Acorn Macarons with Boozy Buttercream

I'm reposting this honor of the Wild Things foraging recipe challenge.  Our featured ingredient for the month of November is acorn.
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I wanted to get in on some of the acorn action after hearing of people picking buckets of acorns. But oaks don't really grow in my immediate area. There are scrub oaks in the mountains, but those have tiny acorns. I asked all of the old timers, and none of them could point me toward an oak tree.

So what's a girl to do? Well, she's gotta get resourceful. And as is usually the case, I found the answer on my bike. Once I got into oak-searching mode, I started to notice that there were a few puny oaks lining the streets of posh neighborhoods. And sure enough, it seems that even puny oaks can make acorns. I started collecting acorns out of the gutters - literally. I didn't end up with buckets, maybe only a gallon of so, but I certainly collected enough to play with.

After picking the meats out of the shells, I decided to try both hot and cold water leaching. Most acorns are acrid and bitter from tannins, and those tannins need to be removed by soaking and lots of water changes (or just put them into you clean mountain stream, if you have one of those). For the cold water leach, I ground the acorns into a flour, and start them soaking in a large amount of water, changing daily. I'm not sure how long it will take to get the tannins removed from the acorns using this method. After a week, they're still not there.

For the hot water leaching, I broke the acorns up into approximately pea-sized pieces and put them into a pan with a generous amount of water, brought it to a boil, let it simmer for a few minutes, and then dumped out the water, and repeated many many many times, until the bitterness was gone (this is determined by taste testing). This process turned the acorns a deep chocolate brown.

To dry the acorns after boiling out the tannins, I stuck them in the oven (after it was turned off) while is was cooling after dinner, and let them sit there for a few days until they were completely dry. After that, they were ready be made into all sorts of fun recipes.

I'm not a sweets lover; I'm the type of person who makes meatloaf for breakfast because muffins would gag me. I bake maybe four times a year, and at least three of those occasions are birthday cakes. So I guess it's a little odd that my brain wanted to make macarons from my acorns. But I don't argue with the direction my mind takes me with recipes, I just follow, happily.

The description of how I made macarons which follows will probably frustrate people who enjoy recipes with exact measurements. To those people, I apologize, and encourage you to google a nice macaron recipe, and then substitute acron meal for almond meal. It wasn't until after I made these cookies that I looked up recipes for macarons and buttercream frosting, and was truly amazed (horrified?) by how much sugar these recipes include. Traditional macaron recipes use equal amounts of sugar and nut meal, sometimes more. And for traditional buttercream frosting, cups and cups of sugar for just a little butter.

My acorn macarons were only mildly sweet, but that's how I like it, and I feel like it let the flavor of the acorns shine.

Traditional macarons are like a meringues which have been beefed up with almond meal, and they're turned into adorable little sandwich cookies. So you can see that substituting acorn meal is a worthy experiment.

Acorn Macarons

Start by adding a pinch of salt to approximately 1/3 c. of egg whites (I used some which I'd previously frozen), and whip until foamy. Slowly added 2 Tbsp. of granulated sugar, and continued to whip to glossy stiff peaks.

Fold in about a cup of acorn meal (which was all I had), and continue to carefully stir the mixture until any peaks collapse back into the batter.

Fill a big plastic bag with the acorn macaron batter and snip off a corner (or use a piping bag if you've got one, fancy pants). Squeeze 1" diameter cookies onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Then let them sit on the counter for 30 minutes to form a crust.

Bake the acorn macarons in a 300 degree (F) oven until cooked through but not browned, approximately 10 minutes, and let them cool thoroughly on a wire rack.

My friend Fairybekk is a great baker, so I asked her for a buttercream recipe. She told me that she had tried several recipes, but didn't like them, and got better results by just adding powdered sugar and a flavoring to butter until she liked the way it tasted. Fantastic, I love the way she cooks!

Then, just before I attempted to make my cookies, I stumbled upon Kiva Rose's recipe for acorn-infused butter. It seemed like divine intervention. So, using my coffee mug warmer, I infused a few tablespoons of butter with leached acorns for a few hours, strained out the acorns, and let the acorn-infused butter cool back to room temperature.

To make the frosting, I added a few spoonfuls of powdered sugar to my acorn-infused butter (not much more sugar than butter, by volume), and started whipping. Then I added a good hit of brandy, and continued to whip until the mixture was quite light and fluffy. Ta-da! Brandied acorn-infused buttercream. It tastes kind of butterscotchy, which is a great match for the chestnut-meets-pecan flavor of the acorn macarons.

The final step is to put a spoonful of frosting onto a cookie and smash another on top of it to make a sandwich. This recipe for acorn macarons was a lot of work, but they were fun to eat and tasted great.

Are you in the mood to try some more acorn recipes? Do you find the words acorn gnocchi to be irrestistible (I do! I do!)? Then please head on over to Fairybekk's blog Cauldrons and Crockpots and try her recipe. She's also got a lot of great acorn info on her page.

This recipe is my entry into this week's Hearth and Soul hop.

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So, wanna play along?  Whip up something fab using acorns, then send the link to wildthings.roundup@gmail.com by the end of November.  I can't wait to see what you come up with.

Comments

  1. these sound fantastic. but we have loads and loads of acorns in our yard...gorgeous huge ones...and i collected a bucket full myself...but the strangest thing...i let them sit for a day or two and then noticed maggots crawling on and about them. they were infested...and the acorns had pin size holes in them. i was very disappointed...i had such big plans for them. i have yet to do the research on what went wrong.

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  2. Ok Butter, I think you've upped the ante here...
    YOU MADE UP A MACARON RECIPE?

    I, miss daring baker, have not yet attempted them after reading about how bloody difficult they are. And you made it up. Just like that.
    Oh boy.

    Looks amazing. I'm totally loving the acorn flour right now too.

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  3. Christy - I hate it when that kind of thing happens. I had a big oyster mushroom go maggot-y on my counter over the summer. Yuk.

    Rebecca - I know I saw a tv show featuring macarons over the summer, and filed the knowledge as a good way to use up frozen eggwhites. So, I had a general idea what was going on, although I veered off course a bit by omitting the sugar. I've never had macarons before, but I think they came out fine - crunchy on the outside, and ever so slightly chewy on the inside.

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  4. hello Butter, another super post about super foods. And I thought I was getting all learned up because I know that laying hens need the extra food value from acorns in the winter.

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  5. You, my friend are amazing - if you are only going to bake 3 or 4 things a year -you choose wisely!! I just can't imagine "winging" macarons and yet you did! I make my buttercream frosting like you did except for that out of this world addition of acorn infused butter and brandy. Ok, so all I do the same is start with the butter (lots) and slowly add sugar until I am happy. Awesome hearth and soul hop post!!!

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  6. Hey Butter! Very cool indeed! Let me ask you, did you collect brown acorns or the green ones? or did you just pick them all up? I have no idea when they are ripe--are they ripe when they fall off the trees? We have atleast 13 different kinds of oaks in our area. I had heard the white oaks have the sweetest flavor. Will definitely be collecting and trying some stuff out! thanks as always for hosting and posting on the hearth and soul hop! :) Alex!

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  7. Wow, these sound amazing! I love baking with nutmeals, but have never tried acorn meal before. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for oak trees!

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  8. Again, I'm flabbergasted. Your macarons sound fantastic! I've never even attempted a "traditional" macaron, but when I do, I'm gonna follow your lead...I like the thought of a less-sweet version. And I totally want to try acorn/acorn flour now. I used to live around a ton of oaks, but haven't in about 10 years...none in the vicinity, actually! I'm going to have to go up to my grandma's house and hunt some down, I know there's more in her area. Gorgeous hearth and soul hop post, Butter :)

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  9. I really enjoyed your post. I have a yard full of acorn's that I am going to gather today. My only competition will be the squirrels who are busy gathering the same thing, I guess they know something after all...thank you so much for sharing this with me.

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  10. What a beautiful photograph, and your recipe sounds delicious! I never thought about using acorns in cooking, what a fantastic idea. Now I just have to find some....

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  11. These sound amazing. A sure way to impress...

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  12. I don't bake very often, either. I think one of the reasons is the need to measure everything and I am glad to see you throw that out the window. I have some egg whites in the fridge that I have to use up so I may have to try these. Thanks.

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  13. Butter, will be sharing this on my thoughts on friday link love at a moderate life this week, along with Bekks acorn recipe so more people can see the great foraged gourmet recipes! Hugs! Alex@amoderatelife

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  14. Cook of the House - Do it! I think that people are just fear-mongering when they insist you have to measure to bake. When I went gf, I ended up experimenting with a lot of baking recipes, and learned to follow my instincts. And most of the time, my baked goods come out just fine.

    Alex - Thanks for the mention. I'm afraid I'm not much help when it comes to knowing what to gather as far as acorns are concerned. They aren't really native to my area, so I just gathered whatever I could get my hands on, a little bit of everything. The only advice I can give is to look at the little spot where the acorn attached to the cap. If it's pale and unblemished, then it's a keeper. If it's dark, it's from last year, if it's cracked or got a dark spot, no good.

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  15. Honestly I had to read this in two sittings to keep from drooling. You're my hero!

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  16. Sounds are great. I read your post and enjoyed. Thanks for sharing this awesome post.

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  17. OkKate- I've got acorn flour for you! Perhaps you could make a bikini ;)

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  18. Hey Butter, your acorn posts are delicious, thanks for the ideas, we made a pumpkin pie using cold leached acorn flour for th' crust, and i think it's th' best pie crust i've ever had- and our gluten-free friends could eat it with us...

    also, we cold leached th' flour by spreading it in a shallow container, about a quarter of an inch thick, and pouring water over it through a spruce branch, like the indians in california do, and th' flour leached in a day...

    thanks again for sharing, rico

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  19. Rico, that's awesome! It usually takes me about a week to get the stinkers cold leached. I've gotta try the spruce branch trick :)

    Would you like to share your pie crust recipe with Wild Things this month?

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  20. yeah, sorry that comment was a little vague, to clarify th' leaching technique, we used a screen with a wooden frame around it, then lined it with two layers of t-shirt cloth, mixed th' flour in a bucket of water then slowly poured it onto the filter/screen, let that leach out a while, then pour th' water over it using th' spruce branch as a water break... i'm sure a watering can would do th' same thing, but i've seen the indians using that spruce branch and i just like that idea so much better... we also used neighborhood foraged acorns, and kept them seperated by types, but so far they've all leached in 10-15 pourings of water. Once you've done a taste test and found them ready, leave them sit about an hour more, then they'll come of th' filter pretty nicely....

    thanks again for th' beautiful posts ~Rico

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