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Bake-off Winner!

Huge thanks to all of the amazing bakers who brought goods to the Fulton Farmers Market last Saturday!  Your tasty treats were a great example of how we can use fruits, veggies, and eggs from the market to create delicious confections.

Congratulations to first place winner Lisa Pray!  Lisa made beautiful Strawberry Basil Macarons with strawberries from Walsh Ridge Farm, basil from Yer Yang’s Produce and Flowers and eggs from Braucher’s Sunshine Harvest Farm.  Check out the recipe below and try them for yourself!

Strawberry-Basil Macarons
Ingredients (makes ~5 dozen depending on size. I recommend weighing the ingredients to get the most accurate measurements)
Meringue shells:
300g almond flour
300g confectioners sugar
110g egg whites
75g water
300g caster sugar
(another) 110g egg whites
Colored gel (optional, but pink and green recommend for this recipe)
Strawberry-basil filling:
1 cup unsalted butter
3 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of salt
basil (to taste)
strawberries (to taste)
strawberry extract (to taste)
Instructions for the meringue shells:
1) Begin by sifting the almond flour to remove any large pieces of almond. Combine the almond flour and confectioners sugar in a food processor. Once combined, sift the ingredients again (and again, if you don’t mind the effort!). Add the first set of egg whites (110g) to the sifted almond flour and confectioners sugar, but do not stir.
2) Combine the water and caster sugar in a pot and bring to a boil. Once the mixture reaches 115 degrees C begin whisking the second set of egg whites (110g) in a stand mixer. Whip the egg whites on high until soft peaks form. Once the sugar/water mixture reaches 118 degrees C, very slowly pour over the egg whites while they are whisking (it is best to pour the sugar mixture down the side of the bowl to avoid deflating the egg whites). Continue to whisk until the mixture cools down to 50 degrees C and stiff peaks are formed (creating an Italian meringue).
3) Manually combine the Italian meringue with the almond flour/confectioners sugar/egg white mixture using a rubber scraper. At this point, add any desired food gel to color the batter (this step is optional, but for this recipe, it is recommended to color half of the batter light pink and half light green… if possible, use a gel to avoid introducing any additional liquid to the batter). Stir until the mixture reaches the consistency of lava (if too thick, keep mixing… if too thin, it may be over-mixed or the meringue may not have been whisked stiff enough before combining)… the final mixture should slowly flow off of a rubber scraper when held up.
4) Once the mixture is the correct consistency, put in a piping bag and pipe 1.5in circles on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper (you should be able to fit about 24 shells on a standard size baking sheet). Once piped, tap the baking sheet on the table to help release any air bubbles in the shells. Let the shells rest until the tops are no longer sticky (this is a very important step to avoid cracked shells!).
5) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Once shells are no longer sticky to touch (depending on humidity this may be anywhere from 15-30 minutes), place in oven and lower the temperature to 325 degrees F (I recommend doubling your baking sheet to help prevent the bottoms of the macarons from baking too quickly). Bake for 11 minutes, rotating tray half-way through.
6) Once baked, remove from oven and let fully cool before peeling the macarons from the parchment paper.
7) Re-preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and repeat the above steps until all the shells are baked.
Instructions for the strawberry-basil filling:
1) Whip one cup of room-temperature butter in a stand mixer on high speed (whip for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy with no lumps).
2) Slowly combine in 2 cups of confectioners sugar (about a 1/2 cup at a time). Continue to whip on a high speed until light and fluffy with no lumps – 5 minutes, or so.
3) Place 1 cup of confectioners sugar, basil, and strawberries into a food processor and pulse until combined. Adjust the amount of basil and strawberries used depending on the desired flavor.
4) Slowly add the strawberry-basil sugar mixture into the whipping filling. Add a pinch of salt and strawberry extract (if desired), to taste.  Continue to whip until smooth.
Assembling the macarons:
1) Ensure the macarons are fully cooled before assembling.
2) Pipe a small amount of the strawberry-basil filling on to one side of a macaron shell.
3) Dice a few strawberries and place a small piece of fresh strawberry into the center of the filling.
4) To finish, place an equal-size macaron shell on the other side and sandwich together.
It is best to let the macarons rest for ~3 hours at room temperature prior to eating (this helps the filling flavor be absorbed into the macaron shells).