Oh my gosh, you guys. I can’t believe my experiment actually worked. I felt like a chemist in my kitchen yesterday afternoon. Sweet, reminiscent memories of high school and college chemistry classes… not. You know every now and then you have that dream or an idea that has never been done before, no reference to go off of (ie. Google has never even heard of it), so you’re a little nervous but do it anyway? That’s what I did here. And probably what most chemists in the past have done. All of those great discoveries came from experimentation so why not try it and see if it works? If you fail, pick yourself back up and try it again. Yeah!
If you’re still having a hard time getting past the mushroom part, let me assure you (if not familiar)–these are unlike any other mushroom you’ve had in your life. They’re a dessert mushroom, sweet and spicy, evoking a maple syrup cinnamon essence that reminds you of a maple glazed donut bar. I have always wanted to work with candy cap mushrooms ever since I tried them in some ice cream at Humphry Slocombe, back when I lived in California. In fact, most if not all of my candy cap desserts were consumed in the city of San Francisco–Pepples vegan donuts made a candy cap mushroom donut some years ago and I was lucky enough to snag one on a leisurely walk through the Ferry Building after I finished my second half marathon. But that’s another story.
Since I don’t yet have that pear Kitchenaid Mixer and the ice cream attachment I have been pining after for many months, and am not going to make my own homemade candy cap ice cream version anytime soon, I decided I’d experiment with macarons in the meantime. The candy caps have been in the back of my mind as something to buy as soon as I see it available in a store, and luckily I was able to score some at the local Portland farmer’s market a few months ago. For about 12 bucks, I had enough to get me in some trouble.
Since my last batch of macarons didn’t turn out exactly how I hoped, I did a bit more research to find a fool-proof ratio’d recipe, one that preferably had equal parts almond flour and powdered sugar. For some reason I’ve found those to work the best, and ones that use more than 2 egg whites. The likely problem with the last batch was that 1. the egg whites sat in my fridge for over a week, 2. there weren’t enough of them to whip into a meringue, and 3. the flour ratios were off. Because this time, I put several different recipe forces together and this is what I came up with. The results were exactly what I had hoped for.
I’m extremely ecstatic with the results. The meringue came together perfectly, my ideas for mixing in the food coloring ratios (yellow + brown) resulted in the exact color I was hoping for that would represent the color of the candy caps well, they baked at the right temperature so they didn’t get too browned on top and baked thoroughly in the center, they got their “footing”, and they smell like heaven! My entire apartment smelled like maple syrup donut bars and cinnamon with cherries on top. Just kidding about the cherries… can you can tell I’m still glowing over these?
The filling, surprisingly, was almost the hardest thing to figure out on these. I didn’t want it to overpower the candy caps and distract from their flavor, rather to compliment it, but that’s tricky when most buttercreams and fillings are full of more powdered sugar. So it’s a delicate balance. I decided using some of my saved egg yolks (from separating the egg whites for the meringue) mixed with creamed honey and cream cheese. That was the best I could come up with, but I’m going to brain storm for more filling options in the future with these shells. As I was mixing it all together it was still a bit too runny, so I had to add some powdered sugar to soak up the moisture. I stopped at about 1 1/2 cups, before it got too too sweet. It was still a bit runny, so I stuck it in the freezer to set up a bit before putting everything together, and it helped a little bit but I still didn’t want to overfill the shells so that it would be oozing out. I just dabbed a little bit in there so they would stick together. Again, I need to work on the filling thing. Suggestions are welcome!
For those of you already familiar with candy caps (or not), familiar with baking macarons (or not), may I highly encourage you to give these a try. If this is your first macaron attempt, you will not be disappointed. I have tried so many different macaron methods and techniques and this is by far a keeper. And you will be so stoked and pumped with yourself if you make them with the candy caps too. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
(Note: if you have never made macarons before and need to get started purchasing the equipment, may I suggest you start here with the following. I have made macarons several times not using my kitchen scale, but I did for these and can tell it makes a huge difference. Therefore parts of the ingredients list is measured in grams. You can use an online weight converter if you wish. For those interested, this is what I use, minus measuring cups and spoons which I assume you may already own. I will add the basic macaron ingredients I use soon, also.)
- For the Macaron:
- 165 grams ground almond flour (approx. 1½ cups)
- 165 grams powdered sugar
- 2 Tablespoons ground dried candy cap mushrooms
- 4 egg whites, separated and sealed in separate jar 1-4 days prior
- 150 grams fine or granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- brown and yellow food coloring gels (about 5 drops of each)
- For the Filling:
- 2 egg yolks
- 5 ounces neufchâtel cream cheese
- 3 Tablespoons creamed honey
- 1½ cups powdered sugar
- For the Macaron: Prepare two insulated baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Place a good handful of the dried candy cap mushrooms in a food processor (I eyeballed what might end up as 2 Tablespoons when it was ground up... it's ok if you have more or slightly less). Grind until the pieces are as fine as possible. Parts of it may be powdery, parts of it might still be dried mushroom, both are ok to put in the macaron mix. Keep the ground candy cap in the food processor.
- Weigh or measure out your almond flour and powdered sugar. Place both in food processor and pulse with the candy caps until they are fine and fully mixed. If you own a sieve, you can sift them but I didn't and they came out just fine.
- Measure out your fine granulated sugar and have ready. Pour the egg whites and lemon juice into a large stainless steel bowl and under medium speed whisk them until they begin to look more white and bubbly (about 30-60 seconds). Reduce the speed to low and gradually start adding the sugar. Once all the sugar is in, increase the speed to medium again and mix until it is glossy and stiff. While they are turning into stiff peaks, I added a bit of the food coloring to get it started and see where I liked it. You can also add it during the next phase while folding the almond flour into the egg whites. It's up to you.
- Gradually add the ground almond/powdered sugar mixture into the egg white bowl and carefully fold the ground almond into the mixture with rubber spatula. Adjust the color here also if you'd like. Keep folding until all of the almond mixture is incorporated and you've achieved the color you like. Consistency should be smooth and slightly runny but not too stiff.
- With a piping bag already fitted with your tip, spoon the mixture into the bag and evenly pipe mixture out onto your baking sheets. I fit about 20-24 shells on per sheet, counting to about 7 seconds as I piped out each one to help my consistency of sizing. Some may be a bit bigger or smaller than the others, but usually in the end they find their match.
- Tap the bottom of each sheet on your work surface to release the air bubbles. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, up to 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 280ºF. Bake the macarons for 15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. Check for doneness by looking at the "foot", it will be slightly browned but not overly so.
- Let cool before you put in the filling. Macarons should release easily from the sheet. Pair up with similarly sized and matching shells.
- For the Filling: In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks for about 10 seconds. Add the cream cheese and creamed honey until combined. Add the powdered sugar in ½ cup increments until you reach your desired consistency. It may be a little runny, so I put it in the freezer to help solidify it a bit. Also, I didn't end up using all of the filling because there was so much of it once I added in all of the powdered sugar, so you can reserve for another use or try halving the recipe if you're prefer.
- With a small butter knife, slather on a small amount of the filling on one side of the macaron shell pair and gently press together. Voila!