Happy V-day & heart-shaped vanilla-tonka bean macarons

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Valentine’s Day is here and I love flipping through the images on Instagram with all the beautiful love-inspired food posts! They all have in common hues of pink and red, from heart-shaped pancakes to cakes, brownies, soufflés and cookies. Thinking pinks and reds, I put together some of my own favorite sweet images… I just love pink desserts!

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I’ve been making a lot of macarons lately, I’m really trying to learn to make them as perfect as I can. They’re lovely on their own, as a gift or as decoration on other desserts and they’re so pretty to photograph! I always freeze a few to have them ready whenever I need them. They freeze perfectly, just take them out of the freezer about 30 minutes before serving and they’ll be as good as freshly made. Valentine’s Day inspired a pink, heart-shaped form with a delicate vanilla-tonka bean ganache filling that I simply adore. I hope they’ll inspire you to make them for your special sweetheart :-). Happy V-day!

For the macarons (makes about 50 macarons)
Italian meringue recipe from the blog La Cuisine de Mercotte
2 times 55g of egg whites at room temperature
150g almond meal
150g powdered sugar
15g white sugar
a knife tip of food coloring in powder or paste form (not liquid or gel), pistachio green
For the sugar sirup:
150g white sugar
50g water

  1. Weigh all the ingredients precisely.
  2. In a food processor, pulse together the almond meal and powdered sugar a few times, until the powders are well blended and a fine flour-type mixture forms. Set aside.
  3. Make a sirup by cooking together the 150g of white sugar and 50g of water. Bring it to a boil and heat it up to 110ºC.
  4. While preparing the sugar sirup, start beating 55g of egg whites at high speed in a self-standing mixer. When the egg whites start foaming, add the 15g of white sugar.
  5.  When the sirup reaches 110ºC, pour it slowly on the egg whites while continuing to beat at medium speed. Continue beating constantly until the temperature of the egg whites reaches about 40ºC.
  6. Slow down the mixing speed to add the food coloring and the remaining 55g of egg whites. Increase the speed to high again and beat for a few seconds, until the food coloring is well incorporated, then stop.
  7. Replace the mixing tool with the flat leaf tool. Add the dry ingredients – the mixture of almond meal and powdered sugar – and mix at minimum speed for about 1 minute. The egg white mixture must be nice and shiny.
  8. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a round tip of about 6-8mm and pipe the macarons onto a a silicone baking sheet, with incorporated heart shapes, designed especially for baking macarons. You can also draw the hearts onto a sheet of parchment paper, if you do not have the silicone sheet with hearts.
  9. Let the macarons “dry” on the baking sheet for 10-15 minutes before placing them in the oven. This helps form a thin crust and prevents shell cracking during baking.
  10. Bake at 150-155ºC 13-14 minutes (the first batch will be a test batch to help you understand your oven better and adapt the temperature and the baking time). When done, the macarons must detach from the baking sheet easily. Let them cool down for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
  11. Fill and assemble the macarons when they are completely cool.

For the vanilla-tonka bean ganache filling
Recipe adapted from the blog La Cuisine de Mercotte
60g white chocolate (I use Valrhona Ivoire white chocolate)
30g heavy cream
3g honey with a neutral taste (I use acacia honey)
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1/2 a tonka bean, grated
90g heavy cream

Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Add the to the 90g of cold heavy cream, the grate in 1/2 of a tonka bean by using a nutmeg grater. Mix and set aside.

Melt the white chocolate in a bain-marie. At the same time, heat the 30g of heavy cream together with the honey up to boiling point. Now comes the tricky part – you need to make an emulsion of the white chocolate and hot heavy cream-honey mixture by pouring the heavy cream in 3 additions into the melted white chocolate and mixing very intensely. After the first addition, a thick, almost pasty texture will form. Do not be afraid of this, continue with the second and third addition and mix very intensely throughout the process. A smooth, creamy emulsion will form; if you mixed thoroughly, there will be no lumps and no separation of liquids. Add the 90g of cold heavy cream with the vanilla seeds and grated tonka bean when the white chocolate emulsion reaches about 35ºC. Mix well and cover the ganache with plastic wrap – it must be in contact with the ganache on the entire surface. Place the ganache in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours, ideally overnight. It’s actually best to prepare the ganache filling the day before you will fill the macaron shells.

The next day, whip the vanilla-tonka bean ganache with a mixer, just like you would whip heavy cream alone into whipping cream. Fill a pastry bag with the whipped ganache and fill the macarons. These cookies are always best after at least 24h, when the filling softens up the meringue shells to give a slightly crispy exterior and a soft, melt-in-your-mouth interior.

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