The Lavender Trials

I’ve never worked with lavender: it’s floral, it’s in candles and bath oil, it has pretty flowers, but can you bake with it?

After umming and ahhing about which fillings to use for these lavender macarons I decided to try them all: white chocolate ganache, buttercream and a mousseline (made from crème pâtissière with butter and whipped cream added to it!). I went purple-crazy and made further variations by adding blackberry compote to each of these and separately, fresh blueberries.

The clear winner for the filling was the mousseline by itself, as it was nice and light and didn’t compete with the lavender flavor of the shells. There are only a few steps for this stellar filling: heat milk and vanilla until they are steaming. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar, and then add the cornflour, making sure it’s nice and smooth. Add the hot milk a little at a time to the egg yolk mixture, whisking as you go, ensuring that you don’t shock the eggs into cooking. Then add all the mixture back to the heat and keep stirring until thickened. Take off the heat and add the butter, and once it’s cool, fold in the whipped cream. Leftover mousseline can be used to fill profiteroles, chocolate eclairs, in a fruit tart, eaten neat, the list goes on…

Buttercream and blackberry compote 

The buttercream was OK, rather sweet and my attempts to balance this out went too far with the the very tart blackberry compote.

The blueberries and white chocolate ganache filling 

Next, the white chocolate ganache filling. This was delicious, but pretty sweet again, and maybe overpowering the delicate lavender in the shells. I think white chocolate ganache would be more suited to dark chocolately shells instead.

All in all, a calorie-laden and informative afternoon. I am now a firm believer in using a variation on mousseline as a filling for many macaron flavors, especially for the more delicate ones. My only regret was that I didn’t have any teensy dried lavender flowers I could scatter on the macaron shells before baking but…a few days later, a friend and I made them again, with flowers. The result: almost too pretty to eat.

Tips:

– Go sparingly with floral flavors, about a teaspoon and a half of lavender extract was good (for a 200g icing/powdered sugar and 100g ground almond recipe)

– Definitely give the macarons time in the fridge to meet and greet with the fillings, it gives the filling time to permeate the shells

– After lightly burning many shells, I’ve learned that my oven is better at 300 Farenheit/149 Celcius oven for about 12 minutes (rather than the 325Farenheit/162 Celcius recommended by the book)

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