Thursday, February 14, 2013

Heart-Shaped Macarons


Happy Valentine's Day, dear readers! I hope your day is filled with lots of love, laughter and sweets. :) This year, I decided to make some heart-shaped macarons for my special O. I've never made a non-round macaron before and frankly, meringues in general always get me nervous; but after a couple of tries, I think I finally *got* it and I'm quite happy with the result!

I know macaron-making can be a scary-seeming task, but it is the quintessential "practice makes perfect" exercise. I mean let's be honest, I still have a long way to go before mine are "perfect," but I kind of love the mismatched shapes and wonkiness - true love, right there. ;)

One note: there's so much talk about precision and measuring out individual ingredients by weight when it comes to macaron (and baking in general), but my experience yielded satisfying results, so I'll just stick to what worked for me - for now!

Have a go and enjoy admiring your handiwork when they're finally done! xoxo

Heart-Shaped Macarons
Standard macaron recipe very loosely adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup almond flour
2 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar (optional, I didn't use it)
1/4 cup superfine sugar (I used regular sugar)
2-3 drops of red food coloring for this shade of pink - I think going darker would be gorgeous, too!

Sift confectioners' sugar and almond flour 2 times.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, if using, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add (superfine) sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Add food coloring, if using, and gently stir in with spatula until color is fully blended. Sift flour mixture over whites in 3-4 batches, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip, and pipe heart shapes 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour until a "skin" forms and they're no longer tacky to the touch (could take less or more time, depending on the humidity). Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes (mine took closer to 15! You'll know they're ready when they come off the parchment easily and without any resistance). After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 300 degrees.

Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. (If macarons stick, spray water underneath parchment on hot sheet. The steam will help release macarons.)

Sandwich 2 same-size macarons with 1 teaspoon filling (see below). Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months.

Cream Cheese Buttercream Filling
4 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
5 - 7 ounces confectioners' sugar, to your taste
Few drops of lemon juice, optional (I'm a freak and love to put lemon in my cream cheese frosting!)

Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add confectioner's sugar and mix until incorporated. Add lemon juice, if using, and taste. Pipe into a small pastry bag or quart-sized Ziploc with about 1/4" of the corner snipped off.

I used a liquid food coloring this time, but gel and powder also work

Use a bench scraper to help push the meringue down your pastry bag

Forming a 'skin': these stragglers made it onto the second baking sheet - I loved their wide shape best!

I see feet!

Ready to accept filling

Happy Valentine's Day! Share the love!

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