Originally inspired by freckled Easter eggs, these gorgeous (if I may say so myself) macarons easily transition from spring to summer, baby shower to elegant afternoon tea. The pastel shades of the delicate almond shells crinkle just right with each bite. The chewy centers make way for fillings that burst with flavor: Raspberry-Peach and Whipped Caramelized White Chocolate Ganache.Read More
Gold splattered French macarons filled with punchy pink peppercorn buttercream and luscious bittersweet chocolate ganache. Perfect for this Valentine's Day!
In an effort to keep things unpredictable, “spontaneous,” spicy, and always some-what stressful, my husband and I typically make plans to cook from home on Valentine’s Day. I say this jokingly, because every time we’ve done so in the past, there has been an unexpected “twist” to our perfect night in. If you are looking for ways to keep the romance alive in your own marriage, try frantically Google-ing how to quickly thaw out an unexpectedly frozen chicken while tending to a 4-week old and trying to battle the impending gloom of a 10pm dinner while the risotto gets mushier by the minutes.
Or don’t – you probably shouldn’t, actually. It’s up to you.
This year, Valentine’s Day happens to fall on a Tuesday following a three-day weekend (here in British Columbia). The chances of me wanting to throw together a super-fancy dinner over the weekend are high. I’ll probably spend the next week in search of new recipes to try and make endless lists for groceries and prep work. At the end of the day, I actually live for this stuff. I love to cook and researching recipes is actually one of my favorite rituals to do in between putting the toddler to bed, taking the dog out, and getting ready for bed each night.
The problem is more of a matter of ambition. I always want to try out something new. And while I am huge supporter of pushing your own boundaries and trying new things, I tend to wait until the steaks are high – like trying to pull-off a 5-course meal (with hardly any prep work completed) on Valentine’s Day. In such times, the only recipe I can really count on is the recipe for disaster: high stress + new recipes + unpreparedness. Don’t be like me.
Earlier on in my career, making French macarons would have fit the bill perfectly. In fact, I did try to pull-off heart-shaped macarons for Valentine’s Day the same year 85% of our kitchen was in boxes just days before the big move from California to Canada. Not only did macarons still give me tremendous trouble at the time, everything else that was going on around created the perfect storm for disaster.
But back to this year and why I am rediscovering the macaron. Instead of being overly ambitious with my meal prep or trying a new fancy recipe for the first time on a holiday, I plan to use tried and trusted recipes but with a special twist. A favorite dish but with a new flavour variation or something with a simple preparations but made with heart and high-quality, seasonal ingredients. I’m not sure what this means yet as far as an entrée for us this year, but for dessert – these Pink Peppercorn Ganache Macarons. At this point, macarons aren’t nearly as stressful for me to make and I no longer see them as these fancy, unattainable pastries. Yet, they do take time, practice, and preparation, so I don’t make them very often. With that said, combined with this blushing pink and chocolately filling, they fit my new criteria for a special yet not overly fussy Valentine’s Day dessert.
Pink peppercorn in a dessert??! If you recall this cake from back in the day, or the version that I recreated for my book Layered, then you know I love how the slightly peppery and faintly fruity flavors pair with sweets. In a dessert, especially this buttercream, the crushed pink peppercorns pack an unexpected punch – but don’t worry, it’s not like biting into a pepper or anything. The spice in a pink peppercorn is delicate and much more rounded (as opposed to sharp flavours of black pepper).
For me, the crushed pink peppercorns off-set the sweetness of the buttercream perfectly and the rich, fudgey centers make for the most divine bite(s). I love how decadent bittersweet chocolate ganache can be, but feel free to use a semi-sweet variety if you are in search of something a bit lighter. Valrhona Chocolate was gracious enough to send me a variety of their best chocolate feves to test out. In this particular recipe, I favoured their 70% Guanaja chocolate, but if that sounds too rich to you, then go for the 63% Illanka chocolate. Both are amazing! A post about the wonders of Valrhona Chocolate would not be complete without mention of their Dulcey feves. I’m not a huge white chocolate fan, but this blonde chocolate just might be heaven on earth. Next time, I am definitely saving some plain macaron shells to fill with mounds of the caramelized white chocolate ganache goodness.
And last but not least – GOLD SPLATTER! Because macarons shells can be quite finicky, I don’t like to add too much to the shell batter before baking. Beyond some vanilla bean and/or a few drops of food coloring, I try to stay clear of too many additional ingredients that might disrupt the bake. I’ve tried freeze-dried fruit powders and sprinkles, but they tend to yield inferior macarons (in my personal opinion). A fun and easy way to dress up baked macarons shells is to add a little shimmer by way of gold splatter! I have several little jars of gold luster dust leftover from my wedding cake making days, so I am always on the hunt for ways to incorporate the metallic powder into my desserts today. As you could imagine, macaron shells hate water. But mixed with a touch of vanilla extract or even vodka, gold luster dust turns into beautiful gold paint. For the splatter effect, simply add just enough liquid to the luster dust so that it becomes slightly liquidy and not pasty. Dip a clean brush into the mixer and use your finger to flick the bristles over the top of the macarons. I love the imperfect, organic nature of this decorating technique – don’t you?
Pink Peppercorn Macarons
For the shells, I used this macaron recipe here.
Pink Peppercorn Buttercream
3 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 to 2 teaspoons pink peppercorns, or to taste
2 to 3 drops pink food gel, optional
In the bowl of an electric mixer, lightly whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler.
Stirring intermittently, heat the egg white mixture until it registers about 155-160 on a candy thermometer. Once hot, carefully transfer the mixer bowl back to the stand mixer.
Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks, or until the outside of the mixer bowl returns to room temperature (about 8 minutes). Stop the mixer and swap the whisk for the paddle attachment.
Meanwhile, crush the peppercorns using a mortar and pestal.
With the mixer on medium-low, add in the butter, a few tablespoons at a time. Add in the vanilla. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix until silky smooth. Add the crushed pink peppercorns and food coloring until desired taste and color is achieved.
At any point does the buttercream appear curdled, just keep mixing. If the buttercream appears soupy, try placing it in the refrigerator for about 10 to 15 minutes then mixing again.
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (by weight), chopped
¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream
Place the chocolate in a heat-safe bowl and set aside.
Place the cream in a saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once hot, pour the cream over the chocolate. Let stand 30 to 60 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Add a pinch of salt and combine.
Allow the ganache to completely cool. It will thicken over time. Cooling may be sped up in the refrigerator, but be sure to stir every 5 minutes or so. Remove from the refrigerator and use once the ganache has thickened and can be piped from a piping bag (about 20 minutes).
Once the macarons shells are baked, let rest for a couple minutes out of the oven before removing the shells off of the hot baking sheets (wait until they are just cool enough to handle and don’t break apart). Once cooled, match the shells together into pairs of the same size.
Fit two piping bags with medium round tips – around #8 or so (or just snip them with scissors to create smallish openings). Fill the bags with the buttercream and cooled ganached.
Pipe rings of the buttercream around the edges of the bottom macarons shells. Fill the centers with the ganache. Place on the top shell and gently press together so that the buttercream goes to the edges of the cookies but does not spill out. Place the filled shells on your work surface and splatter with the gold luster “paint.”
The gold splatter can be slightly bitter, so don't get too carried away.
I always use Bob's Red Mill almond flour – It's the best!! However, I failed to sift all of the flour before making this particular batch. Don't be like me. Sift, sift, sift!
Thank you to Valrhona Chocolate for supporting Style Sweet CA!
I thought I was done with frozen treats for the summer, but yesterday I found myself taking out the ice cream maker that had already been put away for the season to churn up one more recipe. August is always a strange time. With summer-like temperatures but the holidays quickly approaching (I've already seen Halloween decorations!!), it's a strange in-between the seasons time. But, if you find yourself like me, still craving ice cream, I have a couple late-summer recipes to share with you!
I created this whimsical French Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches for West Elm last month. They use my go-to method for making macarons (but bigger!) and a simple no-churn ice cream. The trick to making them nice and even? Freeze the ice cream in a sheet pan, then cut out disks of ice cream with a round cookie cutter that is just slightly smaller than the cookies. Plus, spinels and chocolate chips, of course =)
Also on West Elm, I made the Grown-Up Ice Cream Sundaes! Who says kids should get all the fun? Because let's face it, adults like ice cream too - especially when it is homemade Stout Stracciatella and fancied up with nut brittle and boozy fudge sauce!! Here is a bit more of what I have to say about this drool-worthy combo, just in case you weren't already convinced you should drop everything to make this right now:
Want to make one of the recipes (or one of your own), but not sure about the best to photograph something potential messy and definitely melty? I've got you covered there, too. You can find my best tips and tricks for photographing REAL ice cream and frozen desserts over on Food Bloggers of Canada!
Swirly royal icing transforms these fancy-pants French macarons into fun, whimsical treats. The classic pastries are filled with Earl Grey buttercream, lemon cream, and raspberry jam.
I’ve always been fairly artistic, so when I signed up for a watercolor class one summer at UC Davis, I thought it would be a breeze. Up until then, I had trained in performing arts my entire life and had dabbled in acrylic painting in my free time. Even children play with watercolors, so how hard could it be? I was tragically mistaken. Watercolor painting is extremely difficult, or at least when trying to manipulate water and paint into sometime remotely recognizable.
I purchased all of the necessary supplies on the course list before class started and picked my seat at one of the tilted drawing tables with confidence. As I looked around, I think my brushes were the only ones in the classroom that were unused, paints unopened, and palette completely clean of remnants of past projects. Throw in some water, and I knew I was doomed.
I was quickly humbled by colleagues’ abilities and grace working with this impossible medium. I chose to paint things like abstract flowers while others were creating landscapes, one simple stroke at a time. I felt like they were all working with the water, while I was trying to control it. Our final project was a pond of koi fish. I think mine is stashed away, still half-complete, somewhere in my parents’ storage unit… I’m not one to give up quickly, and I still play around with my paints from time to time, focusing on gradients, lettering, and whimsical little illustrations, but mainly I work with sugar and butter to fulfill my intrinsic artistic needs.
Growing up a dancer, I’ve always had a creative outlet. I studied all disciplines of dance and musical theater (plus a few years of percussion) all the way through college. As the style of dance transitioned from classical ballet to my college jazz team to contemporary/modern, my adult body could no longer keep up. I started getting migraines in my mid-twenties and the movement associated with contemporary dance triggered my motion sickness. Eventually I had to cut back and find a new way to express myself.
Enter cake and pastry. Just as I was leaving the world of dance that had consumed my previous 20+ years of life, I found my passion for baking. Where I could no longer move and flex my body the way I wanted it to, I started to manipulate sugar. I ended up throwing all of my energy into my new cake business, and the rest is history!
For this recipe, I wanted to go bold and bright – something undeniably FUN for summer. I fell in love with the whimsical designs of Meghan Rohsko of Nutmeg and Honeybee earlier this year and her ability to create edible art from sugar cookies and macarons. Both finicky and fanciful, classic French macarons are typically perceived as these pristine little jewels, sitting unnecessarily high on their perfect pedestals. Meghan’s use of vibrant colors and textures goes well beyond tradition and make macarons a bit more approachable and fun.
Don’t get me wrong, baking perfect macarons can definitely be tricky - they have an elitist aura about them for a reason. I’ve gone on about my quest to master these little pastries before, and I know I am not the only one out there to have a love/hate relationship for these little buggers. In an effort to manipulate sugar in yet a new way, I wanted to decorate the actual shells of the macarons. Made of mainly egg whites and almond flour, these crispy shells are temperamental and delicate. A few drips of water, and they are ruined. I’ve tried painting on them with petal dust mixed with alcohol, but I wanted to test out royal icing this time around. Inspired by some of Meghan’s sugar cookies and macarons, I created these marble macarons!
Using summer palettes of pink and yellow for my Pink Lemonade macarons and teal and sky blue for my Earl Grey macarons, a few drops of gel food coloring turned these plain shells into swirly, whimsical treats. A quick bath in the colourful icing and it’s instant edible art! Much easier than painting a watercolor fish, I promise, and much more fun, too.
For the Shells
200 grams ground almond flour
200 grams powdered sugar
200 grams granulated sugar
50 grams water
140 grams egg whites (from about 4 large eggs)
gel food coloring of choice
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick silicon mats and set aside. Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar together in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Place the granulated sugar and water in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and continue to cook until the mixtures registers 238 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and let rest for about 30 seconds.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs whites with an electric mixer until medium-soft peaks. If using a stand mixer, begin whisking on high when the sugar mixture hits about 210 degrees.
Once the sugar mixture is hot and the eggs are whipped, keep the mixer running on high speed and carefully pour in the sugar. Pour in the sugar slowly and try to keep it from hitting the whisk to prevent hot sugar splatters. Continue to mix on high until the outside of the mixer bowl returns to room temperature (about 8 minutes). During the last minute or so, add in the gel food coloring, if desired.
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.
Using a large, rubber spatula, begin folding in the meringue mixture into the almond flour mixture in three batches. Use large, deliberate folds – turning the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl up to the top. Continue to fold and smooth out the batter until it falls like thick lava off of the spatula – not too stiff and not too runny. Rotate the bowl as you fold and smear the mixture against the sides of the bowl with spatula to smooth. Do not over-mix.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a medium round piping tip with the macaron batter. Pipe out uniform rounds of the batter, about 1 1/4 inches in diameter, on the prepared baking sheets. When done, rap the bottoms of the baking sheets a few times against a safe work surface to knock out any air bubbles.
Allow the piped macarons to rest at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes or until the tops feel dry to the touch and are not too sticky. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. When done, the tops of the macarons should "jiggle" slightly but still feel attached to the base. Cool the macarons on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before carefully pealing them off the parchment paper or baking mat.
For the Lemon Cream Filling
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese together until combined. Slowly add in the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth. Beat on medium until fluffy – about 30 seconds or so.
1 egg white
1 ½ cups confections sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg white on medium until frothy. Gradually add in the sugar and turn the mixer up to medium-high. Continue to mix until soft, glossy peaks. Add in the lemon and mix until combined. Stir in water, a 1/2 teaspoon at a time, as needed. The royal icing should be fairly runny, similar to Elmer’s glue.
gel food coloring
Earl Grey buttercream (half of this recipe)
Match all of the macarons by size and set on a baking sheet. Only the tops will be decorated, while only the bottoms will be filled. Set aside.
Divide the royal icing into two bowls. Using a toothpick, dot the top of the royal icing with gel food coloring – two to three colors in each bowl. Gently swirl to combine. Holding the edges with your fingertips, dip the tops of the macaron shells into the royal icing. Swirl, lift, and shake, allowing the excess icing to drip off. Place the shell, icing side up, on a baking sheet and gently tap to get rid of any air bubbles. Clean up the sides as needed with a clean fingertip or paintbrush and allow to dry – at least 4 hours.
Pipe the filling on the bottom shells. To create the Pink Lemonade macarons, pipe a ring of lemon cream around the edges, then fill with about ¼ - ½ teaspoon raspberry jam. Pipe on the Earl Grey buttercream with a medium star or round tip. Do not overfill or pipe directly to the edges. Place the tops on the filling and gently press together until the filling flattens and reaches the edges.
It is common practice to let the macarons “mature” for 24 hours – allowing the flavors and textures to develop. If you are like me, then enjoy at your leisure (like immediately after, hehe).
This design was heavenly inspired by Meghan of Nutmeg and Honeybee. Be sure to give her a shout out and follow her YouTube Channel!
Classic French macarons are given a modern twist with the addition of matcha. Matcha (green tea) ganache and sweet raspberry fill the centers of these delicate pastries.
I distinctly remember the period in my career in where I went out on a quest to perfect French macarons. I even remember the very weekend I devoted to making these finicky, fussy little treats. It was probably about 4 to 5 years ago and my husband, Brett, was out of town for a few days. I rarely ever had/have weekends to myself, but when I do, I like to plan little projects for myself. By the time he got home, I was determined to master these suckers.
Dozens of egg whites and probably about $50 worth of almond flour later - I was nowhere close to where I wanted to be....
Like most things, I definitely learned that you can't master a skill in 48 hours. Sure I made things that resembled macarons and I definitely got the filling down, but it has taken me many years and several different recipes in order to produce the kind of macaron I love to eat and enjoy. A thin, crisp outer shell with a pillowy, chewy center - french macarons are not impossible to make. Sometimes difficult and frustering? Yes. Worth the effort? Most definitely!!!
I've tried both the French meringue method and the Italian meringue method. And while "French" is even in the title, I think the turning point for me was when I switched to using Italian meringue. In this case, you make an Italian meringue (boiled sugar and water mixed into whipped egg whites) then combine it with the almond/confectioner's sugar mixture. I find that Italian meringue it much more stable, easier to mix without getting soupy, and way less difficult to over-whip (in defence of French meringue, I think I was over-whipping the egg whites making them dry and extra difficult to combine with the almond mixture).
Upon moving to Vancouver, I worked about a 4 to 5 month stint at a local pastry shop. They primarily specialized in macarons. I had definitely made my fair share of macarons before working there, and after months of doing macaron production I was officially burnt out. French macarons used to be my most beloved desserts. They take time and patience to make (yourself) and may be difficult to find (really good one, at least). At first, I was so spoiled by delicious macarons surrounding me, but they quickly started to lose their luster and that deeply saddened me. I needed a break so that I could fall back in love with these precious little gems.
It had been about two years since I made macarons when I was suddenly inspired to try them out again. Really, I wanted to see if I "still got it" and give my muscles a reminder on how to mix them properly. So, over the weekend, I made my first batch of French macarons in a two years. I went with pretty pastel pink shells with Raspberry Buttercream as well as Matcha Ganache with Raspberry Jam for filling.
Here are some of my thoughts on mixing macaron batter or "macaronage" (what most would consider the "tricky" part - me included):
In my humble option, using an Italian meringue makes this mixing process much easier. I feel like I have much more control over everything. Like when folding other ingredients of vastly different weights, I like to add the meringue in batches – usually in two or three batches. As you go, the dry almond mixture slowly starts to incorporate with the thick, pasty meringue. You don't want to vigorously mix these two ingredients together (although at first it might seem impossible that they will ever combine), but rather deliberately fold them together. Since over-mixing is a major thing you want to avoid, try to make every fold count by scooping up from the very bottom of the bowl and folding it over on itself. Continue adding in the meringue and rotating the bowl as you go.
When properly mixed, the batter should run slowly like thick ribbons of lava. Again, do not over-mix! Over-mixing leads to major spreading, so be careful. However, under-mixed macarons can be an issue too. When piped, under-mixed macarons may keep too much of their shape - with peaks and not the smooth, flat tops that make macrons so mesmerizing. If you are unsure about your mixing technique, try testing it as you go. If you "plop" a bit of the batter back into the bowl, a properly mixed batter should blend back into itself within about 5 seconds. Likewise, if you drag a spatula through the center of the bowl (full of batter), it should blend back together.
For even more macaron tips and tricks, check out Brave Tart.
Matcha Raspberry French Macarons
200 g almond flour
200 g icing sugar
140 g egg whites (4 large eggs)
200 g granulated sugar
50 g water
2 to 3 drops red gel food coloring
Since it had been such a long time since I tried my hand at making macarons, I wanted to go with a really trust worthy recipe. I wasn't all that confident with some of my past recipes, so I went with this amazing one from Chef Natalie Eng (her work is phenomenal! you should all check it out).
I followed her recipe exactly with amazing results. For only one color of shells, add your gel food coloring straight into the Italian meringue during the last minute of mixing.
Depending on the size of your shells, they will take about 9 to 12 minutes to bake at 325 degrees. When done, the tops of the shells should just barely "jiggle" but still stay connected to the "feet." After about cooling just a few minutes, a done macaron should easily peel off a piece of parchment or silpat.
7 ounce white chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon matcha powder
6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspooons unsalted butter, diced
1. Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-safe bowl. Sprinkle with matcha and set aside.
2. Gently heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it just begins to simmer.
3. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 30 seconds.
4. Add the butter and whisk until smooth.
5. Let ganache cool until thick and "pipe-able."
mix about 1/4 cup raspberry jam/jelly with 1 cup Swiss meringue buttercream (or buttercream of choice - adjust raspberry jam to taste) until smooth. You can find my favorite recipe in this post.
After the shells cool, pair them up according to size. Line the pairs up on a baking tray or clean work surface - one side up, one side down.
For the raspberry buttercream filling, pipe a large dollop of filling onto the center of the upside down shells. Leave a bit of room around the edges for the filling to spread after they are sandwiched together. Top the macarons with the top shells and gently sandwich together until the filling comes to the edges.
For the matcha raspberry macarons, fill a piping bag fitted with a small round tip with the ganache. Pipe rings on top of the upside down shells - again, living a bit of space for spread. Fill the center of the rings with raspberry jam/jelly then gently sandwich together.
It's recommend that to let macaron "mature" in the refrigerator for about 24 hours, but I usually can't wait. Enjoy at your own leisure =)
NOTE: Next time I will pulse the almond flour and icing sugar in the food processor a bit before starting. My shells were a bit too "bumpy."