I have been wanting to play with lavender for a while. The color is gorgeous and the smell is incredibly calming and aromatic. I found myself wondering how the flavors could enhance a recipe. After doing some research online, I discovered that there are endless possibilities that use dried lavender in cooking, baking and even drinks… so I finally decided to start experimenting.
Since lavender is a newer herb for me, I thought it would be fun to kick off my exploration with a delicious collaboration with a talented pastry chef, shop owner and my friend, Cindy Summers from Sugar Fixé.
Back in the day, Cindy and I met through mutual friends and worked in the corporate world together. When I learned that she was quitting her successful career to go to french pastry school, I was completely inspired and honestly, a little jealous. It was also the first time in my own career as an art director that I started to wonder, “Could I do something like that?”
Fast forward a few years and Cindy now has two successful shops in Chicago area – one in Oak Park and one in Lincoln Park. It’s also no secret that she has been voted as having the Best French Macarons in Chicago. See more of her success stories here.
After I discovered my love for food photography, I met up with Cindy at her Patisserie in Oak Park to ask her how she left the stability of a successful career to follow her passion… She said, “It’s important to have a business plan, a good support system and then, it’s up to you to just do it.” And, less than a couple of years later, I did. Neither one of us have looked back.
When I stopped into Sugar Fixé to pick up the Lavender Macarons for my photo shoot, it was bright and welcoming. People were sipping latte’s and nibbling tasty bites and I was surrounded by all sorts of deliciousness from pastries, to macarons, to quiches and croissants… not to mention, some of the most beautiful and unique wedding cakes I have ever seen. Cindy and her new Pastry Chef, Bess Ronchetti, came out to say hello. They told me how they added a twist to the recipe by caramelizing the honey and I couldn’t believe how beautiful their work looked. Cindy and Bess are true artists.
Be sure to follow her work on Instagram and make a point to stop into one of her shops, if you haven’t already. If you’re able to brave the delicacy of “the macaron” in your own kitchen, Cindy has graciously allowed me to share her recipe below. Perhaps I’ll tackle the recipe myself one day, but for now, I’ll let the experts take care of me.
Thank you so much, Cindy – for the delicious collaboration and for bringing the flavors of France to Chicago! Here’s to your continued success! xo
Have you used dried lavender in your cooking before? I’d love to hear details! Stay tuned for more lavender-inspired recipes… I’m having so much fun with it!
Lavender Macarons with Caramelized Honey Buttercream
135 grams almond flour
135 grams powdered sugar
52 grams egg whites
135 grams granulated sugar
33 grams water
50 grams egg whites
½ t dried lavender
Italian Meringue Buttercream
13g corn syrup
68g egg whites
pinch of salt
202 g unsalted butter (soft)
4g vanilla extract
Note: We made Italian meringue buttercream but any buttercream will do. American buttercream will result in a sweeter macaron filling.
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoon heavy cream
¼ teaspoon salt
1. Mix almond flour, powdered sugar and lavender in food processor. Pull out any large pieces of lavender.
2. In bowl, mix almond flour mixture with 52g egg whites until it forms a paste. Set to the side.
3. In saucepan, heat sugar and water until 246 degrees F. While sugar is heating, start whipping 50g egg whites in a stand mixer on medium speed. Once the sugar hits 246 degrees, remove from heat and slowly stream hot sugar into the frothy egg whites. Once all sugar has been added turn mixer to high and whip until the meringue is almost cool.
4. Add meringue in three additions to the almond flour mixture. Fold using a spatula. Mix until the batter has the consistency of honey.
5. Pipe into half-dollar size rounds onto a sheet pan lined with parchment or silicone baking mat. Gently tap the bottom of the sheet pan to settle the batter.
6. Let the piped batter sit at room temperature for 20 minutes to allow the batter to dry on the outside.
7. Bake at 300 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until the cookies rise and form a “foot” around the bottom edge.
8. Let cool and fill with caramelized honey buttercream.
Italian Meringue Buttercream
1. Combine water, corn syrup, and 70g sugar in saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook syrup to 250 degrees F.
2. While sugar is heating begin whipping egg whites and salt in stand mixer on medium speed. Slowly stream in 25g sugar.
3. Once the sugar syrup hits 250 degrees, remove from heat and slowly stream into soft peak egg whites whipping on medium speed. Once all sugar syrup has been added, turn mixer to high and whip until meringue is cool. Reduce to medium speed. Add butter in three additions. Add vanilla. Turn mixer to high and whip for 2 minutes.
1. In saucepan, cook honey over medium low heat until it reaches a deep amber color. It should smell very nutty. Take saucepan off the heat. Whisk in cream and salt and let cool to room temperature. Add cool caramelized honey to 300 grams of your favorite buttercream.
2. Use piping bag to pipe Caramelized Honey Buttercream onto half of the macaron shells. Sandwich with another shell. Wrap and place the filled macarons in the refrigerator for 24 hours (we call this the aging process). Bring macarons to room temp for one hour.
All images ©Regan Baroni 2017.