Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy ♥ Day!  
V-day is interesting - it seems to bring a wide range of emotional response from people.  Anything from, "Omg I'm going to be so upset if he/she doesn't plan something for me!" to "V-day must die because it's something the commercial card industry cooked up to trying to make more moola off of me", to "I could care less".  Me, I probably lean toward the latter but would not be opposed if someone wanted to shower me with sweets and gifts ;)  In either case, I've said this before but I don't think you need a specific day to show your love and appreciation for someone you care about...that being said, I always enjoy having an excuse to make something sweet. And the excuse to make something with penguins and hearts? Even better.

Last year I made these penguin cookies for Cy, but this year I really wanted to challenge myself to the French macaron.  Definitely NOT a health food, but it's a holiday, and they're so sweet and rich, even just having one can satisfy any sweet tooth - in theory of course. There are tons of amazing food bloggers out there who seem to have perfected this finicky cookie and I am determined to get there some day.  In the meantime, despite some bumps along the way, these came out relatively well.  A shout out to miss S, my helper that day :)

I saw them on this beautiful blog and just had to recreate them, though I didn't use her recipe for the macaron.  I did plan for them to be black, but realized I bought the wrong color a little too late...oh well, at least it was still a color associated with penguins.  Remember Tuxedo Sam!?  As for the filling, I decided to go with passionfruit, because I love how the tart creaminess cuts through some of the sweetness and I had found some dehydrated passionfruit powder.  The fruit also seemed somehow appropriate for a day that's supposed to be about love.

{Passion Fruit Macaron}
I like the recipe from Joy of Baking
adapted to make penguin shapes

For the Macaron shell

100 grams ground blanched almonds or almond meal/flour*
180 grams confectioner (powdered or icing) sugar
100 grams "aged" egg whites, at room temperature**
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
35 grams superfine or castor white sugar***
2-3drops of black or blue food coloring
Orange colored sprinkles
Black edible ink pen

* I use Bob's Red Mill finely ground almond meal/flour. You can find it in grocery stores, specialty food stores, health food stores, or on line.

** Separate eggs at least 24 hours before using (or up to five days). Cover with paper towel and place in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using. OR you can put the eggs in some warm water for about 5 min to "age" them.

***Make superfine sugar by processing regular granulated white sugar in your food processor for about 30 seconds or until sugar is ground very fine OR you can buy baker's sugar.

Have ready three baking sheets (make sure they have flat bottoms (no warping)) lined with parchment paper.To make all the Macarons the same size, make a template. Take a piece of parchment paper and draw 20 - 1 1/2 inch (3-4 cm) circles, spacing the circles about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Place the template under your parchment paper so you can use it as a guide. Or you can be a little crazy like me and actually buy a silicone baking sheet specifically made for the macaron - it makes life so much easier if you're not an expert piper.

1.  Sift together the almond flour and the powdered sugar making sure there are no lumps or large pieces.

2.  In the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment (can use a hand mixer), beat the egg whites and cream of tartar, if using, on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, and continue to beat, on medium-high speed, until the meringue just holds stiff peaks(when you slowly raise the whisk the meringue is straight up, no drooping, called a 'beak') (but do not over mix the meringue or it will 'break').

3. In three additions, add the ground almond/sugar mixture over the meringue. When folding, cut through the meringue and then fold up and over, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Once the almond mixture is completely folded (called macaronage) into the meringue (the batter will fall back into the bowl in a thick ribbon) it is time to pipe the Macarons.
      *This is a very critical step and there are tons of you tube videos out there to help you see what a "Macronage" should look like.
       *If you want to do the penguins shapes, when you think you're close to reaching the consistency of batter you want, you can split the batter and take 1/3 of it into another bowl.  Add a few drops of food coloring to the main bowl and finish your macronage. I left the other 1/3 its natural color and finished the macronage there too.

4. Fill a pastry bag, fitted with 1/2 inch tip, with about half the batter. Pipe about 1 - 1 1/2 inch (3 - 4 cm) rounds onto the parchment paper, using the template as a guide. In the case of the penguin shapes, pipe a more oval shape first with the colored batter. And then go over and pipe the white mixture in a V-shape over the ovals.  The batter should settle in together, making the heart shapes in the macaron.

5. Tap the baking sheet on the counter to break any air bubbles (can also break air bubbles with the end of a toothpick). At this point, I carefully dropped the orange sprinkles onto the macaron to create the beak and feet. Let the Macarons sit at room temperature for about30-60 minutes(depending on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen) or until the tops of the Macarons are no longer tacky.
Meanwhile preheat your oven to 325 degree F (160 degree C) with the oven racks in the top and bottom third of the oven.

6. Bake the cookies (two sheets at a time) for about 14 -16 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom, front to back, about halfway through baking.The Macarons are done when you can just barely separate the cookies from the parchment paper (there will be some browning of the cookies). (If you find that the bottoms of the cookies brown too much, double sheet your baking pans.) Remove from oven and let the Macarons cool completely on the baking sheet placed on a wire rack. After they cooled, I drew in the eyes with the edible ink (You can also just use a small brush with black food coloring).

7. To assemble the Macarons, take two cookies and sandwich them together with your filling (place filling on flat side of cookie).

And here is the catch with these cookies - although you can eat them right away, they won't have the same consistency as what you would buy at the nice boutique stores.  For them to reach their full potential they have to be matured in the fridge for 2-3 days.  This gives the shells a chance to absorb moisture from the filling and become soft.  Bring them back to room temperature when you're ready to serve and enjoy the fruits of your hard labor!

For the PassionFruit Filling
50 grams egg whites (about 2 small egg whites)100 grams sugar
150 grams butter, softened at room temperature (cut into 1 tbsp pieces)
5-8 tbsp of dehydrated passion fruit powder

1. Combine the egg whites with sugar and place them in the double boiler. Whisk them together until all the sugar dissolved and the egg whites start to turn opaque and fluffy. Continue whisking until the egg whites become hot to touch.

2.  Take egg whites off the heat and start whipping at high speed until light and fluffy (or until the bow is not hot anymore, it takes about 5 min).

3. Add softened butter, piece by piece, until all incorporated into the meringue. It might look like it is curdling at first, but continue whipping will make it comes together.

4. Add the passion fruit powder and mix well to combine. Taste to see if you are happy with the tartness.

*Leftover butter cream can be stored in the freezer for later use.

Cy called these the shortbus penguins..the oddballs I couldn't pipe right, but they have the most personality!


  1. OMG, so cute! I actually really like the oddballs, they look like they are talking to each other.Thank you for the details and tips. Very very informative!

    1. Thanks! The oddball ones are actually my favorite too :)


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