Cookie Dough Macarons by Chelsea Zwieg

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Ahhhh, macarons. I've been eating macarons like a champion for years. The problem is, I have been making macarons like a champion for exactly zero days of those years. Until recently! In a baking obsession/will-not-be-defeated-by-a-cookie-recipe/can-and-will-latch-onto-anything-trendy-in-the-baking-world moment I decided that I was going to master making macarons. Guys, this was months ago. It's taken me that long. This was no casual obsession. This was a bags and bags of almond flour and powdered sugar, cartons of eggs stacking up in my fridge and batch after batch of failed macarons kind of obsession. And it was so 100% worth it. 

I'm going to do a longer post in the future with erryyyythang I learned about the world's most finicky cookie but for now I will just say the most important thing I learned -- the Swiss meringue method is my favorite every. time. Yes, it's not the most authentic and blah blah blah. But there's nothing authentic about a Wisconsin girl cranking out french macarons with Costco almond flour anyways so I'm giving deuces to authenticity in exchange for macarons that have yet to fail me. If you're not familiar with the different methods, French Macarons are made with (preferably aged) uncooked egg whites and sugar. They're traditional but also suuuuuper temperamental. The Italian meringue method uses a hot sugar syrup that is poured into the egg whites as they whip, which makes a more stable meringue and ultimately a more stable cookie. Swiss meringue goes for the same stable meringue concept but by cooking the egg whites and sugar in a double boiler before whipping them. It's pretty much indistinguishable from the Italian method but you don't have to deal with pouring hot sugar syrup into your mixer. Having a stable meringue will give you much less trouble later when it gets folded into the dry ingredients, which is the key key key step that determines if your shells will be too flat, cracked, tall, slanted, chewy, dry....all those things that have ended up in my garbage over the past few months. 

Now that I have my recipe down, I have been making all of the macaron flavors. Like raspberry and cinnamon toast crunch and apple cinnamon but most importantly of all, chocolate chip cookie dough! 

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Cookie Dough Macarons

| Ingredients | 

For the shells:

  • 100 grams almond flour
  • 100 grams powdered sugar
  • 10 grams black cocoa powder (you can also use regular cocoa powder, they just won't be as dark) 
  • 100 grams egg whites
  • 100 grams granulated sugar 

For the filling: 

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp.  finely chopped chocolate chips 

| Instructions | 

Line 2 baking sheets with non-stick baking mats and set aside. 

Sift the flour, powdered sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl, set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the egg whites and granulated sugar. Place the mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water and heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar is melted and the mixture is warm to the touch. Return the bowl to your stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Turn the mixer to high and whisk the egg mixture until it forms stiff peaks. 

Sift the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl on top of the egg whites. Don't skip this double sifting step, it's super important! Turn the mixer to medium and mix for about 10 seconds, until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. At this point, take a spatula and scrape down any unincorporated meringue from the sides of the bowl. Also run the spatula around the bottom once to get any bits that didn't get mixed in. You don't want to just let the mixer run until this stuff is mixed in or the batter will be overmixed. Drop the whisk back down into the batter and lift it up, if the batter runs down in a steady stream, it is ready. If it breaks as it runs down, continue to mix for a few seconds at a time just until it no longer breaks. 

Scoop the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a wide round tip. Pipe evenly sized rounds (the size is totally up to you, mine are usually about 1 1/2- 2 inches in diameter) onto the prepared baking sheets. Bang the baking sheets on the counter several times to release any air bubbles. Let the macarons sit out until the tops are dry and a skin has formed. You will know they are ready when you touch one with your finger and you can pull it away clean. If batter sticks to your finger and it creates a peak in the macaron, they need to sit longer. This can take anywhere from 15-45 minutes depending on the weather, the heat of your kitchen, humidity etc. 

Once the macarons have dried, preheat oven to 300 and place a rack in the center. Bake the macarons one tray at a time for 15-20 minutes. A good test for if the macarons are done is to gently tap the top of a shell with your finger. If it sound hollow and the macarons does not jiggle back on forth on the feet that it has formed. they are ready to go. Remove from the oven and immediately remove the baking mat from the pan. Let the macarons cool completely before removing them from the mat. 

For the filling, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour and mix to combine. Add the milk, a few splashes at a time until the dough thins to a frosting like consistency. Mix in the chopped chocolate. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a round tip. Pipe the cookie dough onto half of the macarons and sandwich together with the remaining shells. Store at room temperature. 

Caramel Apple Layer Cake by Chelsea Zwieg

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Well, well, well, look who accidently...but really not so accidentally....didn't blog for the entire summer. But it's ok because fall baking is about 6 million times better than summer baking anyways so it looks like I picked the perfect time to pop back in....with an apple cake! covered in caramel! and cinnamon buttercream! But first, let me catch you up on my summer. I was pale as a ghost, I almost got tan, and now I'm very pale again. And that about sums it up. But really, it was a great summer, full of things like family vacation where I skied until my arms fell off, my first triathlon, my sister getting engaged (!!!!) (maid of honor/cupcake wedding cake baker reporting for duty!), camping trips with the boyfraand and of course lots and lots of time spent at the bakery. Summer is always great but as soon as it's over I am full fall all the time. And what better way to get v. v. fally than with a caramel apple layer cake. 

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The cake is a spiced butter cake with sauteed apples folded into the batter before baking. It's adapted from my baking magazine obsession Bake From Scratch and as soon as I saw an apple cake in this season's issue I knew I needed it in my life pronto. There's 2 cups of diced apples in the batter which seems like a lot, and it is, but after I baked them I almost wished I had done 3. So if apple cakes that are more-apple-less-cake are your thing, I would maybe go for the 3 cups. 

The cinnamon buttercream is a basic swiss meringue buttercream mixed with cinnamon and vanilla. So simple but so perfect. And then the whole thing gets all drizzzzed up with a brown sugar caramel sauce. You could also put some of the caramel sauce between the layers if you want even more caramel apple action, but I would recommend putting it on the cake before the buttercream so it can soak into the layers a little, rather than on top of the buttercream which might cause the layers to slide around a bit. A great tutorial for the drip cake of your dreams can be found here

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Caramel Apple Layer Cake

Cake adapted from Bake From Scratch | Caramel adapted from Tessa Huff

Makes a 3 layer 8" cake or 4 layer 6" cake 

For the cake: 

  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp. unsalted butter 
  • 2 cups chopped and peeled McIntosh apples
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar 
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbps. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

For the frosting

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon

For the caramel drizzle: 

  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter 
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

| Instructions | 

In a saucepan, melt 2 tbsp. butter. Add the apples and saute over medium heat until softened, 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. 

Preheat oven to 350. Line cake pans with parchment paper and spray well with cooking spray. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle, beat butter and sugars for 4 minutes, scraping the bowl halfway through. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping well and beating after each addition. 

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and spices into a separate bowl. Add the dry mixture to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk and mixing until just combined after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add the cooked apples and gently fold into the batter.

Divide the batter between prepared pans and bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Start with 25 minutes if you are using 6 inch pans and increase from there. Let cool in pans for 10-15 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling. 

For the frosting, combine egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is melted and the mixture is very warm to the touch, about 160 degrees. Return the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Swap the whisk for the paddle and run the mixer on low. Add the room temperature butter a few tbsp. at a time until fully incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting comes together and is silky smooth. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and mix to combine. Finally, reduce the mixer speed to low to beat out any air bubbles. 

For the caramel drizzle, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar and corn syrup and increase the heat to high. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is no longer grainy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and carefully whisk in the cream. Continue to simmer for 8 minutes, stirring often. It will thicken slightly as it cooks, but mostly as it cools. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a separate container to cool and thicken. 

To assemble the cake, trim and level your cake layers. Fill and frost with the cinnamon buttercream. Once you have a smooth, final coat on the outside, place the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes. Once the cake is chilled and the frosting is firm, pour the caramel glaze on top a little at a time. Use a small offset spatula to ease it towards and over the edges of the cake to create drips. Pipe remaining buttercream on top and chill until the caramel sets up. Serve and store cake at room temperature.