Monday, November 17, 2014

Maple Cinnamon French Macarons

Happy Monday!
Hope everyone is having a cozy, fun Fall! I can feel the bustle of the holidays already starting to get revved up and it's making me freak out a little. So much to do in so little time! It doesn't help when the blogs I follow are already showing Christmas posts with sneak peaks of their homes decorated!! Ah! Wait, Thanksgiving isn't here yet! One thing at a time! Anyway I hope to have a few more Thanksgiving posts up before Thanksgiving and then as soon as that's over, its time to turn on the Christmas music and get Christmas-ing! I have had ideas stored up since last Christmas, so I shouldn't have a shortage of Christmas posts this year. It will all depend on me having the time to get them posted! Anyway. We had Princess's annual school auction this weekend and it was our first time going. It was a lot of fun. Who doesn't love the rush of holding up that bid number! All of the Pre-K parents were asked to make or buy (yeah right, do you know me?) a dessert to have auctioned off and me being crazy and wanting to impress all the mamas and papas at her school, decided I would make French Macarons for it. If the weather behaved of course. Because if you've ever tried to make French Macarons in the rain, you know what happens. I am by no means a professional baker, but I have been able to turn out a few decent batches of macarons in the past (some pumpkin ones last year got rave reviews) and so I wanted to give you a recipe and a couple tips (marked with *), so that if you ever decide you want to try making them, it won't be so scary. And once you make them successfully once or twice, it won't be scary at all. I promise! These would be perfect for an after Thanksgiving dinner treat. 

Maple Cinnamon French Macarons 

3 Egg whites (at room temperature)
1/4 tsp. Cream of Tartar
A pinch of salt (regular, not kosher)
1/4 cup Superfine/Baker's sugar (it is finer grained than regular sugar and it usually comes in a milk carton)
1 and 3/4 cups Powered sugar
1 cup Almond flour
1/2 tsp Maple extract
1 tsp cinnamon

Start by separating the 3 eggs from the egg whites and set them out in a bowl. * It's easier to separate them when they are cold, but they have to be room temperature for this recipe, so once you do that, just set them out on the counter for at least 1/2 hour. * Make sure when you are separating the eggs, you don't get any yolk in there because that will prevent the meringue from fluffing up. If some gets in, start over.

Measure out your almond flour and (* if you have a sifter) run it through a flour sifter, discarding any of the tough granules. I never used one before this last batch, so you don't really need it, but it helps to make the macarons smoother. I think the sifter I got was $5. It's a nice thing to have around for holiday baking anyway. Mix the almond flour together with the powdered sugar and set aside.

* Make sure your stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment are clean, dry and not greasy at all, because this will prevent the meringue from fluffing up.

Once the egg whites are at room temperature, put them in a stand up mixer (if you have it, but beaters work as well, its just more work to hold the darn things!) fitted with the whisk attachment. Run on medium until the egg whites get frothy. Add the cream of tartar and pinch of salt and then run on medium/high for a minute or two. Then gradually (* note gradually) add the 1/4 cup of superfine sugar while the mixer is running and your meringue should start to get fluffy. Keep beating until stiff peaks form. This means when you pull the beaters out, the meringue should not move and will form "peaks". Approx. 5 mins. With a spatula fold in the almond flour/ powdered sugar mixture and stir until combined (use the spatula for the mixing). At this point, add the maple extract and food coloring if you wish to color them.

*If you want to change the flavor of the macarons, you can add vanilla, hazelnut, lemon, orange, lavender or any other flavor, but generally keep the amount the same. But be careful with mints and peppermint extracts, as they can be strong, so do a little at a time.

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper (you can use silicone mats too, but I have found that I get better "feet" with the parchment) and pre-heat the oven to 300. Now pour the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a wide round tip. Pour about 1 inch rounds of the batter onto the parchment lined sheets. You will start to get into a rhythm after the first few. Try to keep them all around the same size if possible. They will spread a little, so don't freak out.

Let them sit on the counter for 15min- 1 hour until the tops of the batter is not sticky anymore when you touch them. It's a wide time range, I know, but depending on the weather and how dry the inside of your house is, you never know how long it will take. Once the tops are dry, * put a cookie sheet in the oven on a rack that will be underneath your cookies. This is a great tip that helps your cookies from getting too cooked and helps the cookies to cook evenly. Put your cookies in the oven on the next rack above where you just put the plain sheet (making sure that its in the middle of the oven). Bake for about 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Now all you have to do is fill them! I usually just do a buttercream filling, but these can be filled with jam, mousse or anything you like. Here is how I make my filling. Allow 2 unsalted butters to come to room temperature and then beat until creamy. Add powdered sugar, until you get to a consistency that will be spreadable (add milk if you must, but not too much). Then flavor your filling with any kind of flavor. I added 1 tsp. of ground cinnamon.

Once your cookies are cooled (very carefully, as they are easily broken) spread some filling onto one cookie and then sandwich together with another cookie. I find that holding the base is helpful in not breaking them. Now you have made a French Macaron! Repeat with all other cookies.

My niece spotted my Maple Cinnamon Macarons on Instagram and asked if I would make her some. Since she is a poor starving college student, I couldn't refuse. There is nothing better than getting care packages while you are in college, I remember! I made those ones vanilla. So to make vanilla, all you would do is switch out the maple extract for vanilla extract and replace the cinnamon with vanilla extract.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

That's it! Hope this has inspired you to give macarons a try! They are really fun once you know how! And if you are at all overwhelmed by all this direction, send me an email and I will be happy to help! Have a great day.

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