InStyle Staff
Feb 11, 2016 @ 11:45 am

If you really want to make your sweetie swoon this Valentine's Day, skip the box of chocolates and bake up something fresh and unexpected: heart-shaped macarons. 

 "Making macarons is actually a lot easier than you think," promises Dana Loia, of N.Y.C.-based Dana's Bakery. The pastry pro has been churning out these French meringue-based confections since 2012, giving them her own "American twist" with signature flavors like S'Mores, Red Velvet, and Cotton Candy—and gaining a loyal following along the way.

Not only did Loia share her signature macaron and chocolate cherry ganache recipes with us, she also took us into the kitchen to demonstrate, step-by-step, how even beginners can master the meringue. Watch her tackle these heart-shaped beauties in the video above, and follow the recipe below for the perfect Valentine's Day treat. 

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Dana's Bakery Valentine’s Day Macarons

Recipe by Dana Loia

Makes 20 sandwiched 2-inch macaron hearts (40 halves)

Ingredients

1 ¼ packed cups (165 grams) almond flour, sifted
Pinch of fine sea salt
3/4 packed cup (165 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar, sifted 
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) cream of tartar, sifted
1/2 cup (115 grams) aged egg whites (from 4 eggs)
4 drops gel food coloring 

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Whisk together the almond flour, salt and confectioners’ sugar in a wide mixing bowl. 
2. Whip the egg whites in a standing mixer with the granulated sugar, cream of tartar and your aged and room temp egg whites, on medium-high speed until glossy stiff peaks form (approximately 4-6 minutes depending on mixer speed). Add the food coloring halfway through if you are just doing one color. If you are doing more than one color, wait until after step 4 to add the coloring. 
3. Meanwhile, make a 2-inch heart shaped template and trace 10 hearts spaced 1 1/2 inches apart onto two sheets of parchment paper that’s cut to the size of your baking sheets. Position the sheet ink-side down on your pan. Set aside. This will ensure that your cookies come out consistently. 
4. Start to fold the dry ingredients into the meringue until blended and there are no dry pieces or chunks left. It is important to fold the different components just enough, but not too much or the macarons will crack. To make sure that you have reached the right point, once the ingredients appear combined, lift a large portion of the mixture about 6 inches above the bowl with the spatula. If it breaks when falling from the spatula, continue to fold. When folded just enough, the mixture should fall right back into the bowl, with no stiffness, in one continuous drip. It should also flatten once in the bowl. If you are making more than one colored macaroon cookie, split the batter and add the coloring to each bowl. Fold until just incorporated.
5. Transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a No. 3 tip and fill in the hearts on the baking sheet with the batter. 
6. Once you are done piping, slam the baking sheets down onto the counter to remove excess air (about 8 times, a foot above the counter). If you want to add texture, you can sprinkle chopped cereal or sprinkles on top of the cookies. 
7. Let the macarons sit to get a skin for 15-30 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes, until the macarons just come off the baking sheet when you lift them (the centers will have risen, and will not have any dark indentations). Cool completely before removing and filling. 
8. While the cookies are baking, make the ganache filling (recipe below). 
9. Once the cookies are cool, sandwich them together with the ganache in between.   

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Chocolate Cherry Ganache

Ingredients

1 lb. 66% chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pitted drained maraschino cherries, chopped fine (you can use a food processor) 

Directions

1. Place chocolate in a bowl. 
2. Pour hot heavy cream over chocolate and let sit for 4 minutes.
3. Stir with whisk from center toward outside of the bowl. 
4. Once combined (with no breakage) add corn syrup. 
5. Fold in chopped cherries. 
6. Let sit to cool or place in the fridge. 
7. Whip until light and fluffy before using and transfer to a piping bag to distribute to your macaron sandwiches. 

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