A few weeks ago, A and I were watching an episode of No Reservations called "Obsessed", which was all about chefs who were so obsessed with their craft that they had taken it to a level of perfection were food is art. The two of us looked at each other in disbelief, shocked and awed by their devotion, but also agreeing that neither one of us were likely to attain that level of perfection in anything we do. I mean, sure, I like baking and I like bread, but no, I don't have the patience, or even interest, required to determine precisely at which temperature a sourdough loaf should ferment to yield the best taste. Hell, I don't even measure the flour that I use to feed my starter - I just throw it in.
But then last night, standing in my kitchen, in an explosion of flour, egg whites and almond meal, I realized that macarons actually might be my obsession. I spend a really unhealthy amount of time thinking about macarons, when I am not actually making them. That copy of the Flavor Bible I requested for Christmas? Not to help us cook better like I claimed. No, my true motivation was a new source of inspiration for creative macaron combinations. I want to buy a stupidly expensive macro photo lens for my camera so I can photograph them better. I am content to spend hours in the kitchen (and lots of money on almond flour) fussing with the recipe. I never get bored. Instead I just want to make more.
Lately, I have deviated from the standard recipe and started experimenting with different types of nuts. For easter, I tried pistachio, which was delicious. This week - peanut, for a decidedly American macaron. Sure, other cultures eat peanuts, but peanut butter and peanut flavored sweets strike me as pretty unique to American culture. I guess the Euros have nutella, but hazelnuts just aren't the same as peanuts.
For this batch, I subbed 55 grams of almond meal for ground peanuts, and then sprinkled some crushed peanuts on top to give a visual hint of the flavor. The flavor was pretty striking, with the peanuttiness giving these macs a very different taste that the traditional almond based cookies. I filled them with a peanut gianduja cream, which made them taste almost like gourmet Reese's peanut butter cups.
While the filling tasted great, the texture was not perfect. I used all natural peanut butter, which for some reason did not set in the chocolate as I expected. After an hour of stirring, the milk chocolate and peanut butter mixture was still too runny to pipe onto the cookies. Adding powdered sugar still did not thicken it enough. Also, I was lazy and did not temper the chocolate, which meant that there was a tiny bit of bloom after the macs cooled. Next time around, I think I will use more typical peanut butter, as the texture will probably lend itself to a better gianduja mixture.
Recipe for the macarons after the jump!