Rasberry, rose and lychee macarons

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I’ve made macarons a few times, but always using French meringue. The results have mostly been good, with the problems mainly being me (pulling them out of the oven too early, not resting them before baking enough). The macarons were smooth, with-feet and crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. I had never made Italian meringue macarons and I am very pleased with the results. Some of the things I’ve read say that French meringue macarons are less reliable and more sensitive to things like humidity and overmixing. Italian meringue macarons on the other hand, are more  difficult to overmix and are generally used in professional kitchens as less can go wrong.

Although macarons are not my favourite thing to eat, of all those that I’ve tried, this rose, raspberry and lychee one is really good, the Ispahan by Pierre Hermé. This blog beautifully illustrates how to make and assemble it.

1. Make your filling, I used rose-flavoured mousseline, or you can use rose-flavoured buttercream. Leave in the fridge to firm up.

2. Make your macaron shells as per the recipe. You can add raspberry flavour if you wish. Colour them a light pink when the meringue has cooled down; a little goes long way.

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3. Assemble the macarons, as per the Travelling Foodie’s blog, with a lychee in the middle (sadly canned), fresh raspberries around, and a rose petal and raspberry on top.

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4. Decorate with a rose petal and raspberry.

Thanks Pierre Hermé!

Enjoy.

Tips:

– Make your macarons in advance as they freeze (unfilled) extremely well.

– You can make the mousseline filling in advance as well, it keeps in the fridge for a few days

– When making the Italian meringue – for macarons – pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites when they are at soft peak. You will get lumps and bumps in the macaron if you wait until stiff peaks.

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Paris: Angelina

Outside Angelinas

Paris: had a few hours on a day trip, meeting a good (fellow-hog) friend, and we want pastries, where do we go? I know David Lebovitz would cringe: I didn’t do my research beforehand, I didn’t find a list of Paris’ top pâtisseries but just went to the one place I’ve been before! Angelina is on Rue Tivoli, a short walk from the Jardin Tuileries; it’s is a little overpriced and squirming with tourists,  but there are some tasty pastries too.

Among other things, Angelina sells danishes, chocolates, macarons and of course, pastries. Since we were only there for a day, we didn’t feel guilty sampling a multitude of products.

First stop: a plain croissant. Top marks, it was fluffy, oh-so-buttery and crisp, delicious.

MacaronsLong macarons

The macarons were a mixed bunch, the chocolate one was heavenly, the right texture and chocolatiness, and the salted caramel yummy and buttery, with a light sprinkling of salt. The coffee macaron was a bit of a disappointment, but perhaps that was just the texture, it was so chewy, it felt like chewing gum, and the coffee flavour was too soft.

Now for the pastries we tried:

Paris-New York: just at the far left of the picture. This was absolutely delicious, like the jazzed-up cousin of a Paris Brest. Light and airy choux, filled with pecan buttercream, with additional crunch and texture from crumbled praline.

Ba Ba: A rum baba, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, I now know that I don’t like rum ba ba. At all.

Mont Thabor: An orange-flavoured dome cake, finished with some kind of spray gun, it was so perfect, and topped with an orange macaron. Sadly, the cake wasn’t amazing, nice orange jelly inside though.

Citron

Mont Blanc: as it should be; avoid if you don’t like chestnut!!

Mont Blanc

Mille feuille: In my panic at having to speak more than five words of French (with the rather stern assistant) I forgot to ask for this one and am still kicking myself…

Mille feuille

Chocolate eclair (no picture): perfect, after having eaten many of these, I know my eclairs from my eclairs and this was good, perfect dry choux, smooth and chocolately pastry cream and a slightly bitter topping. I’m convinced that their topping of real dark chocolate glaze (rather than a flavoured fondant) complements the sweet chocolate pastry cream filling perfectly.

St Honoré: This does look extreme, but the cream is so light and fluffy, you don’t really notice… The caramel on the little choux buns was lovely and crunchy and the pastry cream filling was delicious. I want to make these now!

Saori: a lime cheesecake with strawberry jelly encased in white chocolate. This was such a nice idea, but a little overpowered by the lime. The strawberry marshmallow on top was tasty though.

Honore and Saori

Chocolate tart: (no picture) a deep, velvety chocolate filling, i think ganache in an elegant chocolate sable pastry shell. Full on, but this is the stuff if you’re a chocolate fan.

Verdict: very pretty to look at, and most of the time tastes as good as it looks.

Petit Fours

Country of origin: France

Petit fours, petit fours, what’s not to love? Yes, they are cutes-y, and a pain to make, but you can eat ten and not feel bad. Really though, if you haven’t had dessert and want something little and sugary with coffee, these hit the spot.

I can’t wait to build up a catalogue of petit fours, but to start with, I made mini boat-shaped fruit tarts, chocolate eclairs, cream puffs and chocolate macarons.

The pastry for the tarts was from Ladurée’s Sucre book, and the pastry cream from Annie Rigg’s Macarons book. Each tart was topped with a teeny slice of strawberry, a blueberry and a raspberry. Of course, these would have been delicious with grapes, banana slices, orange segments or kiwis as well. I didn’t glaze them.

The chocolate macarons gave me a lot of trouble, I rushed and put them in the oven when they were slightly tacky and did I pay! A whole tray of shells completely cracked. Lesson learned! I also found that they had a slightly oily look about them, and apparently, according to this excellent trouble-shooting site, it may be due to oily almonds. They suggest drying out the ground almonds in the oven before use. The macarons that I could salvage were sandwiched together with the same chocolate pastry cream used to fill the mini eclairs.

The eclairs were choux pastry and I found a new way of cooking them, following the Laduree’s recipe: Cooking at 350 F/177 C for ten minutes, but then opening the oven door a crack and letting them bake for another twenty minutes, to allow the steam to escape.

After the choux pastry has come out of the oven, cool a bit and then using a pastry tip, make a hole in the bottom. You can fill eclairs with fresh cream, but I used pastry cream (recipe from Macarons) and added some chopped dark chocolate to taste.

Topping the mini eclairs with melted chocolate fondant was really tricky and I need to practice more to get a clean finish. I made fondant with icing/powdered sugar and water, quite thick, and then added some cocoa powder until I was happy with the colour. I then heated it up in the microwave in ten-second blasts to get it soft and runny enough to run off a teaspoon onto the teeny filled eclairs. I had some spare choux pastry left, so piped some little buns, and filled these with sweetened whipped cream.

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)

Raspberry Macarons

Country of origin: France, with some Italian ancestry?

What comes to mind when you think of macarons? A Ladurée rainbow of pastel colours, Pierre Hermé’s magical lychee, rose and raspberry creation and elegantly dressed ladies nibbling on them delicately in between sips of tea but to tell the truth I think that they may be slightly over-rated. With coffee, a piece of cake is perfect, with tea, bring on the scones and for dessert I don’t automatically think macaron. However, they are still very fun to make and sometimes nothing but their chewy, nutty sweetness will do. The fruitier flavors like lemon or raspberry allow you to cut through the sweetness with more tart fillings like curd or jam (although these Salted Caramel macarons are delicious).

The recipe I used was from Macarons which has all sorts of interesting flavor combinations and is very easy to follow. In the basic recipe:

1 Combine almond flour and icing/confectioner’s sugar: sift, blitz in a processor until well mixed

2 French meringue: whip egg whites and gradually add caster sugar

3 Add any color or flavors

4 Pipe out and let them sit until not sticky to the touch, and then bake

 Another method (e.g. Ketchup macarons from Pierre Hermé) uses egg whites in step 1 above and step 2 is Italian meringue, made by adding hot sugar syrup to the whipped egg whites. To be attempted soon.

I find judging when the macarons are ready to take out of the oven the most difficult part of the process. It depends on your oven of course, but I think mine works best starting at 162°C/325°F as per the recipe, and then lowering it as soon as the macarons go in, to 150°C/300°F, cooking them for about 12 minutes. To check their done-ness, I open the oven towards the end and push the shell part to see if it slides around too easily, which indicates that they need another minute or two. I’m sure I’m doing some damage  to the little chaps by opening the oven and checking like this, but I’m not sure how else to tell.

I used white chocolate ganache with fresh raspberries and raspberry jam with berries as fillings. I “tested” them straight after sandwiching and then again after 24 hours in the fridge – the latter definitely tasted better.

My top tips for macarons:

– Take your time, don’t make these if you are in a hurry! It’s Ground Almond’s Law that they will go wrong.

– Draw circles on the underside of your baking paper, it makes piping them out much easier.

– Allow them to dry properly before they bake – mine took an hour and a half before they developed their “skin”.

– I learned the hard way that if you make multiple flavors with one batch you should weigh the egg whites and almond/sugar mixtures that you split