This season, I've been a tad bit obsessed with apples. (and pears.) Trust me: I've been resisting the strong urge to have every post on this blog be about apples. I don't know--does anyone else go through phases like this with fruit and ingredient obsessions? Or am I just particularly weird?
These macarons are my love affair with apples encapsulated in a tiny two-bite form. It's as if you take everything amazing about an apple and squeeze and compress it--with great, magical pressure--into a single macaron. The shells are cinnamon-spiced and sweet, brittle on the outside with just enough chewy bite on the inside. The buttercream is packed with the essence of apple flavor from the intense homemade apple butter mixed in--an apple butter that sat stewing and bubbling on the stove over low heat for two hours, caramelizing with the brown sugar and soaking up clove and cinnamon fragrances. And, at the heart of the macaron: an extra, extra tart crunch from chunks of crisp, fresh green apples lightly tossed in sour lemon juice and woodsy ground cinnamon. I barely shared any of these with anyone else, being so busy gobbling them up myself.
Have you entered the Breast Cancer Awareness giveaway yet? You have until this Sunday!
Also, a special shout-out to desserts for breakfast readers Laura Lee and Zizikalandjai. They let it slip in previous comments that their birthdays are coming up this weekend, so consider these macarons my little birthday treat to you two. :-)
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!
[Want more Midweek Macarons? --> Strawberry + Red wine + Mascarpone Cream]
Read on for recipe...
recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks
makes ~20 oz. apple butter, far more than you'll need for apple butter buttercream, but delicious to have around for other uses!
2 lbs. apples, peeled, cored, and in chunks
4 cups unfiltered apple juice
1/2-2/3 cup light brown sugar*
1 tspn cloves
1 tspn ground cinnamon
juice of half a lemon
1. In a large pot over medium high heat, combine the apples and apple juice and cook until the apples are completely tender, about 15-25 minutes, depending on the size you chop the apples. If a foam forms, you may skim it off if desired.
2. Remove the pot from the stove and let cool briefly. Puree the apples and apple juice in a food processor or blender until completely smooth.
3. Return the puree to the pot and add the brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and lemon juice.
4. Return the pot to heat and simmer on medium/medium-low heat, trying to maintain 220 degrees F. Cook for 1-2 hours, stirring regularly, until mixture really thickens and darkens and bubbles/splatters. Remove from heat when desired consistency is reached.
*Add only 1/2 cup sugar for a less-sweet apple butter. I used 2/3 cups sugar and while still really good, it was a little on the sweet side for me.
Cinnamon Apple Macarons
makes ~50 small macarons or 20-30 large macarons
for macaron shells*:
200 gr powdered sugar
120 gr blanched and slivered almonds
10 gr freeze-dried apple
1 heaping Tbspn ground cinnamon
1/2 tspn green powered food coloring, if desired
30 gr granulated (superfine, opt) vanilla sugar (for directions on making homemade vanilla sugar, see here)
100 gr egg whites, aged 1-2 days at room temperature or a week in the refrigerator, at room temp
1/4 tspn cream of tartar
1. Prepare two baking sheets lined with silpats or parchment paper and a pastry bag with a large round piping tip.
2. Combine the powdered sugar, almonds, dried apple, cinnamon, and green food coloring, if using, in a food processor and grind until a fine powder. Sift thoroughly through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
3. In a small bowl, have ready the granulated vanilla sugar.
4. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and the cream of tartar. Using a balloon whisk, quickly stir the mixture until the entire surface is covered with foam. Then, start whisking the egg whites, gradually adding in the granulated vanilla sugar. Whisk until you reach glossy, almost-stiff peaks.
5. Gently fold the sifted almond and powdered sugar mixture into the egg whites in three to four stages, just until the ingredients are incorporated and the batter slowly re-absorbs peaks.
6. Transfer the macaron mixture to the prepared piping bag and pipe rounds on to the lined baking sheets. Tap the baking sheets on the table a few times to release air pockets.
7. Rest the macarons for at least 30 minutes (and up to 60), until the outside shells are no longer tacky and sticky to a light touch.
8. Preheat oven to 290 degrees F, with the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.
9. Bake the macarons in the oven, one sheet at a time, for 24-28 minutes total, rotating the sheet half-way through the baking time to insure even baking.
10. Remove from oven and let cool.
*Note: the resting and oven temperature and times are adjusted to what works in my kitchen and oven (which, to my knowledge and according to two oven thermometers, is quite accurate). Please note that you may have to adjust according to what works in your kitchen and oven.
for apple butter buttercream:
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup apple butter
1. Whip the egg yolks until light and shows definitive streaks when you move your whisk through them.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and stir until the sugar is completely wet. Cook over medium high heat, without stirring, until the sugar reaches 238 degrees F. Immediately remove from heat and (carefully!) gradually pour into the egg yolks while whisking, being careful not to hit the whisk wires.
3. Continue whipping the egg yolks on medium high until the the outside of the bowl is no longer hot or warm to the touch.
4. Add the butter in while beating, one tablespoon at a time.
5. Once the butter is incorporated, beat in the apple butter. Use immediately to fill the macarons (or, if you refrigerate the buttercream, bring to room temperature and beat to restore texture before using).
1 small tart green apple, in small, thin chunks (thick enough to still have crunch, though!)
1. Toss the apple chunks with a light coating of lemon juice. Then, sprinkle with cinnamon.
2. Fill the macarons with the apple butter buttercream and apple chunks. Let the macarons "cure" in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight before serving.