Prepare 4 sheets of parchment paper and at least two baking sheets. To ensure consistent sized cookies, trace a cookie cutter on the parchment paper as a template then turn it over before pipping. Prepare a pasty bag fitted with a large round tip. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl sift together the almond meal and confectioners’ sugar. Make a well in the center and add 110 grams of egg whites. Fold the mixture with a spatula until it becomes a thick, paste-like batter.
Place the remaining 100 grams of egg whites in the large mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Set aside.
In a small saucepan combine the granulated sugar and water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan and heat to 225°. Once the syrup reaches 225°, turn on the stand mixer and beat the egg whites on high. Continue to beat the whites while cooking the syrup until it reaches 239°. You want the meringue to be at soft peak stage so if it reaches that stage before the syrup reaches 239°, turn the mixer down to low. When the syrup hits 239° remove it from the heat and slowly pour it into the egg whites while the mixer is running. Try to stream the syrup directly into the whites close to the side of the bowl so it won’t cool too quickly. Whip on high for a minute then reduce the speed to low and continue beating until the bowl has cooled slightly and glossy stiff peaks have formed.
Add about half the meringue to the batter, gently folding until combined and smooth. Gradually add the remaining meringue, and food color if using, and fold until the batter is smooth. To test consistency, pick up the spatula and if the batter ribbons back into the bowl, it is ready. It should be like lava blending back into itself after about a minute.
Preheat oven to 300°.
Fill pastry bags with the macaron batter. Pipe the batter into a V shape if making hearts. It may take a few times to get the hang of it, but keep at it. Once the first sheet is filled, rap the pan on the counter a few times to rupture any air bubbles trapped in the cookie. Rotate the pan and rap again. Set the baking sheet filled with heart shaped cookies aside to allow a shell to form. This will take about 20-30 sitting out at room temperature. Pipe another sheet of cookies and repeat until the batter is gone.
Bake for about 18 – 20 minutes for until you can lift the cookie off the parchment coming away clean. If the top separate from the bottom, they are not ready.
Remove the entire sheet of parchment paper with cookies intact to a wire rack to cool. Once completely cool, remove the macarons from the parchment and fill as desired.
To prepare the buttercream, blend the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the vanilla, raspberry puree, Chambord if using, and about 2 cups of the confectioners’ sugar. Blend until smooth. Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar until you reach the desired consistency for the filling. It does not have to be as thick as cake icing as it will harden once refrigerated. Pipe mounds of buttercream on once cookie, top with a matching macaron and twist a little to spread the filling.
Refrigerate macarons for 24-48 hours before serving for the best flavor. Allow them to rest at room temperature about an hour before serving.
Makes 60 filled macarons, or about 120 individual shells.
(Shell recipe adapted from The Baker Chick)