One of my favorite pastimes is trying different local varieties of honey. Much like wine or even coffee has flavor notes unique to the region in which it was produced, honey reflects the specific tastes of the flowers in its region. Lavender honey usually comes from France, where the fields of blooming lavender are irresistible to the honeybees (and the honey is irresistible to us!). You can substitute another honey variety if you like, but the lavender adds such a beautiful floral note that you may just want to give it a try. 🙂
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Lavender Honey French Macarons
100 g. egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
50 g. white sugar
200 g. powdered sugar
110 g. almond flour
Yellow Food Coloring Gel, optional
White Chocolate Ganache Filling:
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup white chocolate chips
Lavender Honey, for the centers
Whip room temperature egg whites, cream of tartar, and white sugar with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer until the whites reach stiff peak stage. 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.” Place 2-3 drops of gel food coloring into the batter and swirl gently before carefully pouring into a piping bag. Pipe meringue circles onto a silpat using a template, if desired, and slam the cookie sheets several times on the counter to dislodge air bubbles. Allow circles to dry for 20 minutes before baking at 300 degrees 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.” If the macaron shells are soft or crack when gently touched, bake for 2 more minutes and test again until they are firm on their feet. After baking, remove entire silpat to cooling rack and allow shells to cool, completely, before removing them from the silpat.
To make ganache filling, warm cream over low heat until it has small bubbles along the sides (but has not boiled). Stir in chocolate chips just until melted. You can also use the microwave, stirring after each 30 second heat. It should take roughly 1.5 minutes for the chips to be warm enough to melt when stirred. Allow warm ganache to chill in the refrigerator until it reaches the consistency of caramel sauce. Whip with the whisk attachment of your mixer until the ganache is fluffy and then chill again until it reaches a pipeable consistency. Fill cooled shells with circles of whipped ganache and fill the circles with lavender honey. Chill finished macarons in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight. Filled shells are perfect after 24 hours of curing but may be stored several days in the refrigerator or up to a month in the freezer.
Now, in pictures
Mmmmm. There is nothing better in the morning than some golden, local honey with your breakfast. Try honey in your tea . . . and definitely in your macarons! 🙂 In the summer I love going to the farmer’s market and finding local honey varieties– and the more kinds that you try the better you will get at tasting the local flowers in the finished product. I love to work out in my garden– and it’s a nice idea if you have the space to plant some blooming, nectar-heavy varieties that will help out the local honeybees. Researching what plants are helpful for pollinators is a great summer science project for kiddos, too! Bonus . . . the kids might weed the flowerbeds and love it. Shhhh. Don’t tell them I told you.
There are few things more gratifying in life than opening your oven and seeing a perfect tray of sunny little macaron shells looking up at you. Anyone who has ever tried to make these little beasts will know exactly how devilishly difficult they are, and how incredibly rewarding it is when you finally get it right.
If you are new to macaron making check out my more detailed “how to” post here. Otherwise, let’s carry on. We have cookies to tend to!
One way to take your macarons from good to amazing is to use a little airbrush magic on them. Airbrushing macarons can be a little trickier than airbrushing, say, sugar cookies– mainly because macarons have a curved surface. But if you go slowly and carefully you can hold the stencil down to the cookie, a little at a time, and then you won’t get the dreaded overspray that comes from having the stencil “floating” over parts of the cookie, rather than being against it to form a clean spray tan. I mean, line.
Well the shells told me they wanted a spray tan before their wedding (more on that in a moment). They are too light. *shrugs* I mean, would YOU argue with a shell? Didn’t think so.
The airbrush machine I have is this one here. An airbrush machine is an investment, and unfortunately many people buy them and then have trouble and toss them when they “stop working.” The unfortunate fact is that all airbrushes will get clogged at some point. All of them.
It doesn’t matter how careful you are being– the nature of the airbrush beast is that the needle will get clogged occasionally. And some people, frustrated that their expensive airbrush is “broken” after only a few uses, never go back and try again.
Come on. If your toilet clogged once, would you stop using it? Pshhhh. Get out there and get the clogs out and baby will be good as new.
Do not despair! Part of learning how to airbrush properly is learning how to take your gun apart so that you can clean it thoroughly. I have never had a clog that didn’t dislodge when I took the gun apart and soaked it in warm water with a little bit of white vinegar. Learn your airbrush. Watch a tutorial on how to take it apart and clean the pieces (I recommend a white towel to lay out your airbrush’s broken, battered body– I mean, uh . . . pieces– some of those pieces are tiny and a white towel will help you to keep eyes on them). Do all this, and I foresee years of wedded airbrush bliss. Why, my little baby and I are going on 4 years. We’ve had a few counseling sessions, but we keep the communication (and ink lines) open, and we are still going strong. Cheers to you, honey . . . or should I say . . . lavender honey? 😀
So, for the airbrushing, itself. I think this is actually a soccer ball stencil. Ooops. I found it buried deeply in my stencil collection and thought “Ooooh! Honeycomb!” The first shell I did very dark, and it was weird looking. I felt like it should choose a team to play for in the World Cup. The next few I did super light– almost a shadow. I still would have preferred the colors inverted, but what can you do. *shrugs.* So I used only a few of these “accent shells” among the plain yellow, and it wasn’t as overwhelming as if I had made them all into dark little soccer balls. Sometimes just a few accent colors will spiff up the whole batch.
You know how a bright red lipstick just elevates the entire outfit? Yeah. Like that. See? I knew you’d understand.
When I first started making macarons I made the mistake of just putting whatever I wanted into the center (Except for Ryan Gosling)– and since the filling is often kind of runny (honey, jam, etc), the macarons were a mess when I turned them on their sides. The trick to making beautiful (and tasty!) macarons is to make a little circle out of buttercream or ganache. You can put the “runny stuff” in the center and carefully place the top shell on the filled circle. When you refrigerate the macarons overnight the “dam” will solidify and keep everything nice and neat for when you serve them (or hoard them. It’s up to you). Match up some shells that are similarly sized and lay them out on a silpat. Then you can just motor down the line making your circles, filling them, and carefully turning the top shell onto the bottom. Voila. Done. You’re a genius. I love working with you.
Macarons need to enjoy at least a 1 day “honeymoon” after you marry the shells. Look at you marrying shells. Do you have a macaron marriage LICENSE???? Sheesh. Are these shells even old enough to give consent? I thought they were born but a few HOURS ago? What kind of macaron marriage IS THIS???
Letting the shells sit with their fillings for at least a day allows the shells to absorb the filling. So when you say that this marriage is “sweet as honey,” you can really mean it.
Hey. Pssst. You look beautiful . . .
Now let’s talk about eating the bride. Er, I mean, uh . . . oh dear now we’ve gone and made this awkward and we haven’t even GOTTEN to the subject of in-laws yet.
If you possibly can, take a little “me break” each day. Even if it’s just for five minutes, take a few moments to breathe and center yourself. Stress is no joke and the way you start your day is the way your day goes. A little plate of gorgeous macarons and a cup of tea– maybe a good book for a few minutes– sounds like just the ticket.
Savor the honey. Taste the local wildflowers. Some very diligent little bees out there worked very hard to make that for you.
Feel the sun on your face. Taste the nectar of the flowers. Smell the pages of an old book– treasures of thoughts and words from magical times past. And let yourself smile.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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