Saturday, March 30, 2013

Strawberry Macarons

My friend's daughter had a wedding reception and they were wanting the food to be part of a French market. I offered to make some macarons and wanted to try a few new flavors. I created a strawberry one, using the same method I used for my blackberry ones. I also created a passionfruit macaron (see previous recipe) and added my all-time favorite, a plain almond macaron (use the original recipe with almond extract instead of vanilla and almond extract in the buttercream). I made two batches of almond and strawberry and ran out of time, so I only made one batch of the passionfruit. Because a few were either ugly, or stuck to the silpat (I've realized they aren't cooked enough when they stick, or need to cool.), I ended up making about 160 in all. It made for a fun Saturday, but my kitchen is now a wreck!

Strawberry Macarons

1 c. freeze dried strawberries

2/3 c. almond flour (minus 2 T.)

1 1/2 c. powdered sugar

3 egg whites (room temperature)

5 T. granulated sugar

1 t. vanilla extract

gel food coloring

Heat oven to 280 degrees and place the racks on the two lowest positions. Cut pieces of parchment paper to fit two cookie sheets perfectly and then make 1-inch circles all over the papers, leaving at least 1/2-inch of space in between circles. With practice, you will be able to skip this step and pipe your macarons without the circles, while maintaining a fairly consistent size of circles. Also, silpat baking sheets are so much easier than parchment, if you want to make the investment.

Using a blender or food processor, blend the freeze dried strawberries until they are a fine powder. Sift the powder, or strain, to remove the large chunks and seeds. Whisk 2 T. of strained powder into the almond flower and powdered sugar. (If you'd like to use the dried strawberry buttercream, reserve the chunky pieces, the seeds, and any extra powder.

Place egg whites in the bowl of a mixer and start to mix on med-high. When they start to get frothy, add sugar, 1 T. at a time. Continue to beat until glossy, stiff peaks appear. To test it, pick up the whisk and if the egg whites peak and the top doesn't fall, they are ready. If it falls down, keep mixing. Make sure you don't over mix (it will become clumpy). Add vanilla and pink gel coloring (small amount to make pink).

Transfer egg whites to a large bowl. Add half of the dry mixture and fold it about a dozen times until just mixed. Fold with a spatula, going up the sides, pushing down the center. Finish mixing the rest of the dry ingredients, being careful to fold and not stir. When you lift your spatula, the mixture should pour off like thick molten lava. If it's not flowing when you lift the spatula, it is too thick and needs more mixing.

Use a piping bag with a large round tip. Place it in a large cup and fold over the sides. Pour in half of the mixture and twist the top. Start piping the batter into the circles. The best way to do it is hold just over the pan (not touching) and let the batter come out until the circle is perfectly filled. Then quickly turn your wrist as you lift the tip to try and not leave a tail. Once the first pan is filled, hold the pan with both hands and tap hard on the counter 3 times. Turn the pan so your hands are on the opposite ends and tap again 3 times (helps get any air pockets out and flattens the cookies). Continue until both pans are filled and the rest of the batter is used up. Let them sit on the counter for at least 15 minutes, or until the tops are no longer wet when you touch them.

Place the cookie sheets on the two bottom oven racks. You will have to experiment with the cooking times, but this is what worked for me. Set the timer for 2 minutes and when it rings, open the door to let any humidity escape. Then set the timer for 7 minutes. Once the time is up, change the pans so that the top one is now on the bottom, as well as turn around so the back of the pan is now in the front. Bake for 7 more minutes. To test the doneness, carefully lift the cookie off the sheet. If it comes off the parchment easily, they are done. If the cookie separates in half, bake one more minute, and so on. Cool the macaroons completely before filling.
Fill with strawberry buttercream (below). Try to match up sizes and shapes (easier when your cookies are all symmetrical) as you go. Once they are filled, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days and freeze for up to a month. They are best after aging in the fridge for at least a couple of hours so the filling chills and they meld together a bit. Let them come back to room temperature before serving. If they are frozen, let them thaw completely in their original covered containers to avoid condensation from forming.

Fresh Strawberry Buttercream Filling
1 egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 c. salted butter, at room temperature, cut in to pieces
1/4 t. vanilla extract 
1/4 c. seedless strawberry puree (I just blended fresh strawberries and strained out the seeds)
pink gel coloring

Add the egg, sugar and salt to the metal bowl of a standing mixer and whisk constantly over a pan of simmering water.  When the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot to the touch remove from the heat, about 3-4 minutes. 

Beat mixture in the stand mixer using the wire whisk attachment until it's a meringue.  It should look like marshmallow fluff and the bottom of the bowl should be cool.  

With the mixer still running add the butter, one piece at a time.  Once all the butter has been added continue beating until the buttercream is light and fluffy.  If at any time the buttercream looks curdled continue beating and it will come together.  Add the strawberry puree and mix until blended. Add red food coloring, to reach the same shade of pink as the cookies.

Freeze-Dried Strawberry Buttercream Filling

6 T. salted butter
2 T. whipping cream
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. freeze dried strawberries, blended to a powder
1 t. vanilla
milk to thin

Whip butter, then add cream and whip until blended. Add powdered sugar and strawberries and whip. Thin with vanilla and milk until the perfect consistency. 

This recipe is inspired by Cami Goold, a 15 year old young woman that I teach in church. She has a great cupcake blog and sells cupcakes to make money during the summer and holidays. She uses dried strawberries in her buttercream frosting so that it doesn't curdle, which sometimes happens with the fresh strawberries. Check out her blog here.

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