Saturday, February 4, 2012
Do you still celebrate Valentine’s Day? I hope you do because I have a special treat for you this year. These Strawberry Sweetheart Macarons filled with Dark Chocolate Ganache will definitely put a smile on your face, and your Valentine’s.
My hubby and I still celebrate Valentine’s Day. But instead of having to fight with the crowds with restaurant reservations, troubles with the L.A.’s traffics and look for a babysitter, we both enjoy celebrating right at home (yeah, that’s a sign of getting OLD! hahahaha….). Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy having a date night with my hubby every once in a while on special occasions, but just not on Valentine’s day when almost everyone is dining out!
The day when I made these Strawberry Macarons, my Baby Girl was so excited and kept requesting to have more of these “heart shaped cookies”, which is how she referred to them. When my Son got home from school, he did the same. After he had a couple, he requested that I pack some up for him so that he can enjoy them at school the next day during snack time! He is so spoiled! (At least, I bet that’s what the teacher would think when she sees these Macarons in a 4 year old’s lunch bag! hahaha…) I put aside a few Macarons for my hubby’s cousin, who is visiting from Hong Kong; I packed two Macarons for my boy’s lunch bag. And don’t know how it happened, the whole batch was gone the very next day! There were 30+ macarons in a batch! Oh well, I guess I’ll have to make another batch to enjoy on Valentine’s Day then.
If you don’t feel comfortable in making your own Macarons, please refer to this post here with Tips on How to Make Perfect French Macarons. Before I made my very first batch, I was very nervous and waited for a looong time before I got the courage to try my hands on them. After a few trials, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks (as shared in the “How-To” post) and I’m more comfortable with them now. I hope you’ll give them a try because they are so worth it.
I've tasted quite a few Macarons from different places, mostly priced from $1.75 to $2.00 each. Some tasted great, while some were not up to par. For example, I've tried a Lychee Macaron that tasted more like a bar of soap! Yike! I would bet that there wasn't any real Lychee in that thing at all! The “issue” was the use of artificial flavoring. If you use quality ingredients and real fruit, you can really taste the difference. I’m okay with using artificial flavoring. But only for minor enhancements, and not as the primary source of flavor. Since Macarons don’t like moisture, it’s much better to use freeze dried fruits in the batter for the Macarons shells. With the broad availability on freeze dried fruit, making fruity Macaron shells with real fruit is a breeze. My local Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Target all carry the freeze dried fruits. Otherwise, you can always get them online here these days.
I simply filled these Strawberry Sweetheart Macarons with some Dark Chocolate Ganache. Simple and elegant. The tartness from the strawberries really balanced well with the sweetness of these cookies (the tartness is something that the artificial flavoring cannot provide). Strawberry and chocolate is such a classic combination, you can’t go wrong with that. I used some Valrhona 70% Dark Chocolate to make the Ganache. It’s rich, smooth and complex. hm….each bite is heavenly!
I want to wish you all a beautiful, romantic and sweet Valentine’s Day! So, what are your plans on Valentine’s day? I would love to hear from you.
Strawberry Sweetheart Macarons with Dark Chocolate Ganache
Makes: 30 to 35 filled macarons
For the macaron shells:
90 grams egg whites (about 3) preferably aged 3-5 days in the fridge
pinch of kosher salt
30 grams granulated sugar
185 grams powdered sugar
110 grams almonds
10 grams freeze dried strawberries
A pinch of powdered red food coloring (optional)
Prepare the macarons:
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and salt on high, gradually add the sugar until stiff peak forms. Place the almonds, powdered sugar, strawberries and food coloring (if using) in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add them to the meringue.
Fold the mixtures carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. The entire process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate; if the tops flatten on its own, the batter is ready. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple more turns.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip with the batter and pipe batter in heart shapes (1 inch to 1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 280F. Let the macarons sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, depending on their size. Rotate baking pans once half way through baking.
For the Dark Chocolate Ganache:
4 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules
Place chocolate and instant coffee in a heat proofed bowl. In a small sauce pan, heat the heavy cream until simmer. Pour hot cream into the bowl of chocolate mixture and stir until smooth and shinny. Let cool slightly before use.
With a small teaspoon, fill 1 macaron shell with a teaspoon of cooled chocolate ganache and top with another shell. Fill the rest of the macaron shells. Place filled macarons in room temperature until chocolate ganache harden.