Macarons

Meyer Lemon Mousse with Blueberry Macarons

Meyer Lemon Mousse with Blueberry Macarons

It was absolutely beautiful here this weekend.  Sunny, warm, no sweater kind of weather.  Spring was definitely in the air.  So it had me itching to break into some spring flavors.

Meyer Lemon Mousse with Blueberry Macarons

Lemons and blueberries are such a great combo.  The rich, vibrant, sweet flavor of the blueberries with the bright, tart flavor of the Meyer lemons.  So light and warm.  Like a little cup of springtime.  Mmmm.

Blueberry Macarons

So, the original plan with this recipe was to make the macarons and sandwich a Meyer lemon buttercream between them.  BUT, I did something silly. 

I didn’t follow my own advice in aging the egg whites.  Typically, what you want to do is separate the whites from the yolks, cover them, and leave them to age at least 24 hours.  This allows for some of the moisture to escape from the whites so that you have a stronger, drier shell when baking.  Well, I only aged these whites about 10 hours.  I had forgotten to take them out the morning before, so I waited until I got home from work.  Because of this, the shells cracked while they were baking.  Bah!

Meyer Lemon Mousse with Blueberry Macarons

So, because they cracked, and because they had more moisture in them than my usual macaron shells, I knew that they wouldn’t hold well being sandwiched with the buttercream.  They came out flat, a bit chewy, just not what I was hoping for.  Plan B then!  Mousse.  Meyer Lemon Mousse.

Meyer Lemon Mousse with Blueberry Macarons

This mousse is dreamy.  Incredibly light, frothy, almost more like a foam than a mousse.  Not too sweet, so that lemon flavor really jumps out at you.  I will continue to make this mousse over and over again.  It was fantastic; perfect for a light, springy dessert.  So mousse then, with a macaron accent.  I added a macaron to the bottom of the cup, poured in the mousse, then stuck another macaron on top.  The macaron on the bottom completely dissolved, making this blueberry/lemon mousse layer.  The macaron on top softened underneath, but remained thin and crispy on top.  It was sort of like breaking through the top layer on a crème brulee.  Awesome.  I’m almost glad that the shells didn’t turn out; this was just so good.

Meyer Lemon Mousse with Blueberry Macarons

I just love when mistakes turn into something even better than the original.  Why didn’t I think of this first?  I would have saved myself a lot of four-letter words

Winking smile

What cooking mistakes have you made that turned into something great?  THG

Meyer Lemon Mousse with Blueberry Macarons

Meyer Lemon Mousse with Blueberry Macarons

Blueberry Macarons:

1 cup almond flour

1 3/4 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup ground freeze-dried blueberries

3 egg whites, aged 24-48 hours and at room temperature

pinch of cream of tartar

1/4 cup superfine sugar

2-3 drops blue gel food coloring

In a food processor, combine the almond flour, powdered sugar and ground blueberries.  Pulse to mix.  Sift mixture three times into a large bowl.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer, combine egg whites and cream of tartar.  Whip egg whites on medium-high until very frothy.  Reduce speed to low and add superfine sugar.  Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, about 2-3 minutes.  Reduce speed to low again and add in food coloring.  Increase speed to medium-high again and whip to stiff peaks.  Fold in dry ingredients, about 50 folds, until batter is smooth and shiny.  Pipe into 1” circles on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Tap the sheets on the counter top to release any trapped air bubbles.  Let sit for 45-60 minutes until the tops dry out slightly.

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.  Once heated, reduce to 300ºF.  Add shells to the middle of the oven, one tray at a time, and bake for approximately 12-14 minutes, rotating halfway through.  Allow to cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes.  Move to cooling rack to cool the rest of the way.

Makes approximately 40 shells

Meyer Lemon Mousse

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup lemon extract

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice

1/3 cup sugar, separated

5 egg whites

In a stand mixer, whip heavy cream and lemon extract together until stiff peaks form.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

In a double boiler set over medium heat, whip egg yolks, lemon juice and 1/6 cup sugar.  Whip vigorously until thickened and a candy thermometer reaches 145ºF.  Remove from heat.  Whip in a stand mixer until cooled to room temperature and mixture is thick, about 4-5 minutes.  Set aside.

In a clean double boiler set over medium heat, whip egg whites and remaining sugar until a candy thermometer reads 145ºF.  Move to a stand mixer and whip to stiff peaks.  Fold egg whites into egg yolk mixture until well-combined.  Fold heavy cream into egg mixture until smooth and creamy. 

In a small glass, like a highball glass, add a blueberry macaron to the bottom.  Pour mousse over until the glass is almost full.  Add another macaron to the top.  Refrigerate to set, at least 4-6 hours.  Serve chilled.

Serves 6-8

Saffron Sweet Potato and Pecan Pie Macarons

Pecan Pie Macarons

Did you all have a nice Thanksgiving?

Saffron Sweet Potato Macarons

We did.  Very mellow, just us, my parents, my sister and my grandfather.  Small and intimate and full of food.  Just the way I like my Thanksgivings.

Saffron Threads

My mom did most of the cooking herself.  Shawn and I spent the day with his parents, so I wasn’t able to help this year.  I did, however, provide the pie-alternative dessert.  Macarons.

Macarons Setting
Baked Macaron Shells

Macarons (pronounced mack-rons), for those who don’t know, are a small French confection, also referred to as petit fours.  They are not to be confused with macaroons, which are the coconut haystack-style cookies.  Macarons are made of an almond flour and meringue shell sandwiched together with a flavored filling, usually a buttercream, jam or ganache.  They are light, airy, sweet little treats that seem a lot more involved and complicated than they actually are.  I’ve tried several different recipes, and finally came up with one that works for me and my oven (believe me, it will change kitchen to kitchen.  Just play around with the recipe until you find what works for you.).  Once you practice and find a recipe that works for you, you’ll find yourself wanting to make these in every possible combination over and over again.

Macaron Shell Ingredients

Start with the almond flour.  You can buy almonds all ready ground up and ready to use, but they tend to be quite a bit more expensive.  I prefer to buy bulk raw almonds.  I then blanch and peel the skins off and grind them in a spice grinder.  It takes a little more time, but it’s worth it.  You end up with approximately 10 cups of almond flour for what most stores would charge for about 4 cups worth.  Just blanch the raw almonds in boiling water for about 1 minute, rinse with cold water and pat dry.  The skins will peel right off.  I just sat myself down in front of the Woody Allen documentary on PBS and the task just flew right by!  Also, if you don’t have a spice grinder, you can use a regular food processor, but you will want to sift and run it through a couple of times to be sure that it gets as fine as possible.

Once you have the almond flour, add it to a food processor, along with the powdered sugar and any flavorings you want for the shells and pulse to mix.  For the sweet potato macarons, I added cinnamon and saffron to the shells.  For the pecan pie, I substituted half the almond flour for ground toasted pecans and nutmeg.  Once the sugar, spices and almond flour are mixed together, sift them.  This is a very important step.  You will want to sift the dry ingredients at least 3 times to sort out any of the large lumps, insuring the smoothest shells possible.

Sifting the Almond Flour

Next is the meringue.  You will want to use aged egg whites; this means separating the egg whites from the yolks 24-48 hours ahead of time.  Aging the whites allows them to lose a little of their moisture, making for a stiffer and drier meringue, one that will hold shape well and keep from cracking easily in the oven.  It also keeps the shells from getting too chewy after baking.  Before whipping to a stiff peak, you will want to add in your food coloring, if using any.  Powdered and gel food colorings are best; the liquid food coloring drops can add too much moisture to the meringue and affect the stiffness and hold.

Macaron Shells

After whipping the meringue, you will want to fold the dry ingredients in.  It’s very important not to over-fold; too much air will result in runny and misshapen shells.  I usually do about 50-53 folds until the powdered ingredients are completely incorporated and the batter is smooth and shiny.  From there, pipe the batter onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper in 1” circles.  To keep the shells smooth, just drag the tip of the piping bag to the side after forming your circles.  After piping, tap the bottom of the baking sheets on the counter to release and trapped air bubbles and let the batter circles sit out for about 45 minutes to an hour.  This will allow the meringue to dry out slightly and a skin to form on the top of the rounds, assuring that no cracks will form while baking.  The shells are great to make in advance, as you can freeze them for up to 10 days before using them.

Pecan Pie Filling

As for the fillings, I did a spiced sweet potato buttercream and a pecan caramel.  I used the same caramel sauce base from my Pumpkin Cheesecake, but added a little dark corn syrup to the sugar for a little flavor depth and also to help the caramel set a little stiffer.  I folded in some chopped pecans for crunch.

Sweet Potato Buttercream

The sweet potato buttercream is incredibly simple.  Butter, cream cheese, roasted sweet potato, sugar, spices and vanilla.  Cream everything together and pipe onto macaron shells (trying your darndest to not just eat spoonfuls by itself).  After piping or spooning fillings onto a macaron shell, just sandwich a second one on top, pressing down only until the filling reaches the edge of the bottom macaron (you do not want any overflow happening).  These little beauties will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days after making them.  But, if your family is anything like mine, they will be mostly gone within a couple of hours.  Let me warn you though, these treats are incredibly deceptive: you think because they’re bite-sized you can eat several in a sitting.  But they are rich, my friends.  I find just a couple at a time are perfect for my (constant) sweet-tooth fix.

Sweet Potato and Pecan Pie Macarons

What did you have at your Thanksgiving table this year?  THG

Saffron Sweet Potato Macarons

Macaron Shells:

1 cup almond flour

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. saffron threads

3 egg whites, aged and at room temperature

pinch of cream of tartar

1/4 cup superfine sugar

orange food coloring

Sweet Potato Buttercream:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature

8 oz. cream cheese, cubed and at room temperature

1 1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar, to taste

1/2 cup roasted sweet potatoes, mashed

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground allspice

1 tsp. vanilla

In a food processor, pulse almond flour, powdered sugar, cinnamon and saffron threads until combined.  Sift through a fine mesh sieve 3 times and set aside.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip egg whites on medium until just foamy.  Add cream of tartar and whip until soft peaks form.  Reduce speed to low and add superfine sugar.  Increase speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form.  Add food coloring and whip until incorporated.  Add dry ingredients to meringue and fold in, 50-53 times, until smooth and shiny.

Spoon batter into piping bag fitted with a 1/2” round tip.  Pipe 1” rounds onto parchment paper lined baking sheets.  Tap baking sheets on counter to remove air bubbles.  Let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Heat oven to 325ºF.  Once heated, reduce heat to 300ºF.  Bake shells one tray at a time, in middle of oven, for 12-14 minutes, turning tray halfway through until shells are dry and stiff on top.  Remove from oven.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet then transfer to cooling rack (if shells stick to parchment paper, spray water between baking sheet and parchment paper to release shell).  Reheat oven to 325ºF for 5 minutes and reduce back to 300ºF before adding next tray. 

Meanwhile, cream together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until desired sweetness is reached.  Add sweet potatoes, cinnamon, allspice and vanilla and mix to combine.

Add buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a 1” round tip.  Pipe buttercream into center of macaron shell until 1/4” from edge.  Sandwich second shell on top and press until buttercream reaches the edge of the bottom shell.

Makes 50 shells, or 25 macaron sandwiches

Pecan Pie Macarons

***Same shell recipe as above, but substitute 1/2 cup almond flour for 1/2 cup ground toasted pecans, and replace cinnamon and saffron with 1/2 tsp. nutmeg.  Use brown food coloring in place of orange.

Pecan Pie Filling:

1 cup sugar

1 Tbsp. dark corn syrup

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature

1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature

3/4 cup pecans, chopped

Over medium-high heat, melt sugar with dark corn syrup, mixing occasionally.  Stop stirring once sugar begins to boil.  Watch sugar until it reaches a light amber color.  Remove from heat.  Add butter and stir to combine.  Add cream and stir to combine.  Let cool to room temperature.

Toast pecans over medium heat in a skillet until fragrant and slightly darker in color.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Fold pecans into caramel sauce until incorporated.  Spoon onto macaron shells and sandwich lightly, being careful to not crush shell tops

Makes 50 shells, or 25 macaron sandwiches