Strawberries and Cream French Macarons

There is something about spring that makes me think of strawberries and French macarons.  The delicate kiss of strawberry, the divine lusciousness of the cream, and the delicate crunch of the meringue shell make for a pretty perfect storm.  Did I mention that these little sweeties were pink?  Why is it always more fun to eat things that are pink???  Anyway, these little beauties would be perfect for your next fancy tea party, bridal shower, or Mother’s Day celebration.  Just don’t forget to put a few back for yourself before serving– because I guarantee there won’t be any left. 😉

What are we waiting for?  Let’s do this!

Strawberries and Cream French Macarons

Macaron Ingredients:

100 g. egg whites

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

50 g. white sugar

200 g. powdered sugar

110 g. almond flour

Red food coloring gel, optional

Strawberries and Cream Filling:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup white chocolate chips

1/2 cup freeze dried strawberries, ground finely in a food processor

Red food coloring gel, optional

Directions:

Whip room temperature egg whites, cream of tartar, and white sugar with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer until the whites reach stiff peak stage.  Meanwhile, pulse your almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor until the mixture is well combined.  Sift your almond flour/powdered sugar through a sieve and throw away the pieces that are too large to pass through the sieve.  When the whites have whipped into stiff peaks, fold the almond/sugar mixture into the whites gradually and carefully until they reach proper “macaronage.”  Place 2-3 drops of gel food coloring into the batter and swirl gently with a toothpick to marble before carefully pouring into a piping bag.  Pipe meringue circles onto a silpat, using a template, if desired, and slam the cookie sheets several times on the counter to dislodge air bubbles.  Allow circles to dry for 20 minutes before baking at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, one sheet at a time, in the center of the oven (move oven racks, if necessary).  Do not open the oven until the 20 minutes are up, and use an oven thermometer for best results.  When your macarons are done they should feel “firm on their feet.”  If the macaron shells are soft or crack when gently touched, bake for 2 more minutes and test again until they are firm on their feet.  After baking, remove entire silpat to cooling rack and allow shells to cool, completely, before removing them from the silpat.

To make ganache filling, warm cream over low heat, until it has small bubbles along the sides (but has not boiled).  Stir in white chocolate chips just until melted.  You can also use the microwave, stirring after each 3 second heat.  It should take roughly 1.5 minutes for the chips to be warm enough to melt when stirred. Mix in ground strawberries and red food coloring, if using.  Allow warm ganache to chill in the refrigerator until it reaches the consistency of caramel sauce.  Whip with the whisk attachment of your mixer until the ganache is fluffy and then chill again until it reaches a pipeable consistency.  Fill cooled shells with whipped ganache and chill finished macarons in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight.  Shells are perfect after 24 hours of curing but may be stored several days in the refrigerator or up to a month in the freezer.

Now, in pictures 🙂

 

 

We have kind of been on a theme, here, of French Macarons, lately.  The shells are made the same way every time, and we have covered it in the past few blogs (and frankly I’m getting sick of writing out the same directions every time. haha).  So if you need help with making macaron shells, check out my more detailed tutorial here.  But we have NOT done this filling yet, so let’s take a look at that, step by step.

Ganache is the little black (white?) dress of the dessert world.  It can instantly take your dessert from “ho-hum” to “Boom Chicka Bow Wow!!!”  It can be poured, melted, over a dessert to give it that flawless, mirror-like chocolate finish.  It can be dripped down the side of a cake for the classic “drip cake” look.  It can be whipped and become a flawless frosting (which is what we are going to do today).  It can do it all, run circles around you, and make it look easy without even breathing hard.  Everyone, my friends, should make friends with ganache and know how to make it.

The best part is that making ganache is as easy as it is taste.  To begin with, I put the heavy cream and white chocolate chips in a bowl and warm them in 30 second increments in the microwave.  Stir after each heat– it should take only about a minute or a minute and a half.  You don’t need the ganache to be hot– just warm enough for the chips to melt.  You know those plastic (not metal!) baby spoons you’ve been holding onto?  This is the perfect time to use them, since you can leave the spoon right in the bowl while you microwave and then stir every 30 seconds, without dripping a chocolatey mess all over the kitchen.

Freeze dried strawberries are perfect for this filling because they are lightweight and full of flavor.  They also absorb the liquid that they are placed into, which allows them to absorb the cream flavor and give you STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM FLAVAHHHH BABY!  I used 1/2 cup (before grinding) of these freeze dried strawberries in the recipe, but you can use a little heavier hand on the berries if you want your cream to be more berry flavor and less cream.  To me, 1/2 cup seemed like the perfect balance where I was able to taste all the flavors without one flavor overpowering the others.

Pulse these little sweet strawberries up in a food processor.  This little mini processor is perfect– small enough to keep on the counter without taking up too much valuable countertop real estate, but big enough for a surprising number of kitchen chores.  The strawberries don’t have to be pure dust– a few little pieces are ok.  Your filling will just have some pieces of berry in it, once they re-hydrate, and that is no problem at all.  🙂  I actually kind of liked the berry pieces in my filling, and they made it seem extra fruity and decadent, without bleeding moisture into the ganache as fresh strawberries would do.

After about 3, 30-second “heats” in the microwave, the ganache should be warm enough to melt the chocolate chips.  Again, you don’t want this liquid to be molten hot– just comfortably warm.  Keep stirring and stirring, and soon you will have just a beautiful, white chocolate liquid left.  Stirring is key. You will probably still have white chocolate blobs in there, but stir and stir, and slowly you will see them melt away into thin little lines of melted loveliness.  Don’t overheat– it seriously takes only about 1.5 minutes to get these babies melted.

Stir in your pureed strawberries.  You’ll be amazed what happens to them when they sit in the liquid for a while.  Their dusty days are over! 🙂

A few drops of red food coloring gel just makes the mixture pretty and strawberry colored, rather than white with chunks of red berries.  But you’re the boss here, so go your own way on that one.  Far be it from me to tell the Queen how her tarts should be made.  I preferred my filling to be pink.  Because, as we already made clear, pink food is very fun to eat.  I don’t know why.  (Why am I hearing the Pink Panther theme song in my head?  Hmmmm . . .)

Now lookkeeeee there.  Isn’t that gorgeous?  I let the white chocolate ganache sit comfortably in the fridge until it is about the consistency of caramel sauce (not solid– cool enough to kind of slowly ooze).  At that point whip it for a minute or so with the whisk attachment on your stand mixer, and a beautiful thing happens.  The ganache changes from a red, oozing liquid, to this glorious, pink cloud of fluffy loveliness.  Sigh.  Gorgeous isn’t it?

I personally leave the pink fluffy stuff in the fridge for another 15 minutes or so, just because it makes everything slightly firmer and easier to pipe. But be careful– if you let it in the fridge too long (ahem . . . not like I know this from personal experience *looks at the floor, embarrassed*) it will get too stiff to pipe.  So keep an eye on the pink and keep stirring it, and when the whipped ganache is about the consistency of soft serve, it’s ready.  And see how pretty that pink filling looks between the strawberry colored shells?  Beeeyoooootiful!  In fact, it might not be a bad idea next time to try one pink shell and one green shell.  How cute would that be?  Maybe I could even put some black sesame seeds on top for the “strawberry seeds.”  Um, adorable.

Strawberries and Cream French Macarons

Macarons are at the perfect “ripeness” after 24 hours in the fridge, in an airtight container.  This aging process is integral to perfect macarons, because during that time the meringue loses some of its brittleness and absorbs the flavors of the filling.  Shells actually get almost all of their flavor from the filling, so you can see why they need time to “meet and greet.”  The filling also hardens, slightly, in the fridge, and you get this delicious, perfect bite that is wafer-thin and crunchy on the outside and delightfully chewy (kind of the consistency of nougat) on the inside.

Strawberries and Cream French Macarons

I personally like to freeze a few of these beauties in an airtight container in the freezer, also, for later.  They don’t keep terribly long in the freezer (I don’t do it for more than a few weeks) and have to be thawed at room temperature with the lid off so the condensation doesn’t destroy them.

Strawberries and Cream French Macarons

They are finicky little things, but once you taste that first, delicious strawberry bite, mingled with the cream and white chocolate notes, you’ll understand what everyone who has ever put forth the nonsense to make perfect French Macarons knows . . .

Strawberries and Cream French Macarons

They are OHHHHH so worth it 😉

Strawberries and Cream French Macarons

You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.

 

 


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