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.