Warning: This is going to be a very long post. I guess you could call it somewhat of a disaster novella involving these lovely macarons. The cake was a piece of cake (pun intended), so no kvetching there.
It all started as a mission to use up leftovers. I had a ton of egg whites left over from making the infamous Momofuku Crack Pie and a jar of orange marmalade from the Daring Bakers Orange Tian challenge. I typed egg whites and orange marmalade into a search engine, and came across a cake by a baker whose amazing butterscotch pudding is one I’ve made and deemed the perfect butterscotch pudding – Melissa Murphy of Sweet Melissa Patisserie in Brooklyn.
Apparently, there’s a challenge online called Sweet Melissa Sundays where they have been baking from her book, The Sweet Melissa Baking Book , for some time now. I’m not a member, but one benefit of these challenges is you can grab recipes from cookbooks you don’t happen to own a copy of (I know, that sounds kind of awful, huh?) Well, in this case, no need to label me a pilferer because I went out and bought the book, (but not before Leslie of Lethally Delicious, who hosted this particular Sweet Melissa Sunday, went out of her way to correct a small part of the recipe left out, for me. Thank you, Leslie!) In fact, I bought two cookbooks, one of which I would like to give away to one of my readers, but I’ll get to that later.
The cake I’m speaking of is called Roasted Pecan Cake with Caramel Orange Marmalade and Burnt Orange Buttercream. If you recall..I don’t flip over orange marmalade. However, this wasn’t a cake for me..it was an Easter/Birthday cake for a friend who happens to love anything and everything orange. After seeing the theme for last month’s Mac Attack. which was Holidays in April, I thought, why not accessorize the Easter cake with a macaron for Passover using the same flavors in the cake? However, several heartbaking MACcidents that took place (I just love word play, even though I suck at it.), hindered that idea to the point where this whole post almost didn’t happen.
I ripped the dang ribbon trying to tie a perfect bow.
The first batch of Macs I made were perfection. It was the first time I turned out a full batch of perfect macaron shells – no duds! I was ecstatic!! I thought the Mac gods had blackballed me and I was destined to turn out lumpy, uneven macs for eternity. I was so thrilled with this sheet of perfect macaron shells, that I could not stop looking at them. Every time I walked by the baking sheet of superbness, I had to check and make sure they were still superbness.
Since I wasn’t filling them until the next day, this occurred quite a bit. Soon, a little paranoia crept in..
What if someone accidentally eats them?’
What if my cat runs across the counter and crushes them?
‘What if a 6.5 on the Richter scale earthquake strikes and they crash to the floor in pieces?’
Let’s not get into minor details about my living on the Northeast Coast. We do have the Ramapo Fault, you know!
Unwaxed, unflavored dental floss makes a great cake ‘torter’. Just cut around the perimeter of the cake, not going through, then slide the dental floss into the cut and pull both ends through in a criss-cross manner.
Due to this paranoia, I decided to put them in my turned off oven, slightly ajar, for ‘safekeeping’. I think you all know how this is going to turn out. Now, I’m not naming names as I would never want to embarrass anyone I love because they made a little mistake. SO, I’ll refer to this person as someone.
Crumb coat, final coat, wonky decor and the piece de resistance.
One hour before I was going to fill them, I get a phone call from someone on my cell while out.
Someone: Hiya..did you leave some chocolate cookies in the oven?
Me: Um, yeah, why? (I instantly knew what happened. My macarons were orange)
Someone: Yeah, I turned on the oven to preheat for the chicken I’m making tonight, then smelled something. They look great!
Me: OH NO, they were orange macarons and you just burnt them to a crisp!!! (sob, sniff) They were perfect, I’ll never get another batch like them!
Someone: Uhh..well..you never told me you left something in the oven! (He”s right, but I suppose my habit of always looking in the oven prior to preheating isn’t a habit possessed by all.)
Me: I know (sob, sniff) it’s not your fault (although I was almost wishing it was so I could blame someone – anyone!)
After mourning the most perfect sheet of macarons, it was time to move on. I cracked the eggs, separating the whites from the yolks to age, made another batch of tant pour tant, then emailed Jamie of Life’s a Feast, the Mac Tweets co-founder, to ask for an extension, along with a very detailed explanation of what went wrong. THEN, my descent back into macaron hell began.
Batch #2 – I left the aging egg whites uncovered to rush the aging process. Umm..egg whites exposed to air eventually dry up. I know this, so why did I forget this? I used what egg white was still liquid and folded in as much tant pour tant as it would hold. Added too much – resulting in a thick paste. I knew it was going to be a failure as I squeezed the batter in the piping bag, onto the baking sheet, popping a few blood vessels along the way. Hoped for an oven miracle. No dice. Trashed.
Batch #3 – Couldn’t wait for the egg whites to age for 24 hours, so I cut it short. This time I over-folded which deflated the meringue, and again, I knew they were going to be an epic failure as I watched the non viscous batter dribble out of the pastry tip onto the baking sheet. Hoped for an oven miracle. No dice. Macarons trashed.
Emailed Jamie and bowed out of April’s Mac Tweets Attack. Okay, so I would enter these macs in May’s Mac Attack instead, informing Jamie that I would find a way to wrap them around the next new them because Easter and Passover are over.
Batch #4 – Not as perfect and gorgeous as that first sheet, but they turned out okay. Asked someone to pull them out of the oven when the timer goes off since I needed to run out for a few. When I got home, he looked worried. My macarons were squashed and dented. He used my giant Hamburger Helper ‘hand’ pot holder to pull the cookie sheet out, one I never use because it’s too big and squishes most everything on a cookie sheet. Macarons trashed.
Batch #5 – These turned out ‘feh’, but at this point I’ll take anything. Took some photos of them sandwiched together and planned to take photos of them with the cake later on. Two other someones came over for dinner. They move everything over on my table to make room, piling some stuff on top of the cookie sheet of macarons. Cracks, cracks, cracks. Macarons trashed. Well, some eaten, but still falling into the ‘Trashed’ category because I have to do them again. *sigh*
Batch #6 – Not even coloring the tant pour tant orange this time. Instead, colored the burnt orange buttercream. These turned out somewhat okay, so this was it for me. Tucked in some of the cracked orange colored macs for photos, turning them so you can’t see the cracks, and left it at that. No more mac making for at least 2 weeks! Oh, did I mention I got sick after the final batch, further delaying this entry another two weeks? Yep, it was just one of those months. I’m convinced it’s Mercury retrograde. Esoterically, the color orange is associated with Mercury. Hmmmm.
After all of this, I check the May theme at the Mac Attack site. Pair your macarons with a book you like, whether it be from your childhood or present. This all started as an Easter/Passover cake and macaron entry. Now it’s a cake and macaron entry pertaining to a book my grandmother used to read to me as a child called The Duchess Bakes a Cake by Virginia Kahl.
Basically, I’d be lying if I said this came to mind initially, but I remember the kitchen disaster where she added way too many things to the cake, including leavening, so…the cake rose, and the Duchess with it; and how were they to get her down again? The cake I had no problem with other than decorator’s block, hence the polka dots, ribbon of dried oranges and wonky border – so it’s kind of far-fetched.
Yeah..I know, it’s a half-assed book pairing/analogy. There really IS a book I initially thought of that I read as a kid, when I thought of my macarons. In it, the lead character’s little brother stuffs his teddy bear with orange pits for its life force. I couldn’t remember the name of it until 2014, so this paragraph is an update. The book is called The Cat Ate my Gymsuit, by Paula Danziger. Definitely a better pairing with my macarons than the aforementioned read.
As for the cake, yes, I emphatically stated in my Orange Tian post that I did not like orange marmalade or any dessert laden with orange pieces of any sort. In this case, the marmalade is stirred into a caramel, so it tasted like orange candy, really good orange candy. No bitterness, no aftertaste. The roasted pecan cake is amazing too; moist, light toasty, and tender. My one caveat is the buttercream. I think it needs more of the orange juice reduction, or maybe a few grates of orange zest would suffice. The orange flavor just didn’t come through. However, it was still smooth, silky, rich and delicious, delicious enough that next time I may mix a little of it into the orange marmalade filling and suggest you do the same; not only for taste, but for prettier layers.
Photo shamelessly stolen from the Barnes and Noble wesbite.
FINALLY, my GIVEAWAY! As mentioned 1000 miles ago (the start of this entry), I would like to give away a brand spanking new copy of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. No need to subscribe to my blog, post it on your Facebook and Twitter, take out an ad in the NY Times singing the praises of my blog, or offer up your first born. Just leave a comment and I’ll announce the winner a week from today. One last thing for fun, although it probably wasn’t fun at the time. Has a kitchen disaster ever reduced you to tears? Would love to hear your stories! An answer is NOT required to enter the giveaway.
Roasted Pecan Cake with Caramel Orange Marmalade and Burnt Orange Buttercream – The one change I made to this cake to make it butter pecan, is..melt 1/4 (4 tablespoons) cup butter and toss with pecans before roasting.
Orange Pecan Matzo Meal Macarons
Recipe adapted from Tartelette, with my revisions
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup toasted, ground pecans
2 tablespoons matzo meal
2 large egg whites (aged overnight, at the least – I age them 48 hours)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tsp finely grated, dried orange zest, powdered (dry zest in a 200F oven for about 30-40 minutes, then grind until powder like consistency, or dry strips of the peel minus the pith, grind to a powder, use one teaspoon and bottle the rest for all kinds of uses)
orange food coloring (optional)
Burnt Orange Marmalade Buttercream
1 half recipe burnt orange buttercream, linked above in entry
1 half recipe caramel orange marmalade, linked above in entry
orange food coloring (if not coloring the shells)
DIRECTIONS FOR MACARONS:
1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry. You should have glossy peaks that bend at the tip.
2. Place the powdered sugar, almond meal, ground pecans, matzo meal and dried orange zest in a food processor and give them a good pulse until everything is finely ground.
3. Add them to the meringue along with some orange food coloring, if using. Fold all carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small peak, give the batter a couple of turns.
4. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 300F.
5. When ready, bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don’t let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer.
To fill: pipe or spoon about 1 tablespoon of burnt orange marmalade buttercream in the center of one shell and top with another one.
DIRECTIONS FOR FILLING:
1. Combine the buttercream and caramel orange marmalade, then pipe or spoon onto every other macaron cookie. Top with another macaron cookie. If you don’t color the shells orange, add a few drops of orange food color to the buttercream for contrast, if desired.