Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Peanut Butter and Jelly Macarons

Before I begin the story of my culinary journey, I have to disclose that this is not a healthy recipe.  Yes, this is a nutrition blog, but it's also a place for me to explore the beauty of food and recipe development.  It's ok to indulge once in a while but everything in moderation!

I had never made macarons (pronounced Macaroni, without the I sound) before this experiment.  I had never even tasted a macaron.  The closest I had come to one was on the other side of a bakery window.  Macarons are known for two things: coming in pretty pastel colors and being made out of almonds.  I love the way they look but don't care for baked goods with almond flavor so that's why I've never tried one.

When I found about First on the First, a blog hop started by Kate @ Food Babbles and Carrie @ Poet in the Pantry, I was excited to get on board.  First on the First attempts a cooking or baking feat that is new to you and shares the results with the world.  February's theme is macarons and I really wanted to be a part of it but I knew I'd have to make some adjustments to these traditionally almond flavored cookies to make them my own.

Traditionally, macarons are comprised of 4 ingredients: almond flour, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and egg whites.  I'd say they are a cross between a meringue and a sandwich cookie.  But the macaron isn't defined by almond flour, it just needs any nut flour to be authentic.  I love peanuts  so Peanut Butter and Jelly Macarons were born!
First, I had to find peanut flour.  I went to a lot of stores but I couldn't find it or it was too expensive so I decided to make my own.  I used a kitchen scale for this recipe because most of the basic macaron recipes use grams and I wanted to be as accurate as possible.
Peanut flour

To make peanut flour:
2.5 oz (100g) peanuts, unsalted dry roasted
1 c (200g) confectioner’s sugar
Process peanuts and confectioner’s sugar in food processor until broken into small pieces.  Using a mesh sifter, sift processed ingredients into bowl.  Re-process what’s left in sifter and resift until you're left with a soft powder.  Put to the side.

For the macarons:
Peanut flour (see above recipe)
½ c liquid egg whites (~2 egg whites)
1 t egg white powder
½ t cream of tartar
4 T granulated sugar 
½ c jam, for filling
Microwave liquid egg whites and egg powder for 15 seconds.  Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk on medium speed until foamy.  Add cream of tartar.  Whisk on low speed, and gradually add sugar.  Once sugar is added, whisk on high for about 10 minutes until stiff peaks form.

Manually fold peanut flour mixture into egg whites until mixture is smooth and shiny.  Tip: Rotate the bowl while combining, not the spatula.  You want the batter to have a magma-like flow.

If you want to add color, add it halfway through folding.  I chose not to add coloring because I wanted them to look like peanut butter.
Line 3-4 cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone liner.  Fill a pastry bag with a round piping tip with some batter and pipe 1" circles onto the sheets.

I sprinkled red sugar and round rainbow sprinkles at this time for decoration.  Prior to baking, let the trays stand at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes or until the macarons form a skin.  You know they're ready to go in the oven when you tap them and they feel hard and don't stick to your finger.  Tip: No skin, no feet (feet are the lacy bottom of the shells)
Bake at 300 F for 18 minutes.  Bake 1 sheet at a time and rotate halfway through until macarons are crisp and firm.
Cool macarons on sheets for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack.

Once cooled, it's time to assemble.  Match up macaron shells by size.  Smear a small amount of jam on one side and sandwich together.  Tada!

The recipe made 4 full sheets of macaron halves so I decided to vary the fillings.  I filled some with grape jelly, others with strawberry jam, and some with melted chocolate.  For the chocolate recipe, I put ½ c of bittersweet chocolate chips and 1 T of margarine in the microwave for 2 minutes.  Then I stirred in 1 T corn starch until combined.  I waited for the chocolate to cool down before spreading on shells.  They tasted like peanut butter cups but crispy!

Making macarons can be very tricky and delicate.  My first attempt was an epic failure and came out more like flat peanut meringues which happened to be delicious but certainly not macarons.  The recipe above is from my second attempt.  I think they came out pretty great.  They had feet and a eggshell-like exterior.  Their domes weren't super high but not too flat either.  I don't know if I would attempt these again due to the amount of time they took but I am proud to say that I have successfully made macarons.  
Thanks to the following blogs for tips, basics, and inspiration for this culinary endeavor:
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