Cherry Blossom and Hibiscus Macarons & A Giveaway
Thank you all for your kind words after my last post, you are all amazing to give your support and wishes like you do. I am sad for his family but relieved that the pain and suffering are over for him. I am no saint but faced with the grief that his family is going through I just do what I do best, I facilitate: I run errands, I make phone calls, etc…which really is nothing so I transmitted all your thoughts to his wife who was really amazed at the food blogging community and its strong spirits.
This makes me think, and before I tell you about the macarons, that I may not be around visiting blogs much in the next couple of weeks because my aunt and uncle are coming to visit us for the first time and I will of course play that facilitator role again…I 'll be here to update and of course post the Sugar High Friday round up but I apologize for my ghostly presence elsewhere.
Now that I have this bit out of the way, let me tell you how these macarons came about. I have had the idea of using hibiscus tea leaves in macarons ever since B. brought them back from his archaeological trip to Egypt a few years ago. He brought back a giant tin of it that I keep in the freezer and make tart hibiscus iced tea in the summer. I love its deep pink color and its intoxicating scent. It’s rather hard to describe its taste but think fruity without the froo-froo, tart without being puckery and floral without being heady. Once I made the buttercream I made a very strong small cup of tea, strained the leaves out and reduce it with some sugar on the stove until I got an extract. Once cooled, I mixed it with the buttercream and it added flavor and color in one second.
The cherry blossom macarons were made possible thanks to Rachael of La Fuji Mama in Japan. She posted about some she had one day while right in the mist of the cherry blossom season and mentionned that cherry blossom was an extract easily found over there. It is so difficult to translate a scent into a taste sometimes that I told her I was really curious about it. She quickly replied in awesome food blogger fashion that she would be happy to send me some and I agreed only if I swapped something in return….and here we are. I made some when Marcela was here but I could not wait to make them again and play with the shell designs. Obviously my attempts at drawing cherry blossoms are not that great but the taste was there for sure.
I know hibiscus tea can be found pretty well here in the US but I am not that sure about cherry blossom extract and I realise that I might have made some of you curious…this is why I decided to give one of the bottles Rachael sent me (I hope she won’t mind that I share the love!) to one of you. All you have to do is leave a comment between today and saturday and one bottle might be on its way to your home….anywhere in the world (or where there is a shortage of cherry blossom extract!) The bottle is small (see her post) but the flavor goes a long way, and I just can’t keep this great taste all to myself…
UPDATE 5/22/08: I am so tickled to add that Rachael wrote yesterday wanting to add a second bottle of cherry blossom extract. You read right: One person…2 bottles! Lucky you’s!!
Macarons tutorial available here, starting page 36.
For the shells:
3 egg whites (I like to use 1-2 day old egg whites)
50 gr. granulated sugar
200 gr. powdered sugar
110 gr. ground almonds
2-3 drops pink food coloring or 1 Tb powdered
For the hibiscus macarons I sprinkled some leaves on top before baking.
For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature on 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 ground almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a quick pulse. It will break the powdered sugar lumps and combine your almonds with it evenly. Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold and remove some of the batter that will remain uncolored. Add the food coloring to the rest and 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 baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 300F. Let the macarons sit out for 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. Pipe or spoon some ganache on one shell and sandwich with another one.
If you use fresh whites, zap them up in the microwave on medium high for 20 seconds to mimic the aging process.
To draw on the macarons: color the small amount you set aside previously and add more food coloring to make a darker color. Use a toothpick that you dip into the dark color and draw on the macarons.
For the buttercream:
3 sticks butter at room temperature
5 egg whites1 cup sugar divided
1/4 cup water
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
1-2 teaspoons cherry blossom extract
In the bowl of stand mixer, whip 5 egg whites until they have soft peaks. In the meantime, combine 1/4 cup water with 3/4 cup 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 vanilla bean paste. Divide the batter in 2.
For the cherry blossom buttercream, add extract to taste.
For the hibiscus buttercream: boil 1/2 cup of water, add 1 Tb hibiscus tea leaves and 2 Tb sugar. Let steep, strain the leaves. Return to a boil until reduced to a thick syrup. Let cool, add enough to taste to the buttercream.