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Strawberry and Rhubarb Macarons

An elegant early summer treat: Strawberry and Rhubarb Macarons // FoodNouveau.com

After launching a macaron video class back in January, I decided to challenge myself to create new macarons more regularly to keep on feeding macaron fans looking for new flavor inspirations {pun intended!} and to keep honing my skills macaron- and pastry-wise. I feel like I learn something new every time I make a new macaron batch; instead of always using my same trusted recipe, I go out of my way to test new ingredients or techniques that have failed others. I want to keep gathering information to help budding macaron-makers (in other words, I hope to fail more to help you fail less!).

With all the tests I’ve done recently (such as using different types of almond meal and baking sheets with different finishes and beating egg whites stiffer or softer, to name a few), my macarons have not all been perfect looking. I used to strive to create the perfect macaron, but after a taste test I conducted at a real-life macaron-making class, I concluded that taste is the most important factor when it comes to enjoying a macaron. In the taste test, I brought perfect-looking macarons from a popular pastry shop in Quebec City. All the students had already tasted them, and some had only ever tasted those macarons. I also brought macarons from another pastry shop, which were ugly looking by all macaron standards: the size of the shells were uneven, the feet had spread sideways, and some shells looked “wet.” However, everyone agreed that the ugly macarons were better. The perfect-looking macarons were dry and brittle, and the very thin layer of filling delivered little flavor, whereas the ugly macarons provided surprisingly great texture, and the flavors were bright and generous.

Since then, I’ve relaxed my macaron standards a little. I have to admit that I used to throw away macarons I made when I thought they looked a bit crooked for one reason or another; now if I’m confident of the flavors hidden inside, I keep them all. The other thing I realized is that I had built up unnecessarily high standards for myself when it came to macaron perfection; all my friends and loved ones are perfectly happy eating a macaron with a cracked or crispier shell than usual. As pastry creations, macarons will forever be treats that one enjoys with the eyes and the taste buds, but embracing imperfection can be freeing—which is something I should definitely apply to other areas of my life.

These strawberry and rhubarb macarons represent the early summer bounty—they burst with the juiciness of fresh strawberries and the tickling tartness of rhubarb. The recipe is a bit more technical than usual because it requires you to make pâtes de fruits, another of my current obsessions. Pâtes de fruits are gummies made with fresh fruits, and these candies are commonly sold—at prohibitive prices—in pastry and gourmet shops in Paris. However, they’re quite easy to make at home, especially using this shortcut recipe from Jacques Pépin. The strawberry and rhubarb pâtes de fruits recipe yields a lot more than you’ll need to garnish the macarons, but once you taste a square, you’ll be over the moon that you have leftovers. In other words, your efforts will lend you not one but two delightful treats that’ll allow you to properly celebrate the arrival of summer.

Never made French macarons? Here are helpful resources to get you started:

Makes about 56 shells, or 28 assembled macarons.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Macarons
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INGREDIENTS

For the shells
3 egg whites (from large eggs), separated at least two days in advance, stored in an open container in the fridge
7.4 oz [210 g] powdered sugar
4.4 oz [125 g] almond flour
1 oz [30 g] granulated sugar
Strawberry-flavored sugar, for dusting (optional)
For the rhubarb buttercream (see note)
1 cup [250 ml] thinly sliced rhubarb stalks (greener tops discarded)
½ cup [125 ml] water
1 tbsp [15 ml] granulated sugar
½ cup [125 ml/1 stick] unsalted butter, room temperature
Pinch of kosher salt
5 cups [1.25 L] powdered sugar, sifted

METHOD

At least 24 hours in advance, make the strawberry and rhubarb pâtes de fruits. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Return the egg whites to room temperature at least an hour before making the macarons.

Make the macaron shells: In the bowl of a food processor, add the powdered sugar and almond flour, and process until the mixture is thoroughly incorporated, 30 seconds to a minute. Sift mixture to make sure no lumps or bigger bits of almonds are left.

Whisk the egg whites on medium/high speed for a minute or two, add a tablespoon of the granulated sugar, continue beating and add the remaining sugar slowly. Beat until the egg whites are stiff, dense and creamy. Mix in pink gel food coloring until you reach the shade you’re looking for.

Delicately fold in the nuts/sugar mixture in 2 or 3 additions. Slide your spatula all the way to the bottom of the bowl and comes back up several times to make sure no pockets of dry ingredients remain and the color is evenly blended.

Prepare the baking sheet by lining them with parchment paper. Slide macaron templates under the parchment paper, if using.

Transfer the macaron batter in a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch [1.25-cm] round tip. Pipe 1½-inch [3.8-cm] rounds of batter, evenly spaced but still close to one another as they will not expand much.

Carefully slide the macaron templates off the baking sheets, if you used them. Let the shells rest on the baking sheets for 20 to 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 275°F (135°C) with a rack set to the middle position. If using, sprinkle strawberry-flavored sugar over the top of the shells right before baking. Bake the macarons for 16 to 18 minutes, rotating the pan after 10 minutes.

Let the shells cool completely to room temperature before assembling them, about an hour.

While the shells are cooling, make the rhubarb buttercream: Combine the rhubarb, water, and granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the rhubarb breaks apart, about 5 minutes. Use a stick blender to puree the rhubarb mixture to a super smooth consistency. Transfer to a shallow bowl and refrigerate to cool completely.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, if using a hand mixer), and beat for a minute to soften. Add half the powdered sugar and beat on low speed to moisten the sugar, then increase the speed to incorporate fully. Add ¼ cup [60 ml] of the cooled rhubarb puree, and beat to incorporate fully. Incorporate the remaining powdered sugar. At this point, the buttercream should be fairly thick, so add more rhubarb buttercream to reach a creamy, but not too loose consistency (you will probably have a bit of puree leftover). Beat on medium speed until the buttercream is smooth and fluffy. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch [1.25-cm] round tip and set aside until ready to assemble the macarons.

Assemble the macarons: Take the pâtes de fruits out of the refrigerator. Pull the mixture out of the baking dish using the overhanding wax paper and set over a cutting board. Detail about 28 small, thin squares of pâtes de fruits (each piece should be about 0.4 inch [1 cm] square and 0.2 inch [0.5 cm] thick). Cut the rest of the pâtes de fruits into larger bite-sized cubes, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator to enjoy later.

Pair same sized shells together and set side by side on a work surface. Pipe some filling over half of the shells, and top each filling mound with a piece of pâte de fruit. Close the macarons, gently pressing the second shells over the filling.


Store the assembled macarons in an airtight container and refrigerate for one night before indulging.


Always bring the macarons back to room temperature before serving.


NOTE: You have about twice the amount of frosting you need to fill the macarons. Use the remaining frosting to garnish a cake or cupcakes, or freeze it in an airtight container until you make a new batch of macaron shells. Simply defrost to room temperature and whisk vigorously to soften before using.


Recipe Credits:

Pâtes de fruits recipe adapted from Jacques Pépin.

Macaron and buttercream recipes by Marie Asselin.

https://foodnouveau.com/recipes/desserts/macarons/strawberry-rhubarb-macarons/

Strawberry and Rhubarb Macarons, filled with rhubarb buttercream and garnished with strawberry and rhubarb pâtes de fruits // FoodNouveau.com

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