Whew. That title is a mouthful! This unique flavor combo might even sound familiar if you live in the Northwest or California area. I pulled the inspiration for this multi faceted macaron from one of my FAVORITE ice cream shops, Salt and Straw! They are so well known for their DELICIOUSLY weird and one of a kind ice cream flavors, that it’s common to see a line spilling out the door every time you visit.
If you’re curious to see if there is a Salt and Straw near you (or you just in the mood to fawn over drool worthy flavors and scrumptious ice cream), head to their website at the link below! (P.s. they have a location in Downtown Disney if you’re doing a Disney vacation anytime soon!)
First things first, you’ll need to make your shells. For a detailed look at the macaron shell process, jump over to my Basic French Macaron recipe and be sure to take a close look at the consistencies of the stiff meringue peaks and the final batter texture.
Let’s talk about some of these flavors. If they were in a band together, the strawberry and black pepper would be the lead singers, and the honey and balsamic would be the background vocalists who enhance and add dimension to what’s already going on.
I’m a sucker for balsamic vinegar ANYTHING, so I was particularly excited to work on this flavor. I decided to incorporate the balsamic vinegar into the strawberry filling to pipe in the center of the mac. Balsamic Vinegar is to strawberry, what espresso is to chocolate. Pairing them up adds depth and dimension to the strawberry flavor that just isn’t there on it’s own. This recipe is easily adjustable if you want to add even MORE of a balsamic kick. All you would need to do is add a drizzle of a balsamic reduction or glaze layer when filling your macs.
The strawberry flavor hits in every component of these bad boys. Obviously it’s in the filling we just discussed, but it’s ALSO in the shells and buttercream through a magical little ingredient that doesn’t even add any moisture! You ready for it?…Freeze dried strawberry powder. Using dried fruit powder isn’t a new phenomenon in the baking world but I had yet to attempt using it until I started developing this recipe and I’m officially hooked. Fruit powder is a bit spendy, but you can easily make it by food processing freeze dried fruit slices or chunks to cut down on cost.
If you’ve been baking macarons for any length of time, you know how important it is to not add excess moisture to your macaron batter because of the significant potential for negative affects. It’s also very helpful to have a dry concentrated flavor when it comes to buttercream add ins, because you definitely don’t want your texture to be thrown off with too much liquid making it way too runny to hold it’s shape.
Next, let’s touch on the black pepper. I initially went in and did fresh cracked pepper only on my shells before baking with my first batch, but after assembling it with all the other flavor packed components I decided it needed more. I added another sprinkle on my filling before sandwiching them together, and that definitely helped the pepper shine through. So all that being said, use more than you think you need! Assemble one and taste it, and if you need more pepper flavor, add a heavier amount on your filling before sandwiching.
One last note, the honey is featured in the buttercream, and the prominence of it depends on your ratio of buttercream to fruit filling.
If you do a smaller outline (like my photo below from my first batch), the honey will be more subtle in comparison to the fruit filling. If you want it to stand out more, pipe a thicker ring of buttercream for the dam.
If you’re feeling adventurous one of these days, give these Strawberry Black Pepper Balsamic Honey Macarons a try and let me know how it goes!
Strawberry Black Pepper Honey Balsamic Macarons
Servings: 24-26 Fully Assembled Macarons
Total Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes
Strawberry Black Pepper Macaron Shell
– 130 grams Egg Whites (Approximately 4 Large Eggs)
– 120 grams Granulated Sugar
– 1/2 tsp Cream of Tartar
– 196 grams Almond Flour
– 196 grams Confectioner’s Sugar
– 8 Grams Freeze Dried Strawberry Powder
– 1 Pinch of Salt
– 25 Drops Americolor Super Gel Red Food Coloring
– 2 Drops Americolor Fuschia Gel Food Coloring
– 2 Drops Americolor Royal Blue Gel Food Coloring
– Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
Strawberry Honey Buttercream
– 4 oz Butter
– 7.5 oz Powdered Sugar
– 1 Pinch of Salt
– 25 Grams Strawberry Powder
– 3 TBS Honey
– 1 TBS Heavy Cream
Balsamic Strawberry Filling
– 1 Cup Strawberries
– 4 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
– 2 TBS Sugar
– 1 TBS Cornstarch
– 1/2 TBS Lemon Juice
- Line 2 baking sheets with either parchment paper or a silicone mat (circle template optional but recommended).
- Place a medium/large round piping tip in a large piping bag. Twist the bag right behind the tip and add a clip to seal off the opening. Place the bag tip down into either a clean tall cup with the edges folded over the rim to keep the bag open, or clip it into a bag holder.
- Using a kitchen scale, carefully weigh out and then sift the confectioner’s sugar and almond flour into a medium mixing bowl. Next, zero out your scale and sift in a full 8 grams of freeze dried strawberry powder. Make sure to measure your strawberry powder after you sift because you’ll lose a little bit by sifting out the big chunks. (Note: you don’t have to measure after for your powdered sugar and almond flour. The small amount of almond flour lost due to big chunks is already taken into account as long as you do not have more than a teaspoon or two of large chunks leftover once your almond flour is sifted.) Whisk well to fully blend the three dry ingredients together.
- Place egg whites, granulated sugar, and cream of tartar into a large mixing bowl, and begin beating with a whisk attachment using either a handheld mixer or a stand mixer for 2 minutes on a medium low speed (Kitchen Aid Speed 4).
- Turn up the mixer to a medium speed (Kitchen Aid Speed 6) and beat for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add in the gel food coloring.
- Turn mixer up to medium high speed (Kitchen Aid Speed 8) and beat for 3 more minutes, or until peaks are very stiff and the meringue clumps up in a ball in the center of the whisk. Test stiffness by removing whisk and pointing it upward. (See photos in post) Once the peaks can hold their shape flipped upright, your meringue is ready.
- Pour half of your dry ingredients into the bowl with your meringue, and fold 15 times. One fold is scraping all the way around the edge of your batter in your bowl, and then dragging your spatula through the middle. Be sure to scoop around the bottom of the bowl as well so you don’t miss any dry ingredients.
- Pour in the remaining powdered sugar and almond flour, and continue folding (approximately 50 more folds) until dry ingredients are fully incorporated, your batter is no longer clumpy and stiff, and flows in slow ribbons off of your spatula. Do not overfold. Start checking your batter’s readiness every 5 folds or so at this point by scraping all batter down to the bottom of your bowl, and then wiggling your bowl back and forth several times. If the batter levels out with very few peaks and lines remaining, it should be ready. (See photos in post for reference)
- Pour batter into prepared piping bag, and twist the opening off. Hold your bag at the twist between your thumb and pointer finger. Remove the clip.
- Holding the piping bag straight up and down, apply pressure to begin piping your batter in the center of your circle templates, releasing pressure once you are a few millimeters short of your desired size. After you release pressure, use a small quick circular flick to release your tip from the piped macaron.
- Once you’ve piped a full tray, firmly bang the tray on the counter a few times to pop any air bubbles and smooth out shells. Pop any remaining large bubbles with a toothpick. Repeat with the second tray.
- Using a pepper grinder, add fresh cracked pepper on top of each shell while they are still wet and tacky.
- Begin preheating your oven to 295 degrees, using an oven thermometer if possible to ensure accurate temperature readings.
- Set aside shells to dry until they form a skin and are no longer tacky to the touch. Once you can gently run a finger over your shells, they are ready to bake. Use a fan to speed up the process, rotating the tray every five minutes to ensure even drying. This usually takes at least 20 minutes for me even with a fan.
- Once shells are dry, and the oven has fully preheated to 295, place one tray in the center of the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 18 minutes.
- Quickly open door to check the shell’s doneness by gently pressing on the side just above the feet to see if it’s firm. If it moves at all, bake for another 2 minutes.
- Check shells by performing the same test, pressing on the side. If they are still unstable, bake for one more minute, and check again. Repeat until shells are firm and do not budge.
- Allow shells to cool completely, and the carefully remove from silicone mat or parchment paper by gently peeling them off.
Balsamic Strawberry Filling
- In a small saucepan, stir balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and cornstarch together until smooth.
- Add strawberries and sugar, and begin cooking over medium heat stirring frequently.
- Continue to cook, mashing the strawberries as they soften. Cook until the filling has thickened and the strawberries are softened and mashed.
- Cool in the fridge until ready to use.
Strawberry Honey Buttercream
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy.
- Add in powdered sugar and freeze dried strawberry powder and beat until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of your bowl periodically.
- Pour in honey and beat until incorporated. Do not over mix or your buttercream will become soupy. If it does, see note below *
- Add in heavy cream and beat until combined.
*If buttercream gets soupy, pop it in the fridge for awhile and then try beating it again in the mixer, and it should come back together.
- Match each shell with a partner shell of equal size.
- Wait to fill macarons until all components, especially the balsamic strawberry filling, are fully cooled. Using a piping bag with a round piping tip, pipe a border of strawberry honey buttercream on one shell in each pair.
- Fill the center of the buttercream border with the balsamic strawberry filling. A quick way to do this is to place the filling in a ziploc bag, and then cut off a corner of the bag and use it to pipe the filling.
- Grind more fresh cracked pepper on each filled open shell before sandwiching.
- Gently sandwich the matching shell on top to complete your macaron.
- Refrigerate in an airtight container for 24 hours to allow the macarons to “mature” and fully develop their flavor and texture. Eat within 3-4 days. Enjoy!