I know. It already seems like I’m on a crazy macaron kick. And I sort of am. It’s just… I haven’t made them in so long and once I made that first batch of nearly-perfect macarons, my mind has been in a superstorm of brain activity. I want to make so many flavors and colors and combinations and eat them all and share them all. But I will spread them out after this recipe, honest. I just needed to get these macarons out there to you while they’re still fresh in my mind (and I don’t have any other posts ready!).
These macarons are lovely, if a bit unusual. The flavors range from mild to bold but there is a harmony going on here that my taste buds are just in love with. You do have to really like pink peppercorns as they are a *major* flavor component. I mean, I will eat them straight out of whatever jar or other container they came in from the store, so I have no problem with the level of presence. I convert people with their slightly-peppery-and-ultra-floral combo all the time, albeit not strongly enough to walk around snacking on them like some weirdos do. (Not that I would do that. Clearly.)
Pink Peppercorn Macarons with Guava Paste and Neufchâtel Cheese
1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
3/4 cup almond flour
3 egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Gel coloring (I used Wilton’s Pink)
Neufchâtel cheese (cream cheese is a good substitute)
Sift the confectioner’s sugar into the almond flour and mix to incorporate them thoroughly.
Whip the egg whites with the salt until foamy, and gradually pour in the granulated sugar. Whip until thick and glossy, just about at stiff peaks. You need some texture to the whites to guard against them becoming too loose as you fold in all the dry ingredients.
Fold the almond flour mixture into the meringue in thirds, not quite fully incorporating each addition. When the last batch is nearly mixed in, add a small dab of gel coloring (or more, if you like your macarons super vibrant). What I was looking for as far as texture in the batter were elastic-looking ribbons dropping from the spatula that began to disappear back into the main batch of batter after a few seconds – but not completely. If the batter disappears all the way back into itself the macaron mixture is too runny and they may not skin properly or rise as much as you’d like. If your batter isn’t disappearing enough, it’s totally fine to keep folding until you get to the right consistency.
Place the macaron mixture into a piping bag fitted with a plain large round tip and pipe onto a half sheet tray lined with parchment or a silicon mat. You can use a cookie cutter or a large piping tip as a guide to draw circles onto your parchment, if you’re super concerned about getting them all the same size. Just make sure to flip the parchment over so it’s ink-side-down before piping. Nobody wants to eat up ink circles, for real, lovely though they might be. If making the normal, slightly-larger-than-a-quarter-sized macarons you should get something like 60 pieces (30 finished macarons sandwiched together).
Smack the tray of piped macarons against the counter – hard – a few times. You don’t want any air bubbles getting trapped in your batter and leaving you with hollow shells. After you beat them up a little, sprinkle with pink peppercorns. I crushed the peppercorns with my fingers as I went and let them fall right onto the shells, then flicked off the papery hulls before moving on to a new macaron. You can crush them beforehand but most of the lovely pink will stick to whatever you’re crushing them in/with. I put up to four peppercorns on each top macaron half and found it was a bit much with the other flavors – you may want to limit yourself to two. Let the macarons rest for at least 30 minutes, until they develop a skin. What you’re looking for is to be able to poke at the macaron very gently and not have batter come away on your finger. It may take a little longer depending on the climate you’re in (up to several hours, ick!), but be patient. The skins are what make the tidy little ruffled feet.
Once you have a proper skin formed, bake the macarons at 300 degrees for 10 minutes. Here you’ll want to start checking them, depending on if your oven runs hot or cool, or has hot spots. In my oven, the regular-sized macarons take between 15 and 17 minutes. Around 10 you should see the feet mostly formed. When gently nudged, the macarons should stay in place rather than slide around on their bottoms – but they should not be in so long as to start browning. When they’re ready to come out, place the pan onto a very cold surface or pop the whole thing into the freezer for 5 minutes. The macarons should remove very easily once cooled.
Fill with a nickle-sized dab of Neufchâtel cheese, a small square of gauva paste, and sandwich together.