Delicate and elegant, these earl grey vanilla macarons are a perfect addition to any dessert table. They are completely doable and you can make them ahead!
Get out two sheet trays and line them with either silicone mats that have macaron templates on them, or parchment paper. If using parchment paper, draw 30 equal circles on each piece to make yourself a template and turn them over to have the ink face down. Take the almond flour and powdered sugar and press them through a fine mesh strainer into a large mixing bowl. This will take a little time and elbow grease but it is completely necessary for the texture of the cookies. Cut open the two tea bags and pour the leaves in. Whisk them together in the bowl to blend them. Then pour in half of the egg white liquid and the vanilla. Use a spatula to fold and mash the mixture together into a uniform paste. Set the paste aside.
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat it up over medium high heat. Use a candy thermometer to make sure it reaches 243 degrees. While it heats up, set up a stand mixer with a whisk attachment and pour the remaining egg whites into it. Whip up the egg whites on high speed until they hold stiff peaks. Turn the speed to low and keep whipping the egg whites while the sugar comes to temperature on the stove. When the sugar reaches temperature, slowly and carefully pour it into the stand mixer with the egg whites and let it get mixed in. Turn the speed to high and let the meringue whisk together thoroughly until it becomes white, shiny and comes down to room temperature for about 10 minutes.
Take the meringue and fold it in thoroughly with the paste in the mixing bowl. You will need to mash it together a little too to break up the paste into the meringue. It should become a smooth, shiny and pretty mixture with the flecks of tea leaves. Scoop half of it into a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch opening. Hold the opening over the center of the first circle on your sheet tray template and gently squeeze until it is filled. If there is a little point on top don't worry, it will dissolve. Fill the first sheet this way, then repeat with the second half of meringue on the other sheet tray.
Now this is the heart stopping but necessary part. Lift each filled sheet tray about 8 inches above the counter and let it drop onto the counter. This will get out all of the air bubbles to make a really smooth, shiny top. Let the trays sit out for 30 minutes to dry out and firm up a little. When the 30 minutes are almost up, fit a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350. Bake the first tray for 6 minutes, then rotate the tray to ensure even baking and let them bake for another 6-7 minutes. Take that tray out and let the cookies cool completely and bake the second tray in the same way. Let that tray cool completely too.
While the cookies bake and cool, make the buttercream. Wash out the stand mixer bowl and get it set back up with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter in it until it is fluffy, then cut the tea bag open and dump in the leaves. Also add in the vanilla. Finally, slowly pour in the powdered sugar until you have a luscious frosting. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag and pipe a thick, single layer on the flat side of half of the macarons. Then place the flat side of another cookie on top and gently twist a little to make sure it all sticks together and the buttercream goes out to the edge. Once they are all assembled, enjoy immediately, and store any leftovers sealed up in the refrigerator!