Vegan Macarons: Chocolate & Amaretto

Yes, you read the title right.  VEGAN MACARONS.

First, let's have a cookie lesson: macarons (with one o) are a "French sweet meringue-based confection made with egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond, and food colouring" (Wikipedia).  Macaroons (with two o's) are cluster cookies, usually made with egg whites, coconut, and other flavorings.

Macarons are my favorite.  Macaroons can go away...forever.

In my own words, macarons are delicious, adorable sandwich cookies that are challenging to make.  They are kind of expensive, as far as cookies go, because they are labor intensive.  I'm talking $2-$3 a pop in most specialty bakeries.  I first started making macarons about three years ago and, my first time, it was DISASTROUS.  The batter wasn't stiff enough and they ended up tasting more like burnt marshmallows.  And those were the egg-based cookies.

I finally got the knack of it and I enjoyed making them every now and again.  As far as the vegan macarons go, I've tried making them about four times...and failed three.  I just couldn't get the consistency right.  I used several different egg replacers and couldn't get it to work.  I was pretty deflated.

But then I stumbled upon Floral Frosting's Instagram post - she was making vegan macarons!  They looked pretty legit.  I wanted to see what her secret was.  And when she finally posted her recipe, I found out it was...

Chickpea liquid.

I'm not even kidding.  Did you hear that sound?  I'm pretty sure it was the sound of your mind blowing.

Now, I can't even fathom how someone discovered this: you can reduce and whip that canned chickpea liquid and poof! You get a meringue-like substance.  You have Floral Frosting and a vegan named Goose to thank for this recipe.

Now, I've been a macaron connoisseur for a few years now...and these don't taste EXACTLY like traditional macarons.  But, for all intents and purposes, they have an outer shell, a chewy inside, a yummy filling, and look the part.  It's good enough for me!  If you're vegan and you're missing macarons, it will satisfy your need!

If you've never made macarons, here's a quick listing of things you need:

Food Processor - to mix/grind the sugar, cocoa powder, and almonds into a fine mix.
Stand Mixer - sorry, you can't get around this one.  If you can make them without, I want to meet you; you're a wizard!

Highly Recommended
Sifter - if you want to make the sifting process quicker...and trust me, you will.  Otherwise, you can use a sieve and spoon to do it the old-fashioned way!
Piping Bag - for piping the macarons onto the Silpat.  You can get them in the Wilton section of Michaels or Wal-Mart for a few dollars.
Silpat or Non-Stick Mat - I've used parchment paper in the past, but I think these mats work the best.
Blanched Almond Flour - it's expensive, but ready to go.  Alternately, you can buy blanched sliced almonds and grind them yourself.

Regular macarons are challenging enough to make, let alone vegan macarons.  I will do my best to outline every step and guide you through the process!

Vegan Chocolate & Amaretto Macarons
Adapted from Floral Frosting

liquid from one 15 oz can of chickpeas; chickpeas saved for another use
1/2 c. organic cane sugar
1 c. almond flour, like Bob's Red Mill
1/2 c. vegan powdered sugar
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder, like Guittard
1 tsp. vanilla, plus more as needed

In a small saucepan, bring your chickpea liquid to a boil.  When it boils, lower the heat slightly and allow it to simmer/reduce for 10 solid minutes - set a timer!  This boiling liquid will smell weird, FYI.  You want it to reduce to about 1/3 cup.

While that's reducing, combine the almond flour, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder in the food processor.  Pulse to combine and run it for a minute or two.

Transfer the powdery mix to the sifter and sift.  Some macaron recipes I've used say to sift three times.  I only sifted this recipe once.  Discard any large chunks that won't go through the sifter.

Measure out your cane sugar.  Set it aside.

Once your chickpea liquid has reduced, pour it into your stand mixer bowl and attach your whisk.  Turn the mixer on to a medium-high setting (about a 5-6 setting) and whisk for 2 solid minutes - set a timer!  The mixture should get frothy and foamy.

Add your cane sugar.  Beat the mixture on high for 5 minutes - again, set a timer!  This is the stage where the true magic happens.  It's amazing to watch!  When you're finished, the mixture should look like a meringue with stiff, glossy peaks.  After, add your teaspoon of vanilla and beat on high for 1 more minute.

When your meringue is done, fold in the sifted mixture in thirds.  (Pour one-third in and fold.  Repeat.)  At this stage, I found that my batter was a little dry.  I added another teaspoon or two of vanilla to the batter.  You want it to be a thick, firm batter; but you also want it to be a little shiny.  Someone likened it to lava flowing slowly down a mountain, but I'm not sure what sense that makes.  This is the stage that you just have to get the knack for.  This is why macaron-making is challenging!

Load the batter into your piping bag with a spatula.  Snip a hole, about a half-inch from the end of the bag.  If hold the bag upright at a 90 degree angle, the batter should drip out slowly, most likely in small blobs.  If it's runny, you have a problem.  If it's stiff and not moving without help, you have a different problem!  This takes finesse.

Pipe cookies the size of a quarter/half dollar onto your Silpat mats.  One thing I will recommend - doubling your baking sheets.  I've read this in numerous macaron-making articles.  It keeps the bottoms from burning.  Repeat piping the batter until you run out of batter - or room.

When you're done piping, smack the cookie sheets on the counter a few times.  You want to get the macarons to smooth out and release any air bubbles inside.  Whack them - don't be afraid to hurt them.  My macarons started with small peaks but once I smacked them a few times, the tops became smoother.  That's how you know the batter is good.

Allow the macarons to dry on the counter for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  They should be dry to the lightest touch - don't poke them, haha.

As the drying time winds down, preheat the oven to 205° F.  

Bake the macarons for 30 minutes.  When the 30 minutes have elapsed, turn the oven off and let the cookies sit in the closed oven for 15 minutes.  After those 15 minutes have elapsed, open the oven door and let them cool for another 15 minutes before removing them from the oven.

Voila!  Now you have beautiful macarons.

As a side note, not all of my macarons turned out picture perfect.  Some oozed out in a weird way.  Hey, traditional macarons don't all turn out well either, so I guess it's just part of the process.  They were still tasty!

Be sure to try my other flavors as well: Earl Grey with Lemon Buttercream and Raspberry & Elderflower Macarons and Biscoff & Bourbon Macarons.

For the icing:
2 T. organic non-hydrogenated shortening, like Spectrum
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder, like Guittard
2 c. vegan powdered sugar
2 T. amaretto (learn how to make your own!)
a few T. almond milk, as needed

Combine the first five ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and use a spatula to combine.  If you need a little more liquid to get the icing together, add a little almond milk to the mix, about a tablespoon at a time.  It will look (and taste) like fudgy, chocolaty goodness.  

Using another piping bag, gently pipe the icing onto one side of a macaron.  Grab another macaron and sandwich them together.  (I like to call it the reverse Oreo method.  You know, when you were a kid and you "unscrewed" the Oreo cookies?  Well, twist the macarons to make them go together!)  If you have some leftover, save it in the freezer for another use!

Enjoy these fudgy pieces of heaven.  The amaretto adds a lovely, subtle flavor and compliments the cocoa.  You should store them in the fridge, but allow them to sit out and get to room temperature before eating.  I think that they taste the best during the first day or two, but they're so good - they won't last long.

Send me pictures!  I want to see how they turn out :-)


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