There is something soothing about making macarons. I enjoy spending a weekend afternoon mixing, piping, baking and then filling the delicate shells, and experimenting with different flavour combinations. This time I decided to make lightly-flavoured lavender macarons using lavender sugar, and I paired them with a basic buttercream infused with earl-grey tea and clover honey. I decided to use the same recipe as I used to make my raspberry macarons with raspberry buttercream filling, with a few tweaks.
LAVENDER MACARONS WITH HONEY EARL-GREY BUTTERCREAM
1 cup icing sugar
3/4 cup ground almonds
2 large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup lavender sugar
1/2 tsp purple food colouring
Honey earl-grey buttercream:
100g butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp earl-grey tea leaves steeped in 2 Tbsp boiling water
To make the lavender sugar:
Measure out 1/4 cup caster sugar into a bowl. Add several sprigs of lavender and leave, covered, overnight. The lavender oils will infuse into the sugar to make a lovely lightly-flavoured lavender sugar. Discard the lavender and sift before using to get rid of any left-over lavender.
1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius (roughly 325 degrees Fahrenheit). Line oven trays with good quality baking paper, or if the baking paper is thin use two layers.
2. Process the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor until fine. Sift three times, each time leaving out the lumps of almond that is left in the sieve.
3. Beat the eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar. Mix on high speed until soft peaks form. Add the food colouring and lavender sugar. Continue mixing until stiff peaks form.
4. Sift the almond mixture into the egg mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the two mixtures together. This step is very important. If you fold too little, the macarons will crack. If you fold too much, the macarons will flatten and merge together into a sticky mess. In order to have a nice smooth macaron with a slight cap, and the all-important feet, you need to fold the mixture just right. Depending on your folding, this may take 50-80 folds. When you lift the spatula from the batter, the batter should flow off the spatula in a continuous line of the batter.
5. Once this step is done, the batter should be spooned into a piping bag with a 1/2 inch round tip. Pipe 3/4 inch rounds onto the baking paper, one inch apart. It may be helpful to draw circles onto the baking paper before you start this step. Once the macarons are piped out, give each tray a good firm tap on the bench to release any trapped air, which would cause the macarons to turn out hollow.
6. The next step is important. The macarons should be left at air temperature for 30-45 minutes to form a skin. The macarons should lose their shine and appear dull. When touched, they should not be sticky because a skin has formed.
7. Meanwhile, make the buttercream filling by mixing the softened butter and icing sugar in a bowl. Microwave the honey for 20 seconds to soften it slightly, and add this to the buttercream mixture. Make a strong brew of earl-grey tea using 2 tsp tea leaves steeped in 2 Tbsp boiling water, and stir this in to the buttercream.
8. Bake the macarons a tray at a time in the oven for 15 minutes, being careful not to burn them. See oven temperature tips here.
9. Once out of the oven, leave for 2-3 minutes before removing each shell from the tray. Cool, and then play a matchmaking game! Find each macaron shell a matching shell of the same size and shape, then spread one side with the buttercream filling and sandwich together.
10. Your macarons are ready! Take your first bite before everyone else swoops in. Even better, hide them away and don't tell anyone you made them! Macarons? What macarons?!
Before you start baking, have a look at my tips and tricks for making macarons. But remember - the second most important step in the macaron-making process is getting the macaronage right. If you fold too much or not enough, your macarons will not turn out with feet and a nice smooth cap.
The first most important step? Just do it! Don't be put off by all the articles around the net stating the do's and don't's of making macarons. Just have a go, and if they don't work out the first time try to work out what went wrong, and have another go! Making a whole batch of macarons is much cheaper, and more satisfying, than buying them one at a time from that little french bakery.