Thursday, December 24, 2015

Batch Two: Eggnog Macarons!

It's Christmas Eve, so of course I have to feature a holiday favorite.

Eggnog is weird.  I always hated it as a kid, but once I discovered how nice it is to use in holiday dishes and baked goods, my opinions changed.  The first Christmas that I made macarons I decided to make three holiday flavors, and eggnog was by far the biggest winner.  People loved them, so I brought them back the following year and they continued to receive rave reviews.  Of course that meant it would be a flavor on my menu this year for our holiday bazaar.

My eggnog macarons are super simple: I use a vanilla nutmeg shell and fill it with a whipped white chocolate eggnog ganache.  They're also a non-alcoholic treat, since I tend to only use alcohol if I want it to really be a central flavor, but that's just a personal preference and I strongly encourage alcoholic treats if that's your thing!

For this particular macaron I don't use any food coloring in the shell or the filling, and instead let the cream colored shell speckled with nutmeg be a reminder of this delicious holiday drink.  Food psychology is a really interesting thing - color can really affect the way people taste things, so I typically try to keep all of my macarons a color that's as close as possible to whatever flavor I'm working with.

Onto the good stuff!  If you read the pomegranate recipe, you'll notice this is just about word for word identical.  Unless I'm doing something fancy, like a swirl, my base recipe really doesn't change much.

- 120 g almond meal
- 200 g powdered sugar
- 100 g egg whites
- 32 g granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp fresh grated or ground nutmeg (you can also dust the shells with nutmeg while they're resting if you really want a strong nutmeg flavor.)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (you can also use the scraping from half of a vanilla bean, but I like the vanilla flavor to be a bit more subtle in these)

Note: I've heard of some people using rum, rum extract, or even eggnog extract (yeah, it's a thing) in their shells for added flavor.  Personally I like the shells as I make them, but experiment to see what works best for you!  
1) Prep your silicon baking mats (or parchment paper) and your piping bag.  I use a round tip (Aetco #11) for my macarons, unless I'm doing detail work or making them huge.

2) Place your egg whites in a stainless steel bowl with the cream of tartar.  If using a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment, making sure that the whisk and bowl are completely clean before adding any ingredients.

3) Add the almond meal and powdered sugar to a food processor, and process for about ten to twenty seconds to make the almond meal a bit finer.  Add the nutmeg and sift everything into a mixing bowl.  Set aside.  

4) Begin mixing your egg whites on medium low speed, until they start to get to early stages of soft peaks.  Increase the speed to medium, and once soft peaks start forming, slowly add the granulated sugar. 

5) Continue mixing on medium until stiff peaks are about to form.  Add in the vanilla extract and increase the speed to medium high until stiff peaks form.  Do not overbeat your eggs!  You want smooth, shiny stiff peaks, and if things start to look grainy, you've gone too far.  Remove the bowl from your stand mixer - the rest is done by hand.

6) Start adding in your almond meal sugar mixture a quarter or so at a time.  Using a spatula or a bowl scraper, fold it in until just combined, then add another quarter.  This is the tricky part - you're looking for a lava like consistency that flows in ribbons back into itself.  It sort of looks like a really pretty sludge, and there's no exact science to achieving this - it's mostly by feel.  

7) Once your batter has reached maximum lava consistency, transfer it to your piping bag. 

8) Pipe your macarons onto your silpat.  I generally make my shells about one and half inches in diameter, but you can go bigger or smaller depending on preference and usage.  After you've piped them, you need to get the air bubbles out of them by rapping the cookie sheet on the counter a few times, which also helps the macarons settle and remove any lumps.  

9) The shells have to rest for at least thirty minutes, so while they do you can preheat your oven to 300 degrees, or whatever temperature you've found works best for you.  If you want to dust your shells with additional nutmeg or cinnamon, depending on your eggnog preference, now is the time to do so.  

10) Once your shells have rested, put the macarons in your oven on the bottom rack and bake for 16-18 minutes.  They shouldn't get golden brown, though some ovens might brown them if the broiler kicks on.  If that happens, try putting another cookie sheet on your top rack to shield your shells a bit.

11) Let the shells cool before removing them from the silpat.  I usually get about a hundred shells per batch, or enough for fifty macarons.

Eggnog shells all paired up in their little storage containers.  You can see a bit of the nutmeg sprinkled throughout!
Magical things happen when you whip a white chocolate ganache.  It turns into this light, airy, heavenly concoction that melts in your mouth and is perfect for highlighting delicate flavors.  Ganaches also hold up a bit better than buttercreams in my opinion, so since I was going to be transporting and selling these, I went with my classic eggnog ganache recipe.

- 9 oz white baking chocolate
- 3.5 oz good quality eggnog (like Bud's or something similar)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, or half of a scraped vanilla bean if you want a stronger vanilla taste.
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg (you can use more or less, to taste)

A note on rum: if you want to add it to the ganache, you have two options - add it when you're simmering the eggnog so that most of it cooks off, or add a splash later while you're mixing everything to make them alcoholic.  

1) Add your white chocolate to a heatproof bowl and set aside.

2) Add your eggnog (and vanilla bean scrapings, if your're using it) to a saucepot, and bring to a simmer over low heat, careful not to burn the eggnog.

3) Once the eggnog simmers, pour it over your white chocolate and let sit for about a minute.

4) Add your nutmeg and vanilla extract, if using, and whisk everything together until smooth.  Let cool to room temperature.

5) Using a hand mixer, whip the ganache.  You'll notice the color start to lighten and the volume start to slightly increase.  Whip until you've reached a light and fluffy consistency, about two minutes or so.  Sometimes eggnog can make a ganache a bit too runny, so if you find it's not coming together, chill it for a bit and try again.  If it's still too runny, you can slowly add in powdered sugar in quarter cup increments until you reach your desired consistency.  But try not to overdo it with the sugar - if you're adding in more than a cup, it's best to start from scratch with less eggnog.

6) Transfer your whipped ganache to a piping bag with a round tip, and start filling your shells.  Let them age for at least 24 hours in the fridge so that the flavors can meld and become awesome.

While these pair wonderfully with a glass of eggnog (who would have guessed), they're also delicious with a cup of coffee.  Go big and serve them with an eggnog latte and blow someone's mind!

I somehow managed to not get a single photo of my filled eggnog macarons.  I'm really bad at this game.

Tomorrow is Christmas, so I'm going to be changing the order of things just a bit so that I can feature my most festive flavor, and one of the more complicated macarons that I've ever done.  I hope the suspense is killing you.

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