Macarons are not hard to make (I promise!). They require some practice and some technical skills, but once you’ve baked them a few times they really aren’t difficult at all. I have a post here all about how to make perfect macarons–easy, fast and no swearing involved!
I consider myself to be a bit of a macaron master, and I like experimenting with different fillings (like these pumpkin spice ones). Since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I figured it was time to try my hand at those gorgeous little pink heart shaped macarons. Couldn’t be harder than the regular version, right?
WRONG. Oh, so, so wrong. I may be a circular macaron master, but my heart shaped macaron game has a long way to go. These were not a success. Not even close. Piping hearts is not easy–it’s tricky to make the top of the heart separated enough so that the little Cupid’s bow is defined, and it’s tricky to make a crisp point at the bottom. It’s also hard to make them uniform in size, even with a stencil underneath the Silpat. So I definitely do not recommend trying these for the first time on the day you plan to serve them unless you are a self proclaimed piping master!
Even though I have a lot more practicing to do on heart shaped macarons, I discovered three tips that will make them much better next time.
one: use almond flour not almond meal. My tried-and-true macaron recipe calls for almond flour. I didn’t have any, and my little middle of nowhere grocery store doesn’t carry plain almonds let alone blanched almonds. So I had to make my own almond meal. The difference is the skin: almond flour is pure white and is made from blanched (skinless) almonds while almond meal is made from the whole almond so it contains little brown flakes of skin.
The baking and taste of the cookies was the same, but their appearance was not pretty. The tops of the cookies were bumpy and had little brown flakes, not my idea of a macaron. I suppose you could use almond meal if you plan to cover the tops of the cookies with chocolate flakes or cinnamon or espresso, but if you intend to leave them naked I do not recommend using almond meal.
two: chose a wide heart shape stencil. The heart stencil I created on the computer was 1″ wide and 1″ tall. That meant it was a narrow heart. I think it would be much much easier and prettier to pipe a thick heart that is wider than it is tall because there will be more space between the curves on top. So next time I will try 1.5″ wide by 1″ tall or maybe even wider. To get a crisp point at the bottom of the heart you start at one curve and go down to the bottom, then quickly lift your hands off the cookie sheet at the point. Then you come back down at the middle and go out to the top of the other side of the heart then down to the point and lift off again. Takes some practice.
three: bake one sheet at a time. This was a rookie mistake. I followed all the directions to the letter except for one crucial point: I put two trays of cookies in the oven at once. I blame this on pregnancy brain–distracted and tired and hungry, I simply forgot this crucial detail. Having two trays in the oven was a huge problem. The top tray was fine but the bottom tray was a disaster. They cracked and burned. Badly. But I actually liked the way the burned ones tasted, can I blame that on pregnancy brain, too?
Even though this was not my finest looking macaron batch, they still tasted fantastic and I managed to get a few nice ones for the pictures! My filling was really yummy and easy so here’s the recipe:
Chocolate Berry Macaron Filling
(Makes enough to fill one serving of this macaron recipe)
3 oz milk chocolate
2 heaping tablespoons smooth berry jam (I used Smucker’s Simple Blends Summer Fruit which is Raspberry Red Cherry and Strawberry, delicious!)
one: melt the chocolate in the microwave in 20-30 second bursts, stirring in between. It only took me one full minute, easy.
two: add the jam and stir stir stir! The jam will change the consistency of the melted chocolate, you will think you have ruined it. Just keep stirring until it becomes more fluid again. Then spoon it into your piping bag and go fill those macarons!
I don’t imagine heart shaped macarons will become a mastered skill in my repertoire anytime soon. Call me old fashioned but I just prefer the classic round shape. But I hope my tips help anyone who wants to give it a try, and perhaps next Valentine’s Day I will have a more successful post to share!
Mint Lace Fabric: It’s actually my Baby Girl’s First Birthday Romper! Check it out here.
Pink Food Colouring: I used two drops of Williams Sonoma Red Food Paste