Monday, November 15, 2010

Pecan Pie Macarons and Fundraising

For a while there, I could have sworn that I lost my macaron mojo. Really, all of a sudden they would not work for me! There's a good chance that I've gotten that mojo back! Yahoo!

In February, I will be walking with Team Hudson in the Christopher's Heart Energy for Life walkathon, benefiting the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation. I figured that since I love to bake, I may as well sell some goodies to help raise money. Instead of chasing my crazed children around a random parking lot, I am going to be holding a "mobile" bake sale. I'll be traveling to different offices around the Austin area to sell the goods. If it works out well, I'll do it again in December, and then in January!

This month I am selling pecan pie macarons, pumpkin rice krispie treats with dark chocolate and dark chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream. Sounds pretty delicious, huh?

Pecan Pie macarons are definitely my favorites to make. I typically use macaron recipes from Tartelette's site, which I have had moderate success with. (Obviously not the recipe but the novice macaron maker in me) I have, however, followed a tip from the wise Ms. Humble Pie and add about 1/2 tsp of dried egg whites with the granulated sugar that goes into the meringue. It produces a beautiful, thick (and stable) meringue for me to fold the almond/sugar mixture into. It produces a batter that is much like the italian meringue version, but not as sweet since there is no added sugar syrup.

Here is the recipe for pecan pie macarons, adapted from Tartelette's recipe:

For the shells:
90 grams aged egg whites*
40 gr granulated sugar mixed with about 1/2 tsp dried egg whites**
200 gr powdered sugar
55 gr almonds
55 gr pecans

* I usually age my egg whites in the refrigerator for about 5-6 days in a bowl lightly covered with a paper towel.
**NOT meringue powder, as it has added sugar and other... stuff. I usually find dried egg whites at my local grocery store right next to the meringue powder, though, in the baking aisle.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry. Combine the almonds,pecans and half of the powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Sift this mixture with the other half of the powdered sugar. You may have a few pieces of nut that are too large to fit through the strainer. Use your best judgement on whether they need another round in the processor or if you can just chunk them. If it's just a gram or two I just chunk them) Add about 1/3 to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then add another 1/3 and fold carefully, then the last 1/3 until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down.The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (I use the Wilton 2A) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or Silpat) lined baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 300F. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer.

Typically 1 batch of batter, for me, makes about 56 macaron halves. I use half sheet pans, doubled up to provide a little insulation, with Silpats.

For the filling for my pecan pie macarons, I use a recipe The Cookbook Chronicles.

Here you go:
Salted creme fraiche caramel
1 ¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup water
½ cup heavy cream
1 stick unsalted butter
2/3 cup crème fraiche
1 vanilla bean, scraped (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste)

1 tsp kosher salt (or ½ tsp table salt, to taste)

First, have all your ingredients pre-measured and close at hand.

In a skillet, combine the water and sugar over high heat. Cook until the sugar has liquefied, and turned a dark amber color. You can give the sugar one initial stir to mix the water and sugar but do not touch it afterwards or else sugar crystals will form. (This will take about 10-12 minutes.) Immediately, stir in the butter. Turn off the heat. Stir in the heavy cream–it will bubble up, and then subside.

Finally, stir in the creme fraiche, scraped vanilla bean, and kosher salt. Let it cool to room temperature. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. (You can warm it up in the microwave before using if you would like it runnier.)

Wait until the ganache is thoroughly chilled, fill with about 1- 1.5 tsp caramel and top with other half. Macarons need about 24-48 hours to "mature" before they're ready to eat. The macaron shells need to absorb a bit of the moisture from the filling to get that tender, beautiful macaron bite to them.

I hope you enjoy!!!

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