Even though it’s been cold, and we have been snowed under 2 feet of the evil white stuff (it only ceases to be “evil” at Christmas, and that’s long since past), there have been a few warm days, here and there. And, like the call of the wild Nature god Pan . . . these warm days swirl with the promise of birdsong, intoxicatingly fresh air, and that special hue of green that is so electric in the spring that it almost seems to take on a life of its own.
These lovely little Macarons are made of the essence of spring– soft, violet colored shells, the fragrance of dried lavender, and luscious white chocolate ganache. What do you mean white chocolate isn’t technically a “spring thing”? Well . . . it should be. And when you taste these little babies . . . I think you’ll be willing to make an exception 😉 Macarons are probably one of the most difficult and finicky cookies to make– and if it’s your first time making these tempermental little beauties, be sure to check out my much more detailed macaron post here.
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Lavender Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache
(adapted for my own use from Allrecipes.com)
100 grams egg white (the whites from 3 large eggs)
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
50 grams white sugar (roughly 1/4 cup)
200 grams powdered sugar (roughly 1 2/3 cup)
110 grams almond flour (roughly 1 cup)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup melted white chocolate chips
Whip room temperature egg whites and cream of tartar with the whisk attachment until the whites begin to foam. Slowly pour in the white sugar and begin to whip the whites on high. Meanwhile, pulse your almond flour and powdered sugar in a food processor until the mixture is well combined. Sift your almond flour/powdered sugar through a sieve and throw away the pieces that are too large to pass through the sieve. When the whites have whipped into stiff peaks, fold the almond/sugar mixture into the whites, gradually and carefully until they reach proper “macaronage.” Pipe the circles onto a silpat, using a template, if desired, and slam the cookie sheets 15 times on the counter to dislodge air bubbles. Allow circles to dry for 20 minutes before baking at 285 for 20 minutes, one sheet at a time, in the center of the oven (move oven racks, if necessary. Do not open the oven until the 20 minutes are up, and use an oven thermometer for best results). When your macarons are done, they should feel “firm on their feet.” Remove entire silpat to cooling rack and allow to cool, completely, before removing almond shells from the silpat.
Now, in pictures! 🙂
To begin with, make sure that you use a kitchen scale for these. Goodness! I don’t need a kitchen scale! I’ve never used a kitchen scale before, and I bake just fine.
Oh dear. Don’t let the macarons hear you talk like that. These little cookies are like the ex who tries to take all your money, your house, and your faithful dog– they will do anything they can to be difficult. You can’t take shortcuts with these. But what about . . .
Nope. No shortcuts. Channel your inner tax-man and tell yourself no shortcuts. Zippo. Zilch. Nada.
Measure your ingredients out on a kitchen scale, and you’ll have a much better chance of getting these things right and earning the envy of your fellow bakers. Start by getting your meringue whipping. I use boxed egg whites (although macaron purists eschew this method), because I get the best, most consistent results by using these. For more on macarons and the different ingredients you can use, check out my much more detailed macaron tutorial here
. Place your sugar, egg white, and cream of tartar into the bowl of your stand mixer and start those babies whipping. The process goes quickly, so while they are whipping up all nice and light for you, go ahead and start preparing the rest of your ingredients.
Use a food processor to grind your powdered sugar and almond flour together. Well, I can just skip this step– that sounds stupid . . . I don’t have time for . . .
Nope. No shortcuts. I used to try all of these shortcuts, thinking macarons really couldn’t be that difficult. Well . . . they really are that difficult. This is one of the few recipes where I never take shortcuts. If you want to make Macarons, you can’t quicken the process (deep sigh). I know it’s hard, but the more you make these temperamental little babies, the more these seemingly pointless steps will make sense and become second nature, and they won’t really feel like they’re taking extra time. Good for you. And just think– you get cookies at the end! Keep focusing on that.
After the food processor has ground your ingredients, you need to sift them. Yep. Sorry– another extra step. But you’ll be glad you did when you sift out the grit and get a nice, powdery mound to add to your egg whites when they are finished whipping for you.
Ah . . . now for the magnum opus of Macaron Making . . . the macaronage
. This is the hardest part. You’ve hung in there so far, and you’re doing so great! You can do this! Basically, we want to gradually add our sifted ingredients (I do 3 different “adds” until I get all the sifted mixture in there) to the egg whites. If you want to add purple gel color, go ahead and add that when the meringue is at the “soft peak” stage. Also add the Lavender Essential Oil
at this point. Then whip another minute or two until you get stiff peaks (the egg white stands in a straight point without bending over when you remove the whisk), and then you’re ready to use a spatula to incorporate the almond/sugar mixture. Keep folding the dry into the egg white until you have a smooth, thick batter that will drip off your spoon in a thick, continuous line– kind of like pancake batter. You don’t want to overstir and get the mixture liquidy, or the macs are done (Taps
plays in the background).
Like most things, making macarons becomes so much easier the more you do it, and the more times you practice. (I have to make cookies to practice? Well . . . if I have to eat cookies to improve, I guess I’ll make the sacrifice. Hehe 😉
Pipe your circles using a paper template underneath the silpat (I use a circle template I drew from my kids’ Juicy Juice cap). You will be able to see the circles and can remove the template from underneath when you’re finished piping. Slam the baking sheets 15 times from about 6 inches above the counter.
I’m serious. You have to slam the baking sheets to get the air out of the shells. Think about everyone who has ever made you upset. Think about the time your 9th grade health teacher punished you unfairly for forgetting your notebook and let someone else go for the same thing. Imagine your neighbors’ cats digging in your flower beds. Picture the worst job you’ve ever had and the peanuts you were paid to put up with it.
And slam away. Hmmm. This is rather stress relieving, isn’t it? 😀
When your cooking sheets have been slammed as directed, you will see little air bubbles start to pop on top of the shells. That’s good– that’s the whole point of slamming the little dears, in the first place (not because some exhausted macaron maker, once upon a time, had enough of these little things and decided to throw his cookie sheet down in frustration, although I might be tempted to believe that’s how it got started). Go ahead and top your shells with a few edible lavender buds (I got mine at Williams Sonoma) and let them rest for 20 minutes before baking.
After they have rested for 20 minutes, bake them one at a time in the oven for exactly 20 minutes at exactly 285 degrees. Use an oven thermometer if you have it, because even a 10 degree oven difference can ruin them. It’s a good thing these babies aren’t people . . . because they would be the most high-maintenance friend, ever. Whew. When the shells are finished they should feel “firm on their feet” when you gently press one of them. Don’t open your oven to check partway through, or that can deflate the shells. Don’t let your oven temperature vary away from 285. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
Meanwhile, let’s work with something a little easier– the macaron filling. Did you know that macarons get their taste mainly from the top garnishes and their filling ingredients? The shells actually absorb the flavors from their surroundings. Don’t you wish you could just hang around with rich, beautiful people, and then absorb their essence and become rich and beautiful? Haha. Nice.
Anyway, start by melting your white chocolate in the microwave. These have to be fresh white chips– sometimes, if you’ve had chocolate sitting around too long, it gets waxy and doesn’t want to melt. Place your chips into a small microwave safe bowl and heat in 30 second increments, stirring after each heating, until your chocolate is melted.
Stir it up all nice and smooth. Seeing this little green bowl makes me sad, because I have since melted it by accident when I turned on the wrong burner on the stove, and it was sitting on there, innocently waiting for further instructions. (Removes hat out of respect). You were a good little bowl, Green. Rest in peace.
Start your heavy cream whipping with your whisk attachment. When the mixture gets a little bit thicker, like super soft whipped cream, go ahead and add your white chocolate. Turn the speed to medium high and whip until your filling is a thick, creamy white chocolate ganache cream. YUM. Refrigerate your filling until the shells have cooled, completely.
Speaking of shells, when they are finished (and “firm on their feet,”) go ahead and take them out of the oven and put your next tray in. Slide them (on the silpat) from the baking sheet to a cooling rack to finish cooling. Yes– even sitting too long on a baking sheet can burn their little French behinds. It’s like the Princess and the Pea– they feel the slightest disturbance.
When the shells have cooled, gently peel the silpat out from under them (rather than pulling them off the silpat) and fill them with your white chocolate ganache that we just made (RIP green bowl). Refrigerate them, ideally, at least 24 hours before eating so that the shells can absorb the lavender and white chocolate flavors).
What? You want to eat one, now? Well . . . as hard as you worked, I think you deserve it. Go ahead.
At least, with eating them, there are no rules 😉
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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