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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Heart Macarons filled with Strawberry Buttercream for your Valentine(’s Day)

It’s February, Valentine’s Day is approching and love is in the air.

Not that I celebrate Valentine’s Day in a commercial way. I just like cooking/baking with theme. It is nice to keep my creative spirit going and add little affection into my baking. So, I’ll keep the blog filled with Valentine-related posts for the whole week.

One of the symbol of Valentine’s day is red heart or anything heart really. When it comes to food, sweets chocolate and strawberry also have strong association with Valentine’s Day. With this in mind, macarons with rich strawberry filling seems like a perfect treat for your significant other, your valentine.

I also wanted to try making macarons into shapes other than the usual round ones. First idea that came to my mind was heart-shaped macarons. This was my first time making macarons into other shape and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. Would I still get the macarons’ feet? Would the piped shell hold its heart-shape after it’s piped and baked? So many questions and doubts!

I used the heart cookie cutter to trace hearts into parchment papers. I then piped the macarons batch into the heart drawing. I started by tracing the frame of the heart first, then gradually fill the whole heart. I used the smaller pipping tip, the 3-mm size (or size # 3) to facilitate the heart drawing. It would be difficult, if not possible, to work with the usual round 1-cm tip with this project.

The result? It is possible to make macarons into other shapes, though a good piping skill can help tremendously. The heart-macarons came out nicely with feet and all. I was happy at some level but the shell was a little bumpy as I wasn’t careful enough when I piped. I thought that the batter will eventually comes together after the tray was tapped onto the bench (this is to flatten the macarons and remove any airs/bubbles) which usually apply to the round macarons.

*Note: if you don't think you're up for piping heart-shape macarons, you can sprinkle heart-sugar onto the shells to add the valentine spirit to the macarons. I also made Valentine's Macaron version using this method, which can be found on this post. **

I also chose to make these macarons using Italian meringue technique, where egg whites are whipped together with cooked sugar syrup. This method is more forgiving when it comes to mixing/incorporating the almond flour and icing sugar into egg white. It is less likely to overmix the batter and provide more consistent result regardless of weather condition (humidity is not a good friend to macarons).

I usually make macarons using French meringue method (egg whites are whipped together with super fine sugar) as I prefer its simple processes and the texture it produces. However, the weather was rather humid in Melbourne at the time I made this and I needed to make sure that the macarons batter will be super smooth for this non-particular shape.

This was the second time I used Italian meringue method. First time, I failed miserably. The macarons shells were tough, crunchy and hard. I blamed it on the Italian Meringue techniques, not knowing that I misread the sugar thermometer! Yeap, it was one of those cooking incidents, where I read the degree on thermometer in farenheit instead of celcius. And yes, the sugar cooked at 115°F (which is 46°C) wasn’t going to be any good for Italian meringue. That was why I failed so miserably and I had to bin all the macaron shells.   

It was alright with Italian Meringue method this time but I’m still not totally convinced about the texture it produced. Maybe I didn’t do everything correctly. Maybe I didn’t follow the recipes to the T. But I will give it another go with my next week’s bake. If it works, I shall write up a post about macarons using Italian meringue method.

The recipe is from Pierre Herme’s Macarons cookbook posted on He-Eats blog which was translated from French. The macarons were filled with strawberry buttercream using my home-made strawberry jam.

Here is the recipe….

Heart Macarons with Strawberry Buttercream Recipe

makes 24 heart macarons

Details and walk through for Basic Macaron recipe using Italian meringue method can be found here.

You can also see more detailed intructions on making macarons in my Basic Macaron Recipe and I heart Macarons blogs (however, they are recipes using French meringue method).

Macarons shell ingredients
135 g pure icing sugar
135 g almond meal (almond flour or ground almond)
100 g egg whites (separated 24 -48 hours in advance and is at room temperature)
135 g caster sugar (super fine sugar)
34 ml water (2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon)
A pinch of red colouring powder or liquid

Strawberry buttercream ingredients
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
90 grams castor sugar (fine sugar)
90 grams butter (soft butter, but not melting)
15 ml water (1 tablespoon)
½ cup strawberry jam (I used a homemade jam in this recipe)

Making macarons shells
1.   Preparing heart pattern/drawings on parchment papers. You will need two for this recipe. Turn the papers upside down so that the drawing will be on the other side (otherwise, you'll have a nasty black colour stuck to your shells). Use the papers to line the baking tray. 

2.   Sift almond meal and icing sugar together through fine sieve and set aside.

3.   Divide  egg whites into two portions, 50 g each portion.  Mix the first portion of egg white (50 g) into the almond meal/icing sugar mixture, and mix colouring powder or liquid in, but don’t mix or stir them.

4.   Put the water and caster sugar in a heavy-base saucepan over medium-high heat. When the syrup start to boil. Place the rest of egg white (50 g) into a mixing bowl, using the whip attachment, whip egg white to the soft peak. When the syrup reaches 118°C, take if off the heat and let it cool down to 115°C.

5.   While the mixer is still running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl. Be careful not to pour syrup onto the whip as it might spatter. Continue mixing until the meringue cool down to slightly above body temperature (50°C) or when the side of the mixing bowl is warm to touch. The whipped egg white would be stiff and glossy.

6.   Mix a third of whipped egg white into the almond meal/icing sugar/egg white mixture and combine them well. At this step, I work the mixture very vigorously to blend the egg white with almond meal mixture. Fold the rest of whipped egg white into the mixture and mix well, yet gently, until the batter is smooth. The batter is thick and  it resembles  a very thick cake batter, or as many web sites describe it as a magma-like consistency.

7.   Put the mixture into a piping bag fitted with 3-mm plain tip. Pipe the batter onto baking paper traced with hearts. I started by tracing the heart frame first and then fill the whole heart up. It felt a bit struggling at first, but after few hearts, I got the hang of it and it became relatively easy.

8.   Let the piped macarons hearts stand at room temperature for 30 – 60 minutes to let the crust forms. This depend on the room temperature and humidity. When the piped shells are dry to touch without it sticking to your fingers. They are good to go into the oven.

9.   Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan-force or convection oven, increase the temperature by 20°C if you’re using conventional oven) for at least 15 minutes. Just before baking, turn the temperature down to 150°C and bake the macarons for 15 minutes.

10. Lift the baking paper off the tray to the cooling rack and let it cool down before removing macarons.

Making Strawberry Buttercream

1.   Mix the sugar with the water in a small heavy-base saucepan. Place it over medium-high heat and bring it to a boil. Using a candy thermometer to measure the sugar temperature, continue to boil until it reaches 121°C . If the sugar begins to crystallize on the sides of the pan, wash them down with a pastry brush dipped in the water.

2.   Meanwhile, using whip attachment, whip egg yolks in electric mixer on medium high speed. They will begin to turn pale and yellow and will become light and thick.

3.   Change from whip attachment to flat beater before pouring the sugar syrup into the egg mixture.

4.   When the sugar reach 121°C, remove it from heat. With the mixer on medium-high, slowly pour the syrup into the egg yolks in a thin stream between the whip and the sides of the bowl. Be careful not to splash the hot syrup, or your buttercream may from small sugar crystals in it. Continue beating until the yolks are thick and fully cooled (when you touch the side of the bowl and it’s cool to touch).

5.   Reduce mixer speed to medium and gradually add small amount of butter (soft but not melted), but only as much as it can be absorbed into the mixture before adding the next amount. Continue to beat well until the buttercream is smooth.  It will take about 15 minutes.

6.   Add strawberry jam, and beat for an additional minute.
7.   Chill the buttercream for at least an hour before using.

Sending this post to Weekend Herb Blogging which is hosted by Janet from TasteSpace blog this week.


  1. I can't believe you did these! They are amazing. I need to make them as soon as possible.I need to buy ground almodns now!!

  2. Wow, those are just gorgeous. I've heard that macarons take a lot of skill but it looks like you've got the knack. have a sweet treat linky party going on at my blog right now and I'd like to invite you to stop by and link your macarons up.

  3. Thank you Ceren and Lisa.

    @ Ceren - would love to see how you go:)

    @ Lisa - just got your message, maybe a little late to join the blogging party now, but it sounds very interesting and like fun. Maybe next time:)


  4. Wow - you hit a new level when you make macarons into hearts. I am in awe. Thanks for sharing them with WHB this week. :)

  5. Thank you Janet for hosting WHB. You did great!