For the vanilla bean buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sifted powdered sugar and mix at low speed to moisten the sugar. Increase the speed to incorporate fully. Add the vanilla seeds and salt, then beat at high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy. If the frosting seems a bit stiff, add some milk, one tablespoon (15 ml) at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.
For the vanilla macaron shells:*Return the egg whites to room temperature at least an hour before making the macaron shells.*
In the bowl of a food processor, add the powdered sugar and almond flour, and process until the mixture is thoroughly incorporated, 30 seconds to a minute. Sift the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to make sure no lumps or bigger bits of almonds are left.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large stainless steel mixing bowl if using a hand mixer, whisk the egg whites on medium/high speed until frothy. Add a tablespoon of the granulated sugar, continue whisking at medium-low speed, then add the remaining sugar slowly. Increase the speed medium-high and whisk until the egg whites are bright white and create stiff peaks.
Add the almond and powdered sugar mixture to the egg whites and, using a spatula, gently fold in the dry ingredients: slide your spatula all the way to the bottom of the bowl and come back up to the top. Do this about 6 times to incorporate the dry ingredients, then keep folding for a total of about 14 strokes until no pockets of dry ingredients remain and the mixture drops from the side of the spatula in a slow, lazy ribbon. Start testing the ribbon stage early to avoid overfolding.
Transfer the macaron batter to a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch (1.25-cm) round tip. Pipe 1 ½-inch (3.8-cm) rounds of batter, evenly spaced but still close to one another as they will not expand much.
Carefully slide the macaron templates off the baking sheets, if you used them. Let the shells rest on the baking sheets for 20 to 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 275°F (135°C) with a rack set in the middle position. Bake each sheet of macaron shells for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the shells are firm on their feet when you lightly tap on them with the tip of a finger.
Repeat the steps above to bake all the macaron shells.
Let the shells cool completely to room temperature before assembling them, about an hour.
To assemble the macarons: If you prepared the vanilla bean buttercream in advance, bring it back to room temperature at least 1 hour before using.
Pair same-sized shells together and set them side by side on a work surface. Using a small offset spatula, spread some milk chocolate and passion fruit ganache over half of the shells. (If you refrigerated the ganache, let it warm back up to room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or until spreadable.) Close the macarons, gently pressing the second shells over the filling.
STORAGE: Store the assembled vanilla bean macarons in an airtight container and refrigerate for one night before indulging. French macarons will keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 days. You can also freeze assembled macarons in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
SERVING:Always bring these Passion Fruit French Macarons back to room temperature 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving.
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