I love how colorful, versatile and delicate macarons are but what I love the most is how temperamental they are. Yes, temperamental. It is almost like they are testing your baking and science skills. They are challenging and intimidating if you have never made them before. This is also one of those recipes that you cannot just read about, you really have to look at your ingredients, the humidity in your kitchen, your oven… many factors involved here.
The basic macaron recipe has been adapted from a recipe by Sebastien Cannone, MOF, chef instructor and owner of the French Pastry School in Chicago. I have been to four of his classes and he is phenomenal. Not only is he a technical genius, he focuses very much in the quality of ingredients, flavors and all senses involved in the culinary experience. On top of that, he is a great communicator… Very, very inspiring man.
I would say that there are several keys to a beautiful macaron. One is that the egg whites we use are somewhat old. This means that some water content has evaporated and more solid matter is left which will help in the stability of the meringue. For that, I separate the egg whites from the yolks a couple of days before I am going to make the recipe. I leave the egg whites in a bowl uncovered in the refrigerator until I am ready to use them.
The type of oven also plays a big role in the outcome. I am afraid it might take several batches of ruined macarons to come up with the perfect ones. The oven temperature and how even the heat is distributed is key. So test a couple of times.
I would describe these macarons as lavender and orange scented rather than full, bursting flavor ones. I like the hint of lavender and the freshness of the orange against the almond. I love almonds so I really wanted these macarons to be simple.
So finally, here is the recipe.
LAVENDER AND ORANGE MACARONS
Makes about 4 dozen small macarons
181 grams almond flour
243 grams powdered sugar
138g egg whites
3 grams egg white powder
2 grams of finely ground sea salt
81 grams granulated sugar
Zest of one orange
5 drops of blue food coloring (I used a natural food coloring made from blueberry concentrate)
dried lavender leaves
In a large bowl, sift together the almond flour, powdered sugar and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the egg white and the egg white powder. Whip in medium speed until egg whites start to increase in volume. I know a lot of recipes say to whip the egg whites at high speed but I find that it is better to start slower to build a better structure for the meringue.
When the egg whites are almost fully whipped and very fluffy, slowly start adding the sugar, sprinkle it in. After all the sugar is incorporated, continue to whip the meringue in high speed now until stiff peaks have formed. This is when we will add the orange zest and the food coloring.
Add the dry ingredients to the meringue and with a spatula, fold the meringue into the dry ingredients. This is called “macaroner” and is also a tricky part. It is better to fold slowly and test a couple of macarons because it is possible to over fold this mixture. We are looking for a shiny mass. For this amount of ingredients, I would say that it will only take about 10 to 15 strokes. But again, it is better to check for consistency. We are looking for a mass that spreads a little but not too much otherwise our macarons will be flat.
Pipe the mass onto half sheet pans lined with silpats. Sprinkle the wet macarons with dried lavender leaves. Make sure to pick out any stems or hard pieces.
Let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes so they dry. We want the tops to not stick to our finger when we touch them. This will ensure a crack-free macaron.
Have your oven preheated at 325 degrees. Bake one sheet pan at a time positioning it in a middle rack. Bake for about 8 minutes and rotate sheet pan to ensure even baking. It should take about 14 minutes but that depends on the oven. We want to be able to pick up the macaron without it falling apart but we don’t want to over bake it either. It is better to bake it slowly so no browning occurs.
Remove them from the oven and slide the silpat onto a cold surface. Let them cool on the silpat.
ORANGE BUTTERCREAM FILLING
I don’t ever follow a recipe for buttercream. When I was in culinary school my chef instructor, chef Schmidtke drilled in my head the numbers 1-2-3, meaning 1 part of egg whites, 2 parts of sugar and 3 parts of butter. So that’s what I follow.
50 grams of egg whites
100 grams of granulated sugar
150 grams of room temperature unsalted butter
Zest of one orange
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together egg whites and the sugar lightly. Place over a water bath until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Bring bowl to the electric mixer and whip until stiff peaks form. Add butter, a tablespoon at a time while whipping. Add the orange zest and mix until incorporated.
Pipe a teaspoon of the buttercream on a macaron and top with another one that is similar size.