Monday, March 10, 2014

Rocking the Red Pump Today with Peony French Macarons

I should actually say I am rocking a shade of red. I think the color is perfect to represent peonies but maybe these should be a deeper screaming red for this occasion. 

I, along with countless other bloggers, are turning their blogs red (in my case, a baked good) for National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The Red Pump Project® is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. They empower, educate, and motivate action by boldly driving conversation online and offline around HIV prevention and issues related to sexual and reproductive health. They use the Red Pump as a symbol of empowerment to represent the strength and courage of women affected by HIV/AIDS. The sobering stats are at the end of this post.

Awhile back I mentioned I bought some powdered flavors to use in French Macarons. I posted the Jasmine flavored macs but said I would wait until spring to experiment with the other flavors. Spring is nowhere in sight here in the northeast of the USA but I was in the mood to bust out those flavors and make this batch of denial French Macarons.

It's hard to describe this flavor. It definitely is floral but surprisingly pleasing. I used boring vanilla buttercream to fill them because the shell flavor was so strong and distinct I didn't want to mess with it. 

A very unique French Macaron. Definitely a celebration of spring.

Peony French Macarons with
Vanilla Buttercream Filling

For the Peony French macaron shells:

Use a kitchen scale for precise measurements.

  • 90 grams of egg whites - aged at least 2 days. Let them sit out on the counter uncovered.
  • 25-50 grams of fine granulated sugar
  • 200 grams of powdered sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon  Peony flavor powder
  • 110 Grams of almond flour*
  • Pinch of cream of tarter
  • Pinch of salt
  • Red paste food coloring
*You can buy almond flour that has been ground with or without the skin. I use the later (blanched). The former looks really nice if you are not coloring the shells. You can also grind your own almond flour by putting whole or sliced almonds in a food processor or blender. If you do, make sure you throw a little of the powdered sugar in to prevent the almonds from forming a paste.

  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or use a silpat.
  • Sift the powdered sugar and almond flour together or pulse them together briefly in a food processor. Make sure there are no large pieces. 
  • Whip the egg whites. When they start to get foamy, slowly add the sugar. Continue whipping until you can turn the bowl upside down and nothing slides out. Add  the pinches of salt and cream of tartar.
  • Add the powdered sugar/almond to the egg white mixture and fold, using quick strokes at first then slow down. Add the peony flavor and red food coloring. The batter should have a "flowing like lava" consistency.  Make a peak of the batter and if it does not disappear after 5-7 seconds, keep folding. If it's running all over the place, you will probably have to start over. 
  • Place a pastry bag fitted with a round shaped tip in a tall water and and fold the edges down around the glass.
  • Fill the pastry bag with the macaron batter, twist the open top to secure and pipe circles onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or on a Silpat. 
  • Let the macarons dry for about a half hour or until they harden.
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Place the macarons on the middle rack in the oven. I keep the oven door propped open with a dish towel or wooden spoon.
  • I place another empty baking sheet on top to prevent the shells from becoming toasted and discolored.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes.
  • When checking them after 10 minutes or so,  if the ones in the back of the sheet seem to be cooking faster that the ones in front, flip the tray around.
  • To test to see if they are done, peel the baking paper or silpat back, if the shell comes off easily, they are done.
  • If you do have a problem with the shells sticking to the surface when removed from the oven, lift up the baking paper and pour a bit of water underneath. this will steam them off the paper.
  • Transfer to a baking rack and let cool completely before matching up the shells into pairs according to size and then fill.

For the Vanilla buttercream:

  • 1 stick butter at room temperature
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Place the butter, 2 cups of the powdered sugar and the milk in a mixer and cream together.
  • Mix in the vanilla extract.
  • Add the rest of the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until combined. If the mixture is too liquid, add more powdered sugar.
  • Fit a pastry bag with a large round tip and pipe some buttercream on a macaron shell.
  • Cover with matching shell

Below are some key statistics about how HIV/AIDS affects us and those around us.
HIV/AIDS in the United States:
  • There are currently 1.1 million adults and adolescents in the United States living with HIV.
  • Approximately 1 in 6 people (15.8%) who are infected with HIV do not know that they have been infected.
  • Since 2008, the number of new HIV/AIDS cases in the United States has remained constant around 50,000 per year.
  • New HIV diagnosis was highest among individuals aged 25–34 years (31%), followed by individuals aged 13-24 years (26%)
  • Top ten states with the highest rates HIV/AIDS diagnosis are California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia.
Women and HIV/AIDS
  • 1 in 139 women will be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS at some point within their life.
  • Every 47 minutes, a woman tests positive for HIV in the U.S.
  • High-risk heterosexual contact is the source of 80% of these newly diagnosed infections in women in the US.
  • From the beginning of the epidemic through 2005, almost 86,000 women have died of AIDS and AIDS-related complications.
  • The largest number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses during recent years was for women aged 15–39.
  • Seven of the 10 states with the highest case rates among women are in the South.
Minority Women and HIV/AIDS
  • HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects minority women in the United States. According to the 2005 census, Black and Latina women represent 24% of all US women combined, but accounted for 82% of the estimated total of AIDS diagnoses for women in 2005.
  • HIV is the leading cause of death for Black women (including Black women) aged 25–34 years. The only diseases causing more deaths of women are cancer and heart disease.
  • The rate of AIDS diagnosis for Black women was approximately 23 times the rate for white women and 4 times the rate for Latina women.
  • Teen girls represent 39% of AIDS cases reported among 13–19 year-olds. Black teens represented 69% of cases reported among 13–19 year-olds; Latino teens represented 19%.
Youth and HIV/AIDS
  • A quarter of new HIV infections are amongst 13-24 year olds.
  • Half of young people who are infected with HIV do not know.
  • There are 34,000 young people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States
  • There are 1,000 new HIV cases among youth every month
  • Youths accounted for 25% (12,200) of new HIV infections in 2010. Of these, 57% were among blacks/African Americans, 20% among Hispanics/Latinos, and 20% among whites;
  • 72% of new infections among youths were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact
  • African-American young adults are disproportionately affected by HIV, accounting for 57% of HIV/AIDS diagnoses in 13-24 year olds.
These are statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Estimated HIV incidence in the United States, 2007– 2010. HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report 2012;17(No. 4). Published December 2012. 


  1. So appreciate your amazing and current information about HIV/AIDS in the US. Your macaron is perfect pink in honor of this day! They look really delicious too.

  2. Such great information I just had to share it. Thanks!

  3. These macarons look perfectly delicious! Thanks for sharing, Lora.

  4. Where did you find the peony powder flavor? Thanks!

    1. Hi Meghan. Here is the link to suppliers:


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