When I first thought about committing to the “A Year in Macarons” series in which I experimented with, baked, and introduced a new macaron flavor combination for each month, I had very few ideas of what flavors I would actually be trying. April’s flavor, however, was an exception. In the back of my mind I always knew that I would try a honey vanilla lavender macaron for April’s flavor since it seemed so seasonal and appropriate.
So with April’s recent arrival, I was ecstatic that I could finally bake these beautiful delicacies! Needless to say, the kitchen smelt wonderful… mild lavender with a hint of honey, it was an olfactory heaven for during the afternoon these were being made. And the taste did not disappoint either!
At first, I was conflicted with where to pack in the floral notes. In the cookie? In the filling? Ultimately, I added in dried culinary lavender straight into the macaron shell, which allowed the flavor to permeate the entire cookie and also added a hint of color to the otherwise plain cream shell. For the filling, I played around with coconut milk to create a vanilla honey cream and added few drops of coloring gel to create a deep lavender-colored hue.
My roommate (who is one of my main taste testers) said that this is one of her favorite flavors thus far. And she’s not one to go easy on her feedback! But I’ll let you decide for yourselves, with the recipe not too far below. Pat yourselves on the back and bake a batch of these as a personal “good job for filing your taxes!” treat!
Thanks for dropping by and wishing you a wonderful not-too-rainy April!
- 100 g egg whites, aged 3 days
- 75 g caster sugar
- 150 g confectioners sugar, sifted
- 130 g almond flour, sifted
- 1-1/2 Tbs culinary lavender, dried
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1/3 c coconut milk (I used beverage version)
- 4 tsp cornstarch
- 1/3 c honey
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 oz white chocolate
- (optional) gel food coloring: 2 drops blue, 1 drop red
- (optional) 1 Tbs butter, unsalted
- Measure out dry ingredients using the food scale. Let egg whites sit until room temperature.
- Meanwhile, pulse together powdered sugar, almond powder, and dried lavender in food processor until well blended.
- Meringue--In a very large bowl, whisk the room temperature egg whites, caster sugar, and salt into a meringue. I’ve found that it takes me about 7-9 minutes to completion, and I break it down into three basic steps:  Starting on a low-speed setting, whip the egg whites with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes until frothy, adding ⅓ of the caster sugar and a pinch of salt along the way.  Move mixer to med-speed setting; continue whipping egg whites another 2-3 minutes until soft peaks form, and add half of the remaining caster sugar along the way.  Move mixer to high-speed setting; whip egg whites 1-2 minutes and add the remaining caster sugar along the way. Move mixer to highest speed for last minute until firm peaks form.
- Be careful not to over beat the egg whites! You will know when your meringue is ready by checking to see if (a) nothing falls out of the bowl when you turn it upside down, and (b) the meringue remains in the whisk/beater when you stop the mixer.
- Fold in the mixed and sifted dry ingredients into the meringue; this is the actual macaronage step. I find that it takes me anywhere from 40-50 folds (and I actually do keep count) to achieve the right consistency. Folding doesn’t require gentleness; the macaronage process requires one to “beat” out the air from the egg whites. When a shine develops and the consistency resembles lava or thick pancake batter, macaronage is complete. I’m careful to count the folds in order to not overmix!
- Transfer macaron batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip (I use the Ateco #11 round). Pipe even circles on prepped baking sheets lined with Silpat-like mats. For even circles, I count out 1-2-3-4 while piping to help ensure more even batter distribution for each circle. It’s not a foolproof solution, but it works surprisingly well! Alternatively, there are templates that can be used and placed under the Silpat-like mats for additional assurance.
- Knock the air bubbles out! To prevent cracking and empty shells, the extra air bubbles have got to go! In parallel, drop the fully-piped baking sheet from a 4-6 inch range onto a counter or table that can withstand an impact. Do this three times, rotate the sheet 180-deg and do so three times again. It’s loud and might seem excessive, but seeing those tiny bubbles rise to the surface and pop make it all worth it.
- Let the shells try in a dry place. The top coat of the shell should be dry to the touch; no batter should stick. This may take anywhere from 30-120 minutes. I tend to wait at least an hour to ensure a hardened shell. Drying the shell is required for a smooth shell and macaron feet to form without cracking. Bake too soon before the shells are dried and the shells will crack—I’ve had this experience once or twice before and it’s the last thing you want to happen after having invested so much work into preparing the shells leading up to the baking.
- Pre-heat the oven to 325º F. Bake for 5 minutes before lower temperature to 300º F for the remaining 10-15 mins, rotating the sheet a touch more than halfway through the baking process after feet have formed. While I prefer to bake each sheet individually to exercise greater control over each, in the interest of time, I have tried baking both together (on middle/bottom rack and switching them halfway through) and have found success.
- Remove shells from oven and let it cool completely before removing/peeling from the mat. Be sure to let them cool completely, as premature removal will result in decapitation—the “cap” of the macaron shell will literally come off, leaving the base/crinkly feet on the mat. No bueno :(
- As shells bake/cool, prepare the key lime curd and buttercream fillings.
- In a small pot, heat and whisk milk, cornstarch, honey, and sugar together until mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat.
- In a magic bullet (or similar), pour hot mixture over white chocolate and stir to melt chocolate. When slightly cooled, blend which chocolate and mixture together until homogeneous and creamy.
- Add vanilla and optionally gel food coloring drops and butter to magic bullet. Blend together until well incorporated.
- Place in fridge for a few hours to firm up before transferring the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a piping tip (#11 Ateco, I use the same one for the macarons) in preparation for assembly.
- Sort and match macaron shells into pairs of roughly equal size.
- For each cookie pair, pipe cooled honey vanilla cream in the center of the cookie.
- Place the accompanying cookie on top and optionally twist the cookies in opposite directions to help distribute the filling throughout the macaron, out to the edges. Repeat for remaining cookies.
- You can now enjoy your the fruits of your labor immediately! Or... store assembled cookies in an air-tight container in the fridge for 12-24 hours. This allows the flavors to penetrate through the entirety of the macaron, enhancing both the texture and flavor of the eventual tasting experience!
- To serve, remove from refrigerator and let the macarons warm to room temperature prior to enjoying. (Hint: if it's crunchy when you bite into it, it's probably still too cold)