Sometimes recipes are inspired by memories, sometimes by cravings, and some come from eccentricities. These recipes started with a cheesecake. My boyfriend got me a food processor as a gift for our two-year anniversary and, to express my gratitude, I whipped up his favorite dessert, a classic New York style cheesecake, which left me with two unused egg whites. These egg whites nagged at me until I decided I would use them to make macaroons—I had already used my new gadget to make almond milk and dried the remaining meal to produce almond flour—but I couldn’t get excited about going classic. I wanted something more exotic than chocolate or vanilla, and the withered late season peaches and tough pre-season pears at the market weren’t inspiring me to make jam. Searching for regional inspiration, I recalled my recent first experience with pralines, a buttery, cookie-shaped candy, and like macarons, gluten free. Pralines are made with pecans, which grow in abundance here in Georgia.
After my delight at the sweet, creamy deliciousness of homemade almond milk, I decided to make pecan milk from my nuts before using the powdered remains in macaroon batter. (It gave me something to do while my egg whites aged.) The pecan milk has a richer, nuttier flavor that went beautifully with a drizzle of honey and a dash of nutmeg. I’ve also been enjoying it with Minimalist Baker‘s Pumpkin Maple Pecan Granola. I dried my pulverized pecans in the oven and the next day I was ready to make macarons.
At this point I should probably admit that I’ve never made macarons before. They are famously difficult. And it rained. Okay, enough excuses. These little guys are not the prettiest. They could have used another five minutes in the oven and I applied the filling when it was too hot, destroying the fragile foot that I swear showed up on about half of them. If I was a professional chef, I’d say that my macarons where a failure, but I’m a home baker and since everyone I fed these too—including my boyfriend who only likes two other desserts: warm brownies a la mode and cheesecake—loved them, in my book, that’s close enough to success to share.
2 c. pecans
1/8th tsp. salt
5 c. filtered water, plus more for soaking
*You will need cheesecloth and a blender or food processor.
Cover pecans with water and let them sit overnight. Drain, rinse and combine with 5 c. water in a blender or food processor, blend on high for 30 sec. or until nuts are pulverized and liquid looks milky. Drain through 3-4 layers of cheesecloth, squeezing to release as much liquid as possible.
Spread the nut pulp in a thin layer on a cookie sheet and dry in oven on the lowest setting for 3 hours r so, until light and dry.
Pecan Praline Macarons
(adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)
For the Macarons:
200g confectioners’ sugar (approx. 2 cups)
100g pulverized, dried pecans (approx.. 1 cup)
120g room temperature egg whites (around 3 large egg whites) left out at room temperature for at least a few hours or up to 3 days
1/8 teaspoon salt
40g sifted granulated sugar or caster sugar (approx.. 3 Tbsp.)
For the Filling:
1/4 c. heavy whipping cream
3 Tbsp. butter
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c. pulverized, dried pecans
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
To make the macarons: Blend pecans and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until well mixed and finely textured. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat salt and egg whites slowly until stiff peaks form, then increase to high speed and add caster sugar, incorporating quickly. Do not over mix. Fold in vanilla. Sprinkle pecan mixture over egg whites and fold together gently until just incorporated. Allow mixture to rest while you prepare 2 double layered baking sheets topped with parchment paper, fit a piping bag with a round tip, and preheat oven to 325°. Pipe 2” mounds onto baking sheets, spacing about 1” apart. Rest at room temperature for 1 hour. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet, then remove to rack to cool completely.
To make the filling: Set oven to 350°. Combine whipping cream, butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisking frequently. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla. Remove nuts from oven and stir in. Allow sauce to cool for 15 minutes, beating frequently to prevent hardening.
To Assemble: When macarons are completely cooled, stick pairs together with filling. For best results, wait 1 full day to enjoy.