During the summer my mother went on a European cruise, (I know I'm still jealous about it). However, no matter how jealous I am, I am still thankful she went because when she went to Turkey she brought me back some beautiful spices. I got a variety ranging from white pepper, fennel, Turkish mint, oregano, mixed peppercorns, saffron and a few others. Up until this point I have never encountered saffron before, all I knew about it is that it is the most expensive herb out there. After reading about how it is cultivated and gathered I definitely understand why, just like I understand why vanilla is so expensive (I watched a 30 minute episode on how vanilla is cultivated, gathered, how long the process is etc...
The first time I used this spice I used it to make my saffron ice cream, which to my delight was absolutely amazing. From that point on I knew I had to make more and more things with this delicate spice. Since then I have saved a couple of recipes but I haven't used it in one since then, until a few nights ago. As I said over the weekend I decided to get a head start on my Christmas baking. In the midst of that I decided to make some special packages for some of the people at work since this is everyone's last week (except mine is next week because accountants need to wrap-up their books). So, I had some left over egg whites from some of the baked goods and decided I would try my hand at macarons again. This was the first time I used aged egg whites, the third time I tried making macarons I used two at room temperature and one at fridge temperature and it worked out, but this time I used all at room temperature.
While the aging was happening, it gave me time to think of what flavour I was going to use. The thing I love about macarons is that the flavour possibilities are endless; peanut butter and jelly, chocolate and salted caramel, matcha and red bean, vanilla and hazelnut buttercream, lavender and vanilla, saffron and cardamon ganache, and many many others.
I was torn between the saffron and cardamon and the lavender and vanilla. I have been on such a lavender as well as a cardamom kick lately so it was really difficult to decide. However, I decided on saffron and cardamom because I knew I was going to be bringing in these delicate beauties into work and I don't think everyone would appreciate lavender, some may, but the majority probably would not.
In the end I was really happy with my decision. The first bite I took I seriously thought I had died and went to heaven. I really enjoy the flavour the saffron delivers. It's rich but at the same time its subtle enough to not be overpowering. When the saffron is mixed with the cardamom, it's like a whole different explosion of fireworks have started. It's sweet but it's still has a very unique spice to it. Together these are so alluring.
At first I was a little skeptical about using the saffron only because it said to "crush" the saffron and I was really confused at this point because saffron is a bunch of threads and is very different than your usual herbs. I decided however to take out my pestle and mortar and I started crushing. At this point I knew I was doing it right, because my nose was suddenly hit with a beautiful aroma scented bubble. My next worry came with the colour. When I first saw the macarons what attracted me to them other than the flavours was the beautiful canary yellow that took over the shells. To my delight as I added the saffron into my egg whites they started getting a yellow tinge to them. Unfortunately it wasn't as rich of a colour as to what I was expecting, but I didn't want to add food colouring so I was happy enough with the result I got.
The next part of my excitement came with the cream. I never cook with cream, and I barely eat any food that contains cream in it. I decided I was going to make an exception though, because macarons are so perfect, and you just can't go halfway with them. They're meant to be beautiful, rich little pastries, and to abstain from an ingredient that could totally make them even more killer would just be a sin and a half. When the cream started to boil and the hints of cardamom filled my nose I knew I had made the right decision in deciding on these flavours over the lavender (not that the lavender would be bad, I'm still going to make it a goal of mine to make them within the next little while) but it would just be a different experience.
Since I hate using piping bags, (I don't know why I hate this seeing as it would make my life ten million times easier...) I made it a little easier by following a template. I've never used a template when "spooning" my macarons onto the parchment paper, and let me tell you, this definitely made the work load a lotttt easier, next time it will definitely be made much more easier if I decided to use my piping bag. However until next time this was perfect. I let the macarons sit for 35 minutes, and I realized that the shell they developed was MUCH different than the shells I've ever had before. These were seriously shells, they were really hard to touch, and I swear if I didn't put any pressure on them at all they wouldn't budge. I immediately turned the stove on because I thought that they had gotten too hard and weren't going to turn out, and I was determined to not let that happen.
After a couple of minutes the stove finally beeped and I threw (not literally but... almost) the macarons into the oven. I was so so nervous. With six minutes baking time left, I decided to turn the light on and face what I had created. OH YEAH! They had rose, and rose they did. They were beautiful mountains. They had feet, and they just looked so beautiful. They had subtly hints of orange sewn through out from the saffron and I could get hints of the cardamom (since it was steeping on my stove) and my mouth instantly started to curl into a grin.
This was the first time that ALL of the macarons turned out. Not a single one's shell caved in or cracked. I was able to take them off of the pan without them sticking to the paper either. I had made my ganache and had let it cooled but it really wasn't thickening. When I thought it had thickened to as much as it was going to I started slapping the ganache onto the macarons. Well what a mess that was, but the taste it gave off I really didn't care.
I took my pictures, and delighted with myself and my defeat I headed to bed, (leaving the white chocolate cardamom ganache on the counter). I figured that I was just going to use this as an icing with some cupcakes, but when I woke up in the morning it was this beautiful beautiful thick and smoothe ganache. It wasn't this runny mess that I had seen the previous night. Immediately, with only a few minutes left before I had to leave the house for work, I started opening the macarons and filling them with more ganache, which was definitely a good idea on my part since it seemed as though the previous nights' work had disappeared within their shells (not such a bad thing).
In the end my macarons turned out wonderfully. The flavours were beautiful. They looked beautiful. And it made me realize with a little bit of patience, i.e. not NEEDING to make the macarons right away and letting the egg whites age macarons really are not THAT difficult of a thing to make, they're actually quite fun. With this realization I look more and more forward to the next thing pastry that I will have to make a couple of times to perfect. That's not to say I don't still have things to learn about the macaron but for it being self-taught with no guidance from anyone I'm rather happy with the results, and it just goes to show you anyone really can bake!
For the Macarons:
- 1 cup powdered sugar + 2 tbsp
- 1/2 cup almond meal + 1 tbsp
- 2 large egg whites, room temperature
- 5 tbsp granulated sugar
- 3/4 tsp saffron threads
- 1 1/2 cup white chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 3/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 cup cream
For the Macarons:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Have a pastry bad with a plain tip (about 1/2 inch) ready. In a blender or food processor, grind together the powdered sugar and almond powder/ meal to make sure there are no lumps. Add the purple food coloring into the granulated sugar to your desired shade and mix until combined. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the dyed sugar until very stiff and firm, about 2 minutes. Carefully fold in the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. When the mixture is smooth and there are no streaks of egg whites, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag. Pipe the batter on the prepared baking sheet in 1 inch circles (about 1 tbsp each), evenly spaced 1 inch apart. Sprinkle some violet buds on top of each macaron. Tap the baking sheet a few times on the counter to flatten the macarons and let air 'dry' for 1 hour. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes. Let cool completely before removing them.For the White Chocolate Cardamom 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.
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, as I learnt...