When macarons go wrong!
I ended up with chewy macarons with peanut buttercream filling. Why chewy? I have my suspicions.
I've made this recipe before. Long-time readers will recognize it as my standby. The difference: I've always omitted the cocoa powder. For one thing, I always seem to botch things up when I try to fold chocolate into egg whites. Maybe it's because egg whites don't like fat, and chocolate (at least, melted chocoalte) is a fat? Maybe there's something about the super-fine powder making up cocoa that just pulls the air right out of my foam? Whatever the reason, my whites go flat. This time, everything seemed to fold together just fine. I even stopped short just to make sure I didn't kill my foam. Maybe that was also part of the problem.
You want your macaron batter to have the consistency of magma (without the very hot and flesh-melting aspects). This batter did flow out flat the way it was supposed to, but it did seem to hang on to a little peak for a bit. I think I should've folded through with a few more sweeps.
Another strange thing--the macaron bottoms seemed to explode outward like bad 80s prom dresses. They did this early on, then just cooked up that way. Maybe it was because I piped the batter too close together. Macaron instructions often say to pipe rounds about an inch apart, I assume to allow the heat to circulate sufficiently around each cookie. I piped them a bit closer because I know they wouldn't (or at least shouldn't) grow outward--only upward. Yet here they are, looking like sudsy Mr. Bubbles.
Worst of all--they were chewy. I can live with bad looks, but macarons should give easily and melt away leaving just a hint of sweet and almond on your tongue, like cotton candy clouds making nice with some fairy almond dust. These were like . . . macaron nougat. I think I cooked them too long at too high a temperature. I went the full 18 minutes; I should've checked them at 10 by lifting them to see if they came off the parchment easily. They may have weathered the full time okay if I had given the batter that few extra folds, deflating the egg whites more instead of leaving big air pockets in them that could bake up, get stiff and hard, leaving me with a chewy cookie.
Ah well. They didn't taste bad. In fact, they were good, especially once I added my favorite peanut buttercream frosting. This recipe makes 2 1/4 cups--enough to frost and fill a two-layer cake, or fill a great big batch of chew macs. I didn't have a big batch, so I made 1/3 the recipe, and it turned out just fine. Which makes me want to make little batches of this for chocolate cupcake filling and then topping the cupcakes with a shiny ganache, or a filling for vanilla cupcakes with a "jelly"-flavored frosting. Anyway:
1/2 C smooth peanut butter
3 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1 1/2 T unsalted butter, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 T milk
2 2/3 C powdered sugar, sifted
1. Beat the first five ingredients together.
2. Slowly add the powdered sugar, being careful not to kick up a cloud.
3. Add extra milk if frosting is too stiff.
This keeps for a week in the fridge or for 3 months in the freezer.
By the way--the batch of macarons I made after this, chocolate macarons using the caramelized butter frosting from October's Daring Baker's challenge, turned out just fine.