The skin on its body is wrinkled and cracked. Giant air pockets occupy the space between its gnarled surface and footless base, like the final, desperate gasps issued before the kiss of patisserie death. Where there should be feet gracefully skirting its extremities, there is a dark abyss of nothingness.
Its very name strikes fear into the hearts of pastry chefs and home cooks alike.
It can smell their fear from miles away. It revels in this scent like a shark smelling blood.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of adventurous gourmands encounter this beastly creature each year, with disastrous results. Kitchen nightmares of grand proportions inevitably follow in its wake.
What exactly is “it?”
A Macaron Monster.
If you’re a self-proclaimed macaron connoisseur, you understand the horror to which I’m referring.
Unlike other mythical creatures – Big Foot, the Tooth Fairy, the Loch Ness Monster, leprechauns, unicorns, and what-have-you – the Macaron Monster is anything but elusive. In fact, it seeks out prey in broad daylight, frequenting kitchens worldwide.
So, as I began to drastically alter the traditional nut-based macaron recipe, I worried that my kitchen would be one such destination along the Macaron Monster’s devastating warpath.
But no! Besides the unsmooth and slightly bumpy macaron surface – a slightly monstrous vestige – I managed to escape unscathed. Phew!
It’s occasions such as these that make one question, Why me?
I can’t help but think divine intervention must have graced my oven. Either that, or the Macaron Monster happened to take a brief vacation from its menacing duties.
While I contemplate the possibilities, perhaps the consumption of another macaron is in order. Brain processes require glucose for fuel, after all…
Pumpkin Pie Macarons (Nut-Free!)
- 1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 cup turbinado sugar (can be replaced with brown sugar)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tablespoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1-1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1-1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 cup dried pumpkin bread crumbs (about 4.5 ounces)
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons egg whites, aged overnight (about 3 eggs’ worth)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- whipped cream (for filling)
- Allow egg whites (for the macarons) to thicken by placing them in an uncovered bowl, at room temperature, overnight.
- For the pumpkin bread, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a loaf pan.
- Stir together the flours, sugar, baking soda, salt, and spices.
- With an electric mixer, combine oil, water, and eggs. Slowly add dry mixture and mix until incorporated.
- Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until done.
- Once bread is out of the oven and cooled, set oven temperature to 250 degrees F.
- Cut 1/2 to 3/4 of the bread loaf into 1/2-inch slices.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or very lightly grease it with cooking spray. Break up bread slices into small pieces and spread across baking sheet.
- Bake bread pieces in 15-20 minute intervals for 1-2 hours, or until dried. Flip pieces over and break up bread crumbs further with your fingers after each interval.
- Place bread crumbs in a blender and pulverize until a flour-like consistency is reached. Measure out one cup or 4.5 ounces of bread crumbs, and set aside.
- One 3-4 sheets of parchment paper, draw 1-inch (2.5 cm) circles roughly 2 inches apart. Flip over paper sheets and place each on a baking sheet.
- Sift confectioners’ sugar (I was bad and didn’t do this…oops). Push pumpkin bread crumbs through a sieve. Mix together confectioners’ sugar and breadcrumbs and set aside.
- With a hand mixer or similar appliance, whip eggs whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar. Whip to stiff peaks.
- With a spatula, gently fold bread crumbs into egg whites until full incorporated. It should “flow like magma,” as they say.
- Fit a piping bag with a 3/8-inch (1 cm) round tip or cut a similarly sized corner from a plastic sandwich bag. Pipe batter onto baking sheets, being careful to stay within the circles previously drawn. Tape undersides of each baking sheet to remove air bubbles.
- Let batter dry at room temperature for 30-90 minutes. This allows skins to form.
- Once batter has several minutes left to dry, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Bake each sheet of macarons for 10 to 11 minutes. To ensure even baking, you can rotate each baking sheet after 5 minutes.
- Remove macarons from oven and transfer parchment sheet to a cooling rack.
- Repeat steps 18-19 with remaining macaron batches.
- Once cooled, gently remove macarons from parchment with spatula or knife.
- Sandwich whipped cream between pairs of macarons. Refrigerate or eat immediately. Pumpkin pie flavors will intensify with a day or two of refrigeration.