Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars

These soft sugar cookie bars were one of the most popular recipes this week on The New York Times’ website. They described them as “worth the hype” and, with their cheerful frosting and sprinkles, as “happiness in a 9-by-13 pan.” 🙂

Thanks to cream cheese in the dough, they are soft and tender- similar to Lofthouse cookies, my daughter’s favorite cookie. I made them to celebrate the release of my daughter’s middle school musical. Despite the limitations caused by Covid, the school was able to successfully stage their annual musical in a movie format instead of live performances- great. She had a lot of fun participating in the show.

This recipe was adapted from American Girl Cookies, via The New York Times, contributed by Margaux Laskey. I baked the dough in a rimmed sheet pan and used Meyer lemon juice in the frosting. I love bar desserts! They would be a crowd-pleaser served for Valentine’s Day, a birthday, or just as a special treat.

Yield: 20 cookies

For the Cookie Base:

  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 3/4 cups/350 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 (8 ounce/225 gram) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups/300 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • lemon zest, optional (or Meyer lemon zest)

For the Frosting:

  • 6 tablespoons/85 grams unsalted butter (3/4 stick), at room temperature
  • 2 cups/245 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream, plus more as needed (I used whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed (I used Meyer lemon juice)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, plus more as needed
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • a drop or two of gel food coloring, optional
  • assorted sprinkles, for decorating, optional

To Make the Cookie Base:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly butter (or coat with cooking oil spray) a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or rimmed sheet pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, running it up the two long sides of the pan and letting it extend past the rim by about 2 inches.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
  4. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese on medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the granulated sugar and beat until smooth, about 1 minute.
  6. Add the egg, vanilla, and lemon zest, if using, and beat on low speed until well combined, about 1 minute.
  7. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing on low speed just until blended, about 1 minute.
  8. Using a spatula, scrape the dough into the prepared baking pan. Using damp fingers or a greased offset spatula, spread the dough into an even layer.
  9. Bake just until the edges are starting to turn light golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the middle has moist crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes. (Do not overbake! The bars should be quite moist, and almost slightly underbaked in the middle.)
  10. Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Let cool completely. When fully cooled, remove the bars from the pan using the overhanging parchment paper.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. Place the 6 tablespoons of softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute.
  2. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, beating on low speed until fully combined, then repeat with remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar.
  3. Add the 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, the vanilla, salt and food coloring, if using, and beat on medium speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides halfway through, about 4 minutes. Add more milk if needed to thin out the mixture. Add lemon juice and vanilla to taste.
  4. Using a spatula, spread the frosting on top, then decorate with sprinkles, if using. Cut into 20 bars and serve.

Note: I stored the leftover cookies in the refrigerator and we actually preferred them chilled.

Soft Sugar Cookies with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

My daughter is mildly obsessed with the grocery store version of these cookies. I was always hesitant to make them because I thought that they required shortening or margarine in order to keep their soft texture. This version uses a combination of butter and cream cheese to create the soft-baked, cakey texture.

I loved the color and taste from the freeze dried raspberries in the frosting. The resulting color was pretty and fun. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Eric Kim. I used a stand mixer and reduced the size of the cookies. They would be very festive as a Valentine’s Day treat. ❤

Yield: about 26 cookies

For the Cookies:

  • 1/2 cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
  • 3 ounces/85 grams cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups/285 grams cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • sprinkles, for garnish

For the Frosting:

  • 1 cup/30 grams freeze-dried raspberries, finely ground in a food processor or spice grinder (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 2 cups/245 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Make the Cookie Dough:

  1. In a large bowl, using a spoon, cream the butter, cream cheese, sugar and salt until smooth and fluffy. (I used a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mixed on low-speed.)
  2. Add the eggs and vanilla extract, and whisk to incorporate some air and to dissolve the sugar crystals, about 1 minute. (I mixed the batter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on low-speed.)
  3. Stir in the flour and baking powder until just incorporated.
  4. Using two spoons or a cookie scoop, ration out 1 1/2-tablespoon/25 to 30-gram rounds onto a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet, tray, or container. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap.
  5. Place the rationed dough in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky and easier to handle.
  6. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection, and line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper.

While the dough chills, Make the Frosting:

  1. Finely grind the freeze dried raspberries in a food processor or spice grinder.
  2. In a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl, sift the ground raspberries, using a spoon to help pass them through, until most of the ruby-red powder is in the bowl and most of the seeds are left behind in the sieve. (Discard the seeds.)
  3. To the sifted dried raspberries, add the 1 cup butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and salt and, with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, mix on low-speed until the butter absorbs the sugar.
  4. Turn the speed up to high and beat until the frosting doubles in size, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure all the ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Transfer the frosting to a small container, cover tightly, and set aside. (You should have about 2 cups of frosting.)

To Bake the Cookies and Decorate:

  1. Remove the dough from the freezer.
  2. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Roll the chilled dough into even balls and flatten them slightly with your fingers so they’re about 2 inches wide and 1 inch high. Place on the prepared baking sheets. (You should get about 12 to 13 cookies per sheet pan.)
  4. Bake the cookies for 9 to 15 minutes, rotating the pans and switching racks halfway through, or until they no longer look wet on top, are still light in color and spring back to the touch. They will puff up and crack slightly.
  5. Let cool completely on the sheet pan. (They will continue to cook as they sit.)
  6. Using a butter knife or offset spatula, frost each cooled cookie with the raspberry frosting and adorn with the sprinkles.

Maple Layer Cake with Maple-Vanilla Buttercream

This maple variation of the “All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake” from the famed Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum may quite possibly be the best cake I’ve ever made. My son chose it to celebrate his 16th birthday. 🙂 His favorite flavor profile usually incorporates vanilla and/or cream soda so this maple cake was a definitely a good choice.

I adapted the recipe to bake the cake in 8-inch cake pans. I also used fine sea salt and substituted vanilla extract for maple extract. It was very moist and rich. Fabulous.

I served this cake after an indulgent meal made to order for my birthday boy. He requested penne alla vodka, chicken parmesan, garlic bread, and Caesar salad. No one argued- all family favorites. 🙂

Yield: One 8-inch layer cake, about 12 to 14 servings

For the Cake: (all ingredients at room temperature)

  • 6 large egg yolks (3.5 fl oz/4 oz/112 g)
  • 1 liquid cup (8.5 oz/242 g) milk (I used 2% milk)
  • 2 1/4 tsp (9 g) pure vanilla extract (can substitute 3/4 tsp vanilla extract + 1 tsp maple extract)
  • 300 g (3 cups/10.5 oz) cake flour, sifted
  • 300 g (2 cups/10.5 oz) maple sugar, sifted (from Whole Foods)
  • 19.5 g (1 T + 1 tsp) baking powder
  • 5 g (3/4 tsp) fine sea salt
  • 12 T (6 oz/170 g) unsalted butter, softened

  1. Butter two 8-inch (2-in deep) cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and butter the paper. Dust bottom and sides with flour, tap out excess. Set aside. (The layers can alternatively be baked in 9-inch cake pans that are 1 1/2-in deep.)
  2. Position an oven rack in the center position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  3. In a medium bowl, lightly combine the yolks, 1/4 cup of the milk, and vanilla. (I used a 2 cup measuring cup.)
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed for 30 seconds to blend.
  5. Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup milk. Mix on low-speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides.
  6. Gradually add the egg-milk mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides.
  7. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pans. (I weigh them to distribute the batter evenly.) The pans should be about 1/2 full.
  8. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. (I baked mine for 27 minutes.) *The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans only after removal from the oven.
  9. Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes.
  10. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto wire racks. To prevent splitting, reinvert so that the tops are up. Let cool completely before frosting or storing.

Note: The unfrosted layers can be wrapped tightly and stored for 2 days at room temperature, 5 days refrigerated, and 2 months frozen. The frosted cake should be stored in the refrigerator.

For the Neoclassic Maple-Vanilla Buttercream: (all ingredients at room temperature)

Yield: 4 cups, enough to fill and frost two 8-inch layers

  • 6 large egg yolks (3.5 fl oz/4 oz/112 g)
  • 150 g (3/4 cup/5.25 oz) granulated sugar
  • 164 g (1/2 liquid cup/5.75 oz) pure maple syrup
  • 1 pound (4 sticks/2 cups/454 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoons
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract or maple extract
  1. Grease a 1-cup heatproof measuring cup. Set aside.
  2. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl. (I used a stainless steel bowl.) Using a hand mixer, beat the egg yolks until light in color.
  3. Combine the sugar and maple syrup in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to a full rolling boil. (The entire surface will be covered with large bubbles- see note.) Immediately transfer the syrup to the prepared glass measuring cup to stop the cooking.
  4. Using a hand mixer, beat the syrup into the egg yolks in a steady stream. Don’t allow the syrup to fall on the beaters. Use a rubber scraper to remove any syrup remaining in the measuring cup.
  5. Continue beating until the mixture is completely cool.
  6. Gradually beat in the butter. (I incorporated 1 stick at a time.)
  7. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  8. Use immediately, or store in an airtight bowl in the refrigerator. (If stored, bring to room temperature before using.)

Note: The syrup must come to a rolling boil or the finished buttercream will be too thin.

Sour Cream Maple Cake with Maple Buttercream Frosting

We have enjoyed this wonderful “snack” cake on a couple of occasions this fall. It is dangerously easy to make and was incredibly moist and very tasty. I forgot to drizzle the top with maple syrup on both occasions. Not necessary!

The recipe was adapted from Bake from Scratch magazine, via the Washington Post. The frosting is a little bit salty- which we liked- but the salt level can be adjusted to taste. We ate it chilled. Great.

Yield: One 9×9-inch cake, about 16 pieces

For the Cake:

  • cooking spray or unsalted butter, softened, for greasing the pan
  • 2 1/2 cups (344 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) pure maple syrup, preferably dark grade (I used grade A amber)
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) canola oil
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick/113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (200 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, preferably dark grade, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)

To Make the Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection, with the rack in the middle.
  2. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan. (I used cooking oil spray.) Line the pan with parchment paper, letting excess extend over the sides of the pan (the overhang will give you handles to lift the cake out after it’s baked). Lightly spray (or butter) the parchment.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add the maple syrup, oil, milk, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, sour cream and vanilla, and stir with a rubber spatula just until combined and no streaks of flour remain. (There will be some lumps in the batter; this is okay.)
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Tap the pan on the counter eight times to release air bubbles.
  6. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until deep golden and a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, covering with foil after 20 minutes to prevent excessive browning. (It may dip in the middle, don’t worry.)(I baked mine for 30 minutes but would add 2 to 3 minutes next time to decrease the amount of dipping.)
  7. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Using the parchment overhang as handles, remove from the pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. In the same (cleaned-out) bowl you used to make the cake, beat the butter with a handheld mixer on medium speed until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. (You can do this in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, if you prefer.)
  2. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, beating until combined.
  3. Add the sour cream, maple syrup and salt, and beat at medium-high speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not overbeat. (Add 1/4 tsp salt, taste and add the additional 1/4 tsp, to taste.)
  4. Spread the frosting onto the cooled cake. Drizzle with additional maple syrup, if desired, and serve. (I preferred to serve it slightly chilled.)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes

The other day, my husband suggested making cupcakes topped with cookies in some way. I found this recipe the next day! I love the idea and now hope to try other variations.

My daughter and her sidekick (bestie) were baking together over the summer and spent an afternoon on this deliciousness. Everyone was quite pleased with the results. The cupcakes were very moist and tender and the cookies on top were crispy and delicate. Perfect.

The recipe is from Martha Stewart Living; we modified the proportions and method. Next time, I may reduce the size of the cookie on top and chill the cookie dough prior to baking.

Yield: 18 cupcakes

For the Chocolate Chip Cookie Base & Cookie Topping:

  • 1 cup plus 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp plus 1/8 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light-brown sugar, packed
  • 6 T granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (6 oz) semisweet chocolate chips

To Make the Chocolate Chip Cookie Base:

  1. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.
  2. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. On low-speed, beat in the egg.
  4. Add flour mixture in 3 additions.
  5. Beat in vanilla.
  6. Mix in chocolate chips.
  7. Chill dough while preparing the cupcake batter.

For the Cupcakes:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 T granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 T whole milk
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Base (see above), including 18 (1.5-inch) cookies
  • Simple Vanilla Frosting (see below)

To Make the Cupcake Batter:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Line 18 muffin tin wells with baking cups.
  2. Whisk together flours, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low.
  4. Add eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla.
  5. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour.

To Layer & Bake the Cupcakes:

  1. Press 1 tablespoon cookie dough into bottom of each baking cup. (At this point, I used a small cookie scoop (1/2 T) to ration the remaining cookie dough and put it back in the refrigerator.)
  2. Top each with 1.5 to 2 tablespoons batter. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. (Keep oven on to bake the cookies for the topping.)
  4. Transfer tins to wire racks; let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to racks. Let cool completely.
  5. While the cupcakes cool, prepare the frosting and bake the cookies for the topping.

For the Simple Vanilla Frosting:

  • 2 sticks plus 2 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups plus 6 T confectioners’ sugar, divided
  • pinch coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 T whole milk

To Make The Frosting:

  1. Beat butter and 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to medium-low; gradually add the additional 2 1/2 cups plus 2 T confectioners’ sugar.
  3. Add milk and vanilla; mix to incorporate.
  4. Raise speed to medium-high and continue to beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

To Finish & Decorate:

  1. Place the chilled scoops of cookie dough on 2 parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheets.
  2. Bake in the pre-heated oven until edges are dark gold but centers are pale gold and look a bit underdone (for chewy) or until centers are set (for crisp). (We baked ours for about 7 minutes.)
  3. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks to cool for 5 minutes; then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Transfer frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, or as desired.
  5. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes, and top each with a cookie.

Vanilla Bean Macarons

IMG_8360

I planned to make French macarons for Easter after seeing the March cover of Martha Stewart Living; it was covered in beautiful multi-pastel-colored macarons. So springy and festive- and delicious!! After really reading all of the recipes, and the recipes all over the internet, I decided to make vanilla bean macarons. They don’t have the pretty pastel spring colors, but they had the most appealing flavor to me. 🙂 Don’t worry, I plan to make a bunny cake too!

I was a little intimidated to take on the task of making macarons. I chose the recipe from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel because their recipes are so precise- all the guesswork is removed. I closely followed the recipe (it’s only very slightly adapted)… they said it made 14 macarons… it made 14 macarons! Foolproof and fabulous. According to the book, macarons are their biggest seller. They are 2 1/4- inches in diameter; next time I would make them more petite, but I didn’t want to mess with perfection! Great!!

Notes:

  • Macarons (like any meringue) are best made on a dry day. The outside shell is crisp and fragile, the inside chewy.
  • For optimal results, weigh the ingredients.
  • Equipment needed: candy thermometer, a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain tip, & a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch plain tip. (I only have fluted 1/2-inch pastry tips… so my macarons have a little ripple on the surface! I also used a 1/4-inch plain tip for the filling… it was okay.)
  • It is optimal to make them in a convection oven, on the middle rack, and left undisturbed during cooking. (Baking in a standard oven is possible, but may affect the texture.)
  • Their flavor develops as they stand. This recipe recommends wrapping them in plastic wrap and freezing for 24 hours (or up to 2 weeks); transferred to the refrigerator for 3 hours or so, then returned to room temperature before eating.

Yield: 14 2 1/4-inch macarons

For the Macarons:

  • 212 grams almond meal/flour (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 212 grams powdered sugar
  • 82 grams egg whites
  • 90 grams egg whites (about 5 large eggs in total)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 236 grams granulated sugar, plus a pinch for the egg whites
  • 158 grams (2/3 cup) water
  • 250 grams Vanilla Bean French Buttercream (recipe follows)
  1. Make a template for the macarons: Lay a sheet of parchment paper on the work surface with a long side closest to you. Trace 4 evenly spaced 2 1/4-inch circles alone the top long edge, leaving a 1 inch of space around them. (A compass could be used; I used a biscuit cutter and a fine-tip sharpie.) Trace 3 circles below them, spacing them between the first circles. Continue with another row of 4, followed by another row of 3. Turn the parchment paper over and lay it on a sheet pan. Lift up the corner of the parchment and spray the underside with nonstick spray to keep it from blowing up while the cookies are baking. Repeat for the second sheet pan.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (convection) or 400 degrees (standard).
  3. Place the almond meal in a food processor and pulse to grind it as fine as possible, about 1 minute.
  4. Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl and whisk together.
  5. Mound the almond-flour mixture, then make a 4-inch well in the center, leaving a layer of flour at the bottom. Pour in the 82 grams egg whites and combine with a spatula.
  6. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the mixture, stirring until evenly distributed. Set aside.
  7. Place the remaining 90 grams of egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  8. Combine the 236 grams granulated sugar and the water in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 203 degrees F (110 degrees C). (It will continue to cook.)
  9. While the syrup continues to cook, add the pinch of sugar to the egg whites, turn the mixer to  medium speed, and whip to soft peaks. If the whites reach soft peaks before the syrup reaches 248 degrees F (120 degrees C), reduce the speed to the lowest setting, just to keep them moving.
  10. When the syrup reaches 248 degrees F (120 degrees C), remove the pan from the heat.
  11. Turn the mixture to medium-low speed, and slowly add the syrup, pouring it between the side of the bowl and the whisk; the meringue will deflate.
  12. Increase the speed to  medium and whip for 5 minutes, or until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Although the bowl will still be warm to the touch, the meringue should have cooled; if not, continue to whip until it is cool.
  13. Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond mixture, then continue adding the whites a little at a time (you may not use them all) until when you fold a portion of the batter over on itself, the “ribbon” slowly moves. The mixture shouldn’t be so stiff that it holds its shape without moving at all, but it shouldn’t be so loose that it dissolves into itself and does not maintain the ribbon; it is better for the mixture to be slightly stiff than too loose. (The consistency is VERY important!!)
  14. Transfer the mixture to the pastry bag with the 1/2-inch tip.
  15. Hold the bag upright 1/2 inch above the center of one of the traced circles and pipe out enough of the mixture to fill in the circle. Lift away the pastry bag and fill the remaining circles on the the first pan.
  16. Lift up the sheet pan and tap the bottom of the pan to spread the batter evenly and smooth any peaks left by the pastry bag. (I tapped it on the counter.)
  17. If using a convection oven, bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp. If using a standard oven, place the sheet pan in the oven, immediately lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F, and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp.
  18. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely. If using a standard oven, preheat it to 350 degrees again.
  19. Pipe the remaining meringue mixture into the circles on the second sheet pan and bake as directed above. Let cool completely.

For the Vanilla Bean French Buttercream Filling:

  • 38 grams granulated sugar
  • 38 grams granulated sugar (76 grams divided in half!)
  • 63 grams egg yolks (from about 4 large eggs)
  • 75 grams whole milk
  • 250 grams (8.8 oz) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  1. Whisk 38 grams sugar and the yolks together in a medium bowl, set aside.
  2. Combine the milk and the remaining 38 grams in a medium saucepan, set over medium heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  3. When the milk is at just below a simmer, remove the pan from the heat and, whisking constantly, pour it into the egg mixture.
  4. Return the mixture to the pan and place over medium heat.
  5. Whisking constantly, bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for 1 minute, lowering the heat if necessary to prevent the mixture from curdling; it should be very thick.
  6. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment, turn the mixer to medium, and whisk for about 8 minutes, until the mixture is completely cool.
  7. Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, to the egg yolk mixture. If at any point the mixture looks broken, increase the speed to re-emulsify it, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter.
  8. Check the consistency: if the buttercream is too loose to hold its shape, it should be refrigerated for a few hours to harden, then beaten again to return it to the proper consistency.
  9. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, add them to the buttercream, and mix on low for about 30 seconds to distribute the seeds evenly.
  10. The buttercream can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month; defrost in the refrigerator overnight before using. Thirty minutes before using, place it in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and allow it to soften. Then mix on low speed to return the buttercream to the proper consistency for piping of spreading.

To Fill the Cookies:

  1. Transfer 250 grams of the buttercream (you will have leftovers… yum!) to the pastry bag with the 3/8-inch tip. (I used a 1/4-inch tip.)
  2. Turn half of the macarons over. Starting at the center, pipe 15 grams (1 T) (eyeball it!) of the buttercream in a spiral pattern on one upside-down macaron, not quite reaching the edges. Top with a second macaron and press gently to spread the buttercream to the edges.
  3. Repeat with the remaining macarons and filling.
  4. Wrap individually in a few layers of plastic wrap and freeze for at least 24 hours or up to 2 weeks. Before serving, defrost in the refrigerator for 3 hours, then bring to room temperature. Alternatively, they can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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