Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Strawberry macarons with vanilla bean buttercream

My quest for macarons is on full gear now. I don't think I will ever get tired of making nor looking at them. These little circles got me "wrapped" around their little tiny "feet"! 
With the strawberry season at its highest in the summer, I just couldn't resist giving these macs a taste of this juicy summery fruit.

However, I went for a short cut this time by using the freeze-dried strawberries instead of using the fresh strawberries. This does not only spare me the time for drying the fresh strawberries in the oven, but also provides a more satisfactory result for my macs.  I was so grateful when I found this freeze-dried products at the supermarket. I still remember the last time when I tried to make strawberry macs, it took me nearly entire day just to dry up the strawberries. But I now am saved by this freeze-dried fruit products, and to tell you the truth, it works better than the homemade one.

As for the filling, I made the simple, classic vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream to pair with strawberry shells. The subtle flavor of vanilla bean has brought out the strawberry flavor of the shells pleasantly. Partly for the decoration and partly to ensure that the strawberry flavor was not overpowered by the vanilla beans, I dusted the shells with extra finely ground dried strawberry powder. The vanilla bean buttercream filling and the strawberry macarons dance so well together to bring out the best of each others flavor. 

I still stick to the same recipe (French method) that I have been using for all of my macs. It's reliable and more predictable with a higher chance of success. Since these little cookies are very temperamental, I don't dare to deviate from the original recipe. The only difference that I change each time is the flavor that I add in to make the macs unique from each other . For the filling, I also stick to Swiss meringue buttercream and adjust to different flavors each time to match with the flavor of the shells. I have tried chocolate ganache, fruity jams, salted caramel and Nutella fillings before, but in my opinion, Swiss meringue buttercream still stands out as my number one choice. I guess as long as I still have the ability to whip up a decent looking batch of macarons, my quest for macarons just can't be stopped!

(Original recipe adapted from Not so humble pie)
Ingredients: (make about 80 shells or 40 macarons)
110 g almond meal 
200g powdered sugar
100g egg whites (aged for 24hrs on the kitchen counter)
35g vanilla sugar
a small pinch cream of tartar
red food coloring gel (a couple drops)
10g freeze-dried strawberries (finely ground) and extra for decorating the shells.

1. Mix together almond meal, freeze-dried strawberry powder and powdered sugar in a food processor. Pulse until all incorporate well, sift and set aside. Place egg whites and cream of tartar in a clean bow of a stand mixer, start at low speed (number 2) until foamy then gradually add in vanilla sugar and increase speed to medium (number 6). Add in food color and continue to beat the meringue until a stiff peak formed (do not over mix). 
2. Add the nut flour/strawberry powder/sugar mixture into the meringue in three additions and start folding until all incorporated (about 50 strokes). This step (also called macaronage) is very crucial for macarons, make sure you don't over mixed the batter, otherwise it will become too runny, resulting in flat, footless macarons. However, under-mixed batter will yield cracked and also footless macarons. The mixture should flow down like a strand of ribbon (or lava-like consistency) as the spatula lifted from the batter. 
3. Attach the round tip (Ateco #11) to the pastry bag and pipe them onto the prepared baking sheets that lined with silpat or parchment paper . The size of each cookie is about the size of a quarter (1 inch), and make sure to leave enough space between the cookies. Pick up the tray and tap down hard on the counter to bring up the bubbles inside the macarons. Use a toothpick to pop any bubbles that surfaced on the top of the shells. Use a small sieve to sprinkle the dried strawberry powder on top of each shell while it's still wet.
4. Let the macarons rest at room temperature for about 30 to 60 min to dry up the surfaces (it's ready when it doesn't stick to your finger or feel wet when touched)
5. Preheat the oven to 305F, place an aluminum foil sheet on the top rack to prevent the macarons from  browning too quickly (make sure you know your oven, they are not all the same in term of temperatures, and this is the temperature that works for my macarons). Then place the cookie sheet on the 2nd to the bottom rack and bake for about 15min. 
6. Remove from the oven and let they cool down slightly before remove from the silpat or parchment paper. Cool completely on the cookie rack before adding the filling.
7. Assemble the macaron with a small dollop of buttercream filling in the middle of one shell and top with another shell and press down slightly. Refrigerate the macarons in an airtight container for 24-48hrs before devouring them. The macarons will need time to mature and absorb the moisture from the filling, so be patient and trust me it worth the wait ! They can also freeze very well in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream:

50 grams egg whites (about 2 small egg whites)
100 grams sugar
150 grams butter, softened at room temperature (cut into 1 tbsp pieces)
1 whole vanilla bean 

Use a small paring knife to split the vanilla bean on one side (be careful not to cut through both sides of the pod). Scrape off the tiny little vanilla beans inside the pod. Save the pod and add to your sugar jar to make vanilla sugar.

Combine the egg whites with sugar and place them in the double boiler. Whisk them together until all the sugar dissolved and the egg whites start to turn opaque and fluffy. Continue whisking until the egg whites become hot to tough. Transfer the egg whites into a mixer bow and start whipping at high speed until light and fluffy (or until the bow is not hot anymore, it takes about 5 min).
Start adding softened butter, piece by piece, until all incorporated into the meringue. It might look like it is curdling at first, but continue whipping will make it comes together. Finally add the vanilla bean and mix well to combine.
Leftover buttercream can be stored in the freezer for later use.


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  2. Hi! I've not tried making macarons before and I'm so excited to try it and be ready with it for Easter Sunday. I already bought all the ingredients. After reading and re-reading your blog, I'm wondering if it would be possible and how we can make different colors with using just one recipe? Thank you.

    1. Hi Elajr! Sorry for the delayed response. I have been using the same basic recipe for all of my macs. The differences will the color and the flavor that you desire to make. Try to use the flavor in its powder form whenever possible because this type of cookie is very temperamental. Too much liquid added to the batter will change the texture and can cause cracking of the shells (I'm speaking from my own experience). You may need to take out the equal amount of almond mill when you replace it with the flavor powder. You can also add the flavor to the filling. Hope this will help! :)


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