More berries! It's not that I won't find stone fruits and other summer fruits living in a Southern state, it's just that they will probably taste bland and by the time Fall hits, I know my baking mind will be ready for apples and pears. I have been freezing and preserving a ton these past few days so if I get a craving for juicy roasted peaches and creme anglaise in the middle of November, one trip to the freezer and I am set!
Friday afternoon when B. went to put bottles of water in the freezer as part of our preparations for Tropical Storm Hanna, he was amazed to find the bottom drawer full of halved peaches, halved plums, raspberries, blueberries, watermelon for quick sorbet, not to mention doughs of various kinds, etc... Tucked in a corner he noticed a small box with a few red berry macarons that I had saved "just" for him. He exclaimed "It almost makes me wish we lost power with that storm!" to which I replied "take a peak out the window and tell me that with a straight face!". We live on a tidal creek, our house is 12 feet off the ground so if the water keeps getting up into the yard with the midnight tide, we might get up to see a natural pool in the garage. I took hour by hour pictures this afternoon as I was cooped inside baking and making soup. A tropical storm calls for chocolate cake don't you think?
Why keep macarons in the freezer? Well, last weekend our friend D. came over and helped me out of a little situation and as a thank you I made her and her husband some macarons for their get together on Labor Day. I tell you what, there are many special moments in life but getting together with close friends, grilling, chilling, playing croquet and eating macarons is definitely one of them! Hard to think that this beautiful sunny day would lead to such a downfall of rain by friday, but such is Mother Nature. It is a very humbling feeling to know that one only can surrender to its plan and go with the flow. It's kind of appeasing to me, in a weird sort of way. I saw people giving in that collective movement of stress all day long, at the store, the gas station and I just wanted to go up to them and offer them a macaron to help them relax! I think I'll need a truckload of macarons if we get a hurricane this season (knock on wood real quick, thank you!).
Since I had a lot of egg whites left from making ice cream and other custards, I made a double batch of macarons, filled them and tucked the away in the freezer, well wrapped for when a little cravings hits us these stormy days. I did do my little rituals of turning the fridge and freezer to the lowest settings and hopefully we won't lose power for long if at all. Our hosts this past Labor Day love chesecakes and that was the inspiration for the filling, a cream cheese buttercream with a center of quick raspberry and redcurrant jelly. I call it "quick jelly" because it is not a jelly in the traditional sense of the term, it does not cook for long and contains gelatin to help it set, as well as the whole berries and not just their juice. I needed a small quantity for the macarons, hence the rapid method instead of the whole jelly making and ensuing canning. Feel free to subsitute with your favorite berry jam, homemade or not.
I get quite a few emails about macarons and I do not consider myself an authority in the matter, there are indeed quite a few bloggers sharing the same passion, and a quick Google search can quickly lend to macaron heaven as far as choices. I do recommend reading the tutorial in Desserts Magazine: not because I wrote it but because I tried to gather a lot of tips, ideas and methods from other chefs, home cooks and bloggers. It is by no means a comprehensive guide to macaron making but I think it is a great place to start demystifying as well as understanding some key points in the method (regardless of the type of meringue you use). I mostly use the French meringue method with great results but if you want to try your hand at the Italian meringue method, my friend Mercotte in France has written (in English) a great tutorial on the subject.
Red Berry Macarons:
Makes about 15-18 depending on size
For the shells:
3 egg whites (about 90 gr)
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds
2 Tb powdered red food coloring
For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature in a covered container. If you want to use 48hrs (or more) egg whites, you can store them in the fridge. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry and your macarons won't work. Combine the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Pass through a sieve. Add them to the meringue,with the coloring and give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 300F. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer.
For the cream cheese buttercream:
1 1/2 sticks (170 gr) butter at room temperature
4 oz (120gr) cream cheese, softened
3 egg whites
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2 Tb water
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste or 1/2 vanilla bean split open and seeded.
In the bowl of stand mixer, whip the egg whites until they have soft peaks. In the meantime, combine 2 Tb water with the sugar to a boil in a heavy saucepan and bring the syrup to 250F. Slowly add the sugar syrup to the egg whites. If you use hand beaters, this is even easier and there is less hot syrup splatter on the side of your bowl and in the whisk attachment of the stand mixer. Continue to whip until the meringue is completely cooled. Slowly add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. The mass might curdle but no panic, continue to whip until it all comes together. Add the cream cheese, the same way, a little at a time until everything is smooth. Whisk in the vanilla extract, or paste or bean. Keep it to spreadable consistency for the macarons and refrigerate the leftover for cupcakes or mini toast in the fridge up to 3 days or in the freezer.
For the quick red berry jelly:
1 cup raspberries (250ml)
1 cup redcurrant (250ml)
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tb lemon juice
1 Tb lemon zest
2 tsp powdered gelatin
3 Tb cold water
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it bloom.
In a heavy saucepan,combine the berries, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer 10 minutes to let the fruits release their juices. Remove from the heat, add the gelatin and stir until completely melted into the fruits. Pour into a small plastic container line with plastic wrap, let cool to room temperature and refrigerate until set. Can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer.
To assemble: pipe or spoon a small amount of macarons on one shell, position some jelly right in the center and top with another shell.