Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Valentine's Day Macarons with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I really wanted to go big for my Valentine's Day post so, here they are. French macarons! On a stick! With a bow! Colored pink and luster dusted! Does it get more disgustingly Valentinesy than that? I think probably not. 
There is a lot of talk about these little gems being particularly difficult to make, but I have been using a recipe from one of my favorite food bloggers, David Lebovitz, without fail. 
Don't be intimidated. If you have always wanted to make some, do it! I did. 

Macaron Batter:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup almond meal ( I use Bob's Red Mill)
2 large egg whites
5 tbsp granulated sugar
gel or powdered food color

Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
3 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cups( 1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened but still cool
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 to 1/3 cup pureed strawberries

Let's start with the macarons. You will need to make sure your mixer bowl, whisk, and any items that will come in contact with the meringue are squeeky clean. Fat kills meringue! I like to wipe down the bowl and whisk with lemon juice before starting. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Combine the almond meal and powdered sugar in a blender and pulse until it is fine. 

Whip egg whites until they are frothy, and start to hold their shape. Add the granulated sugar 1 tbsp at a time. Add salt, and coloring. Whip on high until stiff and glossy peaks.

Fold in the almond meal and powdered sugar until well incorporated, and no dry streaks appear. You want to deflate the meringue slightly. Look for  a smooth ribbon of batter that falls back into the bowl and disappears into the mix within 10 seconds. Some describe this as lava-like. I have never seen lava up close so, that's not much help for me! 

Fit a pastry bag with a number 12 tip, and fill with the batter. Pipe circles of batter onto the parchment lined baking sheet that are about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Rap the baking sheet on the counter a few times to bring any bubbles to the surface. 

Leave the macs to rest on the counter for 40 minutes, or until the tops are no longer sticky to the touch. This step I have found to be very important. It seems to keep the shells from cracking while baking. 
In the meanwhile, Let's make the filling!

Again, the bowl of your mixer has to be spotlessly cleaned first. 
Add egg whites, and granulated sugar to your mixer bowl. Place over a pot of simmering, not boiling, water. Just about an inch of water is plenty. 

Whisk whites and sugar often to prevent cooking the whites. Bring the mixture to about 140 degrees F.  or until the sugar has dissolved. 

Attach mixer bowl to mixer, and whisk starting slow and increasing to high speed. Whisk until whites are glossy and stiff. Switch to paddle attachment, and mix on low speed while slowly adding pieces of butter. 
Add vanilla and salt, and mix on medium low speed until the buttercream comes together. This can take quite a bit of time. The mixture will break, and look a lot like ricotta cheese! It's okay. Just keep mixing. This process can take 10 minutes or more. Add the pureed strawberries when the buttercream comes together. Mix a bit longer to incorporate strawberries. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. By now, your macs should be ready to go in the oven. 
Bake for 20 to 23 minutes. 
Let macs cool completely before removing from the baking sheet. 
Match like sizes of macaron shells together before filling. Fill your piping bag with the strawberry buttercream, and pipe  a small amount onto one mac shell. Place top on. Macs need to sit overnight in the fridge. This makes them nice and moist on the inside, and crispy on the outside. 
So, it did take some time. But look at how cute these are! People will think you are amazing! 

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