Going out trick-or-treating for Halloween candy was something I looked forward to every year as a kid. I always hoped to get lots of fun size Snickers bars, and always scoffed at the ever-present rolls of Smarties candies that would accumulate in my pumpkin shaped pail. Come on, those things were barely even candy!
These days, living the life of a gal who’s pushing 31, my trick-or-treating days are long behind me. That doesn’t stop me from still carving jack-o-lanterns to set out in my front yard, watching John Carpenter’s Halloween every year (and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown — it’s a classic!), and occasionally buying a mixed bag of Halloween candy to
snack on hand out to potential trick-or-treaters.
The older I get, the more I embrace those nostalgic Halloween traditions. Living life as an adult, I get the added perk of making my own classier, grown up-friendly Halloween treats, like these adorable pumpkin spiced macarons! Yes, pumpkin spice is everywhere, but I promise you, these actually taste like real pumpkin and spices!
I hadn’t made macarons in a long while, and I figured I was overdue. Their smooth cookie surfaces just lend themselves to fun decorating possibilities, and what’s more appropriate when Halloween is approaching, than cute little jack-o-lantern faces? They’re really simply done with an edible food coloring pen (found at most baking/candy supply stores). Draw on your favorite spooky faces, or let the kids do them! Fill the cookies with a warmly spiced pumpkin ganache and you have a perfectly sophisticated Halloween treat.
pumpkin spiced jack-o-lantern macarons
makes 22 sandwich cookies
(recipe modified from tartelette)
3 egg whites (90 g)
2 Tbs + 1 tsp (30 g) granulated sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1 3/4 c (200 g) powdered sugar
1 c (100 g) almond meal
1 tsp vanilla extract
orange gel food color (I used AmeriColor Gel in Terra Cotta – 20-40 drops, depending on desired shade)
black food color writing pen (such as AmeriColor Gourmet Writer)
pumpkin ganache (modified from Momofuku Milk Bar)
5 1/4 oz (150 g) good quality white chocolate
2 Tbs (25 g) unsalted butter
1 Tbs (18 g) light corn syrup
1/4 c (55 g) cold heavy cream
1/3 c (75 g) canned pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp (2 g) kosher salt
1 1/4 tsp (2 g) cinnamon
drop of orange gel food color, optional
For the macarons: In a medium bowl, place the almond meal. Sift the powdered sugar over the almond meal and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and prepare 2 ungreased sheet pans with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and salt on speed 4 for two minutes. The whites should look foamy like soap suds. Turn the mixer up to speed 6 and gradually add the granulated sugar with the mixer running. After the sugar is added, whip the whites for 3 1/2 minutes. By now, the whites should look bright white and billowy, very stiff, and begin to clump up in the center of the whisk when the mixer is turned off.
Add the vanilla extract and the food color, and mix on speed 6 until the color is combined. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again briefly to make sure the color is not streaky.
Take the mixer bowl from the stand and sprinkle in 1/3rd of the almond meal mixture over the meringue. Fold somewhat vigorously, you want to deflate the meringue and incorporate the almond meal mixture at the same time. Add the next amount of almond meal mixture and fold again to incorporate. Add the final amount of almond meal mixture and fold once again until there are no streaks or pockets of almond meal mixture. The texture of the finished macaron batter should look shiny and somewhat smooth, and when you lift up a spoon full of batter and drizzle it back into the bowl, it should settle slowly on the remaining batter until it almost disappears into the batter. When the bowl is tilted, the batter show flow thickly and not be overly runny.
Scoop the batter into an 18 inch piping bag fitted with a round tip. Carefully squeeze dollops of batter onto the parchment paper-lined sheet pans, leaving a bit of space between each to allow for settling. Pipe in neat rows, being sure not to pipe one dollop too close to another. Once all the batter is piped onto both pans, grab one pan at a time and while holding the sides firmly, smack it down hard on a table top or counter surface from a few inches above. This will pop any remaining air bubbles and allow the cookies to settle and flatten. Let the pans sit for 30 minutes to allow the cookie surface to dry slightly.
For the ganache: In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the white chocolate and butter in short 15 second bursts, stirring in between, until melted and just warm. Stir until smooth.Transfer to a tall container that will easily fit an immersion blender/stick blender.
Heat the corn syrup in a small dish for 15 seconds. Pour into a tall container and stir in the warm corn syrup. Mix the chocolate/corn syrup mixture on high with an immersion blender until the mixture is smooth. Stream in the cold heavy cream slowly, and continue to blend on high speed. The mixture should become smooth and shiny.
Pour the chocolate mixture into a bowl and add the pumpkin puree, salt and cinnamon (and food color, if using). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the ganache chill until set.
To finish the cookies: Once the macarons have rested for 30 minutes, put both pans onto separate shelves in the preheated oven and cook for 9-10 minutes. Swap the pans to their opposite shelf and allow to bake for 9-10 minutes more. The cookies are done when you touch the surface lightly and the cookie doesn’t wobble from side to side. If the cookies are still too soft and wobbly, continue baking for 3-5 minutes more. Allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes, and peel gently from the parchment paper while still slightly warm. Let cool completely before decorating.
Pair up the cookies with ones that are like in size. Put half the cookies flat-side up on a sheet pan, and the other half with their rounded sides up on another sheet pan. Using the black food color pen, draw creepy jack-o-lantern faces on the cookies.
Grab the chilled ganache, microwaving briefly just to make it a slightly less firm texture. Transfer the ganache to a piping bag (or a gallon sized zip top bag with a tiny piece of one bottom corner cut off) and pipe about a 1 teaspoon mound onto the flat-side up cookies. Sandwich them with their like-sized pairs that have been decorated.
Allow the cookies to sit in an airtight container at room temperature for at least 12 hours, to let the cookies properly soften before eating.
I have to say, this was one of the most fun holiday projects I’ve ever made. The little faces are just too cute, and the orange is that perfect Halloween orange.The best part though, is the smooth and rich pumpkin filling. It actually tastes like pumpkin and spice! Stack a few of these in a little cellophane bag, tie the bags with green ribbon and hand them out to all your adult friends. They’ll appreciate the cute Halloween treat — they’re most certainly not the fun size Snickers of your youth!