Elevate the Conversation Hearts with Macarons
Pastry & Baking Arts Chef-Instructor Penny Stankiewicz saves a Valentine’s Day dessert dilemma with the ultimate alternative to knockoff candy conversation hearts.
It’s heartbreaking to lose an iconic part of a holiday celebration. So this year, when I heard that there might not be any sugary conversation hearts available, I found a way to make my own at home.
I considered many different formats for the cheeky sayings, like lollipops, cookies and cakes, but in the end decided to elevate the conversation a bit with hand-painted macarons.
I began by making my rose jelly. The culinary grade rose petals give the jelly a naturally blush-rose tone, and the rose water enhances the floral aroma. It’s best to make this jelly a day ahead and let it set up at room temperature. You’ll have some leftover after filling the macarons. Use it to top biscuits for a romantic breakfast or as a filling layer in a cake.
I wanted to keep the original heart shape for the cookies, so I made a template. I cut a small heart shape from a piece of cardboard and traced it in a repeating pattern on a piece of parchment that I placed under a Silpat. I then piped the cookies in the shape of the pattern beneath it and used a toothpick to pull out the point on the bottom.
Macaron success hinges on so many little details. Here are few guidelines to help along the way:
- Use room temperature egg whites, aged if possible.
- Always pipe them onto a Silpat.
- After piping onto trays, be sure to let them rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before baking.
- Bake only one tray in the oven at a time.
To make these just a bit more delicately fancy, sprinkle some of the crushed rose petals on the top edge of the macs right after piping. When they are baked and completely cooled, remove them from the Silpat. If they stick at all, use a small offset spatula to slide them off. Match them up to find the perfect-sized pairs and pick the best ones for the tops.
You can use the traditional wording like, “I’m Yours,” “Love,” “Hug Me” or “xoxo,” or be creative and make up your own fun phrasing. To hand paint the tops, you’ll need a small, fine bristled paint brush, gel paste food coloring and possibly some vodka. You can use the gel paste straight, but if it’s thick and resistant, you can thin it out just a little bit with the vodka to get to a paint-like consistency.
Take your time, keep it straight and paint your favorite sayings on the top pieces. You can embrace the original aesthetic and keep them in block letters; this will be the simplest version to do. Or do what I did and mix your fonts to get different effects. These will dry within 20 minutes or so; be careful of smudging before that.
Place the jelly in a piping bag and cut a 1/4-inch hole in the tip. Pipe a small amount of rose jelly onto the upturned bottom macaron and top delicately with its matching painted heart. Keep the filled cookies for two days in an airtight container and share the love!
Rose Conversation Macarons
Rose Petal Jelly
- 215 grams water
- 265 grams sugar
- 22 grams lemon juice
- 2 grams rose petals
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds removed
- 11 grams pectin
- 15 grams rose water
- If the rose petals are whole, place them into a food processor or blender and break them up a bit.
- Place the water, half the sugar, lemon juice, rose petals and split vanilla bean into a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Turn it off and let it steep for 10 minutes.
- Bring the mixture back to a boil. Whisk together the other half of the sugar with the pectin until fully combined. Stream this slowly into the boiling mixture, whisking constantly to make sure there are no lumps of pectin. Add rose water. Cook to 222 F. Cool, and place into a container for storage. Allow this to set completely before using it.
- 150 grams almond flour
- 150 grams confectioners sugar
- 120 grams egg whites
- 37 grams water
- 150 grams sugar
- Optional food coloring
- Combine almond flour and confectioners sugar in a food processor and blend until fine.
- Add 65 grams of egg whites to this and mix to make a paste. If coloring the mixture, add color to this paste.
- Put 55 grams of egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Add water to sugar in a small pot. Heat to 225 F. This will happen quickly in small batches. Turn mixer on and begin to whip the whites.
- When the sugar syrup reaches 242 F, take it off the heat and stream it down the side of the mixing bowl with the machine running on medium speed. Continue mixing until the meringue has cooled completely.
- Fold 1/3 of the meringue into the almond paste mixture. Continue adding meringue until it is all incorporated.
- Preheat oven to 300 F.
- Place your template under a Silpat on a baking sheet. Fill a piping bag with the meringue mixture and pipe out over your heart shaped template. Using a toothpick, drag from the bottom and pull out the fine point of the bottom “v” of the heart if desired. Allow to air dry for at least 30 minutes.
- Bake in a standard oven at 300 F for 14 minutes. Allow to cool completely before trying to remove them from the Silpat. Decorate, fill the sandwich cookies with the rose jelly and serve.
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