Double Cherry Macarons
Double Cherry Macarons:
Macarons are a rather perfect metaphor for not waiting, since I have to admit that I put off making them for ages because I was so intimidated! They are famous for being finicky, and indeed they take a fair amount of precision, careful measuring, and a non-humid day to work.
But oh, the reward… crisp macaron shells perfumed with the ethereal enchantment of cherry blossoms, filled with cherry jam made with both fruit and flower, and a double cherry buttercream that is tart, silky, and utterly enchanting. These macarons are the first time I have ever heard my dad use the word “orgasmic.” Another friend said “they were, quite literally, the best thing I have ever had in my mouth.”
Yes, macarons might take a try or two to master, and yes they take some time. But the wonders these treats contain aren’t something you’ll want to put off; make them now, while the cherries are blooming. Make them now, because they are incredible!
Quick note: Plan ahead so you can capture that cherry blossom magic overnight before baking your macarons!
Cherry blossom extract:
This is as simple as placing fresh cherry blossoms in a small jar and covering with vodka. Cover and place in a dark place. It’ll take on a wonderful flavor overnight, but will get even stronger if left for a couple of days. Strain before use.
Double Cherry Jam:
4 c. finely chopped pitted cherries (I use frozen sour cherries - about 3 lbs)
2 c. fresh cherry blossoms
1 package (1 ¾ oz) powdered pectin
4 ¾ c. sugar
2 tsp. Noyaux or ¼ tsp. Almond extract
Place a clean plate in the freezer.
Add the cherries, cherry blossoms, and pectin to a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the cherries release their juices, then turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.
Add the sugar. Continue stirring as the mixture reaches a full boil once again. Boil hard for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Dab a little bit on a plate to test the consistency; you want it to wrinkle when you slide your finger through it. You can also se a candy thermometer to check doneness: the mixture should be between 220 and 225F. Skim off any froth, stir in the noyaux or extract, and pour into sterilized glass jars. Keeps in the fridge for up to 3 months.
Cherry Blossom Macaron Shells:
There’s no getting around it: macarons are finicky. You need to be super precise in your measurements and follow the instructions carefully. It’s best to make them on a day with lower humidity as well! A little note on egg whites: if you live in a humid climate, you may only need 120g as there will be more moisture in your other ingredients. Here in the dry high desert of Idaho, I needed the full 150g to achieve success.
120g - 150g egg whites, depending on humidity (about 4 eggs, but measure!)
150 g. Powdered sugar (without cornstarch if possible )
150 g. Almond flour (not almond meal)
150 g. Fine granulated sugar
Pinch cream of tartar
1 tsp. Cherry blossom extract
A few drops of natural pink food coloring
Separate the eggs, being careful not to get any yolk in the whites mixture. Let the whites sit out in an uncovered bowl at room temperature for about half an hour.
Meanwhile, sift together the powdered sugar and almond flour three times, to both fully mix and aerate the mixture.
To make your meringue, measure out 150 g of the room temperature egg whites and add them to a clean mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. (Make sure there isn’t any grease in the bowl or mixer or the whites won’t whip!) Beat the egg whites on low until foamy, then add the cream of tartar and salt and continue beating. Once the mixture is white, start to slowly add the granulated sugar, one spoonful at a time. Each addition of sugar should be mostly dissolved before adding more. When all of the sugar has been added, add the cherry blossom extract and beat until stiff peaks form. Mix in the food coloring, making it a little darker than desired since it will pale slightly in the oven. (The natural red food coloring I used looked purple at this step but turned pink later on!)
Gently tip ⅓ of the sifted dry ingredients into the meringue. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold until incorporated. Then add the rest and fold in until incorporated. Continue to fold and stir, pressing the mixture up against the side of the bowl to pop any large bubbles as you do. Creating this mixture is called “macaronage,” and if you are feeling intimidated by it, you can watch a video or two of how it is done first! Keep mixing until the batter is thick, but runny enough to slowly flow off the spatula. It should drop back into the bowl and hold its shape for a moment before blending back in - which should take about 10 seconds. It should also be smooth and glossy. Gently transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a round tip. Pipe 1.5” rounds onto two baking sheets lined with non-stick silicone baking mats (or parchment paper if you don’t have those.) Tap each baking sheet on the counter three times to pop any trapped air bubbles that might distort the macarons. If bubbles come up to the surface and don’t pop, you can use a toothpick to pop them.
Allow the macaron shells to rest at room temperature until a skin forms - they should go from being glossy to being matte. The time it takes for this to happen varies greatly by the humidity of the air. It can happen in as fast as 15 minutes or up to a couple of hours! To test the dryness, very gently touch the top of one with your finger. It should feel dry and not stick.
While the shells are drying, preheat the oven to 300F. Place the macarons on a lower rack and an empty baking sheet on the top rack, which will help keep them from browning. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the shells gently pull away from the silicone liner and are nice and dry. Remove from the oven and let cool. You’re now ready to fill and decorate your macarons!
Place a dab of cherry jam in the center of the bottom side of a baked shell. Pipe a circle of buttercream around it. Top with another shell and your macaron is filled! They can be decorated and eaten right away, but some recommend placing them in an airtight container in the fridge for 8-24 hours to allow the shells to soften just the right amount before decorating with the wafer paper blossoms and eating.
Double Cherry Buttercream And Assembly:
¼ c. salted butter at room temperature
1 ¾- 2 c. powdered sugar
1 ¼ Tbs. cherry juice at room temperature
1 tsp. Cherry blossom extract
Beat the butter until it is fluffy and smooth. Add about half a cup of powdered sugar and mix in. Add the cherry juice and blend until smooth, then continue adding powdered sugar until your mixture is pipe-able.
Mix in the cherry blossom extract, then add more powdered sugar if necessary to get a soft but pipe-able mix.
Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a medium round tip.
To assemble your macarons, first pipe a circle of buttercream about ⅛” from the edge of the bottom macaron. Add about ½ tsp. Of the double cherry jam to the center, then gently press the top macaron in place.
Place the filled macarons in an airtight container in the fridge overnight. Meanwhile, make your decorations (below.)
Wafer Paper Cherry Blossoms:
3-4 sheets of wafer paper
Soft, clean paintbrush
¼ c. Cherry juice
1 Tbs. food-grade glycerine
Non-stick silicone mat to work on
Small sharp scissors
Optional: small squeeze bottle with very small tip
1 bar of ruby chocolate
Lay the wafer paper sheets out on a non-stick silicone surface. In a small bowl, mix together the cherry juice and glycerine.
Load your brush with just a little of the cherry juice mix and make a dot on the water paper, using your brush to feather it out so it fades to white. You should have a circle about 1 ½ across that fades from red in the middle to pink to white at the edges. Repeat all over the wafer paper, spacing your spots out so you’ll be able to cut them later. Allow to dry completely.
Gently cut out each small circle (again 1” - 1 ½” large), then cut each one into 5 even wedges. Cut the wide ends of the wedges into a rounded petal shape.
Place the scraps of wafer paper into the cherry juice mixture and let sit overnight so it dissolves into a sticky glue.
To assemble the blossoms, dab a little bit of the thick wafer paper glue on a macaron shell, then place 5 petals so they are touching the middle. Allow to dry completely.
The blossoms look incredible like this, but if you want to add even more detail, you can add the pistils out of ruby chocolate!
Break up the chocolate and put it in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat it for 10 seconds at a time, stirring between each round, until ¾ of the chocolate has melted. Then continue stirring until all of it has melted and the mixture is smooth. Transfer the melted chocolate into the very small squeeze bottle and use it to draw thin lines radiating out from the center of each flower about halfway up the petals, then add dots on the ends of each line.