Delicate macarons are transformed into spiders with candy eyes and black licorice.
Buttercream Filling & Decor
The method for making these classic macarons (but with a spooky twist) is the Italian method. This means that some of the sugar is cooked before being added to the whipping egg whites. This lends stability to the macarons batter, making the macarons easier to pipe and bake up more consistently and successfully.That said, keep in mind that although macarons are made from relatively simple ingredients, the technique makes them a little finicky. It takes a bit of practice (and sadly, failing at least once – I have learned this way myself) to learn how to “read” when they are ready to bake, and try to avoid making these on a rainy or humid day. Also, I highly recommend using a scale to weight your ingredients (although volume measure are provided) for consistent results.
Cut three sheets of parchment to line your baking trays – 2 for your macarons and once for your template – leave a “handle” or extension on this remaining sheet. This will become your macaron-piping template, and the extension allows you to pull this sheet out from underneath your top parchment after you’ve piped your macarons. One this parchment piece, trace circles in marker that are 1 1/2 inches (36 mm) across and at least an inch (25 mm) apart. Place this sheet onto a baking tray and place a plain piece of parchment on top.
Pulse the icing sugar and ground almonds in a food processor until the almonds are fine. Pour this into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre.
Whisk the egg whites with a fork to loosen them up, and pour half (50 g) into the well of the almond mixture and use a spatula to stir together, starting at the centre and working outward, stirring in more of the dry mixture gradually with each stir, until combined (the mixture will be a thick paste). Sprinkle in the orange colour powder and stir in.
Place the remaining 50 g of egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment (or using electric beaters) and whip on high speed until the whites hold a soft peak when the beater is lifted. Place the water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan (water goes in first so that it dissolves the sugar evenly in the pot) and bring this up to a full boil, uncovered, on high heat. Cook the sugar until it reaches a temperature of 239ºF (115ºC) on a candy thermometer (this takes barely 2 minutes) and then carefully pour the sugar into the mixer while beating on high speed, and continue whipping the whites until they hold a stiff peak and have cooled to body temperature, about 2 minutes.
Fold a third of the whites into the almond base. This will be a case of stirring more than true folding, since the whites will deflate significantly, but that is expected. Once fully incorporated, add the remaining two thirds of the whites and fold more gently this time. Let the batter sit for 2 minutes in the bowl, without stirring.
Spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch (12 mm) plain tip and pipe the macarons filling the circles on the template just to their edges. To do this, pipe with the tip facing straight down (not at an angle) and quite close to the parchment as you pipe each macarons (a few might be sacrificed as you practice and get the hang of it). Once you’ve finished piping your first tray, gently slip the template from underneath the parchment with the macaroons and place it under the parchment on your second tray., and continue piping. Let the macarons set for 45-60 minutes to develop a “skin” on the surface. You should be able to touch the top of the macarons gently without your finger getting sticky, and you will notice that the surface loses its lustre, going from shiny to satin.
Preheat the oven to 300ºF (150ºC) and bake the macarons for about 15 minutes, until they can be gently but easily loosened and lifted from the baking tray. Immediately after removing from the oven, carefully lift the parchment paper (with macarons still on) onto a cooling rack to cool completely. One cooled, gently peel the macarons away from the paper. The macarons can be made and baked a full day ahead of assembling, and be stored in an airtight container (do not refrigerate) before filling.
For the buttercream, whisk the milk, sugar and egg yolks in a small saucepan and place this over medium heat. Gently whisk the until the liquid has thickened and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the custard through a strainer. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard (to prevent a skin from forming) and let this cool completely to room temperature (you can make this ahead and chill it after cooling, but be sure to bring it back to room temperature before completing the buttercream.)
Once the custard has cooled, beat the butter on high speed to soften it using electric beaters or a stand mixer with the whip attachment. Reduce the speed to medium and add the custard gradually, stopping occasionally to scrape the bowl. If the buttercream doesn’t look smooth, simply increase the speed on the mixer to high after all the custard has been added and the buttercream will smooth out (this could take 1-3 minutes). Once smooth, stir in the cooled melted chocolate, vanilla and black colouring (if using).
To assemble the macarons, spoon the buttercream into a small piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch (12 mm) plain tip. Pipe a dot of buttercream (about 1 ½ tsp/7 ml) onto the bottom of one macarons and gently press a second one onto the buttercream to make a “sandwich”. To avoid crushing the delicate macarons, try to hold them by their edges, not pressing them together by their tops.
To make spiders from the macarons, cut the licorice laces into little pieces (to make the legs), and insert them into the buttercream, 4 on each side, to secure them. Place any remaining buttercream into a parchment piping cone and pipe buttercream to adhere the eyes and pipe any other detail you may wish.
The macarons should be stored refrigerated, but should be eaten at room temperature. The macarons will keep for up to 5 days.