Fields of bright purple and delicate mauve under a deep blue sky, this is the scent and color of Provence, from late June to mid July, when lavender blooms. The two main areas of lavender cultivation are in the Plateau de Sault or the Plateau de Valensole in south of France: an amazing trip where you can please all your senses.
Lavender (Lavandula, family of Lamiaceae – the name probably derives from the latin word lavare – to wash, or livendula – livid or bluish) is native of the Old World, there are 39 species and they are cultivated in tempered climates. It can be found from Cape Verde to the Canary Islands, from southern Europe across to northern and eastern Africa, in the Mediterranean, as well as southwest Asia to southeast India. Its use has been documented for over 2,500 years. The most antique use was for mummification and perfume by the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and peoples of Arabia. Romans used lavender oils for bathing, cooking, and scenting the air. Lavender is also mentioned often in the Bible, by the name used at that time, spikenard (from the Greek name for lavender, naardus, after the Syrian city Naarda) and the plant is believed to have been taken from the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve.
Lavander is used as ornamental plant for garden and landscape, as culinary herbs, and for its essential oils in soaps and beauty products. Its beautiful, fashionable purple color can inspire wonderful pieces of clothes as well as delicious recipes. Here’s a recipe for Macarons with lavender white chocolate ganache:
100g egg whites (3 extra large eggs, left at room temperature at least 24 hours)
110g almond meal (ground almond, almond powder)
165g pure icing sugar
60g caster sugar (fine sugar)
some red and blue coloring
100g white chocolate, chopped
80ml thickened cream (35% fat content)
20g butter, chopped
1 tablespoon lavender bud
Piping bag size 14 inch (350 mm)
1cm plain round tip (size 11)
sheet pan (baking pan)
Non-stick baking paper or silicone mat
Stand mixer or hand mixer
Process almond meal together with icing sugar in a food processor or blender, then put it in a bowl with the coloring powder (find your exact mix of color based on your personal taste, considering that the color should be four or five times more intense than the actual macaron shells, as the color will fade when mixed with other ingredients). Beat egg white until it is foamy. While beating, gradually add caster sugar into the egg white. Put egg white into the almond, icing sugar mixture and mix everything vigorously till the mixture is glossy and the texture has a thick consistency, or ‘magma’-like consistency. Put this mixture into piping bag fitted with 1-cm plain round tip (size #11). Pipe the mixture on to baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper or non-stick silicone baking mat 2.5-cm (1-inch) diameter and 2.5 cm apart. Stand the trays for 30-60 minutes until the dry crust is formed. This will help to strengthen the macaron shells and will give better rised macaron feet. When the shells are dry to touch, they can go in the owen. Preheat the oven to 160c/180c (convection/conventional oven) for about 15 minutes, then just before loading the tray in, reduce the temperature to 140c/160c. Bake on the middle shelfs for 13-15 minutes. Remove baked macaron shells from the trays when they are completely cool.
Prepare the ganache (filling) by mixing the lavender bud with cream in a small saucepan. Heat the cream mixture over medium high heat until it just comes to the boil. Let the lavender steep in the warm cream for about 10 mins, then reheat the lavender cream to just come to the boil. Take off the heat and put the lavender cream through a strainer. Mix lavender cream into white chocolate and stir to combine until the chocolate is melted. Mix the butter in and stir until they are all melted, then mix the red and blue coloring in as to achieve a light purple color. Chill the lavender ganache and then spread it into the macaron shells. They are at their best when eaten after they have rest for 24 hour in the fridge. Enjoy it!
Photo credit: Antony Spencer, UK