speculoos macarons

we're savoring labor day weekend with my new favorite baking ingredient - speculoos! this creamy cookie butter is going to be especially wonderful for fall and winter baking. it tastes like a biscoff cookie with undertones of gingerbread and looks like peanut butter. (so...all amazing things.) 

i decided to start out by sticking with what i know and created these speculoos macarons. in short, we have some cookie in a cookie inception happening - cookies flavored with other cookies. the end result is tasty and amazing, and traditional yet unexpected all at once. there's a lovely flavor of autumn spice thanks to the cinnamon, nutmeg, paired with the speculoos, but with more subtlety than a pumpkin spice latte. (of which i've already had several.) cheers to a holiday weekend and the kick off of all things autumn-related, and our first fall "up north"!

if this is your first time attempting macarons, there is a host of information on google as well as my compilation of macaron tips here.

| ingredients |

spiced french style macarons

3/4 cup almond flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
2 egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar

speculoos filling

1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), at room temperature
3 tablespoons cookie butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

| method |

line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats, and set aside. prepare a piping bag with a 1/2 inch round metal tip, held upright in a tall glass. 

in a clean mixing bowl, whisk together the almond flour, powdered sugar until combined. then, sift the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl. discard any pieces that are too large to be sifted after each sifting and set aside.

in your uber-clean mixing bowl, whip the egg whites on low speed for a minute or two, until foamy. add in your pinch of cream of tartar, and without turning the mixer off, slowly pour the sugar in a steady stream into the whipping egg whites. continue to whip, turning the mixer up to medium speed after a couple minutes, then high speed, until you have achieved stiff peaks.

add half the almond meal mixture to the bowl of meringue, and gently fold to incorporate without deflating too much of the air in the meringue. once fully absorbed, dump in the other half of the almond meal, and continue the macronage process until the batter flows slowly like lava. 

transfer the batter to your piping bag, and gently pipe macarons an inch apart, about the size of a quarter. be sure to pipe the macarons slightly smaller than you would like as the batter will spread a little after you bang your baking trays. once all of your batter has been piped, pick your baking trays up and smack them on the counter to release any air bubbles. this is important to release any air hiding in your batter, and will also cause the batter to spread ever so slightly, and smooth over any peaks that may be left in your batter. if it is the correct consistency the tops will become perfectly smooth. i bang the trays on the counter about four times, turning the tray each time so as to get each side evenly. 

now in order to form the signature macaron feet, the batter needs to rest at room temperature for approximately 30 minutes. (on a particularly humid day this can take longer - almost an hour.) 

while the macarons are resting, i preheat the oven. this is where things can also get a little tricksy - most recipes suggest you bake at 300-325 for approximately 15-18 minutes. i've found through trial and error my oven works best at 275 degrees, for about 18-20 minutes.

once the shells have formed their skin, and are no longer tacky to the touch, i pop them in one tray at a time to bake. the macarons are done when you gently press the top and they do not wiggle, and easily come away from the silicone mat. some people say this is where parchment paper works best, they are easier to remove. for silicone you may need to wait a few minutes for them to cool in order to remove them successfully. allow the macarons to cool for a few minutes, before setting aside to cool completely. 

pair your macarons up by size and fill with desired filling! sandwich together and enjoy! macarons should be stored in the fridge (for up to one week) and brought to room temperature prior to eating. 

to make filling:

beat or stir butter and cookie butter together until thoroughly combined. add spices and powdered sugar and stir together. then beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy. 

copycat strawberry breakfast tarts

i find the last week of august to be the perfect timing for this recipe -- we're floating somewhere between closing out the season on summer's bounty of strawberries, and wanting to dive face first into all things fall - namely, pie crust. this recipe allows for a little bit of both. 

i started this recipe with martha stewart's pate brisee pie crust, which has been my longstanding favorite. i like to add a little apple cider vinegar to the dough to prohibit those gluten string formations. i was originally using vodka, but i have better uses for good vodka. and we go through a lot of pie crust in a single season, i don't want to short our bar cart too heavily due to baking experiments.

for the crust: 
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 sticks of butter, very cold and cut into small cubes
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons ice water

in the bowl of a food processor, mix the flour, salt and sugar. pulse a few times to combine. add the chilled butter and pulse once more, until the butter is cut into fine pieces and distributed throughout the flour mixture. add in the apple cider vinegar, and then the water, one tablespoon at a time, mixing until the dough holds together. gently remove from the food processor, wrap in plastic wrap and chill. 

while the dough is chilling, make the strawberry filling:

for the strawberry jam:
1 container of strawberries (the usual one, not a small pint or a mondo box)
1/2 a lemon
1/8-/14 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch

cut the tops off your strawberries, and cut each berry into quarters. toss into a medium saucepan along with 1/8 cup of sugar, and give that 1/2 lemon a good squeeze. cook over medium heat, stirring and smushing the berries to help them breakdown. when the berries have mostly boiled down, take a quick taste and add more sugar, to taste. then add the cornstarch and stir until thickened to jam-like consistency. remove from heat and set aside to cool.*

*the jam really needs to be cooled otherwise your tarts will become a big melty mess as you spread hot jam onto your pastry. 

for assembly:
1 egg
1 teaspoon water

for frosting:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
strawberry jam from step above
rainbow sprinkles

when ready, remove your dough from the fridge and let sit for a couple minutes, until warm enough for you to roll out onto a lightly floured surface. preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat mat. roll put your dough into one large, evenly sized rectangle, and cut into smaller rectangles. place 1/2 of your rectangles onto the prepared baking sheet, spread a little bit of jam onto the center of each one (using less than you think you need!) and then take a second rectangle of dough, prick it a few times with your fork, and gently place over top of the first piece with the jam, and gently crimp the two edges together using the tines of your fork. repeat with your remaining rectangles. 

brush each tart evenly with your egg wash (prepared by beating together your egg and the teaspoon of water.) then bake, at 400 degrees for 15-17 minutes, until lightly golden brown. remove your tarts from the oven and let cool before applying your frosting. (you want the frosting to flow, but not totally melt off the tarts!) you can also see the edges of my tarts look a little crispy, that's where some of the jam flowed out during baking. i wiped as much excess as i could off while they were still warm. 

to make the frosting, mix your powdered sugar with a tiny bit of the strawberry jam and milk until desired consistency is reached. you'll want your icing to be pretty thick, once you drop it onto the tarts, it will naturally spread toward the edges due to the convex shape of the pastries. you can also spread it around a little as needed. if your frosting gets too thick, add a tiny bit more milk, if it becomes too thin, add more sugar. top with rainbow sprinkles and enjoy!