These were not originally what I planned to make. For weeks, I was dreaming up a combination of blueberry, honey, and lavender. I decided on macarons last week, but even then, there were still possibilities. Blueberry macarons with honey lavender filling? Honey macarons? I eventually decided on lavender macarons with honey blueberry buttercream.
They did not turn out well at all.
Massive failure. The macarons were waaaaay too lavender-y, I over-mixed the dough and therefore the macarons cracked, and the buttercream separated beyond repair. All in all, just a frustrating attempt.
But, of course, I couldn't just give up. I had been going over these macarons in my head for days! I couldn't just say, "Ah well, guess there won't be a post before I leave". I just couldn't.
So, I went out to the grocery store, bought new ingredients, and proceeded to make everything again - but different. Same macaron recipe (minus the lavender) and a new buttercream recipe. A very basic buttercream recipe, but I didn't want to take any chances and screw up again.
Since it was already the late afternoon, I was in danger of losing the light to shoot the final photographs, and so I didn't really take any shots while I was making them. Sorry! I took extra final shots in hopes that you'll forgive me.
In any case, the second go 'round was a success. A frustrating success that left me annoyed and grumpy, but you can't have your cake and eat it too.
I used lavender oil for the filling, which you can be tricky to find. Specialty food stores or baking stores should have it. Be careful though, lavender essential oil is not the same thing as lavender oil (/extract). Essential oils are used for treatments on the skin or using in oil diffusers. Lavender oil that you can bake with will have "Food Grade" written somewhere on the label. Look for that.
I don't know if different lavender oils are as strong as the one I have, but mine was crazy strong. I added 1/16 teaspoon to the buttercream and the flavour was still quite prominent. Start with a little amount and work your way up if you're unsure of how strong your lavender oil is. It's better to add too little than add too much.
I also suggest using a flavourful honey. I used a local wildflower honey that I bought at the farmers market last weekend. Clover honey, while used in many other recipes, is a milder honey and would not be ideal in this recipe. However, it's not the biggest problem in the world if you use whatever honey you have lying around.
This is going to be my last post before I leave next week for Europe. I may or may not do a little post while I'm there, depending on what happens.
Nine days after I return from our trip, I start pastry school (!!!). I'm not sure what to expect with the workload, so I can't say for sure how often I'll be posting here, but I will definitely try my best to update as often as I can. As frustrating as it is sometimes, this blog has been a huge improvement to my life. I have a project of my own and I take a lot of pride in it. I have become a much better baker and photographer because of this blog. I push myself to bake things I never would have baked before, like these macarons. I focus more on presentation than I ever did.
When I started this blog, I didn't know what to expect. I didn't really know what I was doing, but I liked doing it. I knew very little about photograph and even less about food photography. I have learned so much about myself throughout these past eight months. I am now confident that baking is what I want to do every day for a living, all thanks to this blog.
Of course, a huge part of that is due to you - the reader. I'm blown away by the number of people that view my blog, especially those from countries halfway across the world. I'm so grateful to those of you who have commented on my posts (even you, Dad) and sent me emails of encouragement and praise. I never thought people would be saying those things about something I made and photographed. It's really been an incredible experience. Thank you so much.
Whew, I'm getting all sappy and heartfelt here. I know this sounds like a final goodbye, but it's not. I just haven't been away from my blog for 4 weeks before! As I said before, I really will try my best to update as often as possible while I'm in pastry school.
Honey Lavender Macarons
Recipe from Bouchon Bakery Cookbook
212 g (1 3/4 cups + 2 1/2 tabespoons) almond flour/meal
212 g (1 3/4 cups + 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons) powdered sugar
82 g (1/4 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons) egg whites
90 g (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) egg whites
236 g (1 cup + 3 tablespoons) granulated sugar
158 g (2/3 cup) water
Honey Lavender Buttercream
Recipe adapted from Eat Boutique
3 sticks (340 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound (453 grams) powdered sugar
1/16 teaspoon lavender oil
3 teaspoons honey
food colouring to your desired colour (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
The macarons need to be as close in size as possible and a template is the easiest way to ensure that. Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a work sure with the long side facing you. Trace four evenly spaced 2 1/4 inch circles along the top edge (these make large macarons, modify the size if you wish, but keep in mind, the baking time will be shorter). Make sure to leave 1 inch of space between them. Trace three circles below each of those four, to make 3 x 4 macarons. Turn the parchment over and lay it on a sheet pan. Lift up each corner of the parchment and spray with non-stick spray to keep it from blowing up while the cookies are baking. Repeat with a second sheet.
Place the almond flour in a food processor and pulse to grind it as fine as possible. Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl and whisk together. Make a well in the center, leaving a layer of flour at the bottom. Pour in the 82 grams egg whites and combine with a spatula. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the mixture, stirring until evenly distributed. Set aside.
Place the remaining 90 grams egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Combine the 236 grams sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 203 F/110 C.
Letting the syrup continue to cook, add a pinch of sugar to the egg whites, turn the mixer to medium speed, and whip to soft peaks. If the whites reach soft peaks before the syrup reaches 248 F/120 C, reduce the speed to the lowest setting, just to keep them moving.
When the syrup reaches 248 F/120 C, remove the pan from the heat. Turn the mixer to medium-low speed and slowly add the syrup, pouring it between the side of the bowl and the whisk. The meringue will deflate. Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5 minutes, or until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Although the bowl will still be warm, the meringue should have cooled. If not, continue to whip until it is cool.
Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond mixture, then continue adding the whites a little at time (you may not use them all) until when you fold a portion of the batter over on itself, the "ribbon" slowly moves. The mixture shouldn't be so stiff that it holds its shape without moving at all, but it shouldn't be so loose that it dissolves into itself and does not maintain the ribbon; it is better for the mixture to be sightly stiff than too loose.
Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip. Hold the bag upright 1/2 inch above the center of one of the traced circles and pipe out enough to fill in the circle. Lift away the pastry bag and fill the remaining circles on the first pan. Lift up the sheet pan and tap the bottom of the pan to spread the batter evenly and smooth any peaks left by the bag.
Place the sheet pan in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees again.
Pipe the remaining meringue mixture into the circles of the second sheet pan and bake as directed above. Let cool completely.
For the buttercream, place the butter in a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment. Beat the butter until light, fluffy, and pale, about 3 to 4 minutes. Sift the powdered sugar into a separate bowl. Slowly add the sifted powdered sugar into the butter. Add the lavender and honey and beat on high speed for about a minute, until everything is incorporated and the buttercream is smooth.
Transfer the buttercream to the pastry bag with the 3/8 inch tip. Remove the macarons from the parchment paper. Turn half of them over. Starting in the center, pipe 15 g/1 tablespoon of buttercream in a spiral pattern on one upside down macaron, not quite reaching the edges. Top with a second macaron and gently press to spread the buttercream to the edges. Repeat with remaining macarons and filling.
The macarons are best if wrapped individually in a few layers of plastic wrap and frozen for at least 24 hours or up to 2 weeks. Defrost in the refrigerator for 3 hours, then bring to room temperature before seving. They can be served the day they are made or stored in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 2 days.