(for a video tutorial on my default recipe for macarons, click here)

At the risk of inflicting misery on some of my readers, I confess that my current ear worm is “Fly, Robin Fly“, but with the lyrics “Chai Butterfly” instead. I apologize in advance for the inconvenience. Ear worms aside, these were fun to make, but it took me two attempts to get them right. The problem with my first batch (as you can see in the picture below) is that they turned out too big, each macaron could feed a family of four. You don’t want that. They need to mimic the delicate nature of the Monarch butterfly.  Imagine the size of a regular macaron and when you pipe the four circles that will be the final cookie, they must fit that dimension, or be just slightly bigger.

(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

For the shells:
200g  Icing/powdered sugar
115 g Ground Almonds/Almond Meal
1 bag of Double Spice Chai Tea (Stash)
115 g egg whites at room temperature (approx. 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
¼ tsp vanilla paste or extract
orange, yellow and red food dye (adjusted to get the color of your favorite butterfly)

for the lemon buttercream:
40g unsalted butter, softened
130g powdered sugar
2 teaspoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
pinch of salt

For antennas (optional):
melted Candy melts
black food dye

Make the shells:
Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment/baking paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, almond flour and contents of the chai tea bag in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 12 pulses. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl or to a sheet of parchment/baking paper. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar in five additions, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme (marshmallow fluff). Add the vanilla and food gel dye. Whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the almond mixture in two increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl.   Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with your choice of piping tip.  Pipe shells, making two large circles touching side by side, and two smaller right below them.  Use a needle or a toothpick to smooth the surface and join the circles, to get the right shape.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter/worktop. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. In a dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 300 F. Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide or move (independently of the ‘feet’ when you gently twist the top), then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Check one or two. If they move when gently touched, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes until they don’t move when touched.   Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  The macarons should release without sticking.

When they are cold, match the shells and decorate one of them using a black food pen.

For the lemon buttercream filling:
In a mixing bowl with whisk attachment, beat the butter until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, heavy cream, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt and beat until well combined. Transfer the buttercream into a pastry bag and fill the macarons.

If you want to make antennas, use Candy Melts dyed black, place in a small piping bag, no need to use a piping tip, just cut a small hole. Pipe antennas (make more than you need, because they break easily). Let them set. Stick them on the head of the butterfly, in between the two shells.

Store the macs in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: There are two ways to pipe a butterfly-shaped shell. You can draw a butterfly shape and work with a small piping tip to fill it, or go the much easier route, piping two larger circles next to each other on top, and two smaller ones at the bottom. Smooth the joints using a toothpick or a cookie needle. On my first attempt I used two colors of batter and made a central line for the body in black. I did not like the effect, it was too thick. I think drawing the whole body details with a food-pen (Chefmaster has a soft point, perfect for it) is a much better option.

For the antennas, I used Candy Melts dyed black, and piped on parchment. When dry, I stuck into the filling. They are very fragile, and on my second batch I made mutant butterflies. Antenna-less. They are easier to wrap, which is a must for the treats I share at the Common Table.

For the macaron addicts out there, lately I’ve been incorporating one additional step to my recipe: I dry the almond flour the day before in a low oven (200F) for about 20 minutes. I find that the feet are bigger when I do so, and  I like the overall texture of the shell better. The chai flavor is subtle but definitely there.  One bag of the double chai tea is perfect for this amount of batter. I like the contrast of the spice in the shell with the brightness of the lemon buttercream in the filling.

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