The waitress, still smiling patiently, brought us another round of frothy cappuccinos, a heart drawn in cocoa on the thick froth of each cup. Clearing away empty glasses of cocktails and stained plates, she asked politely if there was anything else we desired.
After spending hours in the cozy restaurant in South East London there was just one thing we wanted: more time. More time to enjoy the bubbly conversation, to laugh, to gossip and more time to appreciate the company.
A fantastic meal enjoyed in the midst of vivacious friends, some familiar and cherished others new and benevolent . A common bond brought us together, but it is the affection we share for each other that strengthens the friendship.
One of the many highlights I experienced while I was in London in late November last year was a glorious brunch we arranged. We exchanged several mails, actually I think there were almost over 100, it was obvious that we were all excited to see each other. Back and forth they went, mails about where and when to meet, menus, cocktails, food and dietary issues all peppered with some gossip here and there. Some dropped out, only to rejoin us again while others came on board and ultimately we were ready to meet. If the emails were any indication of how the afternoon would proceed, I could safely say we were in for a lot of lively chat and boisterous entertainment.
Finally on the Saturday morning Jeanne, Jamie and I made our way to Village East. The air was crisp and frosty, our stride picking up pace as we walked from the underground station to the restaurant. The separate room we had reserved was cozy and warm, prepped with plates and silverware, inviting us to linger a little longer. Orders of food and drinks were given and the room was filled with cheerful talk and contagious giggles.
Why do the paramount moments in life end so soon?
Gifts were exchanged and the first started to say their farewells. We shall meet again and until then we have other means and platforms to stay in touch and “get together”. A glass of wine over Twitter, a movie over Skype or collective cooking via our blogs. We are creative and we find a variety of means to stay connected, even with an ocean between us.
Kavey’s creativity with her gifts was simply unique and promised to be a lot of fun. Her bags of spices and herbs were attached with a small note: a challenge to create a dish using the contents of the bag. I held the clear bag in my hands and smiled: lemon pepper. And the first thing that popped into my head was “macarons!”
Experimenting on ideas and playing around with ingredients are something I love to do and macarons for me are the perfect vehicle for my flavor experiments. Not only do the flavors blend effectively but they also impart a distinct essence for me to get an initial idea of how the combinations could work in other dishes.
Here I paired the fiery lemon pepper with the savory notes of goat cheese and a tangy highlight of lemon curd. The results are a complex flavored macaron, which is not too sweet but deliciously piquant with a zingy note. Rounding off this macaron experience are the rich, earthy flavors of ground hazelnuts, which I used instead of the almonds.
Lemon Pepper Hazelnut Macarons with Lemon Curd and Goat Cheese Cream
Printable version of recipe here
For the macaron shells
110g icing sugar
60g hazelnuts, very finely ground
60g egg whites, (about 2 eggs) aged for either 5 days in the fridge, then for 24 hours at room temperature or a little over 24 hours on the countertop
40g granulated sugar
½ teaspoon lemon pepper
Yellow food coloring
For the filling
100g goat cream cheese
175g plain cream cheese
3 tablespoons + 120g lemon curd
2 tablespoons sugar
For the 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 2 cm in diameter. Then place some white parchment paper on the baking tray and flip the baking paper back around. Or use this macaron template.
- 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. Gradually add the granulated sugar, whisking all the while, until the mixture turns into a thick glossy meringue. The consistency of the macaron batter 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, hazelnuts and lemon pepper until everything is finely ground and powdery. Sift the mixture 2 or 3 times to make sure there are no lumps.
- Place the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the meringue in three portions, giving it a quick fold using the macronnage technique described in my macaron tips section. Fold the mixture a few times to break the air. Add some of the yellow food coloring till you get the shade of yellow you like best. Continue folding 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 (2 cm in diameter) on your prepared baking paper. Leave the macarons to rest and dry for about 15 to 30 minutes.
- In the meantime preheat the the oven to 150 degrees C. When the macarons are ready bake the shells for 12-15 minutes. 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
For the filling
- Place goat cheese, cream cheese, 3 tablespoons lemon curd and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk with electric beaters until thick and creamy. Transfer to a piping bag and refrigerate for a few hours.
Assembling the macarons
Pipe a blob of the goat cheese cream mixture onto one of the shells and add a small dollop of lemon curd over the filling. Gently cover with another shell. Continue to do this until you have used up all of the filling and shells.
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.
Suggestion: Make your own homemade lemon curd using my delicious and foolproof recipe.
Temperamental and sublime with a a subtle fiery note – these macarons were an awesome flavor experiment. I really liked the variety of layers this offered. It’s not your regular very sweet macaron but instead it renders an intricate body of savory flavors accentuated with a sweet note.
After all the sweet we’ve been indulging here on What’s For Lunch, Honey? over the past several weeks, next week I’ll be sharing a fantastic German stew to get us warm and cozy. Hope you’ll join me!
Have a great weekend!
More macaron ideas from WFLH:
|Rooibos Chocolate Chai and Sweet Spicy Chocolate Cinnamon Macarons||Rosewater and Raspberry Macarons||Lebkuchen Spice Macarons with Quince Jam and Candied Ginger|
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