November is the time for Thanksgiving! And Thanksgiving means apple pie. And if you could somehow take the flavors of the golden brown crust, the bubbling, cinnamon apples, and the kiss of caramel drizzled over the melting vanilla bean ice cream and place that into a single, glorious bite, wouldn’t that be awesome? Try Caramel Apple Pie French Macarons. They are a single, glorious bite of all those flavors. It might just give you an early reason to give thanks. 😉
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Caramel Apple Pie French Macarons
100 g. egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
50 g. white sugar
200 g. powdered sugar
110 g. almond flour
Copper Food Coloring Gel, optional
White Chocolate Ganache Filling:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup white chocolate chips
*Note: I used canned caramel apple pie filling for the centers, but you can feel free to make homemade, if you prefer. Add about 1/3 cup caramel to your favorite pie filling recipe if you don’t want to use canned.
Whip room temperature egg whites, cream of tartar, and white sugar with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer until the whites reach stiff peak stage. Meanwhile, pulse your almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor until the mixture is well combined. Sift your almond flour/powdered sugar through a sieve and throw away the pieces that are too large to pass through the sieve. When the whites have whipped into stiff peaks, fold the almond/sugar mixture into the whites gradually and carefully until they reach proper “macaronage.” Place 2-3 drops of gel food coloring into the batter and swirl gently before carefully pouring into a piping bag. Pipe meringue circles onto a silpat using a template, if desired, and slam the cookie sheets several times on the counter to dislodge air bubbles. Allow circles to dry for 20 minutes before baking at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, one sheet at a time, in the center of the oven (move oven racks, if necessary). Do not open the oven until the 20 minutes are up, and use an oven thermometer for best results. When your macarons are done they should feel “firm on their feet.” If the macaron shells are soft or crack when gently touched, bake for 2 more minutes and test again until they are firm on their feet. After baking, remove entire silpat to cooling rack and allow shells to cool, completely, before removing them from the silpat.
To make ganache filling, warm cream over low heat until it has small bubbles along the sides (but has not boiled). Stir in chocolate chips just until melted. You can also use the microwave, stirring after each 30 second heat. It should take roughly 1.5 minutes for the chips to be warm enough to melt when stirred. Allow warm ganache to chill in the refrigerator until it reaches the consistency of caramel sauce. Whip with the whisk attachment of your mixer until the ganache is fluffy and then chill again until it reaches a pipeable consistency. Fill cooled shells with circles of whipped ganache and fill the circles with caramel apple pie filling. Freeze finished macarons in an airtight container in a deep freezer. Remove from the freezer about an hour before serving.
Now, in pictures! 🙂
French Macarons are the stuff of legend . . . they are always there, just out of reach, shimmering in a mist of possibility. One turn of the spatula too many, and they will be flat as pancakes. One turn too few, and they will have macaron nipples.
Yes. Macaron nipples. Oh my gosh someone get the censors in here!
Crazy. I’m telling you.
The key to the perfect macaron is all in the macaronage. And sadly, I’d say that more macarons are sacrificed on the altar of improper macaronage than because of any other reason. Macaronage is just the process whereby you deflate the meringue slightly so that your shells will not have holes. HOWEVER if you knock too much air out, then your shells will be so flat that they’d make onionskin paper jealous. We will talk more about this mysterious macaronage in a minute.
Start out by whisking your egg whites, cream of tartar, and white sugar together in the bowl of your stand mixer until your meringue reaches stiff peaks. Stiff peaks hold their shape firmly– the point will not bend over when you pull the whisk out of the bowl. Next, add in the sifted almond flour/powdered sugar mixture in 3 separate “mixes.” The mixing is the macaronage step– getting just enough air out of the meringue that it doesn’t leave air bubbles in the final shells, but leaving enough air in there that the shells don’t sink flat in the oven. Yes. It’s tricky. This step takes more practice and experience, I think, than all of the other steps to the process combined. This is the widowmaker, folks. Macaronage doesn’t mess around. It will execute your macarons without pity. Learn to conquer it.
I have heard proper macaron batter described as everything from “ribboning off the edge of the spatula” to “flowing like lava.” Neither of those descriptions are very helpful to me, though. I mean, have you ever seen a volcano explode and been calm enough to dip a spoon into the lava to see how it flows off your (now burned up) spoon? Me either.
Honestly the only thing that helped me was finally getting it right and seeing what the batter looked like when I did. You keep kind of “smooshing” the batter up against the side of the bowl where it will make a sound kind of like car wash foam on the windshield. Each time I “smoosh” the batter I scrape everything back into the center and lift up my spatula to see how quickly it runs back into the bowl. To me, the finished batter looks a little thicker than cake mix batter. If you hold a spoonful up and tip the spatula, the batter will flow down and kind of “fold itself” as it does, rather than breaking or just disappearing into itself like water. If it is thick enough to fold back and forth on itself as it falls back into the bowl, then it’s ready. When in doubt, underfold. You can always mix a little more, but once the batter is overmixed then you might as well start playing “Taps” solemnly in the background. The macs are dead.
Pipe circles of batter onto a silpat. I like to stick a printed circle template underneath the silpat so that I can see how large to make the circles (lots of free printables online– just pick what size you’d like to make). Just make sure to remove the template before you bake. Don’t ask me how I know this. Ahem. 😉
I used a microplane to zest a little fresh nutmeg over my shells after I piped them just to give the girls that little extra bit of apple pie magic. 😉
The next step is great for anger management. hehe. Gently slam the trays 6-8 times on the counter so that any remaining air bubbles rise out of the batter and don’t get baked in. Yes. You can bang things and call it baking. You’re welcome.
I like to tap the trays firmly on a kitchen towel. The towel cushions them a little bit while still allowing the bubbles to leave the premises. After slamming the trays, let the shells rest for about 30 minutes until they form a slight skin. You should be able to gently touch one of the shells with your finger and not have any batter stick to it. When you see the skin, the shells are ready to be baked.
As far as baking goes, preheat your oven while the shells dry. And use an oven thermometer. The ladies like it the way they like it. Too much temperature fluctuation will . . . you guessed it . . . kill them. They are very sensitive. Make sure to place a fainting couch in their dressing room.
Bake your trays, one at a time (yes. The divas need it this way) in the center of the oven (move racks around if necessary) at 300 degrees for 18-20 minutes, or until the shells don’t wiggle around when you press gently on the side of one. Allow them to cool fully before you try to take them off the silpat. Send roses for every holiday.
While your ultra finicky shells are finally cooling, let’s get the filling ready to rock and roll. 🙂 Luckily, ganache is a hard worker and not nearly so entitled. You’ll like working with it ever so much better. It doesn’t need a fainting couch and would probably laugh if you put one in its dressing room.
Melt your white chocolate chips and cream in the microwave for 30 seconds and stir. Usually I have to microwave for 30 more seconds, and then I can stir away the chocolate and make it all smooth. Don’t overheat it– just warm enough that you can stir away the chocolate into melty loveliness. Too hot will curdle the cream.
If you want to make your ganache extra smooth (and loved ones, we are ALLLLLL about the smooth!), run the chocolate/cream mixture through a fine mesh strainer.
See what was hiding in there? There was some unmelted chocolate ooze hiding in there that would have jammed up our piping bag, had we not had the brilliance to remove it. Now we got it out and our ganache is SILKYYYYY SMOOTH. You’re so smart. I love working with you. Would you like a fainting couch in your dressing room? You got it.
Now this next part (placing the melted cream/chocolate in the fridge) you have to be careful with. If you get distracted . . . your ganache will harden too much. Put the bowl in the fridge and check on it every 5 minutes or so. Stir every 5 minutes so that it doesn’t get too hard around the edges. You want your ganache to be roughly the consistency of caramel sauce. If you forget and start a Netflix marathon watching FRIENDS, then your ganache will solidify, and you will have to start over. And we don’t want to wait for our macarons. Oh no. We have waited for this lovely lady long enough. We have wept and lost sleep and pulled our hair out, over her. No more waiting. Watch the ganache.
When the ganache is the consistency of caramel sauce, whip it for a minute with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer. Whipping the ganache will make it fluffy and easier to pipe.
It will also look gorgeous in the bowl, but that’s beside the point.
Finally. Time to get the shells dressed. They’ve been in that dressing room using the heck out of that fainting couch. Chop chop, ladies. Time for the show.
Start by matching the shells together with other, similarly sized shells. It’s crazy, but even when you use a template you will come out with shells that are a good bit larger than the others. Growth spurt I guess. 😉 Put similar ones together. Pipe rings of whipped ganache around half of them . . . you are kind of making a little dam to hold in your filling.
Fill the ganache circles with the apple pie filling. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re doing this. It’s like giving a man a pair of pruning shears and then looking out and finding that your glorious maple tree is now a gasping stick in the back yard. Go easy.
The idea is to have the ganache kind of “seal in” the apple. Don’t make the apple go above the ganache or the center will run out the sides and be messy to eat. And ladies should never be messy. Especially ladies that took this long to get ready.
Voila. Look how lovely she looks.
Now, at this point, the ganache is still kind of soft. So don’t push the macarons down too much or stack them yet. Place them in a single layer (not squished together) on a cookie sheet and cover them lightly with plastic wrap. Put them in the fridge for a few hours until the ganache hardens. They will be easier to handle and stack at that point, because the shape will hold.
I knew you were tough. And now, thanks to you, so are they.
Now, now. I know what you’re going to say.
“You’re wonderful. You’re brilliant. You’re a goddess.”
Oh. You weren’t going to say that? Pity.
You were going to say that most macarons need to cure for 24 hours, during which the moist filling will soak up the crisp shell, and both will form kind of a perfect, nougat-type bite. But when I’m using more moist fillings (such as pumpkin or apple puree), I find that the curing stage makes the macarons too wet.
So after I let these particular gals harden in the fridge for a few hours, I then put them right into the freezer. I don’t take them out until I’m ready to serve them– that way the shells don’t get too wet. They didn’t bring bathing suits and they just had their hair and makeup done. No wet macarons.
The beautiful thing about this system is that when friends stop by, or when you need a quick pick me up gift . . . the freezer becomes your treasure trove of loveliness.
Going through a breakup? No problem. Crying friend at the kitchen table? Pssshhhh we got this. Mood swings? Pull a few of these lovelies out of the freezer. Make a beautiful matching French Macaron box using this tutorial. Nestle the beauties into the box and tie it with a beautiful ribbon.
Grab your friend an interesting book and a few packets of your favorite tea. That’s the kind of package that will make anyone’s day. You’re so thoughtful. I love working with you.
So the ladies get their fainting couch. You get a nice visit with a friend. And your friend gets a cute as a button box of gorgeous, delicious French Macarons. I knew you were a genius.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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