Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lavender Buttercream Macarons and Elderflower Sherbet

Last weekend involved a storm of cooking to celebrate Bastille Day. In honor of the French revolution, I made two peach galettes and a tray of lavender buttercream macarons. The day after, no longer confined to French recipes, I experimented with a new flavor and texture, but more on that later. 
I won't go into the peach galette recipe since I just recently made them, but the lavender macarons are a brand new concoction, which I felt completely justified in making due to the aforementioned holiday.
I've been wanting to make lavender macarons for a while now, but found lavender difficult to find. When I did see it for sale, it was going for $16.00, which is absurd considering how abundant lavender is. So I waited and waited until one day, walking through Union Square, I came upon a witch festival. One of the witches was selling herbs in little baggies for teas, remedies and cooking. 
I searched through the unalphabetized collection of wares and finally found a bag of food grade lavender for $3.00. The witch (at least she called herself a witch) was aware that most people were using her lavender for cookies, not tea as she advertised it, and giggled when I told her that I planned on using it for that as well. So I returned home, waiting for the right moment to make more macarons. 
Bastille Day presented itself as a ripe opportunity, so with my lavender in tow, I set out to make the cookies. I was walking through Chelsea the other day and came upon a baking goods supply store. It was the size of the factory and everything was extremely cheap. 
In the way back of the store I found egg white powder, which I'd been looking for for a while now since it's supposed to help the structure of the egg whites. I won't go into the details of my macaron recipe, which you can find here, however I always include a few modifications.
I don't add vanilla extract however as she suggests. I did however add 1 tbs of lavender, which I ground up in a mortar and pestle and a few drops of blue food dye (although please use food gel). And this time, armed with egg white strengthening magic, I added 5 grams of the egg white powder and 3 grams cream of tartar.
When I bit into my first shell, I was delighted to discover that macarons were not hollow, but rather were chewy and filled with cookie. For the filling, I creamed 1 cup of butter with a hell of a lot of confectioner's sugar and then added a splash of scotch for flavor.
When the macarons cooled, I spooned a dollop of buttercream onto one shell and then added the second shell. Before we guzzled them down, we lifted our glasses and shouted "Vive la France!"
Because cooking two desserts was simply not enough to satiate my need to bake, I decided upon elderflower sherbet (yes that is how you spell it) to complete the trifecta. I was in Cornwall, England a few weeks ago and while I was there I decided to try elderflower presse, which is a soda made from elderflower and sparkling Cornish spring water. 
Before ordering it, I asked the waiter what it tasted like and he said to me, "Well, I don't know if this means anything to you, but to me it tastes like Turkish Delight." He clearly did not know that I'm from Brooklyn, where Turkish Delight is ubiquitous, so I nodded my head and said, "Yes please." 
While it did not taste like Turkish Delight, it did taste like rose water (hence his association), but it was tangier and quite delicious. When I returned to the states I was determined to find elderflower in some form or another because it seemed like a drink that fairies often consume so I set about on my search. 
It was in Myers of Keswick, an English grocery store on the corner of Horatio and Hudson in the village that I found it in a cupboard waiting for me to find it. Instead of elderflower presse, which like I said, is diluted with sparkling Cornish spring water, I purchased their elderflower cordial, which is similar but not as concentrated as elderflower extract (if that exists). 
To drink it, you need to dilute it with water or seltzer, but to bake with, you leave it just as it is. So I decided to make sherbet, which is betwixt and between ice cream and sorbet, with less cream than the former and more milk than the latter. 
I would double this recipe, just so you can have enough, but it lasted us the weekend. First, pour 1 cup sugar, 3 cups milk (I did 2 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream since I'm a bit of a rebel) and 1/4 cup corn syrup (light or dark). Mix this over a low flame until the ingredients are incorporated. 
You should then take it off the flame, transfer it to a bowl and add 1/4 cup elderflower cordial. The cordial contains citric acid, so when you mix it with the milk and cream the cordial curdles the dairy, but not to worry, it's just some fun chemistry. 
Put this in the fridge for a few hours so it cools completely and when it is ready, strain it to get all the curdled goop out and add it to your ice cream maker and voila.  The sherbet immediately transported me back to Cornwall, sipping elderflower presse and watching the waves crash over the beach at Sennen. 


  1. Another very enjoyable entry - I've done some cooking/baking with lilac water as well as rose and lavender waters. The taste of the smell of flowers is remarkable indeed.

    I am particularly grateful for SHERBET. I have seen several signs and placards advertising "Sherbert"...even in a large grocery store...and one favorite diner offers it in "rasberry". Argh.