Well I have to say I got lucky this time. Imagine my surprise at seeing that this month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge was to be gorgeous macarons. If I was poetic enough I would write an Ode to Macarons. That’s how much I am liking making macarons at the moment. It’s probably because of the success I experienced the very first time I made the pistachio lemon cream macarons not too long ago.
So, yes it’s true - I went into this challenge fairly relaxed. I knew what to expect and what tweaks I wanted to make to improve the macarons from the first time around. The only difficulty was on deciding what flavors to go with. My head is full of macaron flavors and if given the chance I would make a flavor a week, but I do not want to overkill my macaron love affair.
Then my dear Persian friend B. brought a big packet of the finest Iranian saffron from her recent trip to Iran and when she placed it in my hands I knew straight away how I would flavor my macarons.
Give this Indian girl a French delicacy and this is how she’ll spice it up! I adore the subtle and rich flavors of saffron intermingled with the unique, slightly sweet with a hint of savory aromatic cardamom. Together the flavors are incredibly exquisite and enticing.
The challenge called for making the macaron shells as given in the recipe, flavoring and filling them however we wished to. I grinded my own almonds to make almond flour and slightly deviated from the recipe. Instead of using 5 egg whites I used only about 4 and as my first macarons were fairly successful I used that as a rough guideline for the ingredient amounts. The egg whites aged in the fridge for 5 days this time and then for a day on the countertop to come down to room temperature.
For the filling I used a simple white chocolate ganache recipe, a recipe I often use as a basis to make pralines and truffles, flavoring the ganache with bold Indian cardamom pods.
As I gently crushed the saffron strands the beautiful scented spice filled my nostrils with pure pleasure, which turned into true excitement as the rich color melted into the egg whites turning them into a warm sunny yellow.
Then as the cardamom steeped in the cream a second intense perfume filled the kitchen interlacing with the aromatic saffron. I knew then that these macarons were going to be good.
Just like the last time, I did my prep work by making a stencil to help me pipe perfect round shells and as the macaron batter rested to dry I noticed that they were gorgeously sprinkled with bright orange speckles of ground saffron. Delightful!
As they went into the oven, Soeren and I had our noses stuck to the oven window waiting for the true sign of great macarons. And soon enough we had macaron feet! Phew!
The recipe below is the one with my tweaks but you'll find the original to print here.
Saffron Macarons with Cardamom White Chocolate Ganache
Printable version of recipe here.
For the saffron macaron shells
3-4 egg whites (approx. 90g), aged for at least 24 hours or a max of 5 days
200g icing sugar
110g almonds, without skins
1/2 tsp saffron strands, crushed
40g granulated sugar
For the cardamom white chocolate ganache
250g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 cardamom pods, cracked
100 ml cream
For the saffron macaron shells
- Prepare your baking tray and baking sheets with a stencil of circles. Draw circles on some baking paper using a (mathematical) compass about 3.5 cm in diameter. Then place some white parchment paper on the baking tray and flip the baking paper back around.
- In a large mixing bowl mix the egg whites with an electric hand beater (alternatively you can use a stand mixer with the whisk attachment) until it is thick and frothy. Sprinkle in the crushed saffron strands, then gradually add the granulated sugar, whisking all the while, until the mixture turns into a thick glossy meringue. The consistency should be similar to hair mousse or shaving foam. Make sure the meringue is not over-beaten or else it will be too dry.
- In a food processor pulse together icing sugar and almonds until the nuts are finely ground and powdery. Sift the mixture to make sure there are no lumps.
- Place the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the meringue and give it a quick fold using the macronnage technique described in my macaron tips section. Fold a few times to break the air. Continue until you get a smooth and supple mixture, thick in consistency so that when you lift the spatula it flows back in thick ribbons. Test a small amount on a plate – should the tops fall back and flatten by themselves then it is ready, if not give it a few more folds.
- Fill a piping bag with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small rounds (3.5 cm in diameter) on your prepared baking paper. Leave the macarons to rest and dry for about 30 - 45 minutes.
- In the meantime preheat the the oven to 140 degrees C. When the macarons are ready bake the shells for 10–15 minutes depending on their size. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Use a flat offset spatula to gently remove the shells from the baking paper and allow to cool further on a rack.
If you are not going to be using them right away you can store the shells in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.
They freeze well too but it is recommended to freeze them unfilled. To fill them take the shells out of the freezer 48 hours prior to serving and without defrosting fill them. This way the flavors will be allowed to blend as they thaw.
For the cardamom white chocolate ganache
- Place the cream and the cardamom in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to stand for at least 20 minutes.
- Carefully reheat the cream and discard the cardamom pods.
- Slowly pour the cream into a bowl with the chopped chocolate, stirring to dissolve the chocolate. Continue stirring gently until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Allow to cool slightly. The ganache will thicken as it cools.
Assembling the macarons
Fill the cardamom white chocolate ganache in a plain tipped piping bag and pipe small dollops on one of the shells then gently cover with another. Do not press. Continue to do this until you have used up all of the filling and shells.
- Saffron – the Queen of Spices
- Cardamom – a sensational and versatile spice
- White Chocolate – decadent and rich
On the first day these macarons tasted good Soeren and I happily munched away breaking every eloquent macaron eating rule. But the next day they tasted even better. The cardamom flavor was more intense and the saffron aroma deep and refined. I took the remaining few to a little get-together and had to coax my Japanese friend to eat them. She said “They were too pretty to eat!” Finally when she did take a delicate bite I could literally see how she savored each minute bite.
These macarons were wonderfully flavored, had a great texture and the perfect bite. I thank Ami with all my heart for choosing macarons for this month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge. Any excuse to make macarons is always welcome. Please head on over to the Daring Kitchen to check out many more magical macaron creations.
You might like these Saffron delights from WFLH:
|Saffron and Cardamom Panna Cotta||Saffron Coconut Ice Cream||Saffron Rice Pudding|
Monthly Mingle Reminder
I would like to invite you all to a fantastic party this mingle. Come and join me for a grand Brunch.
Make your favorite brunch recipes and bring send your creations to me by November 16th.
See you there!
European Food Blogger Connect Update
November 28th is the day to circle in your calendars. That's when the first European Food Bloggers Connect is taking place in London. I've booked my tickets already and am looking forward to seeing many fantastic fellow food bloggers there. Hope you'll be able to make it. So far the response has been amazing and foodies are coming from all over the world to be there. Besides just good food there'll be a few brilliant presentations of a selection of talented bloggers. Subjects like basic food photography and food styling, social networking and writing style are just a few topics that will be presented. Check out the updated Food Blogger Connect flyer for more information on speakers and presentations.
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