Double Strawberry Macarons … au naturale

Me: Hey, I’ve got these leftover egg whites.  What … ?

My father: Macarons!

I got no further with my question.  I made macarons.  Strictly speaking, these strawberry beauties are the second batch after reaching this “consensus”.  But more on that other batch another time 🙂

I’m still no big fan of eating macarons although I do manage to have one or two from a batch as a taste test.  Mostly, I just make them for my father or give them away as gifts.  Hey, don’t judge me 😛

But they are fun to make, for sure.  So I’m secretly pleased when I get a request to make them at home.

I like to add some flavour to the shells when I can and am known to eschew the easy route of adding food colouring.  Sometimes it’s nice to do things au naturale, so to speak.  Especially when you have such wonderful ingredients on hand like fresh, sweet strawberries.

Oh, let’s not forget some outrageously good chocolate … that’s always on hand 🙂

Ganache made with puréed fresh fruit won’t be as smooth and creamy as ganache made purely with cream, or with fruit preserves, of course.  Sure, it is lovely and creamy before it sets, but it will set more quickly and firmly, once cooled.  All this means is that you work quickly to pipe the ganache.  Once sandwiched and stored, the ganache will be soft and creamy and …. ohhhhhhhhh mamma 🙂

I don’t add butter to this ganache as I want the strawberry flavour to dominate and be really clean and fruity against the chocolate.   You can use whatever chocolate you prefer for the ganache – dark, milk, or white.  We all have our preferences for chocolate strawberry combinations, don’t we?  I personally love dark chocolate but tend to keep it to a milder chocolate around 55% to 67% cacao, in order to not overpower the berry flavour.  I think white chocolate would be amazing too.

Freeze-dried strawberries are used to flavour the shells.  If you cannot find freeze-dried berries, you can leave this step out.  There is plenty of strawberry flavour in the ganache.  But if you can find them, it’s worth it.  You can also add a little pink or red food colouring to the shells if preferred.  I didn’t because I liked the tiny flecks of the pulverised dried berries to show through.

They did not last long.

Two days all up and only because I rationed them out with the excuse of “oh but you really should leave them for 24 hours before eating …

Of course, no one fell for that big fat lie but I did manage to stop them being devoured as I assembled them.  My father declared them his favourite macarons.  He says that about all of them, of course, but he did try to sneak some of these when he thought nobody was watching so …  😉

These macarons would make a special treat served with fresh strawberries and your favourite bubbly at a party or with coffee at the end of a meal.  We’re heading into summer here in Australia and I can see these featuring at summer parties quite a bit.  I hope you like them.

Makes 30 macarons

Strawberry Macaron Shells
30 grams freeze-dried strawberries
150 grams almond meal
150 grams icing sugar
55 grams egg white
pink or red food colouring (optional)
135 grams sugar
40 grams water
55 grams egg white
pinch cream of tartar
pinch of salt
Fresh Strawberry Ganache
150 grams couverture or good quality eating chocolate – dark, milk or white
180 grams fresh strawberries (or frozen)
60 millilitres cream (35% fat)

Strawberry Macaron Shells
Preheat the oven to 150°C.  Line 2 – 3 large baking sheets with silpat sheets or baking paper.  Set aside.

Place the freeze-dried strawberries into the bowl of a food processor and pulverise to a fine powder.

Add the almond meal and icing sugar to the pulverised strawberries and pulse until the mixture is very fine and silky in texture.  You can test it between two fingers.  I do this before sifting the mixture, but if you prefer, just sift the almond meal and icing sugar together.  Once done, place in a large mixing bowl.  Mix together the 55 grams of egg white and the food colouring, if using.  Add the egg white to the almond meal mixture and mix well with a spatula or pastry scraper until you get a smooth paste.  Set aside.

Place the remaining 55 grams of egg white, cream of tartar, and salt into the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer and start whisking at low to medium speed.  Place the water into a saucepan and add the sugar.  Dissolve the sugar, in the water, over a low heat.  Bring to the boil and cook until the sugar reaches 118°C.  By this stage the egg whites should have reached a soft peak stage.  Continue whisking at medium speed as you pour the syrup into the egg whites in a thin, steady stream.  Keep whisking until the bowl cools to just warm.  I usually whisk the meringue for about 10 minutes or so and turn up the speed for a minute or two at the end.  The meringue should be fairly stiff.  When you lift the whisk, there should be a solid stiff clump on the whisk.  It should be able to look you in the eye without flinching.

Scrape a small amount of the meringue into the bowl with the almond mixture and work it into the mixture to lighten it, using a spatula or pastry scraper.  I prefer the scraper.  Scrape the remaining meringue into the bowl and fold it into the almond mixture, flipping it over on to itself, and turning the bowl with each fold.  Make sure to scrape down the bowl to make sure the mixture is homogenous, and there are no streaks of meringue or almonds.  Continue folding until the macaronage is at the stage where a little mixture, lifted, will fall back into itself slowly (i.e. the magma/lava stage everyone goes on about).  Be careful not to overmix the macaronage.

Fit a large piping bag with a plain tip and pipe small mounds on to the baking sheets.  Rap the baking sheets hard on to the bench to expel any air bubbles.  Rap it again, harder, if you’re not sure.   You can pop them straight into the oven or leave until the mixture forms a light crust.  It’s up to you.  Won’t matter either way.  Bake for about 15 – 16 minutes.  Depending on your oven, they may need another minute or so.

Out of pure curiosity, I tried the Pierre Hérme trick of keeping the oven door held slightly ajar with a wooden spoon for the first 10 minutes of baking.  Frankly, I noticed no difference in the results, so if you are keen on doing it, go ahead, but it really makes no difference.

Remove the macaron shells from the oven and set aside to cool.  Remove from the baking sheets and pair up shells of the same size.

Fresh Strawberry Ganache
Chop the chocolate into small pieces, unless you are using couverture callets, and place in a bowl.
Hull and puree the strawberries.  Pass the purée through a sieve to remove the seeds.  This step is optional but will make sure a smooth ganache.  Place the strawberry purée and cream into a saucepan over a low to medium heat.  Stir to combine the cream and fruit and bring to simmering point.  Remove the berry cream from the heat and pour evenly over the chocolate.  Stir gently until melted and smooth.

If making the ganache ahead of time, you can cover and let it cool at room temperature.  If you make the ganache as the macaron shells are baking, cover and refrigerate until slightly thickened to a piping consistency.  Do not refrigerate for too long or it will set to a consistency that will make it difficult to pipe.  I quite like to have the ganache at room temperature for this type of ganache.

Use a plain piping tip and fill a piping bag with the ganache.  Pipe the ganache on to half the shells and gently top with the paired shells, using a gentle twisting motion to press the shells to the ganache.

Store in the refrigerator, in an airtight container for a couple of days, if they last that long 🙂

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