Snickers Chocolate Peanut Caramel Macarons

Adapted from TarteletteDaydreamer Desserts, and Not So Humble Pie (a great macaron troubleshooting post)
Makes about 25 to 35 macarons

Please do not try to convert this recipe to volume measurements if you don't have a scale. 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. 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 =).

65 g almonds [not roasted or salted]
65 g peanuts [not salted]
15 g cocoa powder
160 g powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
55 g granulated sugar
2 g egg white powder [optional, to stabilize batter in humid weather]
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]

Milk Chocolate Ganache (Recipe below)
Marshmallow Peanut "Nougat" (Recipe below)
About 1/3 cup caramel sauce OR dulce de leche (Recipe below)
About 25 to 35 peanut halves

Separate your eggs 2 to 5 days before, and store the whites in a covered container in the fridge. Bring the egg whites to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe. OR just microwave fresh egg whites 10 to 15 seconds in the microwave on medium heat.

Combine the almonds, peanuts, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, 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; don't overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry).

Add all of the nut mixture to the meringue, and fold in. 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 about 25 strokes, and fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. 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 great photos 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 275 to 300 degrees F. Let the macarons sit out for 25 to 60 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 14 to 20 minutes in the middle shelf of your oven, depending on the oven temperature and size of your macarons. Let cool for 15 to 30 minutes 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 with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ganache, then 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of caramel sauce, top with a peanut, a 3/4-inch circle of flattened marshmallow nougat, and 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 5 days. Bring to room temperature before eating.

Milk Chocolate Ganache
3 oz. milk chocolate, roughly chopped
4 Tbsp heavy cream

In a small saucepan over medium high heat, bring the cream to a boil. Remove from heat, drop in the milk chocolate and let stand 5 minutes. Stir the chocolate into the cream until smooth. Set aside until it cools down and thickens a bit (chilling in the fridge or freezer is fine).

Marshmallow Peanut "Nougat"
3/4 cup marshmallows
2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter

In a heavy saucepan over medium low heat, melt marshmallows and peanut butter until smooth. Let cool. Once cooled you will be able to pull the "nougat" and from the saucepan and cut pieces to flatten in the palm of your hands and sandwich within the macarons.

Dulce de Leche
Adapted from Cooking for Engineers
Makes about 1 3/4 cups

14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
Heavy cream, as needed

Pour into large (preferably 2 1/2-qt. capacity) microwave-safe bowl. Heat on medium for 2 minutes. Whisk and repeat until appears curdled (around 7 to 10 minutes total, depending on your microwave oven). To use as a caramel sauce, simply stop heating at this point and stir the dulce de leche until smooth. For a thicker candy-like caramel, continue heating for another 2 minutes or so and stir until smooth again while still hot.

Peel the label off the can of sweetened condensed milk. Put it in a pressure cooker with enough water to come 2/3 up the can. Do NOT open the cans at all. The can won't explode because the pressure cooker equalizes the pressure, but please still proceed with caution and follow the manufacturer's directions for operating the pressure cooker safely! Close the pressure cooker, and bring it up to full pressure. Turn the heat down to maintain the pressure for 20 (lighter) to 30 (darker and thicker) minutes. Turn off the heat and and let the pressure cooker cool slowly. Once the cooker is completely cool, open the lid and remove the can with tongs. Do not open the can while it is still warm. If there’s any pressure left in the can, it could spray and burn you with hot caramel. Wait until the can has completely cooled before opening it.Remove cooled caramel from can. If too thick for your liking, stir in 2 tablespoons of warm heavy cream at a time until desired consistenc