This recipe has been following me for awhile. Popping (pun INTENDED) into my head at random times…or just when I was eating popcorn….and I figured now was as good of time as any to try it. This winter while I was laid up on the couch dreaming of a food blog with my foot in a cast, the idea of making a macaron with corn meal instead of almond flour popped into my head. This was way back in February so sweet corn was still a few months away, and as those things do– the idea was shelved until I was back on my feet (literally) and ready to tackle it. In fact I had forgotten about the idea completely until earlier this summer when I was strolling down the Bob’s Red Mill Aisle (you know the one) at the store and this bag of Corn Flour snuck into my peripheral vision and it was decided I would obviously use this for my corn based macaron adventure. Into the cart it went.
If you have any experience with making macarons, or even just working with almond flour, then you’ll know that it can be a bit coarse. The finer the grind on the flour, the smoother the macarons, which is why using standard issue corn meal was proving to be an issue when I considered making the macaron way back in February. When I saw corn flour (which should come as zero surprise to me that this is a thing, I just hadn’t ever seen it before), I saw how finely it was milled and I knew this would make things much easier– and less crunchy.
After acquiring the corn flour, I settled on buttered popcorn macarons as my flavor after having some of the insane Jeni’s Sun-Popped Popcorn Ice cream in which they steep freshly popped popcorn into the heavy cream they use to make the ice cream. Seemed straightforward enough– except of course that I wasn’t making anything with more than say, 2 tbsp of liquid, and I wasn’t exactly sure I would get good buttery flavor out of steeping 2 tbsp of heavy cream. Instead, I got my butter from a different source: Butter Flavor! Yes, it sounds ridiculous. Yes, I added butter flavoring TO my buttercream, but people– it makes all the difference. One whiff of this tiny jar of butter flavor and you are transported to the movies. You’re 14 years old and you’re with your friends and you are relentlessly pumping that butter flavored oil onto your bag of popcorn and sprinkling the top with salt. It was exactly what I needed.
As far as salt goes, for my first (thrown away) batch, I sprinkled the tops after I piped them onto the sheet directly with some Maldon sea salt. I felt really good about it at first, until the salt broke down some of the delicate meringue as they sat and dried (science!), and the tops ended up having little acidic holes on where the salt had eaten its way through the batter. It was salty, but not exactly what I had in mind. Time to try again.
The second go around, I let the macarons mostly dry before sprinkling only half of the tops with salt, and I used much less salt than before. Then, to make up for the lack of salt on the top of each, I added a heaping tsp of crunchy Maldon flakes to the buttercream.
In the end, I got a delicious, salty, crunchy, buttery macaron that satisfies sweet and savory cravings– and is much easier to sneak into the theater than your own popcorn.
Buttered Popcorn Macarons
Depending on success rate, about 24 filled macarons | Recipe inspiration from Love & Olive Oil
85 grams corn flour
150 grams powdered sugar
90 grams egg whites (from about 3 large eggs), room temperature (no need to age* them)
55 grams superfine sugar (found in the baking aisle, if you can’t find it– you can always put regular granulated sugar in a food processor or blender and run on high for ~30 seconds until the consistency is very fine)
*aging egg whites, which some people swear by, is the process of separating and then leaving egg whites out at room temperature for a day or two. It’s said that this will decrease the water in the egg whites, but leave the proteins–rendering whipping easier and proving better results. I’ve done aged, un-aged, local, organic, plain ol white. Same results.
For Popcorn Buttercream:
1/4 C (1/2 stick) unsalted butter- room temperature
3/4 C Powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp butter flavoring
1/2 tsp Maldon Sea Salt Flakes
1 Tbsp milk or heavy cream
a few drops of yellow food coloring- if desired
Tip: For increased macaron success– please take the time and weigh/measure out all of your ingredients and have them organized and ready to go before you start mixing. While this is a good tip for any cooking, for this it’s especially helpful the first few times you make them as you are getting your bearings around the recipe.
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine corn flour and powdered sugar. Run the food processor for ~30 seconds until the sugar and flour are nicely combined. Sift through a fine mesh strainer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.
Place room temperature egg whites into a stainless steel mixing bowl (I don’t use my stand mixer for this, I think it’s a little easier to just bust out the hand mixer). Turn the beaters to medium speed and whip until bubbles start appearing and it becomes frothy and opaque. Slowly sprinkle in the superfine sugar to incorporate into the egg whites. Turn your beaters to high and whip until you get medium stiff peaks and the meringue is niiiiice and shiny. If you would like to add color to the shells now is the time!
Once the meringue is ready, take your bowl with the corn flour/sugar mixture and add half to the meringue. Fold and scrape the mixture with a rubber spatula until the flour is incorporated, then add the rest. Continue scraping the bowl and folding the mixture until the batter falls off the spatula in thick ribbons* (yes, this is an insane description, but it’s everywhere and truly is the best way to describe it). The mixture should settle into itself in a few seconds after falling off the spatula. Do not overmix.
*this is a great time to Youtube someone making macarons so you can see for yourself exactly how the batter is supposed to look!
Once your batter is nice and ribbony, prep your piping bag. I like to shove mine into a large plastic tumbler, and pull the edges of the bag around the outside like a teeny trash bag. Pour the batter into the cup, and once it’s done, pull up on the bag to let the batter fall to the bottom. At this point you can fit the piping bag with a tip if you want– but I am a big fan of the Wilton 16″ Disposable Decorating Bags and then I just cut the tip off the bottom of the bag.
Once your batter is ready to roll, twist one end of the pastry bag and hover over your prepared baking sheets. Keeping the bag straight up and down, pipe even circles into rows with the batter spaced about 1 inch apart. For evenness I like to count in my head “one, two” while I pipe to make sure I am making the same size. There will be variation– that’s ok!
Once your batter is piped and things are looking good, give the sheet a good 4in drop onto the work surface. This gets out any pesky bubbles that might be lurking under the surface threatening your macaron glory. I do this a couple of times. Set aside on a counter, and set a timer for 15 minutes to let the meringue dry out. Once the tops are just barely dry, sprinkle half of the shells with a PINCH of sea salt or maldon flakes. Too much salt and you’ll eat through all your hard work! Let sit for another 15ish minutes. You’ll know they’re ready for the oven when you can barely touch one and your finger comes away dry. While the macarons are drying out– preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and make sure your racks are set to the upper middle and lower middle positions.
Once the macarons are dry, place them in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes. At the 6 or 7 minute mark, rotate and swap the position of the sheet pans to ensure even cooking. You’ll want to stick around and not leave the kitchen during this time. Don’t become too distracted! You don’t want the macarons to brown at all.
Once the macarons are done, remove from the oven and set to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Once cool, carefully remove them from the parchment paper (sometimes I use an offset spatula to make sure I am getting them off just right). Set them aside to cool completely, and match them up into pairs by size.
Take the room temperature butter and place in stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Turn the mixer to low speed until the butter is creamy. Slowly add powdered sugar and continue mixing on low. Once the butter and sugar is fully incorporated, add the butter flavoring, salt, food coloring (if desired), and heavy cream. Turn the mixer to medium high and whip until fluffy. Taste test (duh). Add more butter or salt if you’re feeling crazy.
Using the same mini-trashbag over a plastic tumbler technique– fill a pastry bag with the frosting. Cut off the tip and pipe onto the underside of the macarons, carefully pressing together to make an adorable sandwich.
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