Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Pink Vanilla Macarons With Kiwi Buttercream Filling

When several friends and family members suggested that I experiment making colorful Macarons for this blog, I confused their suggestion with Macaroons, the heavy coconut cookies that I ate at Passover this year.  How silly of me.  Now, that I have just started making French Macarons (almond meringue cookies), I am amazed at how they can be made in nearly every color and flavor imaginable.  I plan on making batches and batches of Macarons, but today, I would like to introduce my readers to the Macaron, and how I made my very first (of many) batch of Macarons.  I am so excited to have entered the world of Macaron making.  Other than cupcakes, Macarons are probably considered the cutest little pastries in the world of baking.  They are sweet, crispy almond flavored cookies in a variety of colors with a domelike shape and a distinctive foot.  Two Macaron cookies form an almond meringue pastry with a buttercream, ganache, lemon curd or other colorful filling in the middle.

My introduction to the art of Macaron making involved carefully following the book I Love Macarons by Hisako Ogita.  Another great resource on Macaron making, as I get more advanced in my experiments, is the blog Not So Humble Pie.  Without further ado, here is how I made my first batch of pretty pink macarons with fresh kiwi buttercream:

Pink Vanilla Macarons (derived from I Love Macaroons book recipes)
85 grams ground almonds (use Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour)
150 grams confectioners sugar / powdered sugar
3 large egg whites (at room temperature)
65 grams (5 T) granulated sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1 drop gel pink food coloring

Sasha's Kiwi Buttercream Filling
1/2 stick of butter
2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 egg
3 kiwi
1/2 package of cream cheese
1 drop gel green food coloring

You will notice that all the measurements above are in grams.  Macaron making is very precise business and you need to invest in a digital kitchen scale to make sure you get your measurements precisely.  Don't blame me for this one, if you don't, you are likely to wind up with a mixture that is a little off and a sticky mess (just like I did the first time I tried to make Macarons).

Here are the steps I followed:

1. Cover a paper with parchment paper and use an icing tip bottom end to trace 1 inch papers on the parchment paper, spacing them an inch or two apart.

2.  Measure the almond meal and the confectioner's sugar with the digital scale and blend in a food processor.

3.  Beat the egg whites (I used a stand mixer, not a hand mixer, but you could use either) until foamy and continue beating at high speed while gradually adding the granulated sugar.  Keep beating at high speed until you have a meringue.  Add the vanilla to the meringue and stir lightly.  Add a drop of gel based food coloring (I used pink).  Keep beating until you have a glossy meringue that is stiff and firm in texture.  Once you are there, stop beating!

4.  Mix in the almond flour/sugar mixture to the meringue with a spatula.

5.  The next step is called "Macaronage" and is very important to getting the Macarons to have the right texture.  In other words, don't skip this step!   To perform this step, spread the Macaron mixture along the sides of the bowl, turning it on its sides, by scooping the batter from the bottom.  Then scoop it back into the center of the bowl.  Repeat this Macaronage step 15 to 20 times, and don't be tempted to cut this step short.  This is required to properly mix the flour and the meringue to get the proper glossy texture to the Macarons.

6.  The next step is called "Macaronner" and requires dripping the batter with your spatula until it drips slowly when scooped out.

7.  Next, use a 0.4 inch pastry tip and pastry bag to drop the Macaron batter into the circles on the prepared parchment paper sheets.  Another tip from my book was to double stack your baking sheets, which helps make the heat even when you bake the Macarons.  Make small circles not much bugger than the parchment paper circles since the batter tends to spread out when it is squeezed.  I really wanted to get them even the first time, but it is a bit tricky, and I would be remiss if I didn't thank my husband for helping me out with this step!

8.  Rap the baking sheets firmly against the counter to help the Macarons form a rounded shape.  This will also help the foot form when they are baked.  Allow them to dry for about 15 minutes, while the oven preheats to 375.  This drying time may vary (15 minutes worked for me), but when the batter circles do not stick to your fingers when you touch them, then they are done drying.  However, don't let them dry out too long or the Macarons won't be able to form a foot. If you don't dry them, they will crack during baking.

9.  Bake 15 to 18 minutes until slightly crispy and a cracked foot forms.  Rotate the trays halfway through to make sure they all bake evenly.  Allow to cool and then remove carefully from the parchment paper.

10.  Beat the filling in the mixer until it has the consistency of cupcake icing.  I flavored this one with Kiwi.  I plan to do some further experimentation with different consistencies (and flavors) of buttercreams but this one was pretty and tasty for a first try.  The buttercreams in the book are a bit of a  different in consistency from mine (which looked and tasted great, too) and I may try some of those in future Macaron experiments.

Next up in Macaroon Making from me over the next few weeks: 1) Raspberry Macarons with chocolate ganache filling; 2) Matcha green tea Macarons with mango buttercream and 3) Key Lime Macarons with Key Lime Curd.  I can't wait to make more Macarons, I'm almost giddy about it.  I love making them for much the same reason I love making cupcakes - because they are little and cute, colorful and fun!

Macarons on FoodistaMacarons



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