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Texas Sheet Cake Macarons

2nd March 2014

Texas is a big state. So it makes sense that we Texans identify with a multitude of foods. Take desserts for example: from flan in the Valley to fruit-filled kolaches in the Hill Country, from pecan pies towards the Red River to Blue Bell Ice Cream in the middle.  Like the electoral college, the bigger the state, the more official food options (that’s how that works right?). The one dessert that seems to span the state and generations of Texans is Texas Sheet Cake. A simple chocolate sheet cake smothered with a fudge frosting as soon as it comes out of the oven and dotted generously with our state nut, the pecan. One of the few acceptable alterations to this humble dessert is the addition of something even more Texan: Dr Pepper.

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Since this blog is a little bit country and a little bit je ne sais quoi, for this Texas Independence Day our state dessert gets a European makeover. Give a warm howdy to the Texas Sheet Cake Macaron with Dr Pepper Fudge Sauce Filling. You might think these are too fancy for the likes of humble Texans, but try them and I’m sure you’ll make room for them between the pintos and the cornbread.

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 photo via Julie Cope Photography

This week also happens to be my little brother’s birthday. He would be 22 years old and, if you ask me, completely in favor of these Texas Sheet Cake Macarons. Only he’d probably pair them with a flaming Dr Pepper or a Shiner rather than my modest cup of coffee. So these macarons are for you my Lone Star State and for one of the most independent young Texans I ever had the privileged to know, Garrett Avery Hysmith.

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Enough sap, let’s talk about fudge. These macarons are filled with a creamy Fudge Sauce Filling made with a syrupy Dr Pepper reduction. North of the Mason-Dixon, I have a hard time getting my hands on authentic Dublin Dr Pepper, but my fellow Texans, you should know that this is the superior soda for Texas Sheet Cake and macaron making alike. The pecans, too, should be of Texas origins, if at all possible. Traditional French macarons use almonds in lieu of pecans, but the substitution works quite nicely in this Southern  adaptation.

Texas Sheet Cake Macarons with Dr Pepper Fudge Filling

Makes 22 small cookies sandwiches

FOR THE COOKIES:

2/3 cup pecans

1 cup powdered sugar

2 egg whites

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1. Set the oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper (do not use a reusable baking mat or sil-pat). Slide the macaron template under the parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of your food processor, pulse pecans into a fine meal (about 1 to 2 minutes). Add the powdered sugar and continue to pulse, scraping sides as needed, until combined and as fine as possible.

3. Pour the mixture into a fine mesh sieve set over another bowl. Use a spoon to push the mixture through the mesh until about 1 to 2 tablespoons larger pecan pieces remain. Discard these larger pieces and set the bowl of sifted pecan meal aside.

4. In the bowl of your electric mixer fixed with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and granulated sugar. Gradually increase speed every couple of minutes until very stiff peaks form. Add the cocoa powder and whisk for another couple seconds. Remove bowl from stand.

5. Add the pecan meal to the mixer bowl. Using a spatula, gently fold the whites into the pecan meal, scraping sides as needed, until the mixture is thoroughly combined and creeps slowly down the bowl like lava. Transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a very wide round tip or a zip-top bag with a corner cut about 1/2-inch.

6. Using the macaron template, carefully pipe little discs of batter, lifting the piping bag to one side of the cookie to create a flat top. Carefully slide the template out from under the parchment paper and set aside. Tap the pan a couple of times on a flat surface to remove any air bubbles. Let the cookies rest for 10 minutes (to let the tops dry) and transfer to oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating pan halfway through and wafting the oven door to remove any built up steam, until the tops are just set and hard. Slide parchment paper from the pan onto a wire rack and let cookies cool while still attached to the paper (do not try to remove before they’ve cooled or they will stick and tear).

Notes:

– Traditionally, macarons use almond meal using blanched (skins removed) almonds. This results in a nice white almond-powdered sugar mixture and clean smooth cookie tops. Pecan skins are nearly impossible to remove and thus make the mixture a little darker and could result in slightly textured cookie tops. The taste is fine, but don’t try to peddle your macarons to any self-respecting Frenchman.

– When the directions say stiff egg white peaks, they mean it. Beat those whites till there is no return. A good test is to lift the bowl upside down over your head. If your hair remains meringue-less, they’re ready to go.

– The macaron size template is a great tool for novice and advanced macaron-makers alike. This helps spread out the cookies and keeps them uniform (which is important when making cookie with filling).

– Keep in mind that everyone’s oven is a little different. Make the first sheet of cookies and see if you need to make any adjustments. Tops cracking? The oven may be too hot. Flat tops or concave tops? The oven may be too cool. Macarons are an art and will take several batches before you are comfortable making them. They will always come out tasting great, they just might not stand up to French aesthetic standards.

FOR THE FILLING:

1 cup Dr Pepper

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup powdered sugar

1. In a small sauce pan set over medium low, add the Dr Pepper and reduce by more than 1/2. This should take about 30 -45 minutes and may seem like a long time, but it’s worth it.

2. Once the Dr Pepper has reduced, add the butter, cocoa powder, and vanilla, stirring to combine. Remove the pan from the heat.

3. To the pan, add 1/4 cup of powdered sugar at a time, stirring until thoroughly combined between each addition. The resulting mixture should be thick like a buttercream frosting. If it’s too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar. If it’s too thick to spread, add a tiny bit of Dr Pepper. Let mixture cool slightly and transfer to a piping bag or zip-top bag with the corner snipped off.

TO ASSEMBLE:

Carefully flip all the cookies over and assemble into little rows of equal quantities (pair any oddly shaped cookies together). Pipe a small dollop of filling onto one half of the cookies and top with remaining cookies,  carefully sandwiching the two so that the filling reaches the edges. Transfer cookies to a small baking sheet or pan and refrigerate for a few hours before eating, 24 hours is best.  Store in the refrigerator to preserve the cookie’s texture.  Serve with a cup of cowboy coffee or if you’re needing an additional boost, a cup of ice-cold Dr Pepper.

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 Happy Texas Independence Day, y’all.

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