Cashew Cardamom Macarons with Carrot Halwa Filling

Filling adapted from Manjula’s Kitchen
Makes about 25 to 35 macarons

XIAOLU'S NOTES: Please do not try to convert this recipe to volume measurements if you don't have a scale (I use and love this one). This recipe is very sensitive and will not work if the measurements are not exact. Please also note that every oven is different and you'll figure out what works best for yours over time (see this post for great information on ovens and macarons). Since mine has major hot spots, I bake on 2 stacked pans for insulation. If you're uncertain of your ability to pipe uniformly-sized macarons, like me, simply trace 1 1/8-inch circles on your parchment paper, flip the paper over, and pipe on the other side, using the outlines as your guide OR print (choose "fit to page") and slide this template under your parchment as a guide but don't forget to remove before baking! Macarons are best after having been refrigerated for 24 to 48 hours, according to French pastry master, Pierre Herme, "An osmosis takes place between the garnish and the biscuit. When freshly baked this is hard and crisp, but it absorbs some humidity from the filling and its inside becomes more tender while the crust on the surface stays intact" (quote via Not So Humble Pie). So even if you accidentally overbake the shells by a few minutes, maturing the macarons in the fridge for at least 48 hours should undo most of the damage =). See my first macaron post for helpful videos of the whole macaron-making process!

70 g almonds [not roasted or salted]
55 g cashews [not salted]
145 g powdered sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
Pinch of salt
40 g granulated sugar
2 g egg white powder [optional, to stabilize batter in humid weather]
95 to 100 g egg whites [about 3 large egg whites]
1/8 tsp cream of tartar or 1/4 tsp lemon juice [optional, to stabilize meringue]
1 to 1 1/3 cups Carrot Halwa Filling [Recipe below]

Microwave fresh egg whites 10 to 15 seconds in the microwave on medium heat.

Combine the almonds, cashews, powdered sugar, cardamom, and salt in a food processor, and pulse on and off until the nuts are finely ground (about 1 to 2 minutes). Sift the powder to remove any large chunks that remain. Put those chunks back into the food processor and pulse again for another 30 to 60 seconds. Sift again. You will probably have some slightly chunkier almond bits. Hopefully they're no more than a tablespoon or so, in which case you can throw them out.

Weigh out and mix your granulated sugar and egg white powder in a small bowl until uniform; set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium-low speed with cream of tartar until foamy, then turn the speed up to medium to medium-high and gradually add the sugar mixture until you obtain a glossy meringue (it'll look like shaving cream, hold stiff peaks, and stay in place if you turn the bowl upside-down; but don't overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry).

Add all of the nut mixture to the meringue and fold together. Use both a folding motion that scrapes the bottom of the bowl (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a gentle pressing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl. Slow down after all the dry ingredients have been incorporated, and continue folding the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that looks somewhat glossy and flows from the spatula in a thick ribbon. Test the batter by spooning a small amount of the batter up, then dropping it back down on itself. If it melts back into the rest of the batter within 30 seconds, it's ready for piping (this page has a nice photo of this test). If not, fold 2 more strokes and test again.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/3 to 1/2-inch wide plain tip (I like Ateco #804 or 806) with half of the batter. (When your bag is too full, the pressure causes the batter to rush out in a way that’s difficult to control, making for sloppy macarons.) Pipe tiny blobs of batter onto the 4 corners and center of 2 baking sheets, then line baking sheets with parchment paper OR line with silicone mats. Pipe small rounds (slightly larger than 1 inch wide) straight down and about 1 inch apart onto the baking sheets. Pick up each sheet with both hands and slam it firmly straight downward on the counter 2 to 3 times. This will to force out any large air bubbles. Immediately pop any bubbles that rise up but don't break with a toothpick. Do NOT do this once a few minutes have passed because you'll mess up the shell that's forming.

Preheat the oven to 285 to 300 degrees F. Let the macarons sit out for 25 to 90 minutes to harden their shells a bit 
(to prevent tops from cracking during baking). Test if they're ready by touching the top and side of one shell lightly. It should feel dry and not stick to your finger at all. Bake one pan at a time for 15 to 22 minutes, depending on the size of the macarons. Let cool completely before trying to move the shells.

Once cool, flip the shells over. If you have trouble removing them from parchment paper, pour a couple of drops of water under the paper while the sheet is still a bit warm, and the macarons will lift up more easily due to the moisture. Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy.

Fill the shells (spooning or piping) with 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons buttercream and top with a similarly-sized top shell. For the best flavor and texture, store in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours before eating (see notes above for detailed explanation) but they are best if eaten within 6 days. Bring to room temperature before eating.

Carrot Halwa Buttercream
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp sugar
1/16 tsp ground cardamom

1/3 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

Melt the butter in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the shredded carrots and stir-fry for about 5 minutes. Carrots should be tender and slightly darker in color. Add the milk and cook until the milk dries, stirring occasionally.

Next add the sugar, and cardamom powder; stirfry for another 3 minutes until the halwa starts to leave the side of frying pan. Let cool then mash with a potato masher.

Combine the sugar and egg whites in the clean stand mixer bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water making sure the bottom does not actually touch the water. Whisk constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved and the top becomes foamy.

Remove the bowl to your stand mixer, add a pinch of salt, and beat on high speed with the whisk attachment for at least 3 minutes, until the mixture holds glossy, marshmallow-esque peaks and the bowl is completely cool (very important - the frosting's consistency will be off otherwise).

With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition (about 10 seconds between each). Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, at least 3 minutes. (You'll hear a distinct slapping sound and visibly see the buttercream go from soupy to a cohesive, pipeable consistency.)

Reduce speed to low and slowly add the cooled carrot halwa. Mix until evenly incorporated.