26 November 2010

Pink Pecan Pie Macarons

"What does Fall mean to you?... Does fall mean Thanksgiving, or deep cinnamon flavour, are apples your calling or do falling leaves announce the season to you? Or then, is it the warm comfort and luxury of hot cocoa or warm spiced cider?"

l'Automne.  Quite simply my favourite season of the year, when the river valley is an explosion of reds and golds, and the sunny but crisp days mean I get to spice up my wardrobe with my collection of scarves.  I love taking the pups for a walk in the park, hearing the leaves crunching under our feet.  Fall is also when many of my favourite foods come into season, like figs, pomegranates, apples, and persimmons.  It's also the perfect time of year to enjoy one of my favourite desserts... Pecan Pie!

With so many fall friendly flavours to choose from, it was difficult to narrow my macaron inspiration to just one, but I was curious to see if I could recreate the flavours of my beloved pecan pie in macaron form.  And from the endless flavour varieties I have heard of for macarons, I don't believe I have ever heard of a pecan version at all, though their sweet flavour would certainly pair well with the almond-meringue batter.  And hey - even their pink shells are good inspiration.  Whoa.  Wait wait wait wait... turns out their shells are dyed pink.  What the heck is up with that? And how is it that I am just figuring that out now?  I thought we were getting past all of that!  I haven't seen the scorching hot pink coloured pistachios of my youth since... well, my youth.  Of course I still can't figure out why cheddar cheese is orange here, yet most true cheddars are actually a pale buttery yellow colour.  I thought we were supposed to be getting away from  putting artificial colours and flavours into everything.   Of course, maybe that argument's best saved for a post when I'm not talking about day-glo pink cookies.... hmmmm that's awkward....

Since last month's major macaron fail, I made sure to clear my evening to focus on my baking, and I also turned to the previously successful Italian-meringue (a.k.a. Pierre Hermé) method.  Speaking of which - did I mention that I finally have my very own copy of Pierre Hermé Macarons? WOOHOO!!

To capture the pecan pie flavour, I swapped out a third of the almond meal for pecans, which I toasted before grinding them finely in the food processor.  Toasting nuts really brings out their flavour, and I definitely wanted noticeable pecan taste.  I sieved these in with the confectioner's sugar and almond meal before adding the liquid egg whites and the Italian meringue.  I blended in a very generous dose of rose food colouring, pushing myself not to woos out by remembering previous unappetizingly flesh-coloured macarons.   It really paid off.  Bright, colourful mac shells were soon pulled from the oven.  Now to focus on the filling...
Pecan pie has more of a syrupy kind of flavour, but I thought that a caramel au beurre salé would likely pair well with the pecaniness, and still not overpower the flavour. I was a little worried that the buttercream would look to orangey against the hot pink shells, but it watually turned out really well. To tone down some of the strong caramel flavour, I added some honey in place of the actual caramel sauce, as well as adding just a sprinkling of salt to he mixture to counter-act any light bitterness that might rear it's ugly head. The final cookie turned out almost as well as I could have hoped. The pecan wasn't quite as noticeable once the cookies were assembled, but overall, they were excellent. Not to mention the fact that they all had their little feet, and turned out beautifully. Hooray!! Macaron success!

Pecan Macarons with Caramel au Beurre Salé buttercream
makes approximately 36 cookies, but is easily doubled 
adapted from Pierre Hermé Macarons

100g almond flour
50g, toasted pecans, finely ground
150g confectioners sugar
55g egg whites
150g granulated sugar
37g water
55g egg whites (yes, another 55g of egg whites in a separate bowl)
1/2 tsp food colouring

Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Using a fine mesh sieve, sift the almond flour and confectioners sugar together into a large bowl.
In a small bowl, mix the food colouring with the first 55g of egg whites. Stir the coloured eggs into the almond sugar mixture until well combined and set aside.
In the bowl of standing mixer fitted with a whisk, whip the second bowl of plain egg whites until they are foamy but do not yet hold a peak. Turn off the mixer and prepare the syrup:
Pour the water into a small saucepan, and pour the sugar into a mound the centre of the pot, but do not stir.
Place the pan over medium high heat, and keep your thermometer handy.
As the sugar begins to dissolve, gently and carefully swirl the mixture around to distribute any sugar that has not yet melted.
Once the syrup begins to boil, periodically check the temperature until it reaches 115˚C (239˚F).
Remove the pan from heat and check the temperature again - the syrup will continue to cook.
When the mixture reaches 118˚C (244˚F), turn the mixer up to medium speed and carefully pour the hot syrup into the egg whites in a steady stream.
Once all of the syrup has been added, turn the mixer to medium-high and whip for another 2 minutes until the meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks.
Using your thermometer, check the temperature of the Italian meringue - it should register about 50˚C (122˚F) or slightly cooler.
Fold the meringue into the coloured almond mixture until no white streaks remain, and has a consistency similar to cake batter.
Fill a piping bag with the macaron batter and pipe small rounds onto the prepared baking sheets.
Preheat the oven to 350˚F and place rack in the centre of the oven.
Allow the piped cookies to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to form a dry "skin" while the oven comes to temperature.
To make sure the cookies are ready to bake, gently touch one with your finger, if any batter sticks to your finger, they are still too wet. You should be able to lightly press your finger to the top and have it come up clean.
Bake one sheet at a time, for 12 minutes. You should have nice puffy macaron shells with the loveliest feet you have ever seen. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool.

Caramel au Beurre Salé buttercream
makes enough to fill more than 36 cookies, but is easily doubled
adapted from Pierre Hermé Macarons

165 ml crème fraiche or heavy whipping cream
100g granulated sugar
30g salted butter + 140g salted room-temperature butter
15ml honey

In a small pan, heat the crème fraiche (or cream) but do not allow it to boil.  In a separate, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 50g of the sugar and allow it to melt.  
Then in 3 different additions, add 50g more sugar to the pan and allow it to fully melt and caramelise until it turns a medium amber colour.  
Once the sugar reaches the right colour, remove the pan from heat and add in the 30g of salted butter, whisking  very gently until the butter is melted and fully incorporated.  Then the hot creme.  
BE VERY CAUREFUL, as the caramel will boil up and sputter, and sugar burns are super painful.  Gently whisk in the creme, then pour the caramel into a shallow, heatproof container and allow it to cool until it reaches 108˚F or cooler.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, cream the remaining 140g butter.  With the mixer on high speed, carefully pour the caramel sauce in a thin, steady stream down the inside of the bowl so as to avoid getting splashed.  Once the caramel is fully blended, continue to whisk for another 2 minutes until the buttercream is slightly fluffy.
Fill a piping bag with the finished buttercream.

On a clean work surface, turn the macaron shells upside down.
Pipe buttercream onto half of the upturned shells.
Top each filled shell with an empty cookie shell and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Remove from the fridge about 2 hours before serving.


Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Congrats on these - they look wonderful! Where did you finally get the book from?

Seattle Pastry Girl said...

Ohh that buttercream sounds delicious...I can't believe I missed the challenge this month-my organizational skills have been thrown into a tizzy this month..beautiful job

Leave-Room-for-Dessert said...

Mardi: I finally managed to get the book from Librarie Gourmande in France. Then, for my birthday I received a second copy that my brother-in-law & his wife had a friend bring back from Paris for me. So now I have two!

Seattle Pastry Girl: I hear you - my blogging has sadly taken a back seat to the busier-than-ever day job and some house renovations. I can't wait to be able to focus on the blogging again! You'll get back at it too!

Anonymous said...

they look absolutely amazing!