Traditionally, macarons are made with almond flour. I did not have almond flour. Or almonds. So. I subbed in some pecans. The key here was to make the substitution by weight, not by volume. These came out perfectly chewy and delicious. So much so that I want to try making macarons with all kinds of nuts and I encourage you to experiment as well. I hope my family is in the mood for macarons this holiday season! —Meg
cream of tartar
To Make the Shells:
1. Set up your sheet trays with parchment paper or nonstick
baking mats. 2 trays should be sufficient. If you want to be exact, use a sharpie attached to a compass to draw 3/4" circles one inch apart on each sheet of parchment and then flip the sheets over.
2. Whip the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar until nice satinlike,
stiff peaks form.
3. Meanwhile, put the pecans and the confectioner's sugar in the food processor and pulse until you have what resembles whole wheat flour in appearance.
4. Sift the dry mixture onto a piece of parchment paper. You may have some bits of pecans about the size of nonpereil sprinkles that don't go through and that's okay, although macaron purists would probably beg to differ. I say, dump them on top. The idea is just to make sure that you don't have any sugar lumps or chunks of nut.
5. When your egg whites are sufficiently whipped, switch to the paddle attachment and stir in the dry mixture on low speed until incorporated.
6. Use a spatula to fold the mixture by hand for about a minute (40-45 times) until it flows slowly like lava.
7. Scoop your mixture into a pastry bag and pipe 3/4" rounds from about a half inch tall at a distance of one inch apart. When the tray is full, smack it firmly on the counter 2 or 3 times to release air.
8. Let your trays set for 15 minutes at room temperature while you are preheating your oven to 375 degrees. It seems arbitrary, but don't skip this step. They need time to develop their skin.
9. Turn oven down to 325 degrees and bake for 10 minutes, turning halfway through.
10. Let them cool for a couple minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. If you are having trouble peeling them from the tray, try sliding an offset spatula underneath.
To Make the Filling:
Any kind of buttercream or icing consistency ganache, caramel, or other confection will work to fill macarons. When I made the ones in the photo, I was aiming to reduce waste and used a basic chocolate american buttercream with a pinch of espresso added for some kick, because I already had some on hand. You only need about a quarter of a cup of filling for this amount of shells, but you can store leftovers in the fridge for your next project. Just let it come to room temperature before you try to whip it up again, otherwise condensation will give your baking anxiety a jump start.
1. Whip up the softened butter.
2. Sift together the confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder and add the mixture to the butter bowl with the cream.
3. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Whip on high speed until fluffy.
4. Scoop into pastry bag.
When the shells are cooled, match them up in same sized pairs. If you did the reverse side template that I suggested, they should all go together pretty well. If not, this may be a fun game, depending how adept you are with pastry bags.
Pipe the filling into the center of one side of the macaron. Do not let it go completely to the edge or it will gush out and look sloppy when you put the top on and take a bite. Ideally, macarons will sit filled for 24 hours before serving so that the shells can absorb moisture from the filling and get all nice and perfectly chewy. But who can wait? Not me. And these were spot on in my opinion.
Macarons are excellent do-ahead desserts for the busy holiday season. You can keep them at room temperature for several days or up to a week in the fridge. They can also be frozen. The shells alone or the assembled macarons last in an airtight container in the freezer for up to six months. Let them defrost in fridge then bring to room temperature.
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