.

real strawberries and cream macarons

Okay, I’ll come clean.

My eyes are drawn to the entertainment tabloids at the check-out counter and when a queue is particularly gruellingly long I have been known to pick one up and flip through its pages.

ground almonds, powdered strawberries and sugar
macaronage stage…lava-like

I have my guilty indulgences (aside from gluten-full slices of cake on occasion).

But I have never purchased a gossip magazine.
I swear.
real strawberry flavour from freeze-dried strawberries

Much like lookie-loos craning their necks to see a traffic accident, I have been known to pause on reality shows other than those on Food TV.  I don’t actually watch much t.v. other than a few sit-coms that to me are like brain candy.  I don’t need drama.  I can read a book for that.  Because Stomach likes to watch The Big Bang Theory and it’s on frequently after the kids have been put to bed, I get a chance to kick back and watch it too.  I enjoy it because heck, Stomach is an engineer and so are many of my guy friends.   He and I can relate to pretty much everything that’s on that show!

vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream filling is smooth, creamy and pairs well with strawberry

Though I have not watched an entire episode of Desperate Housewives and I’ve only ever seen at most 10  minutes of the Real Housewives series’ shows, I certainly know what it’s all about.  Some of my friends are hooked on watching the series.  
Well, tonight the Real Housewives of Vancouver launches on t.v. and I’ve been invited to a Real Housewives house party!  Whoohoo!  Fun!  Some of my female friends at work decided it would be a great idea to get a few of us “Real” Vancouver housewives together to watch the first show together.

desperately real strawberry macarons!

I imagine that Strawberry Macarons would make a nice contribution to the evening’s munchies.  They’re elegant, trendy, expensive (if purchased but I’ll never do that), and intensely flavoured…just like the Real Housewives of Vancouver.  To boot, they’re temperamental.  I didn’t want all sorts of artificial ingredients in them (but I can’t say that can be so accurate for the real housewives themselves…don’t know that sort of stuff).  So I didn’t use any artificial food colouring and only organic ingredients.  Well, I think that’s pretty Vancouver.   In general, we Vancouverites are into healthy, organic lifestyles.

the secret ingredient

I had purchased a case of freeze-dried fruit snacks from Costco recently.  It was a variety pack of Pineapple, Mango and Strawberry packets.  It’s gluten free, no sugar added, all-natural and the ingredient list is simple; for example on the pineapple pack it states simply “pineapple”.  There are no preservatives like sulphites either.  The freeze-dried fruit slices are different in texture than regular dried fruit.  It’s slightly crunchy.  The flavour though is intense.  Not too sweet.  Because of its dry texture, it’s easily ground into a powder.  Therein lies my inspiration to use these snacks in macarons.

freeze-dried strawberries are intensely flavoured.  no need for artificial ickiness in your macarons

I used one and a half packs of the strawberries (10 oz packets) and used my Bullet to buzz them up into a fine powder.  I added that to the ground almonds and confectioners’ sugar and they turned out a pale pink.  The smell of strawberries was so intense.  The flavour was excellent.  I paired the shells with a Swiss Meringue Buttercream with real Vanilla bean.  I think the flavour is like Strawberries and Cream.

real strawberries and cream macarons…a nice pairing with champagne? white wine?
a perfect pairing while watching Real Housewives Vancouver

Here it is.  Why not indulge in a guilty pleasure?

REAL STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM  MACARONS
an original recipe by Cakebrain

  • 145 grams egg whites at room temperature [I used pasteurized egg whites from a carton]
  • 2 tsp meringue powder 
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 15 grams finely ground freeze dried strawberries
  • 115 grams ground almonds [I purchase sliced almonds from Costco and grind them down in the food processor]
  • 230 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 75 grams granulated vanilla sugar
  1. Prepare the baking pans by lining with parchment paper.
  2. Prepare your piping bag with a large round tip.
  3. Process the almonds, confectioners’ sugar and freeze dried strawberries until thoroughly combined and finely ground.   Continue to pulse until all lumps are gone.  If there are small lumps, you may sift to ensure fineness of the mixture.
  4. In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until foamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the cream of tartar.  Continue whisking on medium speed for 2 more minutes.  Gradually add the granulated sugar while whisking on high for another 3-4 minutes, or until the egg whites are very stiff.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the egg whites, and with a rubber spatula, deflate the whites while mixing.  Combine the ingredients thoroughly and watch carefully, lifting the mixture with the spatula to see if it leaves ribbons.  Stop mixing before the mixture becomes runny.    Test by seeing if the batter is lava-like.  It should not maintain its lines but sink slowly back into itself in about 10 seconds.
  6. Transfer half the batter to the piping bag and pipe the macaroons onto the parchment, allowing for spreading.
  7. Rap the tray a few times on your counter to ensure bubbles are eradicated  
  8. Continue filling bag and piping macaron shells until all the batter is used.
  9. Preheat the oven to 315 degrees F.  Allow the macaron shells to dry, about 20-30 minutes.  If you touch the surface, it should not be sticky.  Continue to dry if it is sticky.  
  10. Place one tray on the centre rack and bake for 10-12 minutes (depending on the size of the macarons).  Turn the tray from back to front halfway through.
  11. Allow macaroons to cool completely before filling.  Remove from parchment carefully.
  12. Pipe Swiss Meringue Buttercream on a macaron shell, find a similar sized shell and sandwich it.  Store the macarons in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  Best served at room temperature.  You can freeze the shells or the prepared macarons in an airtight container.

VANILLA BEAN SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
(from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes; makes about 5 cups)

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup plus 2 T sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, insides scraped (and save the pod for vanilla sugar!) or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Combine egg whites, sugar and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).
  2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.
  3. With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth. Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.
  4. (optional) To tint buttercream, reserve some for toning down the color, if necessary. Add gel-paste food color, a drop at a time (or use the toothpick or skewer to add food color a dab at a time) to the remaining buttercream. You can use a single shade of food color or experiment by mixing two or more. Blend after each addition with the mixer (use the paddle attachment) or a flexible spatula, until desired shade is achieved. Avoid adding too much food color too son, as the hue with intensify with continued stirring; if necessary, you can tone down the shade by mixing in some reserved untinted buttercream.

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