Who’s your Valentine?

What’s your favorite part when making macarons? Mine is playing with color. Sometimes you end up very satisfied and other times the color doesn’t quite come out the way you intended. The good news is they still taste amazing. For Valentine’s Day I wanted to do something in pastel colors. I ended up using 3 colors to color my batter and then laid the colors alongside each other on a big piece of plastic wrap and rolled it into a log and dropped it into my piping bag. Before I started piping; I squeezed the bag in a few different spots to mix the colors just a wee bit. As you pipe, the colors blend a little and you end up getting a few different extra colors. In my experience, I’ve found that it does not pay to color more than 3 colors as the color will tend to get too muddy looking, but rather if you squeeze your bag a little it in a few different sections the colors will mix more subtle while still maintaining your original colors as well. Hope that makes sense!

Valentine Macarons: with Raspberry Champagne Buttercream

Macaron Shells (yield: ~ 27 paired macarons) depending on how large your pipe

140 g. Almond Flour

124 g. Confectioners Sugar

108 g. Egg whites

110 g. Granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. Cream of tartar

  1. In a food processor place the almond flour and confectioners sugar and run for 30 seconds. Repeat 2 more times. Preheat the oven to 300° F convection, 325° F or your preferred temperature. More about that later. Prepare two baking sheets with Silpat mats or parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer place the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar and whisk by hand to combine. Place over a bain marie and stir gently for about 5 minutes until the mixture reaches about 130 F or when you touch the mixture with your index and thumb fingers you don’t feel any sugar crystals. Remove from the heat and place on the stand mixer fitted with the whisk at power level 4 (Kitchen Aide)  and run for a few mins. 
  3. Increase mixer then to power level 6 and run for 3 minutes. Add in any gel color at this point before turning up.
  4. Increase mixer to power level high (10) and run until the meringue is stiff peaks and it has started leaving tracks in the meringue and a good portion has collected inside the whisk like a ball. If the color does not appear to be mixer to your liking at this point I add in any color and mix gently by; being careful not to overmix.
  5. Add one half of almond flour/sugar mix and start folding with a rubber spatula until mixture starts to look cohesive. Add in the remaining half and continue to gently fold, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. After the almond/sugar mixture is all added, I do about 4 reps of where I smash the mixture against the walls of the bowl with either my spatula or bowl scraper, stopping after each time to test the “flow” of the batter.. The batter is perfect when you lift up the spatula and tip the pointed end of the spatula down and ribbons of batter fall smoothly back into the bowl. I like to gauge its ready when I can count 6-7 ribbons falling without breaking and I can “draw” a figure 8 with the batter when lifting the spatula and letting it fall into the bowl. Fill your pastry bag by using a heavy tall cup or mason jar to hold your pastry bag with the top folded over the glass. When preparing your bag after you drop in your round tip (I use Ateco 804), twist the bag right above the larger end of the tip and push it down into tip. Fold the top 4 inches of the bag over the jar or glass.
  6. Let the batter fall right into the bottom of the bag and continue filling to ensure you don’t get air bubbles.
  7. Pipe the batter onto prepared baking sheet with 30 macarons per sheet. Six across the long side, and five rows perpendicular. Take the sheet pan and let it drop onto the counter about 5-7 times, then look for any visible air bubbles and pop with a toothpick or bamboo skewer.
  8. I bake the macarons one tray at a time in a preheated (convection oven ) for NON convection oven* you’ll want to play around and determine what the perfect temp for you is; generally it would be 20 degrees hotter than convection) for about 15 minutes or until the cookie does not wiggle when attempting to check by carefully grabbing both sides of a cookie and gently testing. Let the tray rest on a wire rack and then bake the second tray. Cool the cookies completely and pipe the buttercream between two cookies and sandwich together.
  9. Normally I dry my macs in a unconventional way; using the technique known by “Sugarbean” on Youtube. She has a technique whereby she dries her macs in lower degree oven for 2-3 minutes with the door ajar and then she increases the temp and bakes at the higher temperature. After a few thousand trials #kiddingnotkidding I finally (for me) arrived at the perfect temp for my oven at a convection temp of 248° F for drying and then 293° F. I baked them at 293 degrees F convection oven for about 15 mins., then did the oven “shower” for 2 mins with the oven open and oven off. I only bake one tray at a time.

Drying macs w/ oven method: (known as the Sugar Bean method). She has videos on you tube if you search for her.

I preheat my oven to 248° degrees F before I have piped my macs. I place one tray in the oven and immediately turn off the oven, then open the oven and place something like an oven mitt or something to keep it ajar a couple inches. Then I immediately turn back on the oven at 248° F again, and time for 2-3 minutes. After 3 minutes I close the oven door and turn up the oven to 293° F. Once the oven temp comes up to 293° F, I then start timing my bake time for 15 minutes. After the bake time I open the door and check a macaron; if it’s super wiggly still I bake for another minute. If it barely wiggles or not at all, I turn off the oven and open the oven door ajar and time for another 2-3 minutes; “Sugar bean” calls this the “oven shower”. After the 3 minutes, I remove the tray and then let them cool over a wire rack. Now; since the second tray has already been drying at room temperature; I usually only oven dry for 1.5 minutes and repeat the bake as I did for the first tray.

*A word about oven temperatures: EVERY one’s oven is different and after painstaking doing several batches of macarons I determined that in MY oven 293 F convection setting is best for me. Check your oven temperature against a thermometer placed in the middle of your oven. Some people bake there’s at 285, 290, 310 etc. unfortunately it’s something that you have to play around with and determine what is best for you and your oven. 

Champagne and Raspberry Buttercream

(Makes 2 Cups buttercream )

3 egg whites

3/4 Cup sugar

small pinch of salt

2 sticks (1 Cup) unsalted butter, softened, but still slightly cool to touch

1 tsp. clear vanilla or butter vanilla emulsion

Raspberry seedless jam: I like Smucker’s brand

“Champagne flavoring” ( I use LorannOils Sparkling Wine flavor). (to taste) start with a drop at a time ; I think I ended up using about 6 drops.

Prepare a bain marie and place the sugar, salt, and egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer (I have a Kitchen Aide); so if your bowl doesn’t fit over a saucepan place a metal or glass bowl over your pan that allows it to fit without touching the water in the pot. Place the mixer bowl over the bain marie and heat the mixture until it reaches 160° F. Take off the heat place on the mixer with whisk attachment until you reach a stiff meringue. Add in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated, then mix in the vanilla. Change to a paddle attachment and mix until smooth. If you want to make a rainbow style colored buttercream, divide equal parts into 4 colors in small bowls and add in a few drops of gel food coloring or powdered color to achieve your desired color. I did yellow, pink, turquoise and lavender colors. Place a large sheet of plastic wrap onto the counter and pipe each color side by side along aside each other carefully wrap your color log; so that is is vertical into your piping bag fitted with a small star tip or tip of your choice. Pipe a swirl of circular dam of buttercream leaving an area free in the middle for you to pipe in some raspberry jam. Sandwich the macs together and let them mature in the fridge for 2-3 days for best optimal taste.