Thursday, October 24, 2013

Strawberries & Cream macarons

When I had filled some of my culinary curiosity months ago by attending a class on the traditional French Macaron, there was an active discussion on the flavoring and coloring of the macaron.  You don't want to add too much moisture back into the cookie so it is important to use items like gel food coloring, dried herbs and it was hypothesized that you could use a properly dehydrated fruit.

My mind jumped immediately to these amazing freeze dried fruits called Crunchies.  They are the whole fruit with the water removed and are light and crunchy, almost puffs.  I believed I could smash them into a powder and use that to flavor the cookies with full fruit flavor and all the nutrients.  This turned into my Strawberries & Cream Macarons.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts and comments but in the meantime, I want to share the recipe and the tips for making these delightful treats.

In my commute from my day job, I sat next to a person and couldn't help overhear her phone call.  I asked a couple of questions and found out that her business is advising restaurants on the creation and effective usage of their dessert menus.  How lucky was I!  I opted to take the moment and ask her about areas where I had run into issues.

We enjoyed a discussion on my new passion and challenge, the macaron.  Her advice to leave the egg whites on the counter for two to three days with a cheesecloth covering was the best tip I could leave with you.  I typically do leave my eggs for baking most cookies on the counter overnight but three to five days is fine if they are in the refrigerator.  She told me about the French bakeries and their tiers of sifters and how they leave their egg whites on the counters as well.  I figure if centuries of tradition are working, I'm going to follow along.

The next best tip I can give is regarding how to pipe to keep the cookies even without the little tip.  With your pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, hold the bag perpendicular to the tray and about a quarter of an inch high.  Squeeze to pipe out, the mixture will flow from the bag and up around the tip.  Lift the bag up slightly when you have reached the preferred size and swirl the tip in a "c" shape to cut off the batter.  When I pipe I am typically thinking: pipe, pipe, pipe, lift and swirl.

For the basic recipe, I used the Sur la Table recipe from class but since I don't have permission, a copy can be found here.   Instead of using the lavender and purple food coloring, I used 1/2 of a package of Crunchies Strawberries crushed into a powder.  I used a rolling pin with the berries in a bag but you can use any food processor to do the same.  The idea is to have powdered strawberries or blueberries or any of the other fruits.  I also added a bit of red food coloring to boost the color although the powdered berries added a lot of color when stirred into the mix.

The ultimate result is a burst of real fruit flavor with the creamy center.  A decadent treat isn't so decadent when you have fruit in it.  Or at least it is a reason to justify that extra one (or two).

Hope you enjoy!