The most romantic holiday of the year is deserving of meaningful conversation… hearts, that is. Celebrate your love on Valentine’s Day with our conversation heart macaroons filled with chocolate ganache and bacon salted caramel. A fair warning from Pastry Chef Alycia Delaney, you may fall in love at first bite.
From Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller & Sebastien Rouxel Artisan
1 ¾ cups + 2 ½ tablespoons almond flour/meal
1 ¾ + 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons powdered sugar
¼ cup + 1 ½ tablespoons egg whites
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons egg whites
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cup + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus a pinch for the egg whites
2/3 cup water
For the macarons
Staring through rose colored glasses can change the way you look at things, hence our decision to bake heart-shaped macarons. No relationship is perfect, but it’s important that each cookie is the same size in order to create the most harmonious sandwich.
To begin, preheat the oven to 350°F (convection).
Pour the almond flour in a food processor and until the consistency is as fine as possible.
Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl and whisk together. Mound the almond flour mixture, then make a 4-inch well in the center, leaving a layer of the flour at the bottom. Pour in the ¼ cup +1½ tablespoons egg whites and fold in with a spatula. Extract the seeds from the vanilla bean pods and add them to the mixture. Set the batter aside.
Place the remaining ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (90 grams) egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Combine the 1 cup + 3 tablespoons (236 grams) granulated sugar and the water in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 203°F.
Letting the syrup continue to cook, add the pinch of sugar to the egg whites, turn the mixer to medium speed, and whip to soft peaks. If the whites reach soft peaks before the syrup reaches 248°F, reduce the speed to the lowest setting, just to keep them moving.
When the syrup reaches 248°F, remove the pan from the heat. Turn the mixer to medium-low speed, and slowly add the syrup, pouring it between the side of the bowl and the whisk; the meringue will deflate. Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5 minutes, or until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Although the bowl will still be warm to the touch, the meringue should have cooled; if not, continue to whip until it is cool.
Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond mixture, then continue adding the whites a little at a time (you may not use them all) until when you fold a portion of the batter over on itself, the “ribbon” slowly moves. The mixture shouldn’t be so stiff that it holds its shape without moving at all, but it shouldn’t be so loose that it dissolves into itself and does not maintain the ribbon; it is better for the mixture to be slightly stiff than too loose.
Transfer the mixture to the pastry bag. Hold the bag upright ½ inch above the sheet pan and pipe out enough mixture to make a heart. Lift away the sheet pan and tap the bottom of the pan to spread the batter evenly and smooth any peaks left by the bag.
If using a convection oven, bake for 8 or 10 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp. If using a standard oven, place the sheet pan in the oven, immediately lower the oven temperature to 325°F, and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely. If using a standard oven, preheat it to 350°F again.
Pipe the remaining meringue mixture into heart-shapes on the second sheet pan and bake as directed above. Let cool completely.
Use a stencil to airbrush the “conversation” blurbs onto your hearts.
Fill with ganache, buttercream or an innovative filling of your choice. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, fill with ice cream!
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