem quite as relevant.

Continue reading

cranberry-pistachio icebox cookies

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Ok, now that you’ve endured weeks of healthful meals from me, I thought I would reward you with some cookies.

These crumbly sables combine salty pistachios and tart cranberries which just happen to pair perfectly with the sweet, buttery cookies. Oh, and then I rolled them in big chunks of decorative sugar for some sparkle and crunch. Because who doesn’t love sparkles – especially when you can eat them and be sparkly on the inside! (It IS what’s inside that counts, right?)

I first made these cookies around the holidays and tucked them away into the freezer so they would be ready for when the holidays rolled around.  I had every intention of sending them out with my Christmas cookies but there were… technical difficulties.

Mostly that I ate them.

And while, yes, the red berries and pale green pistachios were super cute when I first made these for Christmas cookies, no one will complain about consuming them during a non-Christmas time of year.  Not to mention they are ice-box cookies, which means even if you make them around the holidays and stuff them (tightly-wrapped) in the freezer, they will still be every bit as delicious once July rolls around… :)

cranberry pistachio cookies

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 18 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 38 minutes

Yield: Appx 24 cookies


    For the cookies
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, shelled
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
  • For baking
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup decorative sugar (preferably coarse)


    Make the cookies
  1. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and orange zest at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add flour mixture in 2 batches and mix on low, just until the dough comes together in clumps, then add pistachios and cranberries. Mix just a few moments longer to combine.
  3. Pour dough onto a lightly-floured surface and press together into a single mass. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces, then form each half of dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until very firm, at least 2 hours. (Or you can freeze the logs until you are ready to bake them)
  4. Bake the cookies
  5. If from frozen, let cookies set out about 30 minutes. If from refrigerated, no need to let them sit.
  6. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350F. If baking both sheets at once, put racks in upper and lower third of oven, if only baking one at a time you can leave the rack in the middle.
  7. Beat the egg and pour sugar into a shallow dish long enough to roll the log in (I used a paper plate).
  8. Brush egg over all 4 long sides of bars (but not ends) and press bars into sugar, coating well.
  9. Cut each bar crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, rotating bar after cutting each slice to help keep square shape. (It may be crumbly, just smoosh the cookies back together).
  10. Arrange cookies about 1/2 inch apart on lined baking sheets and bake until edges are pale golden, 15 to 18 minutes total.


Recipe source: Gourmet, December 2006

 cranberry pistachio icebox cookies |

samoa cookie bars

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Saturday morning a strange thing happened – someone knocked on the door.

This might not seem that strange to you, however, we live in a pretty quiet area and we know approximately zero people so we basically never get visitors. Like, ever.

And when we do, we follow a strict protocol involvng things like muting the TV and waiting for the person to leave.  This time, however, our front door was wide open and we were sitting in the living room (which is where the front door leads into) so I wasn’t confident that the whole “muting the TV” thing would work.

Unless we could also convince them that we were statues…

FH told me to “handle it” so I got up to assess the situation and there she was – standing no more than three feet tall, quite possibly the smallest Girl Scout I had ever seen.  Normally I am a firm believer of the “stranger danger” motto, but she was pretty small so I was pretty sure I could take her if things went south.

She mumbled something shyly about cookies and I assumed that in this case “handle it” meant to find any cash I had on hand and throw it at her in exchange for cookies, so I yelled for FH to get his wallet. If FH’s “handle it” meant for me to tell her to go away he was sadly mistaken, because who can say no to a little girl? No one.  Well maybe this guy could, but I don’t have any Knuckle Blasters so that’s not even an option.

Even if I could say “no” to a small child, I definitely couldn’t say no to cookies, especially since for the other 11 months out of the year I listen to FH go on and on about how much he loves samoas and how delicious they are. So I quickly purchased a box of Samoas from her and ran back inside, closing the door behind us to prevent any future incidents.

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FH hurried into the kitchen and ripped into them, took a bite, and… groaned?

It wasn’t the usual “these are so good” sound that you might hear when you eat your favorite cookie. It was a more whiny tone filled with dismay and dissatisfaction.

I asked him what was wrong, hoping for something cool like finding a finger or a dead bug or something like you hear about in those news stories. But, no. Nothing so exciting.

His “problem” was that just last week I made these samoa bars for him and apparently the flavor was still fresh in his mind and now he real samoa cookies, the ones that inspired the very bars that I made because he loved the cookies so much, are now “ruined” for him.

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His word, not mine.

I will admit that these bars are bit more “grown up” than their ancestors. Rather than just being a vessel to carry the caramel, this cookie layer is thicker than that of the original samoa with a bit more crunch and a more intense vanilla flavor. Meanwhile, the caramel layer is a bit more complex with a hint of saltiness, and the dark chocolate gives the perfect bit of bitter-sweet to compliment the sweet caramel and cookie.

Oh yes, and don’t let me forget the ground unicorns and cocaine, but those ingredients are optional.

So at the risk of ruining the legendary Girl Scout cookies for someone you love…

And at the risk of putting thousands of young girls out of business…

Give these bars a try.


Ground unicorns and cocaine optional.

samoa bars

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: One 9-by-13 pan


    For the cookie layer
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • For the caramel layer
  • 3.5 cups shredded coconut
  • 2 11-oz packages caramel bits
  • 3 Tablespoons whole milk or cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • For the chocolate drizzle
  • 6 oz dark chocolate (I used the Ghiradelli melting wafers)


    For the cookies:
  1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract and milk. Add flour and mix on low until just incorporated. It will be on the dry side.
  3. Pour out onto parchment paper and form into general rectangle shape. Roll close to 9 x 13” and transfer into 9 x 13 baking pan. Press into bottom of pan until it reaches the edges, leaving a slight lip on the edges.
  4. Poke holes in shortbread with a fork and bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden on top. Cool completely in pan before topping.
  5. For the coconut/caramel layer:
  6. Toast the coconut by placing on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baking at 300F for about 15 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning. Coconut is done when it is a golden-brown color. Set aside to cool.
  7. Melt the caramel bits with the milk and salt per package directions, until smooth. Once metled, stir in the vanilla extract and the coconut.
  8. Pour onto the cookie layer, spreading into an even layer with a spatula and pressing down with your hands.
  9. For the chocolate layer:
  10. Melt chocolate at 50% power in the microwave starting for 1 minute, then continuing in 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Drizzle over coconut layer and allow to cool completely. Once hardened, cut the cookies into bars and store at room temperature in an airtight container.

[ shorbread adapted from here]