For the last couple of years, we have been part of a CSA. CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture” - essentially a farm upstate grows all the produce, then each week drives a truck down to drop off shares to a bunch of different CSAs. You pay at the start of the year, and then get to pick up seasonal veggies for 22 weeks! Each week is slightly different. It’s a great way to meet people, and the produce is always amazingly fresh. I became part of the volunteer group that runs it a few years ago - we each take turns running the pick-ups.
Anyway, where I am going with this is that I ran the pick-up last week, in the middle of a storm. I froze my wee fingers off, but it ended up being incredibly worth it, because due to the storm a bunch of people didn’t pick up, so I came home with a GIANT crate of apples. Like, crate that they use in the orchard. It’s way more apples than I know what to do with, so I’m going to get to it this weekend making some apple butters and pies so that we have them on hand in the freezer.
I popped round to Jase’s yesterday and we made these apple macarons! We filled them with an apple butter, and a swiss meringue buttercream which we spiked with vanilla bean, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and ginger. You can’t really get any more autumn than that. Fall AF.
A few wee tips:
I have included notes to make apple butter (which is really just reduced apple sauce!) in both the instant pot and the slow cooker. You may or may not have to reduce down the mixture using the slow cooker - it depends on your apples. You are looking for a thick apple puree or sauce consistency. Remember that it will thicken in the fridge slightly!
Using the instant pot you will have to reduce it more because the water does not evaporate. You can do this on the saute function, however I find this a little inconsistent in heat delivery, so prefer to switch it to the pot.
The Apple butter needs to cool down before it can be used - overnight is ideal. You will be left with extra - but it is amazing on toast or baking!
Apple Butter Macarons with Spiced Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Makes about 24 Macarons -
960g (2 pounds) apples, cored and diced
100g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
170g ground almonds
300g powdered sugar
180g egg whites, at room temperature
Maroon gel food colouring (we used maroon by americolor)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Spiced Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1/2 cup (123g) egg whites, or 4 large egg whites
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
455g (16oz, or four sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- PROCESS -
Combine all the ingredients in the pot of an instant pot. Seal and cook on high pressure for 25 minutes, then quick release the pressure. Blend well using a stick blender or high powered blender, and transfer to a medium sized pot over low heat. Cook down for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring frequently, until the apple butter has reduced to a thick paste (It will thicken slightly in the fridge). Transfer to a covered container and cool in the fridge completely.
Alternatively, to make the apple butter in the slow cooker, combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-6 hours, until the apples are very soft. Blend either with a stick blender or a high powered blender. If the mixture is still reasonably runny (this will depend on the moisture content of your apples), transfer to a pot over low heat. Cook down, stirring frequently, until the apple butter resembles a thick paste. Transfer to a covered container and cool completely in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 300˚f / 150˚c, and position the oven rack in the centre of the oven. Using a round cookie cutter or the base of a large piping tip (something about 1.5 inches in diameter), draw a "template" for your macarons on a piece of parchment paper, leaving about 3/4" between each circle.
Combine the almond meal and powdered sugar together in a large bowl. Sift the mixture twice, to ensure there are no large lumps and that the mixture is properly aerated. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, increase the mixer speed, and whip on high until the meringue starts to firm up. Add maroon gel food colour a few drops at a time, until the desired colour is reached. Add vanilla and mix until incorporated. Continue to whip until the meringue forms stiff peaks (there is a good example here).
Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add half of the ground almond and powdered sugar mixture, and fold into the meringue. You want to deflate the meringue just a little at this stage, to combine the meringue and ground almond mixture.
Add the remaining ground almond mixture, and stir lightly to combine. Now comes the important part - mixing the batter to the correct consistency. Again, this video does a good job of explaining it. Fold the mixture in a series of 'turns', deflating the batter by spreading it against the side of the bowl. Turn the bowl slightly and repeat the movement - scooping the batter from the bottom of the bowl, and spreading it against the side. Continuously check the consistency of the batter - you want it to flow like lava when you lift the spatula from the bowl, and you should be able to 'draw' a figure 8 with it, without the batter breaking (again, watch lots of videos to get an idea! They help so much). This step can take some practice until you know what it should feel and look like. If in doubt you are better to under mix them than over mix them - the process of putting the batter into the bag and piping out will help mix a little too.
Fit a large pastry bag with a medium sized round tip, such as an ateco #805. Place the macaron template on a sheet pan, and place a second piece of parchment over it. Holding the piping bag at a 90˚ angle to the surface, pipe out the batter into blobs the size of the circles drawn on the template. Finish off each piped circle with a little "flick" of your wrist to minimise the batter forming a point (it will still form a small one, but we can get rid of this with banging). Remove the template from under the macarons.
Hold the baking sheet in two hands, and carefully but firmly, evenly bang it against the bench. Repeat this a few more times - this will get rid of any air bubbles, remove points on the top, and help them to spread out slightly.
Repeat the piping and banging process until you have used up all of the batter - I usually make three sheet pans worth.
Allow the macarons to dry at room temperature for approximately 30 minutes, or until they form a skin that you can touch without your finger sticking to them. This time will drastically vary depending on the humidity.
About fifteen minutes before you are going to bake the macarons, place a spare sheet pan in the oven to preheat - this is going to be used to place under the pan with the macarons on it, to double up, which should help with even baking. Bake the macarons one sheet at a time - place the sheet with the macarons on the preheated sheet, and place in the oven.
Bake for approximately 18 minutes, rotating the pan once during the cooking process, and checking for doneness after 15 minutes. The macarons should develop a foot (the ruffled part on the bottom of the macaron), and bake without browning. To see if they are done - press down lightly on a shell. If the foot gives way, it needs a little longer, if it is stable, then it is close to being done. Test a macaron shell - if you can peel it away cleanly from the paper, they are done. If they are stable but cannot yet peel away cleanly, give them another minute or so. Again, this part takes a little trial and error depending on your oven. If they seem done but do not peel away cleanly, do not worry - there is a little trick for that!
Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on the sheet pan for 10 minutes before peeling off the parchment paper and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack. Repeat the baking with the remaining trays, using the same spare sheet pan to double up.
If your macs do not peel away cleanly, place them, on the parchment paper, into the freezer for 5-10 minutes, then peel away from the paper.
Store cooled macarons in an airtight container until ready to use.
SPICED SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
Place the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or a heat proof bowl. Place over a pot of simmering water, ensuring that the water does not touch the bowl. Heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture registers 160˚f / 70˚c on a thermometer and the sugar has dissolved. Carefully transfer the bowl to the mixer, and fit with the whisk attachment. Whip the egg whites on high until they are snowy white and fluffy, 8-10 minutes. Add the butter one chunk at a time. The mixture may look curdled - but just keep mixing! Once all the butter is incorporated, mix on high for a further 10 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated.
Once the buttercream has finished mixing, and is smooth and silky, add in the vanilla bean paste, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cloves. Mix for a further 2-3 minutes, then switch to the paddle attachment and mix on low for one minute to remove any air. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small french star tip.
Place the apple butter into a small piping bag fitted with a round tip. Pair up each macaron shell with another of an equal size. Pipe a ring of buttercream on one half of the shell, then a blob of the compote in the middle. Place the second shell carefully on top. Repeat with the rest of the macarons. Macarons are best chilled overnight to allow the flavours to meld, but can also be eaten immediately.