“Bi” Avocado Cream Macarons
I like trying familiar foods that are prepared in unfamiliar ways, because it teaches me to eat like a more civilized person. I’m normally way too excited/impatient to think much about my food before eating it. But an original and/or even strange preparation will make me stop to think about the ingredients, and how they work together.
A few weeks ago, my friend pickle and I had an indulgent three course lunch at Eleven Madison that started with a particularly thought-provoking amuse-bouche: foie gras macarons.
Either my pungent dirty pickle martini buzz was interfering with my ability to conceptualize any sort of delicate flavor, or I hadn’t been exposed to enough fancy-pants French food. But I just couldn’t comprehend how the two components could be tasty together. Was the foie gras sweetened to compliment the sweet macaron cookies? Or were the macaron cookies made more savory to compliment the salty, fatty, duckiness?
Neither. The foie gras was savory and the macarons were sweet, but the combination was very tasty! The best comparison I can make to help you imagine how the cookie “worked” is how creamy, salty, butter melts into (literally and figuratively) practically any sweet treat. Mmmmmmm….
I share this experience because it inspired me to do two things:
1. Make macarons! Over the years, I had read/heard/witnessed horror stories about people’s numerous failed attempts to make them. And I realized that the only reason I hadn’t made them was because I feared breaking my streak of baking near perfect sweet treats :). Don’t be a hater now. I’m just being for real.
2. Create a new macaron! As you know, I perceive eating original food as a valuable practice, but I know that actually baking/cooking a completely new food is the ultimate learning experience. Since I needed a means to justify my potential failure, I figured it would be sneaky smart to couple this experimentation with making macarons for the first time.
Lately, I’ve been into music with unintelligible lyrics, or no lyrics at all. El Mundo is a Panamanian duo who came out with a hit “Pseudo-Spanish” song called “Chacarron Maccaron”. I couldn’t find the translation for chacarron maccaron, so I decided it would be a chicharron and churros flavored macaron. Yum! If you know the translation, I would like to know…. eventually. But let’s wait a bit before we shatter my dreams. Besides, it makes the song more fun to listen to:
Now you actually need to listen to and finish this completely irrelevant la la la song:
Bi-foods “swing both ways”
I find it especially fun to experiment with “bi-foods” that “swing both ways”. Bi-foods are foods that are inherently drawn to both sweet and savory form. And I don’t mean an individual dish that contains both sweet and savory components, like the foie gras macarons, or maple crusted lamb chops. I am referring to an independent food, out of the context of any dish, that is effortlessly, and equally delicious in a sweet or savory embodiment. Some examples are pumpkin (pumpkin pie vs. pumpkin risotto), grits (cheesy grits vs. peach and honey grits), greek yogurt (tzatziki salad vs. dessert parfait), and practically all nuts and seeds (candied walnuts vs. spicy sunflower seeds).
Bi-foods do not have extreme flavors. This is not to say that they need manipulation to be extremely tasty. It’s just that fruits with a lot of natural sugar, for example, could not be made tastefully savory, and a meat alone could not be transformed into dessert. The bottom line is that bi-foods have more experimental potential. Wait, did you think I was drawing that metaphor? No no you silly duck.
It’s really just a numbers game. If a food can be equally good sweet or savory, you can make twice the number of delicious goodies! This provides a lot more flexibility, which is great for dangerous experimentation.
Two of my favorite bi-foods are avocado and poppy seeds. So I decided to use them to make my original “avocado cream macarons”, and “poppy seed macarons”. After a cursory Google search to confirm their non-existence, I was only able to confirm my impudence and ignorance. Macarons have been loved and even fetishized by many, and for quite some time. Practically every imaginable macaron has been made, from candied violet, pistachio-rose, to even ketchup (ew)! But many of you probably already knew this…
Fortunately, “my” two macaron flavor ideas were relatively less common, at least in the United States. My search results for “avocado macaron” were mostly restaurant menus that served turkey avocado sandwiches AND macarons. Phew.
“Poppy seed macaron” had a lot more real hits, but there were still no recipes online! So I decided to stick with both. Besides, avocados are in season, and the poppy seeds-citrus cream combination is very springy!
But before we bake, as per the usual….
Macaroon vs. Macaron?
If you haven’t noticed, the two words are often used interchangeably. This is not always correct! Macaroon and macaron are both derived from the Italian word “maccherone”, which is derived from “ammaccare”, meaning crush or beat. This is because both cookies use crushed nuts as a primary ingredient. So what is the difference?
A macaroon is a broader encompassing confectionary, which culinary historians claim originated in an Italian Monastery in the 16th century. A macaroon is made by combining a basic meringue (whipped egg whites and sugar) with a nut paste, typically almond and coconut.
A macaron is the colorful sandwich-style confectionery, composed of two meringue based cookies with a cream or ganache based filling. The macaron was invented by Pierre Desfontaines Ladurée, in France, at the beginning of the 20th century (well after the invention of macaroons). Macarons also start with a basic meringue (whipped egg whites and sugar), that is combined with almond flour and confectioners’ sugar. The cookie is characterized by a smooth, rounded top, egg-shell like crust, and ruffled edges (“feet”).
Therefore, a macaron is technically also a macaroon. But a macaroon is not necessarily a macaron!
French vs. Italian
There are two popular methods for making macaron batter, and each produce great results with different textures.
The French method, which is the more common method, starts with a traditional French meringue, which is made by whipping egg whites and granulated sugar to stiff peaks. The almond flour and powdered sugar are then gently folded into the meringue. The texture of the macarons made with the French method is slightly more airy and delicate than the macrons made with the Italian method.
The Italian method starts with a traditional Italian meringue, which is made by whipping cooked sugar (sugar syrup) and egg whites to stiff peaks. The almond flour and powdered sugar are then folded into the meringue. The Italian method macaron cookies have a firmer shell, and as a result, give more easily to a delicate crackle. However, according to numerous macaron experts, the Italian meringue is more stable, therefore, creating a more stable macaron cookie. So I decided to use a base recipe that used this method.
The egg whites used to make the meringue base should be separated, and aged (uncovered) at room temperature for 24-72 hours. Preferably 72 hours. Why?
Egg whites (albumen) are 15% protein dissolved in water. When egg whites are beaten, the proteins in them unfold (denature), creating films that trap air bubbles. These proteins unfold best at room temperature, therefore, allowing more air to be trapped, or “whipped” into them.
**ignore this paragraph if you don’t like science**
Furthermore, by allowing the egg whites to rest (uncovered) for several days, unnecessary moisture can evaporate. The protein unfolding that occurs when egg whites are beaten is dependent on very strong hydrophobic (water-hating) and hydrophilic (water-loving) interactions between the amino acids (protein building blocks) and surrounding water. When the proteins are still folded, the water-hating amino acids are packed in the center, away from the surrounding water, while the water-loving amino acids are on the outside. After beating, the egg proteins unfold, and the water-hating amino acids are drawn directly to the air bubbles, while the water-loving parts remain immersed in the water. If there is too much moisture (water), the proteins will not properly unfold. And when the proteins don’t unfold, air cannot be whipped in. This is why it is nearly impossible to whip egg whites in high humidity. Egg white powder can also be added to increase the proportion of egg white proteins to water.
The finished macarons should also be rested (in an air tight container in the fridge for at least 24 hours). After the macaron cookies are baked, slight humidity is a good thing. It improves the texture, and allows the flavors of the filling to transfer flavors to the shell cookies.
The volume of the dry ingredients, as in all baking, can vary, depending on processing, packaging, and your personal measuring. But when making a treat as delicate as the macaron, a small difference in actual mass (weight) can make a huge difference in the final outcome. The volume of the egg whites also vary, depending on the size of the original eggs, and how long the egg whites have aged uncovered. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to measure out the macaron ingredients by weight, not volume.
Let’s Get Bakin’
HHC’s Avocado Cream Macarons
Basic Macaron Ingredients (makes ~15-20 complete macarons)
• 100 g egg whites (weighed after resting at room temperature for 24-72 hrs)
• 2 g egg white powder
• 125 g almond flour/ground almonds
• 125 g confectioners’ sugar
• Pinch of powdered food coloring (green)
• 150 g sugar and 50 ml water (for sugar syrup)
Avocado Cream Filling
• 1 small ripe avocado
• 2 oz of cream cheese
• 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
• ½ tsp lemon extract
• 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
• ½ tsp cornstarch
HHC’s Poppy Seed Macarons
Poppy Seed Macaron Ingredients (makes ~15-20 complete macarons)
• all ingredients for the basic macaron (above)
• 1 tbsp of poppy seeds
• Pinch of powdered food coloring (yellow)
Lemon Cream-Cheese Butter Cream
• 2 oz of cream cheese (softened)
• 2 oz of butter (softened)
• 1 ½ cups of confectioners’ sugar
• 1 tsp of lemon zest
• 1 tsp of lemon extract
1. Using a biscuit cutter (~2.5 inch), draw ~30-40 even circles on parchment paper. Flip the parchment paper over and use them to line your baking sheets. The circles will help you pipe uniform macarons. Preheat the oven to to 280ºF.
2. Sieve the almond flour/finely ground almonds and icing sugar.
3. Combine the egg whites with the egg white powder, and whip to soft peaks.
4. Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 242°F on a candy thermometer.
5. Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until the mixture is thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).
6. At the final changes of whipping the meringue, add the food coloring powder. At this point, I measured out the mixture into two parts to make the two different macarons. If you are only making one kind, ignore this division! If you are making the poppy seed macarons, add the seeds after whipping in the yellow food coloring powder.
7. Gradually add the sifted almond-sugar mixture, and gently fold. Since I was making two different macarons, I first split the almond-sugar mixture into two equal parts.
8. Pipe macarons onto the lined baking sheets, and make sure to use the circles to guide you. Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Bake for 15-18 minutes (depending on size).
9. Allow the macarons to cool at room temperature for at least 1 hour. In the meantime, make your cream filling(s).
10. Whip all of the ingredients for the avocado cream and lemon cream-cheese butter cream in two separate bowls. Once the macaron cookies have completely cooled, assemble the macaron sandwiches.
And the finished product:
This past weekend was my gypsy-nurse friend’s birthday…. and she so happened to be in NYC! So I packaged 6 of the macaron cookies in a cellophane bag and tied it with pretty ribbon. When I realized I had a ton of delicious avocado cream left over, I also decided to make mini lemon cream-cheese cupcakes “frosted” with avocado cream, and topped with candied pistachios (caramelized in a simple syrup).
Are you annoyed that I didn’t fail? Well, then you really are a hater. And you’re not that smart. You should always be nice to someone who has baked fresh treats.
Now you ain’t gettin’ none! JK. Of course you can. But only if you shake me up a pickle martini in exchange.
Until next time….
hi and bye haterz! and lovers.