I'm thinking that we need a new name for macarons. Little bites of heaven? Melt in your mouth perfection? You think you're only going to eat one but you're so not cookies? Well, whatever their name should be, we're pretty sure that whipping up a batch of these this evening - from photographer Jordan Brittley & Jessica of Piped Up Dream - will take a lovely Valentine's Day to one of epic status.
For the Macarons...
1 1/4 cups packed cups almond flour
3/4 packed cups confectioners' sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 tablespoon powdered egg white
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup aged egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 drops (gel) or 6 drops (liquid) of food coloring
For the Filling...
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
one pound of powdered sugar or 4 cups
2 Tbs milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
TO MAKE THE MACARON DOUGH
Place almond flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 4 times for 3 seconds each to combine them. Scrape the sides of the bowl in between pulses with a spatula. Sift with a fine-mesh strainer onto a sheet of waxed paper. (If you simply sift the flour and sugar together without processing them first, the macaroni will not be as smooth-skinned.)
TO MAKE THE FRENCH MERINGUE
With a hand whisk, whisk together the powdered egg-whites and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, Whisk in the egg whites and cream of tartar until the mixture is homogenous. Set the bowl and whisk attachment on the mixer and whisk on medium speed until the meringue is glossy and forms stiff peaks, about 11 minutes.
Once the meringue reaches stiff peaks (the whisk will have marks in the meringue as is goes around in the bowl) and resembles marshmallow fluff, stop the mixer. Turn the bowl upside down to check that you have reached the right stage: the meringue should not slip in the bowl.
TO MAKE THE MACARON
With a spatula, quickly fold the sifted dry ingredients into the meringue. If using food coloring, stop mixer when the batter appears to be 90 percent incorporated, scrape the sides of the mixer and fold in the desired coloring with 1 to 2 more strokes.
Pipe the macarons onto a non stick baking sheet. Continue piping, then slam the baking sheet again. This eliminates excess air or stiffness from the batter without requiring additional folding (which can cause cracking).
Bake the meringue shells at 200 F for 15 minutes to dry out the shells. Increase the oven temperature to 350 F and bake for an additional 9 minutes, until the feet and edge of the shells feel and they come off the parchment paper if you forcibly lift them.
FOR THE FILLING
Whip the butter until fluffy and then add in sugar gradually, scrapping the sides of the bowl. Once you get about half of the sugar in, add wet ingredients and beat until the filling is light and fluffy. Pipe and serve!