Friday, February 22, 2013

Apricot & Passion Fruit Macarons

 Macarons often make appearances in my kitchen. I thoroughly enjoy baking all sorts of things, but there's a small list of desserts that truly bring me great satisfaction upon completion of making them and macarons are definitely on that list. Perhaps it's the fact that to make them is like an art and science. Before I hand a pretty firm grip on making them well, I had my fair share of heartbreak and headaches over broken, mishaped, dull, and ugly shells. Oh, and shells without feet! Those were the worst of macaron memories. However, now, when a tray full of perfect macaron shells, come out of my oven, I am overcome with joy. And, let's be honest, a great deal of relief, too.

These macarons, with a pleasant buttercup yellow hue, take me back to Maui, Hawaii-- where my Henry and I traveled to for our honeymoon. These little charmers are filled with a sweet yet tart apricot and passion fruit filling. The tropical notes of passion fruit take me back the island and make me miss the delicious shaved ice I ate so much of! My mouth hasn't tasted such tropical flavors since our trip--until I bit into one of these macarons last night. Then another this morning. Okay, maybe two macarons this morning. Oops.

Apricot & Passion Fruit Macarons
100 g aged egg whites (aged= resting in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3-5 days)
1 tsp cream of tartar
28 g white granulated sugar
125 g finely ground almond meal (Bob's Red Mill makes a great one)
200 g powdered sugar*
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1 tsp mango extract (you can find these in specialty baking stores; it is not necessary, but I found that the subtle addition allowed the passion fruit flavor to come out more.)
optional: buttercup yellow food gel coloring (do not use liquid food coloring)

Prepare two baking sheets lined with silicone mats (or parchment paper if you don't have these).

1. Combine and whisk together the almond meal and powdered sugar. Set aside.

2. Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on a low speed with the cream of tartar until the mixture becomes foamy (kind of like a bubble bath). At this point, slowly pour in the white granulated sugar as the mixer is running. Add the vanilla and mango extract and increase the speed to medium; continue to beat the mixture until a smooth glossy meringue with soft peaks has formed (kind of like shaving cream). Be careful to NOT over beat and dry out your egg whites. If you are coloring your macarons, add a few drops of the gel coloring a little bit before your egg whites have reached their soft and glossy peaks.

3. Remove the bowl from your stand mixer and add 1/3 of the almond meal and powdered sugar mixture. Gently fold together just until everything is combined. Repeat with the next 1/3 of the dry ingredients and again with the final 1/3.

4. Prepare a pastry bag with a medium round tip (about 1 cm) and transfer the macaron batter into it. Pipe small circles onto the prepared baking sheets to make neat rows. Be sure to leave about 1 1/2 inches between each macaron. Grab the ends of the baking sheet and, while holding it level, firmly tap it on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles. Allow the macarons to rest on the counter for 30-60 minutes before baking.

5. Preheat the oven to 295 degrees F and make sure the racks are in the middle portion. Bake the macarons for 15-20 minutes, one sheet at a time. Do not open the oven door at all! Once they are finished, allow them to cool for a few minutes; Gently peel away the silicone mat while lightly pushing the macaron cookies off. Repeat with the remaining trays of macarons.*Note: Baking times may vary depending on your oven and the temperature/humidity in the room. These are very temperamental; I suggest testing a small batch to find your ideal baking time with your oven.

6. Once cooled, fill the macarons with the apricot and passion fruit filling (recipe below). Pipe a small dollop onto the back side of one macaron shell and sandwiching it together with another. Repeat with the rest of the macarons. If not consuming right away, store them in an airtight container and keep them in the fridge.

1/2 cup dried apricot paste (place dried apricots into a food processor until they become a thick paste)
3/4 cup passion fruit curd (recipe from Martha Stewart here)

1. In a small bowl, use a whisk to mix together the dried apricot paste and cooled passion fruit curd. The filling should be thick and not runny. If you're not using this right away, store it in an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator.

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