March 2009


lavender-macaron3

My first visit to Provence was nearly 15 years ago.  I was very young, but fortunately travelled enough to appreciate the beauty that shined brightly in this part of France.  Since that time, I have joked (somewhat seriously!) that I would love to retire to that part of the world. 

Retirement is a long way off, so if I ever need a sensory reminder of the beauty of Provence, I simply head to my local L’Occitane store.  I am instantly greeted with gorgeous imagery and aromas of the region … including lavender.  I love the smell and rustic look of this special flower.  My partner, A., has actually planted a few varieties in our garden for me to admire.  (Love him!)  So with my macaron month, I could not go past including a humble lavender inspired version.

I was tempted to incorporate lavender with orange after reading about a quite delicious sounding lavender, orange and almond cake on Melissa’s beautiful blog, The Traveller’s Lunchbox.  I also came across this flavour combination in macaron form by the talented Aran’s of Cannelle et Vanille

I was all prepared to embark on combining these flavours when I hit a bit of a snag.  I carefully added the right amount of red and blue food colour to the macaron batter to create the perfect lavender tint, I carefully piped the batter and then sprinkled with lavender flowers.  So far so good.  All was working like a charm.  But then I baked the macarons.  After 15 minutes in the oven, the colour paled significantly.

Plan B.

I ended up creating a lavender infused white chocolate cream as the filling so I could brighten the centre to enhance the flattened hue of the shell.  I guess I will just have to taste the lavender / orange flavour another day.

Overall, I was fairly happy with the macarons.  The only comment I would make would be the shells were probably thicker than desirable.  I believe I took the sugar syrup slightly too high in temperature – closer to 120C.  My previously attempts were at a lower temperature.

I will have to test that again, next time!

{ Lavender macarons }

* Ingredients *

100g egg whites
3g egg white powder
125g almond meal
125g icing sugar
Red and blue food colouring
For the syrup:
150g sugar and 50ml water

* Directions *

Process the almond meal and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  At the final changes of whipping the meringue, add the food colouring to make a lavender colour.  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with lavender flowers.  Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes.  Fill with ganache or filling of your choice.  Refrigerate to set.

{ Lavender cream }

* Ingredients *

120g white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp of lavender flowers (Herbie’s)
Red and blue food colouring

* Directions *

Heat cream and lavender flowers until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Let cool and rest for about an hour.  Strain the lavender flowers from the cream.  Reheat the cream gently and pour over the chocolate.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes and then stir.  Add food colouring to suit.  Let cool then transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.

rose-macarons

I was reflecting on the macarons I saw throughout Paris at Pierre Hermé, Ladurée, Gérard Mulot, as well as those I made at Savour Chocolate and Patisserie school.  I think part of the attraction of macarons for me is the bold, strong colour and favour combinations.  So for my next macaron challenge, I wanted to be more daring in my selections.

In searching my pantry I came across some rose water.  I instantly knew that rose macarons would be the next feature.  Combining the delicate rose flavour, along with some essential food colouring, would certainly produce quite an attractive shell.

For the filling, I initially considered a nice simple vanilla buttercream.  But after some thought, I considered complementing the rosy colour with a berry filling.  I took some inspiration from Fanny at Foodbeam and one of her macaron posts, and raspberry cream was born.
 
The macaron batter used was the same as the lemon macarons I made recently.  The only key difference was resting time.  I was able to let this batch sit for closer to an hour before baking.  The outcome for these blushing delights?  A slightly more prominent foot.   You cannot be disappointed with that?

rose-macarons-21{ Rose macarons }

* Ingredients *

100g egg whites
3g egg white powder
125g almond meal
125g icing sugar
Rose pink food colouring
2 teaspoons rose water
For the syrup:
150g sugar and 50ml water

* Directions *

Process the almond meal and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  At the final changes of whipping the meringue, add the food colouring and flavouring.  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes.  Fill with ganache or filling of your choice.  Refrigerate to set.

roses{ Raspberry cream }

* Ingredients *

120g white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbs good quality raspberry jam (St Dalfour)

* Directions *

Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Pour cream over the chocolate.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes and then stir.  Add the raspberry jam and continue until just mixed.  Let cool then transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.

lemon-macaron

I recently made a zesty lemon meringue cakefor my sister’s birthday.  I borrowed from the flavours of that delicious cake for my next macaron experiment.

I adapted the basic macaron recipe that I have been using with a few tarty enhancements.  I added lemon juice in the meringue for a hint of flavouring, and some yellow food colouring to imitate the sunny shade of a lemon.

I also made some more fundamental changes to the macaron batter.  I omitted the sugar suggested to accompany the almond mixture – I found the sweetness of the last batch of macarons could be reduced.  Also, I experimented and included some egg white powder.  I have not used egg white powder before, and think it has certainly helped stabilise the mixture to produce a much improved shell.

For the filling, I used the same lemon curd recipe from the cake.  It has a perfect balance of sweetness and tartness that I thought would complement a fairly sweet macaron shell well.

Overall, I think a bit of a success.  Fingers crossed this continues…

lemon-macaron-2{ Lemon macarons }

* Ingredients *

100g egg whites
3g egg white powder
125g almond meal
125g icing sugar
Yellow food colouring
2 tsp lemon juice
For the syrup:
150g sugar and 50ml water

* Directions *

Process the almond meal and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  In the final minutes of whipping the meringue, add the lemon juice and food colouring.  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes.  Fill with lemon curd and refrigerate to set.

lemon-curd{ Lemon Curd } adapted from Martha Stewart

* Ingredients *

4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

* Directions *

Prepare an ice water bath; set aside. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a medium heatproof bowl. Add the lemon juice, butter, and lemon zest. Place over a pan of simmering water and cook, whisking occasionally, until thick, about 15 minutes. Transfer bowl to ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Transfer to refrigerator until completely cold, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

logo160x180Today is Macaron Day (or Jour du Macaron) in France!

Created by Pierre Hermé and other members of the prestigious Association Relais Desserts, le Jour du Macaron raises money and awareness for the Federation des Maladies Orphelines children’s charity.

Today in Paris you can pick up four free macarons! at a Pierre Hermé boutique.  In exchange, the lucky recipients are encouraged to make a donation to the charity. 

Unfortunately, Brisbane is too far away from Paris to take advantage of this dream event, so I look forward to seeing posts and pictures from other bloggers who were fortunate enough to participate today!

In the meantime, I continue my macaron experiments in honour of celebrating my own macaron month!  So far I have attempted mint chocolate macarons and café au lait macarons.   This week, I think lemon and raspberry flavours may feature strongly.  Souhaitez-moi bonne chance … and happy macaron day!

cafe-au-lait-macaronsWhen I made the mint chocolate macarons, I split the mixture to create a second version.  I decided to lightly mix through some ground coffee to try and create a different flavour and finish.

Interestingly, the shells seemed less fragile than the mint version even though they were made from the same mixture.  I can only conclude it was due to the rest time – they were the second batch in the oven. 

To complement the coffee flecked shells, I made a mocha ganache for the filling.  I love chocolate and cannot remember never enjoying coffee, so a perfect combination for me!

I was much happier with the results … but still a long way to go.  I will persevere with the Italian meringue method.  Given many of the recipes and techniques I have found are similar, my instinct is to keep those elements constant and continue to practise while experimenting with flavours.

Hopefully I will be able to look back and observe improvements!

{ Coffee macaron }

* Ingredients *

120g egg whites
25g sugar
150g almond meal
150g icing sugar
1 teaspoon of ground coffee
For the syrup:
150g sugar and 50ml water

* Directions *

Process the almond meal and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.  Lightly fold through ground coffee.

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes.  Fill with ganache or filling of your choice.

{ Mocha Ganache }

* Ingredients *

120g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbs ground coffee

* Directions *

Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Pour cream over the chocolate and ground coffee.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes and then stir.  Let cool then transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.

mint-macaron21My first experimental batch of macarons for this month is with the Italian meringue (sucre cuit method).  I borrowed from Mercotte’s  recipe that is favoured by Tartelette, and strongly resembles the quantities and techniques used by Pierre Hermé.

Unfortunately … I was disappointed in the outcome. 

Probably not surprising my maiden effort with the Italian meringue method was disappointing.  In addition to being pretty heavy-handed in the kitchen (never good when making meringue!), I did also take a few short cuts.  1) I did not use eggs that had been separated ahead of time.  2) I did not dry out my almond meal.  And 3) I did not wait after piping to put the macarons in the oven. 

But that is all part of the experiment, I guess. 

The resulting shells were sort of smooth (though a far far cry from the little treats I savoured in France!).  They were also the most fragile I have made.  They certainly had the right texture though – a crisp outer shell and soft centre – and the taste was lovely, too. 

All in all, worth the effort.  But chalk this up to being a record of (hopefully) mastering the techniques over time.

{ Basic macaron }

* Ingredients *

120g egg whites
25g sugar
150g almond meal
150g icing sugar
For the syrup:
150g sugar and 50ml water

* Directions *

Process the almond meal and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes.  Fill with ganache or filling of your choice.

{ Mint Chocolate Ganache }

* Ingredients *

120g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves

* Directions *

Heat cream and mint until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Pour cream through strainer, over the chocolate.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes and then stir.  Let cool then transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.

caramel-macarons1March 20 is Macaron Day (or Jour du Macaron) in France.  I love macarons and adore the idea of having a celebratory day in honour of these elusive little treats (and doubly a great idea as it is a charitable cause!). 

I am thinking about my obsession to conquer these sweet delights, and have been tempted to turn Jour du Macaron into my own personal month long festival.  (Though seriously, I need quite more than a month for all the experimenting I need to do…)

I think I have researched all I can on macarons;  I have attended classes, conferred with patisserie professionals, viewed behind the scenes macaron secretsin Paris, delved into blogs and references sites around the world, and poured over instructional texts on the subject.  Time for researching is over.  It is now time for serious doing – and my own little macaron month will be perfect for that.

I have attempted to synthesise all my research – and taking some recent inspiration from my all-day macaron extravaganza class – hope to successfully attempt a range of different macaron techniques and recipes this month.

For a sneak peek, I share with you a unique presentation of a caramel macaron from Savour Chocolate and Patisserie school in Melbourne, where I recently attended a macaron class. I made sure I returned to Brisbane with a sample of this macaron for my Latin American friend, K – she is obsessed with caramel!

Fittingly, this macaron was made using the Spanish method. An impressive airbrushing technique transformed this plain almond shell and caramel filling into un dramático caramel macaron .. muchas gracias

At Savour Chocolate and Patisserie school, we made six different macarons using a range of techniques (French, Spanish, Italian). 

::  Chocolate macarons with mint ganache filling
::  Raspberry macarons with raspberry confiture filling
::  Fidel Castro (chilli) macarons with a tequila ganache filling
::  Citrus macarons with citrus filling
::  Chocolate coriander macarons with coriander milk chocolate ganache
::  Caramel macaron with caramel cream filling

I was heartened by the fact not every batch was perfect.  Even with a highly trained professional involved in coaching and monitoring the whole process, it was easy to end up with a tray (or two!) of macawrongs!

To recreate the caramel macaron at home, you may have to pass on the airbrushing.  Perhaps a slightly less dramatic visual presentation, but hopefully not a reduction in taste.

{ Caramel macaron } adapted from Savour Chocolate and Patisserie school

caramel-macarons2* Ingredients *

500g tant pour tant (equal measure of icing sugar and almond meal)
50g icing sugar
200g caster sugar
200g egg whites
1 vanilla bean

* Directions *

Sift TPT with the icing sugar.  Whisk egg whites and caster sugar in three batches.  Add the scraped vanilla bean.  Continue mixing until stiff peaks stage.  Slowly incorporate dry ingredients into the meringue.  Bake at 165C for approximately 10 minutes.  When cool, sandwich two shells together with caramel cream.

{ Caramel cream }

* Ingredients *

300g caster sugar
180g cream
225g butter

* Directions *

Bring sugar to a dark colour.  Add boiling cream and cover when cool.  Add slowly to whipped butter.

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