I am aware that I wrote about strawberries in a blog post last year, but I couldn’t help but go back to Oakridge Farms again this year for some berry hunting. It would have felt wrong not to. My family never berry picked when I was younger, and I suppose I can understand why. Three little kids with short attention spans wiping their juice stained hands on everything and complaining about the hot midday sun sounds like a recipe for disaster.
I derive much more joy from strawberry picking now than I did as a child. I’m aware that not everyone has the luxury of driving down to the strawberry patch and picking a flat of strawberries for a fraction of what it would cost in the store. We are lucky to have an abundance of fresh produce easily available to us here in the Fox Cities. I felt a justified indignation rising inside of my as I watched children cavalierly tossing their freshly picked berries into the mud surrounding the fields. Not everyone has this opportunity…don’t you know that your waste contributes to someone else’s unhappiness? But it’s not my place to scold children when their parents are idly sitting by.
I for one was not going to waste my strawberries. After eating my share, I whipped up a strawberry buttercream as a filling for some hot pink french macarons. Macarons are a notoriously tricky meringue based cookie, and making them is always a gamble. Even the most experienced pastry chefs end up with cracked or misshapen macarons once in a while. But I enjoy a good challenge. The buttercream recipe makes more than enough filling for the macarons, so if you wish, you can half it. Or, use it as frosting or filling in cakes. Eating it straight with a spoon is also a reasonable option.
recipe from Sprinkle Bakes
3/4 cup almond flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1 pinch cream of tartar
1/4 cup extra-fine sugar
Pink food coloring
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment, or if you have Silpats, use them. They are excellent for macaron-making.
Sift almond flour and confectioners’ sugar together 2-3 times. Set aside.
Whisk egg whites with a hand mixer until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Reduce speed and gradually add extra fine sugar. Increase speed and beat until stiff peaks form.
Sift flour mixture over whites with a fine sieve. Discard any lumps or coarse bits that remain.
If coloring the batter, a bit of gel food coloring can be placed on the end of a rubber spatula before you begin folding the mixture. Fold together with a rubber spatula using short strokes at first. The batter will be thick and powdery with the almond flour. Use bigger folds once the ingredients are incorporated and the batter loosens. When batter is ready, it should fall from the spatula in a thick ribbon.
Transfer mixture to a piping bag. Pipe 1 or 1 1/2″ rounds on the parchment lined baking sheets. Let piped macarons stand uncovered for 15 minutes to form a crust.
Decrease temperature to 325 just before placing the baking sheet in the oven. Bake pans one at a time for 10 minutes, turning halfway through.
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup strawberries (you can eyeball it. I used five medium sized berries
1/2 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
Beat butter until fluffy, then add powdered sugar. Throw in strawberries and vanilla and beat until smooth. If your buttercream seems too liquidy, add more sugar. If it’s too stiff, add a few tablespoons of milk. Spoon onto macaron shells, sandwiching two shells together. Store in an airtight container.
—By Rebecca Turchan