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“Macaron-i and Cheese”

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

– 1/4 cup room temperature egg whites
– 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
– 2 tbsp. sugar
– yellow or orange gel (water-based) food coloring, optional
– 3/4 cup maltose powder
– 2 tbsp. cornstarch
– 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. almond flour
– 2 tbsp. cheese powder (can be obtained from the sauce packet within a box of instant mac and cheese)
– 1/4 tsp. salt
– finely grated Parmesan cheese, optional
– finely chopped fresh parsley, optional
Cheese Filling:
– 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
– 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
– 1/2 cup whole milk
– 1 tbsp. cream cheese
– 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
– 1/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
– 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
– salt and black pepper, to taste
1.     In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until foamy.  Add in the sugar a half-tablespoon at a time while continuing to beat until you get stiff peaks.  If desired, whisk in yellow or orange gel (water-based only) food coloring to achieve a light cheesy hue.
2.     In a separate bowl, sift together the maltose powder, cornstarch, almond flour, cheese powder, and salt..
3.     Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry mixture into the whipped egg white mixture until the batter becomes the consistency of molten lava or smooth yogurt.  Transfer it to a piping bag and pipe small 1-inch circles of batter 1 inch apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
4.     Tap the sheet pan on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles in the batter, then let the macarons sit uncovered for 30 minutes to an hour to dry on top until the batter does not stick to your finger when touched gently.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 275°F.
5.     Once the macarons are dry on the outside, lightly sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley on top, if desired.  Bake for 20 minutes.
6.     Meanwhile, prepare the macaron cheese filling.  Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, stir in the flour, and cook until the mixture bubbles and turns slightly golden.  Pour in the milk and continue to cook while whisking constantly, to reduce lumps.  Stop once the sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon so that when you run your finger down the spoon, the sauce does not run down and cover up the path your finger makes.
7.     Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately whisk in the cream cheese, shredded white cheddar, and shredded Gruyere cheese until completely smooth.  If you find that your sauce is cooling quickly and there are still lumps of cheese throughout, you may return the pan to the stove and continue to whisk it constantly over low heat, but only for as long as it takes for the cheese sauce to become smooth.  Then turn off the heat, stir in the garlic powder, and season with salt and black pepper to taste.  Allow the cheese filling to cool completely, then place it into the fridge until it is ready for use.
8.     Once the macaron shells have baked, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely on the baking sheet.  Take the cheese filling out of the fridge and transfer it into a piping bag with a round tip or medium-sized hole cut at the end.  Pipe blobs of the filling onto half of the cooled macaron shells and sandwich them with the remaining shells to create complete sandwich cookies.  Serve immediately.
Loosely adapted from Beth’s Foolproof French Macaron Recipe, from Entertaining With Beth

This post first appeared on Sweet Dreams Recipes, please read the originial post: here

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“Macaron-i and Cheese”


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