S’mores Macarons: Improv Challenge

I love the month of December- it is the only time of year when I can bake treats nonstop and people have to eat them because it is the holiday season.  The traditional dessert to bake around the holiday season is cookies, but cookies aren’t always my favorite dessert to eat or make.  But macarons are a magical cookie.  They are crunchy, chewy, and sandwiched with frosting- lovely.  They taste so good you may swear that they have been made by magical elves for Santa (too much?).
I am also excited to make these cookies as my first participation in a blog event as part of the Improv Challenge.  Our task was to make a dish using chocolate and marshmallows: a classic combination for s’mores.  I had been trying to think up a fun combination to make with macarons, and I had found it.
Making macarons is a bit of an undertaking, but I always find it to be a fun adventure.  This is the first time I have had some macaron baking problems (you will notice the lack of “feet” that macarons are supposed to have), but they still taste divine.  Macarons are a fickle cookie (Mine may have had problems because it was raining when I made them, my eggs weren’t quite room temeperatuer, who knows), but be brave and try them out this holiday season!
S’MORES MACARONS
Cookie Barely Adapted from Oggi
Frosting and Idea from Cinnamon Freud
INGREDIENTS
For the Cookies:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
For the Macarons:
5 ounces melting chocolate
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4-5 ounces marshmallow fluff
DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon.  Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Toast until fragrant, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and cool.  Mix in salt and powdered sugar.  Set aside.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Beat eggs whites until foamy.  While still beating, gradually add in brown sugar.  Beat until glossy medium peaks form.  Fold in graham cracker mixture.  Transfer to a piping bag.  Pipe out circles 1-1 1/2 inches wide and about 1/4 inch high, leaving space between.  Let sit at room temperature for 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Bake for 13-17 minutes.  Cool completely.
Melt chocolate over a double broiler.  When melted, remove from stove.  Using a small spatula or spoon, carefully spread chocolate on the bottom of each macaron.  Chill until chocolate has set, about 5-10 minutes.
Match the macarons in same sized pairs.  Combine cream cheese and marshmallow fluff in a bowl.*  Beat until combined.  Spread marshmallow mixture on one cookie in each pair.  Sandwich the second macaron on top.  Keep chilled for serving.

Makes about 25 macarons.

*The more marshmallow fluff you add, the more liquid the frosting becomes.  Chill the frosting before spreading on macarons if needed to thicken.

Check out more about the Improve Challenge here!

Hazelnut Macarons with Nutella Buttercream

Ah, the elusive macaron.  I decided to take them on again a second time.  I was worried that my first batch was a fluke success, so I set out to take my time and be careful.  I was very fancy and had my mise en place.  At first everything was going very smoothly.  Then I tried to scrape down the bowl of my food processor using a rubber spatula.  Well, I have a little PSA for all of your: the blades of a food processor are very sharp.  I removed my spatula and found a little piece of rubber missing in the abyss of my nut flour.  After a few slight expletives, I called on my mother to help me sift me nut flour.  And of course at the very end of the mixture, there was the pesky little piece of rubber.

Shaking off my little mishap, I began beating my egg whites and combining.  I had my home-made pastry bag (a plastic ziploc bag) all set up to pipe out the filling.  I was feeling very confident having everthing all ready to go.  I filled my bag and then realized that when piping a mixture, it is helpful to have your frosting tip already in the bag before.  A few expletives and a panic snip of the scissors, and I had a huge hole in my pastry bag and macaron mixture all over my hands.  With a messy fix of some scotch tape, I got the frosting tip on, quickly piped out my macarons, and then wondered what I was doing in the kitchen.

In the end, batch number two of macarons was a success (because we didn’t end up eating any plastic spatula, it could have been like a king cake gone wrong).  My macarons developed their signature feet at the bottom and the nutella buttercream came together extremely easily.  So please take a moment to chuckle and learn from my mishaps, then go make some macarons.  They are one of the most rewarding desserts to make, you will get a moment of pure glee when they come out.

If you want some tips and some reassurance that you too can make macarons, visit Brave Tart’s post about macaron myths. She helped give me the final confidence boost that I could make macaroons, and you can too!  These can be a great edition to any cookie swap or holiday party.  Wow your friends with these sandwich cookies!

HAZELNUT MACARONS WITH NUTELLA BUTTERCREAM
Barely Adapted from Annie’s Eats
INGREDIENTS

For the Macarons:*
5 1/2 ounces almonds
2 ounces hazelnuts
10 ounces powdered sugar
100 grams egg whites, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

For the Nutella Buttercream:
12 tablespoons butter, softened
6 tablespoons nutella
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS

For the Macarons:

In a food processor, combine almonds and hazelnuts.  Process for 2-3 minutes until well ground and paste-like.  Add powdered sugar and process until combined, scraping down the bowl if needed.  Set aside.

In a large bowl combine egg whites and cream of tartar.  With a hand mixer beat until stiff and glossy, 3-4 minutes.  Fold nut mixture into egg whites in three batches.  Transfer to a pastry bag with a large round frosting tip.

Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Pipe macaron mixture in 1 1/2 inch circles, about 1/2 thick.  Leave space in between as they will spread slightly.  Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Place baking sheets on lower two wracks in oven.  Bake macarons for 6 minutes.  Switch the baking sheets (so the one on the lowest rack is now on the upper and vice versa).  Bake for 7-8 minutes.  Let macaron shells cool completely on wire rack.

For the Nutella Buttercream:

In a medium bowl, combine softened butter and nutella.  With a hand mixer, beat until combined and whipped, 1-2 minutes.  Add salt and powdered sugar.  Beat until combined and fluffy.

Pair up your cooled macaron shells so that they match in size.  Spread nutella buttercream on half of the pairs and place the other half on top to form a sandwich.  Place in airtight container and chill for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.’ Let sit at room temperature about 15-20 minutes before eating.

Makes about 20-22 macarons.

*All ingredients for macarons must be at room temperature

Vanilla Macaron with Raspberry Filling

Happy Macaron Day everyone!

Reading food blogs, watching more food related TV, and exploring  the grocery store and restaurants with an open mind has introduced me to foods I had not even heard of before.  Such as macarons.   I went from never hearing about these dessert cookies to them popping up everywhere I looked, and I was intrigued.  I had heard that they were a finicky dessert that were difficult to make correctly.  I was determined not only to try a macaron but to make them myself.  So on one of my days off from work, I got busy in the kitchen.

It was some intense, focused baking that day.  As I was putting them together, I made multiple (read: at least 15) trips back to the computer to see if I was making them correctly.  With a few flubs in the process (such as using almonds with the skins still on), I put the batch into the oven and crossed my fingers, expecting the worst and hoping for the best.  When the timer went off and I checked the cookies, I did a little happy dance in my kitchen when I saw the elusive feet characteristic of the macaroons. Success!!  While this batch didn’t come out picture perfect, they tasted delicious.

For those of you who were like me and never had a macaron before, stop what you are doing now and go have one.  Here is the rundown of a macaron: sweet icing is sandwiched between two cookies.  The macarons are crisp and crackly on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. It is a perfection of sweetness in bite size form.

I am definitely ready to make some macarons again already.  While slightly time intensive, they were definitely fun to make! The possibilities are now endless, and I am ready to try a new flavor combinations very soon…

VANILLA MACARON WITH RASPBERRY FILLING
Adapted from Annie’s Eats
 
INGREDIENTS

For the Macarons:
110 grams slivered almonds
200 grams powdered sugar
100 grams egg whites, room temperature
1 vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting:
4 tablespoons butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2-3 tablespoons raspberry jam
Red food coloring, optional

DIRECTIONS

For the Macarons:
In a food processor, combine almonds and powdered sugar.  Process until finely ground.

In a large bowl, whip egg whites with a hand mixer until foamy.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla beans into the egg whites. Add vanilla extract. While beating on medium speed, gradually add granulated sugar.  Whip until stiff peaks form and mixture is a glossy meringue.  Fold almond mixture into egg whites.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Transfer meringue mixture to a pastry bag.  Pipe filling into 1 inch round circles.  Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, until they develop a hard shell.

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Bake for 12-18 minutes.  Macarons are done if you can easily remove them from parchment paper without cracking.  Set baking pan on wire rack and cool completely.

For the Frosting
With a hand mixer, blend butter and cream cheese together.  Add powdered sugar and raspberry jam.  Mix until thickened and mixed. Add red food coloring to reach desired color.

Pipe frosting onto one macaron and top with another macaron.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 24 hours before consuming.