All you need is…..
Love! And so that time rolls around again…the day that people either love or hate. Now come on people, don’t hate love!! To me this time of year is like a mini Christmas–where stores jam the shelves with anything and everything heart shaped or even anything containing a heart can make the cut. Personally, I just like all the red and pink sparkles and glitter and, of course, an excuse to eat more candy. However I do have to say that the gift situation has gotten out of hand. Gentleman: Please take note!! We do not need flowers and heart shaped boxes of chocolate to prove your love to us!!! Diamonds will do just fine : )
Perhaps to further show your love for your honey this year you can make charming heart shaped macarons! They only require 4 ingredients, a few drops of food coloring and the filling of your choice! I have listed a few combinations at the end, but use your imagination and tailor it to your sweetheart’s tastes. Who knows…maybe you will get some diamonds in return. Yes, they are that good.
4 egg whites, room temperature
4 1/2 T sugar
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
2 cups almond flour
Few drops of red or pink food coloring
special equipement: Pastry bag with round tip (#806 works well or any will do depending on what size you make)
Silpats (or parchment paper)
Sift together the almond flour and 10x sugar in a medium sized bowl (bowl should be big enough to fold the meringue into as well). Set aside.
Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites, using medium high speed, until foamy and opaque. Start to slowly add the sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time and blending well after each addition. Once a soft meringue is formed, add the drop or two of food color (if red is used, use very sparing as it doesn’t take much to turn the meringue pink). Whip until the egg whites are thick and leave stiff peaks when the whisk is raised from the bowl.
***Do not whip until dry and chalky–the whites will be stiff but still be “foldable” or “flexible”, meaning that they can be folded into something and do not break apart when a spatula is draw through them.***
Fold about 1/2 (or slightly more) into the dry ingredients. At this point you can fold pretty aggressively. The point is to blend in the whites to make a smooth paste. No lumps should be visible when you are finished here.
Gently fold in the remaining whites. You can be delicate now. The final batter should be free of streaks of egg white, yet still slightly thick–about the consistency of thick pancake batter or thin oatmeal (but smooth). Try not to mix too much since the more you mix, the runnier the batter gets which is not good!
Load the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a round tip.
Line 2-3 half sheets with silpats (or if using parchment, use a dab of the batter to hold down the sheet in all 4 corners). Pipe out heart shapes by making 2 strokes–each one squeeze more at the beginning and pull diagonal to a thin end point. The batter should slowly slag to fill out the heart shape. Repeat until all the batter is used.
Let the sheets sit until the tops are dry to the touch. This usually take about 30-45 minutes, depending on the humidity in your room. It is important to let the macarons dry–if the tops are still tacky then they may crack in the oven. Once the tops are dry, start to preheat your oven to 325F (still oven) or 300F (convection). If using parchment paper, you may want to double the pan if you can when baking to avoid excess heat to the bottom of the macarons. Silpats, I have found, work fine on their own. If you dont have endless pans to double up, you can bake them one sheet at a time, turning them often. Bake for about 8 minutes (again, depending on the size of macaron and your oven, this may need to be adjusted up or down). The macarons should puff slightly, have an attractive “foot” and should be dry to the touch. You do not want them to brown or they will be crunchy–and we dont want that. Ideally they should be crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.
Remove from oven and, if using parchment, put a couple teaspoons of water (don’t drown them!!!) BETWEEN the paper and the sheet pan. This will create some steam to help you remove them. If you have used too much water, try to remove the paper from the sheet pan to cool so they are not sitting in water. Use caution when doing this as STEAM BURNS HURT. Trust me, I know. Allow the macarons to cool. Match similar sized tops and bottoms and fill with desired filling. Sandwich together. Package up nice for your sweetheart. Get ready for that tennis bracelet…..
Some filling suggestions!
Cream cheese frosting with strawberry or other fruit jam (think strawberry cheesecake!!)
Mousse (probably want to eat that day as it may get soggy after a day)
Your honey’s favorite flavors : )
Tips from A Cook
Be sure to be gentle on the second addition of whites to the batter. If you overmix, you cannot fix it
Be sure the macarons are dry to the touch before they go in the oven. They will squish if you press hard–but just be sure they have a skin that will not stick to your finger when lightly touched.
Macarons can be filled one day ahead. Store in refrigerator well wrapped, allow to come to room temperature to serve.