France: Macarons et Monet

One of the most famous French treats is the macaron. They are notoriously fickle and hard to make and the main ingredient is ground almonds. So it is one of my favorite treats and since we learned of Martin’s nut allergies macarons have been off limits.

And then I found this recipe: Nut-Free Macarons from Cookpad.com.

They are far closer to the real thing than I thought possible without almonds- soft, crunchy and they even have the classic ‘foot’.

Nut-Free Macarons

You can find the original recipe here.

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites
  • 25g finely grated white chocolate
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 70g all purpose flour
  • 80g powdered sugar
  • 60g granulated sugar
  • gel food color

Method

Place the egg whites in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and start to beat on medium till foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar one spoonful at a time till all combined. Add color if you want at this point. Continue to beat on high till stiff peaks form- you should be able to hold the bowl over your head upside down without the meringue falling out.

Sift the flour and icing sugar together and add the white chocolate and mix well.

Mix half the meringue with the flour mixture. It will be very lumpy, but don’t panic! It’s supposed to 🙂

Add the 2nd half of the meringue and the vanilla extract. Mix till combined but no more! It will look a little grainy but that is the white chocolate.

Put the mixture in a piping bag and snip the end.

Pipe the macarons on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Optional: trace circles on the underside of the parchment with pencil to help create uniform macarons.

Bang the tray on the counter carefully to get ride of any large bubbles.

Now let them sit for 45-50 minutes to form a skin. You should be able to very lightly touch the tops of the macarons without getting batter on your finger or leaving a mark. Once the skin is formed they’re ready to bake, so check them often once you reach the 45 minute mark.

Bake the macarons at 285℉ or 140℃ for 20 minutes.

Let them cool completely before peeling off the parchment paper.

Filling

Salted Honey Buttercream

The salt and honey balance each other out and offer a way of cutting through the sharp lemon curd while lifting the lavender. This is the keystone that makes the whole combo sing!

Ingredients

  • 50g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 100g powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbs honey
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Method

Cream the butter and sugar together.

Add the honey and salt, mix to combine.

Place in a piping bag with a small star tip.

Lemon Lavender Curd

I chose to make lavender lemon curd because of the lavender fields in Provence France, plus lavender is one of my favorite flavors 🙂

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Ingredients

  • 10 Tbs, 2/3 cup, OR 150ml lemon juice
  • 6 Tbs sugar
  • 2 whole eggs plus 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup OR 60g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp dried lavender buds, rubbed between fingers

Method

Place all the ingredients in a heat proof bowl. Bring a sauce pan of water to boil and place the bowl on top of the pan- be sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Cook the curd in the double boiler while stirring till the butter melts, the sugar dissolves and the curd thickens. Remove from the heat and sieve to remove any lumps and lavender buds (they don’t look nice after being cooked). Place the curd in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Press the plastic wrap onto the curd and poke a whole in the center with a sharp knife to let out the steam. Place in the refrigerator until cool and ready to use.

Put it all together!

Pair off your macarons, find the best sets that are close in size.

On one half of the macaron sandwich pipe a circle of buttercream around the outside.

Fill the inside with a dollop of curd.

Crush a few lavender buds on top of the curd.

Sandwich and enjoy 💜

Monet Art Project

Claude Monet was the father of impressionism. An art movement that focused on the impression of light and movement. He is famous for many paintings but most iconically his water lily series.

Later in life Monet moved to Giverney, a town outside of Paris and he painstakingly created breathtaking gardens, one of which is a Japanese style garden complete with lake and foot bridges.

When I was in France I was fortunate to visit his home and gardens in Giverney. His home is now a museum and the gardens were restored to their glory in the 80s and you can go today and see it as Monet intended it.

So Martin and I set out to make our own impressionist painting of water lilies.

You will need…

  • Paper
  • Oil pastels
  • Water color
  • Salt

Start by drawing an arched foot bridge, then add water lilies, and other plant life with the oil pastels.

Now it’s time to paint! Because the pastels are oil based the watercolor will not cover them, so add as much color as you want!

Now comes the salt- to create more movement in the water sprinkle table salt over the wet paint and allow it dry. Since we were using cheap watercolor this technique didn’t show up too great but the parts that work look beautiful!

For more nature art projects and nut-free treats check out our trip to Romania!

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