You’re probably thinking one of two things: what’s with the hyphen in the title of this post? or what on Earth are those odd cheese-colored Oreo-like things in what looks like a mini casserole dish?
A while back, I was doing some mundane chores around the house when I had this random realization that the word “macaron” was in the word “macaroni.” So you can guess what I thought next, what if I could make a cheese flavored French macaron?
I knew this was kind of a silly idea, and if you’ve ever baked your own macarons, you probably understand, given that macarons are one of the trickiest, painstakingly difficult desserts to master. But I was just so infatuated with the wordplay that I couldn’t bear not making a recipe out of it. I knew I was setting myself up for failure, but my inner idealist somehow convinced me I could take a perfectly fine French macaron recipe (which was probably intended to be followed precisely to achieve the most correct product), screw up the ingredients to get as close as I could to a salty, cheesy version, and by some miracle, maybe create something that still resembled the original thing.
I started with my go-to recipe for French macarons, which is Beth’s Foolproof French Macaron Recipe from Entertaining With Beth. While I was doing some research beforehand, I saw a couple of savory macaron recipes around that maintained the standard formula for making sweet French macaron shells, with the filling being the only thing that made them “savory.” This seemed like the safest option for me if I wanted to ensure my macarons would still be “macarons,” but I didn’t feel like playing safe just for looks — the idea of keeping loads of sugar in a recipe intended to be savory didn’t really appeal to me. Unfortunately, sugar plays a much larger, chemical role in this case than simply adding sweetness, so there wasn’t a whole lot of room for me to wiggle around it (you can see how that turned out). Because sugar molecules stabilize the meringue-based batter by binding to water, I figured I could substitute some cornstarch and powdered maltose, which is about half as sweet as regular sugar, in place of the traditionally-used powdered sugar. Secondly, I wanted to have cheese flavor in both the shells and filling but didn’t have any special ingredient like cheese flavoring on hand, so I turned to some processed cheese sauce mix from a box of instant macaroni and cheese and attempted to cut down slightly on the amount of almond flour to make up for the extra source of fats.
At this point, I was still trying to justify to myself that my oh-so-scientific adjustments might yield okay results and that maybe macarons weren’t as finicky as people say, but I had pretty much thrown any prospect of a decent macaron completely out of the window.
First of all, after I sifted my mixture of almond flour, cornstarch, maltose, and cheese powder into my whipped egg whites, my batter thinned very quickly into the consistency of a thick cheese fondue, after only 7 or 8 turns of my spatula (usually it takes about 40 or so to reach the right consistency, which shouldn’t be that thin). I’m guessing this was due to having increased fat from adding cheese powder. Second of all, after I had piped small circles of my batter onto a baking sheet, I noticed that they took forever to dry on top (a key step in making proper macarons). I ended up baking them a bit early while the tops were still slightly sticky, so I didn’t end up getting smooth, domed tops that classic macarons are supposed to have. The result was more like a chewy, flat meringue biscuit that, when sandwiched with a white cheddar and Gruyere filling, tasted a tiny bit to me like cheese-filled Ritz cracker sandwiches with a tinge of sugar-cookie-like sweetness. But looking back, perfect wasn’t what I was going for in the end; I think I just wanted to play with the idea for the sake of seeing it exist in real form.
Clearly I’m no professional baker, but this was definitely an enjoyable experience, just humoring my imagination. These tasted like neither macarons nor macaroni and cheese, so I don’t blame you if you have zero interest in making them. But if you would actually like to try this recipe yourself, I’ve written out the exact steps that I took below (don’t expect something amazing, though). You’ll want to finish these “macarons” as soon as possible after making them, while they’re still slightly crunchy, as they aren’t too good after a day in the fridge. Because the cheese filling contains more water than a buttercream frosting or other typical macaron filling, the cookie shells get soggy very fast — by day two they’ll be kind of mushy and gross.
Maybe one day when I have more time and patience, I’ll revisit this and re-experiment until I can engineer something cheese flavored that might classify as a macaron, but until then, this is what I have
Oh, and happy 2018! Here’s to another year of yummy (and silly) ideas!
“Macaron-i and Cheese” (Cheese Meringue Sandwich Cookies) – makes around 12 – 14 sandwich cookies