Valentine’s Day gets a bad press. Tired, over-priced flowers, cheap chocolates and badly managed expectations. A bit like New Year’s Eve, you probably love it or hate it. Although unlike New Year’s Eve, your may find your relationship with Valentine’s Day changes from year to year, depending on your own relationship status. Valentine’s Day is good – or bad – when you’re in a relationship. It’s really good – or really bad – when you’re in a very old or a very new relationship. And it’s generally just bad when you’re single. Its essence – marketing apart – is simply showing someone you love that you care. That doesn’t need to involve expensive or grand gestures: just a look or a touch can be enough and it shouldn’t need a specific day. But if you do want to mark Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to remind someone how much you care, forget the expensive red roses and over-sized teddy bears and invest your time and energy in something homemade.
You’ll probably want to observe some of the clichés. Hearts; red; chocolate: it’s all good, and it’s an opportunity to go all-out kitsch if you want to. Or you might prefer a slightly more subtle approach, especially if you’re in one of those new relationships. Maybe some heart shaped biscuits, or some double chocolate cookies. And if you’re single (happily so or otherwise) you can still make them for yourself and your friends. But if you’re looking for an excuse for some pink, raspberry-flavoured macarons with a chocolate filling, Valentine’s Day is the perfect one.
Macarons are not always the easiest option so be prepared to make more than one batch if necessary. Having not made any for a while I thought it might be a good idea to make small quantities. I used two thirds of the recipe below and overbaked my first batch so they were more like very crunchy meringues. They won’t go to waste though as they’ll be perfect blitzed as a topping for ice cream or a cake. As luck would have it, I bought some raspberry flavouring on a whim recently so added a tiny drop to my mixture. If you don’t have raspberry flavouring it really doesn’t matter: the freeze-dried raspberries will add all the flavour you need. And if you don’t have freeze-dried raspberries either then you just have delicious pink macarons with a chocolate filling and that’s good too. But for that little bit of magic you’ll definitely need Himalyan pink salt for your pinch of salt. Just because it’s pink.
90g icing sugar
45g ground almonds
35g egg white
Pinch of salt (pink Himalyan optional!)
25g caster sugar
Drop of raspberry flavouring (optional)
Pink food colouring
Filling and Decoration
100g dark chocolate (dairy-free if necessary)
4 teaspoons milk or milk alternative, warmed
Pink food dust (optional)
Line a large baking sheet, or a couple of smaller ones, with baking paper.
Set the oven to 160°C.
Put the icing sugar and ground almonds in a food processor and blitz briefly. Do not overprocess.
Sieve the mixture into a bowl.
Mix the egg white with a pinch of salt (pink, if possible, obviously) and the caster sugar. Whisk to a stiff, glossy meringue mixture.
Add the food colouring and raspberry flavouring, if using, and mix well.
Add the dry ingredients and mix in. The mixture should have a smooth, shiny consistency.
Using a piping bag and, ideally, a 0.5cm nozzle, pipe the mixture onto the baking sheet. Bang the tray on the worktop to remove any air bubbles.
Leave at room temperature until they develop a skin on the top – probably about 15 minutes or so but it will depend on the temperature and humidity of the room.
Bake for around 8-10 minutes: the amount of time will depend on how large your macarons are. Do not allow to dry out too much.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet.
Make the filling:
Melt the chocolate over a pan of boiling water.
Once the chocolate has melted, mix in the warmed milk and stir well. Allow to cool slightly.
While you are waiting for the filling to cool, match up the macarons according to size and shape:
Fill the macarons with the chocolate mixture, either with a palette knife or piping bag.
Either sprinkle the freeze-dried raspberries over the chocolate mixture before you sandwich the macarons together, or you can roll the sides in the them. If you have made mini macarons it is probably better to put the raspberries in the centre. Larger macarons will look good with the filling rolled in the raspberries, like this:
Finally, use a paintbrush to dust with pink food dust for a little extra bling and sparkle:
Keep in an airtight container until you are ready to package in a jar or box for your Valentine. If you’re lucky they’ll share.
Happy Valentine’s Day!