Monday, April 2, 2012

California Walnut Meringues with Limoncello Buttercream

Walnuts are one of those amazing foods. We know they're healthy, full of Omega-3 fats, clean-burning vegan protein, stay-full fibre and minerals - a great snack for midafternoon with a piece of fruit (and maybe a small piece of chocolate, I won't tell). But these rich, slightly bitter nuts are also super high in phytonutrients that are in almost no other foods, including anti-inflammatory agents that protect against bone loss and blood vessel damage (amongst other things). Walnuts even have a special form of the all-important vitamin E in them that lowers men's risk of developing heart and blood vessel problems! After all, there's a reason the nuts are heart-shaped.


Sadly (and shockingly, to me at least) only about 6% of adults eat any tree nuts at all. It's a shame, since those who do eat the bounty of the local trees enjoy the benefits of increased fibre, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin E, and can kiss up to 157mg of sodium good bye! Given the general state of the Western world's health (especially blood pressure and diabetes) I think it's time we gave the humble walnut a second chance.

Thankfully, we have more resources (and foodies) than ever that are packed with ideas, tips, recipes and lots of inertia to get us all on the bandwagon. When the Canadian chapter of the California Walnuts Commission approached me with some new recipes perfect for your next Springtime soiree, I jumped at the chance - especially when one of those new recipes was for a foodie favourite: The macaron.

Even if you think you've had macarons before, I'd give this recipe a go - the richer, slightly more "adult" flavour of the walnuts really stands out against the tangy, slightly boozy cream filling. If you wanted to avoid alcohol completely you could certainly use a touch of lemon juice or orange juice for a more "all inclusive" citrus flavour, but for a recipe that made more than enough filling for the 8 sandwiches there's a grand total of two tablespoons. Even if I had used all the filling, you'd get a measly 3/4 of a teaspoon of Limoncello per sandwich! That's a pretty good deal, if I say so myself.

My macarons (which I tinted green and yellow for a more "Springlike" feel) never got the signature "feet" of their fancy French counterparts, but in all honesty it doesn't really matter. I gave some of them to a prospective client of mine who shared them with her household and reported back not that there was a missing "appendage" to the cookies or that they looked imperfect (which, lets face it, they were) but that they adored these "nouveau" sandwich cookies and could she please have the recipe! Well, I'm happy to oblige, and hope that the rest of you find these just as wonderful.

California Walnut Meringues with Limoncello Buttercream
Original recipe is from the Canadian branch of the California Walnuts Commission.
Makes 8 sandwiches with 1/2 tbsp filling each
1.72 oz icing sugar
1 egg white, room temperature
2 tbsp sugar
pinch salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp green colouring (optional)
Filling: 

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tsp lemon extract
zest of 1 lemon
dash yellow colouring (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment (do not grease or use silicone).
  2. Pulse the walnuts with the icing sugar in a food processor until finely ground, then sift. Set aside.
  3. In a very clean bowl with electric beaters, beat the egg white, meringue powder, sugar and salt until stiff peaks form (this should take 8-10 minutes).
  4. Beat in the vanilla and colouring until well blended.
  5. Gently dust the walnut mixture over the beaten mixture and gently fold it in until the meringue is smooth and shiny.
  6. Transfer to a piping bag (or plastic bag with the corner snipped off) and pipe 3/4" rounds on the parchment.
  7. Tap the baking sheet on a counter gently (to release any trapped air bubbles), then set aside for 15 minutes.
  8. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
  9. Bake 10-12 minutes and cool completely on the sheets.
For filling:
  1. Cream together coconut oil, icing sugar, Limoncello, extract, lemon zest and colouring until creamy.
  2. Chill at least 1 hour before filling the macarons with 1/2 tbsp of the mixture.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 163.2
Total Fat: 9.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 8.3 mg
Total Carbs: 17.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.3 g
Protein: 1.2 g