Monday, February 1, 2010

Red Velvet Valentine's Macarons

red velvet macarons - plated

Oh macaron, how I love thee. Your crunchy outer shell with your chewy insides. The way you melt in the mouth and taste so dreamy with your various fillings. How cute you look in every color of the rainbow. ♥ swoon ♥

Will you be my valentine?

red velvet macarons - heart

These macarons make me smile. Inspired by a seasonal offering from Williams-Sonoma, they were an experiment of mine to attempt a red velvet macaron flavor and I am more than pleased with the result. Red velvet is very much an elusive flavor to describe. Technically, it's a buttermilk cake with a hint of cocoa and of course, the excessive red food coloring. The frosting also adds to the red velvet experience and can range anywhere from cream cheese frosting to vanilla sour cream or even a more modern twist - cinnamon buttercream.

red velvet macarons - piped shells

The latter is what I chose for these macarons, as I have used it previously on a red velvet cake for my mom's birthday that was met with rave reviews. The recipe comes from Baked, a well known bakery in Brooklyn that I had the pleasure of visiting last September. I tried a few of their cupcakes, including a red velvet, and while the cake was a bit on the dry side (perhaps it was due to my late in the day visit?) the frosting, oh the frosting! Every single one of them was divine. Not overly sweet at all and deliciously creamy. I'm usually the one to scrape off most frosting on baked goods piled high (as is usually the case with cupcakes) but theirs was so good I didn't dare. While a cinnamon buttercream may not be traditional for red velvet, I think it is an excellent modern twist on an old classic that has seen a resurgence.

red velvet macarons - pairing

To make a macaron red velvet, I simply modified a recipe I'd used before (employing the Italian meringue method) by adding a bit of cocoa powder. I was hoping to add a hint of cocoa flavor to the shells without turning them brown or chocolate flavored, however, there wasn't any hint of cocoa to be found. Had I added more I don't think the food coloring would have covered up the brown tint, though I may experiment more in the future with this.

All in all, I am still very pleased with the final result. I love the cinnamon buttercream with these but would think that a cream cheese frosting would go just as well with them.

red velvet macarons - boxed

**EDIT: I found a great new blog dedicated to these lovely little sweet treats called Mactweets and will be entering these in their Mac-a-Valentine round up. Check out!

A little note on this recipe - it makes A LOT. I easily filled 3 sheet pans worth. Also, please do yourself a favor and use two pastry bags for the batter. I made the mistake of only using one; I thought the 16-inch size I had would suffice but I ended up overflowing some batter while filling the pastry bag and then also had batter oozing out of the top and all over my hands. Lesson learned!

Red Velvet Valentine Macarons
adapted from Kitchen Musings

for the TPT (tant pour tant)
300 grams almond flour
300 grams confectioner's sugar
110 grams aged egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
red food coloring (I used a gel coloring)

Sift together the almond flour and confectioner's sugar. Mix in the egg whites to create the "mass" (mixture will be very thick). Add in your desired amount of red food coloring and mix well. Note: I didn't measure the amount I used, I just kept adding until I had a bright red color, keeping in mind that the color will be diffused a bit when the Italian meringue is added.

for the Italian meringue
300 grams granulated sugar
75 grams water
110 grams aged egg whites

Bring water and sugar to a boil until it reaches 239F on a candy thermometer. Start whipping your egg whites in a stand mixer to soft peaks once your sugar/water mixture reaches 239F. Continue boiling your sugar/water mixture while simultaneously whipping your egg whites.

Once the sugar/water mixture reaches 245F, remove from the stove and let bubbles settle. Turn your mixer to low-medium speed and slowly pour in your sugar syrup mixture while continuing to beat the whites. Beat until you get soft peaks that gently food over when you turn the whisk upside down.

Preheat your oven to 350F

Fold in 1/4 of your meringue mixture into the TPT "mass" to lighten the mixture. Gently fold in the remaining meringue until the mixture "flows like magma". Transfer to two pastry bags with a plain tip.

A note on how to pipe heart shaped shells: This takes some finesse. I started out with heart shapes drawn on parchment underneath my silpat which helped somewhat. This particular batter was more 'oozy' than the French meringue method I typically use, so it was a bit difficult to pipe them exactly into the shapes I traced. I ended up piping them freehand in a gentle 'V' shape that turned out well.

Allow for shells to dry at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (I almost always wait 1 hour) then bake at 350F for 12-20 minutes (depending on your oven).

Cinnamon Buttercream
adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

NOTE: I halved this recipe which made plenty for the amount of macarons I had. Double the amounts below if you want to make a full batch

3/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup flour
3/4 cup milk
1/8 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook, whisking occasionally, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. (recipe states "about 20 minutes" but my mixture thickened in under 10)

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of stand mixer and beat on high, using the paddle attachment, until cool. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the butter, piece by piece, beating until thoroughly incorporated. Add the vanilla and cinnamon. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy. If frosting is too soft, chill in the refrigerator and then beat again until proper consistency.

red velvet macarons