Allow me to interrupt the morose story-telling of my accident and days at the hospital for something more quirky and upbeat.
Enter our pistachio vegan French macarons! 🍬
My friend Ivee and I made these a month ago, on the Friday before I had my second neck surgery. Ivee recently became vegetarian, but is nearly vegan because she is lactose-intolerant. I’m not vegan or vegetarian, but I cook and eat vegan or vegetarian roughly 60% of the time as part of a healthy diet. We have cooked a couple of times together since we graduated from university, making anything from salads to layered cakes.
Previous Ivee x Dan collabs:
I’m particularly intrigued by vegan baking because of its inventive and creative use of ingredients. It doesn’t hurt that the finished products usually end up being lower in calories! Now these French macarons don’t fall in that category – they’re certainly not a healthy treat. The ingredients are pretty much the same as regular macarons, with one exception: chickpea water (also known as aquafaba) in place of egg whites. There is even a Facebook group dedicated to experimenting with chickpea water in vegan baking! Arguably, regular macarons are healthier than these because egg whites contain considerable protein and other nutrients. These vegan ones still contain an exorbitant amount of ground nuts and refined white sugar. I restrained myself to eating only two. 😒
SO CUTE. Doesn’t it make you want to make macarons too??? As I’ve learned from Ivee, macarons are extremely technically challenging, requiring much precision and mastery of the technique. She has made regular ones with a friend before, but not vegan ones. I’ve never made macarons at all although I consider myself a decent baker. Starting at around age 8, I’ve been baking so much longer than I’ve been cooking meals (which has only been in the last three or four years). I can make multi-layer cakes, sweet and savoury pies, cookies, bread, brownies, and the like entirely from scratch – but French macarons? Vegan ones, even? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! Why pistachio-flavoured ones? Because they’re our fave, DUH~
Anyway, I’ve blabbered on long enough. I’ve always hated it when food bloggers have a long-winded preamble to their recipes, only to find myself doing it too. Hehehe. On to the recipe! We combined recipes and methods from Floral Frosting, Road to Pastry, and Things I’ve Made.
Vegan pistachio French macarons
Makes maximum 36 macarons (not all will be perfect). It took us about 5 1/2 hours total. LOL.
YOU WILL NEED:
For the shells
- 3/4 cup water drained from a can of chickpeas
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- Between 3/4 to 1 cup ground almonds or almond flour*
- Between 1/3 to 1/2 cup ground unsalted pistachios* (plus extra for sprinkling the tops)
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- Green food colouring
- Small saucepan
- Glass measuring cup
- Food processor or immersion blender
- Stand mixer or electric mixer
- Large baking trays
- Parchment paper
- Piping set
*The nut mixture should just total to 1 1/4 cups.
For the filling (this was very much trial and error until we got it perfect)
- 1/2 cup unshelled, unsalted pistachios
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup almond milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- Green food colouring
- 1 to 1 1/2 cup icing sugar
- About 1/2 cup ground almonds or almond flour
- Piping set
1. Make the shells
Sieve the icing sugar, ground almonds, and ground pistachios into a medium bowl and discard any pieces too big to pass through the mesh.
Once the chickpea liquid has cooled down, pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk (or just a bowl, and use an electric mixer like us). Whisk on medium speed until white and fluffy (this took us around five minutes). We were surprised to find the chickpea water actually behaving like egg whites!!!
Add the granulated sugar and whisk on high until the meringue is extremely stiff and glossy. According to Floral Frosting, depending on your mixer this can take anywhere from five to ten minutes. We struggled with this one. We didn’t want to overmix the meringue so we had to be extra careful. Finally we ended up with the desired stiff peaks.
Add green food colouring until you are satisfied with the colour.
I think ours was on point with our vision!
IMPORTANT: At the end of this step the meringue should be really, really thick – almost the consistency of marshmallow fluff. If the meringue isn’t thick enough your macarons won’t turn out perfectly.
Add only half the dry ingredients to the meringue mixture and mix, using a spatula and pressing down to remove some of the air from the mixture. Add the rest of the nut-sugar mix and stir in a circular motion until there are no dry bits left.
Press the batter against the side of the bowl and then scoop up from underneath. THIS IS THE ART OF THE MACARONNAGE. Watch a video of this step HERE. Repeat this 15-20 times, until the batter is thick but slowly drops off the spatula, like a ribbon.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and seal it at the top. Pipe 1-inch circles onto baking trays lined with grease proof paper, being careful to pipe from above as opposed to from the side. Because we’re not a pros (like the person in the video who pipes these macarons so well), we had to draw the circles on the parchment paper first and then flip the paper so that we didn’t end up with pencil marks on our macarons!
2. Two-hour break! Use those leftover chickpeas!
We just looked up a recipe on BBC Good Food that made use of chickpeas – this is what we made for a late lunch.
It was so easy, you could make it with whatever vegetables you have on hand. Basically you will roast some veggies and then mix them with chickpeas and canned tomatoes. DONE.
Roast summer vegetables with chickpeas
Adapted from BBC Good Food
YOU WILL NEED:
- 3 zucchinis, sliced
- 1 eggplant, sliced
- 2 red peppers, deseeded and chopped into chunks
You could play with the vegetables above, just whatever you have.
- 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds – this adds great flavour and texture!!!
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 400g/14oz can chopped or diced tomatoes
- 400g/14oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
- Heat oven to 400ºF . Tip all the vegetables into a large roasting tin and toss with the fennel seeds, most of the olive oil, and salt and pepper. Spread everything out to a single layer, then roast for 30-45 minutes, tossing once or twice until the vegetables are roasted and brown round the edges.
- Transfer the vegetables into a deep pan, skillet, or whatever that can hold them. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas. Bring to a simmer and gently stir. Season to taste, drizzle with olive oil, then scatter over the coriander. Eat with bread or top some greens with it!
3. Make the frosting
In your food processor or using your immersion blender, blend pistachios and water until it forms a green liquid with tiny pieces of nuts left. Transfer this into a large bowl. Add almond milk, vanilla, and green food colouring (if desired). Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, fully incorporating it into the mixture until the frosting has reached desired consistency. I think after 1 cup, we already found it too sweet that we had to add quite a bit of almond flour to decrease the sweetness and make the frosting more viscous.
4. Bake the macarons
After two hours of setting/drying time (no batter should stick to your fingers when you touch the macarons), place your trays of macarons in a COLD oven (NOT PRE-HEATED) and then set it to just under 100ºC or 200ºF. We had three trays and just stacked them inside the oven. We didn’t have time to do all these steps if we had each tray bake in the centre.
Bake the macarons for 20 minutes before turning off the oven and leaving them in there for 15 minutes, and then opening the door and leaving them in there for a further 15 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and leave the macarons to cool completely on the tray. Follow these steps exactly! Since this was my first time making macarons, I didn’t want to deviate from these steps.
OKAY – at this point, we were thrilled that most of them had the highly coveted macaron FEET and that we didn’t fail at all. Apparently, even when you make regular macarons, not all of them will turn out perfectly. It’s also easy to completely fail at making them… as the following pictures show.
5. Assemble the macarons
Place in the fridge in an airtight container overnight – this is an important step as it allows the flavour from the frosting to seep into the shells and gives the macarons the desired chew. Macarons keep well in the fridge for up to a week and in the freezer for months.
My honest opinion about these macarons:
- TASTE – Delicious. I wouldn’t change anything. It was sweet, but not too much.
- TEXTURE – Similar enough to regular macarons – slightly crunch outside, moist and chewy inside. They’re slightly lighter than regular macarons though. To some that might even be more desirable.
- APPEARANCE – Aren’t they gorgeous?!? I mean, the feet were not PERFECT, but for home bakers, it was a good effort. Most of them had uneven feet (thick on one side, thin on the other).
Needless to say, making these delightful bites was a rewarding experience. In substituting ingredients in vegan baking, either the taste, texture, or appearance doesn’t turn out right. I am proud to say these satisfy all three just fine. I’m not vegan so I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to use chickpea water next time (but for all those vegans out there – yes, you too can enjoy French macarons!), as the reducing step is another step in an already laborious task! No wonder these sell for at least $2 each!
I hope you give macaron-baking a try!!! Be it the regular or vegan kind, do experiment with different flavours and colours! I would like to make lemon or rhubarb macarons next. Intimidated by the task? Partner up with a friend like I did and make a great afternoon out of it!