Just sneaking in on the last day of May to share our May recipe for macs! I know each time I post a macaron recipe I say that it is my favourite so far - but these ones really take the cake. Jase and I wanted to take full advantage of all the late winter citrus that was around, so we filled the shells with a lemon and basil cream, and a lemon gel. Lemon gel is something that has been familiar to me for a while, ever since I tasted it at the restaurant my friend worked at, but it was the first time I had made it. It's super simple - you make a simple syrup, combine with lemon juice, and then add agar agar, which is essentially vegan gelatin, made from a type of seaweed (same as petri dishes!). It sets up solid, and after an overnight rest, you blitz it up and it becomes the most amazing tart gel which is perfect to balance out creamy or sweet components. Unlike a curd it is not competing with the butter or the yolks in the recipe, so it gives a super intense lemon flavour which was amazing in the centre of the macs, and stood up amazingly against the lemon and basil cream.
The lemon and basil cream is essentially just a lemon curd, but made with a slightly different method - You cook everything apart from the butter together into a custard, then emulisify the butter into the mixture using an immersion blender. The result is a super creamy, spreadable cream, perfect for filling tarts or macarons. We popped some basil in there too - safe to say i'm going to be adding basil to a lot more lemon things from here on out.
A few wee tips:
- I have put all the tips and tricks I can think of for macarons in this post!
- Both the lemon basil cream and gel need overnight to set properly, so make sure that you allow time for this. They can be made a few days in advance if needed - and the cream freezes beautifully.
- In fact, if you can, make the lemon basil cream a few days ahead, as it matures very nicely and the basil comes out more over time.
- These do tend to go a little soggy after two days because of the gel - so if you have lots leftover, then it may be best to store it all separately then assemble as needed. I often store things such as buttercream or lemon cream in the fridge, in the piping bag I was using, just with a clip to seal.
- I read something the other day about Bob's red Mill Superfine almond meal not being the best for french macs because of the moisture content - I switched mine up quick smart!
- You can get agaragar on Amazon, or at health food stores! Read the reviews - the first stuff I got tasted like butts.
Lemon and Basil Macarons with Lemon and Basil Cream and Lemon Gel
- Makes about 24 Sandwiched Macarons -
Lemon and Basil Cream
150ml Lemon juice (1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp)
3 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
150g (3/4 cup) sugar
30g fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
225g (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g lemon juice
125g simple syrup (dissolve 1/2 cup sugar in 1/2 cup water, and use 125g of this mixture)
5g agaragar powder
170g ground almonds
300g powdered sugar
180g egg whites, at room temperature
Lemon yellow gel food colouring - we used 15 drops of americolor 'lemon'
- PROCESS -
LEMON AND BASIL CREAM
Create a 'double boiler' by placing a medium pot of water over a medium heat, and bringing to a simmer. Place a heatproof glass or stainless steel bowl over the pot, making sure that the bowl does NOT touch the water.
Combine the lime juice, egg yolks, eggs, sugar, basil, and salt in the heatproof bowl, whisking together immediately to stop the sugar from cooking the egg yolks.
Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it reaches 180˚f / 80˚c. This may take some time (approx 15 minutes). Be patient, and make sure you do bring it right up to the required temperature.
Remove the bowl from the heat, and set aside, whisking occasionally, until the mixture is 140˚f / 60˚c. Strain through a sieve into a clean mixing bowl. Add the butter, a chunk at a time, blending well with an immersion blender until completely combined before adding the next chunk. Alternatively you can do this in a blender. The cream should be pale and thick by the time you are finished.
Transfer to an airtight container, press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the cream, and cover. Refrigerate overnight, or until ready to use.
In a small pan, bring the simple syrup to a boil. Add the agar, remove from the heat, and stir to dissolve. Allow to cool until about room temperature, then add the lemon juice and stir well to combine. Place in a sealed container and chill overnight - it will set up to very hard. Blitz with a stick blender or in a blender, and chill until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 300˚f / 150˚c, and position the oven rack in the centre of the oven. Using a round cookie cutter or the base of a large piping tip (something about 1.5 inches in diameter), draw a "template" for your macarons on a piece of parchment paper, leaving about 3/4" between each circle.
Place the ground almonds and powdered sugar in the work bowl of a food processor, and pulse until it resembles very fine crumbs. Sift twice through a sieve, discarding any chunks, and set aside. If there are a large number of chunks, return to the food processor and pulse again.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, increase the mixer speed, and whip on high until the meringue starts to firm up. Add yellow gel food colour a few drops at a time, until the desired colour is reached. Add vanilla and mix until incorporated. Continue to whip until the meringue forms stiff peaks (there is a good example here).
Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add half of the ground almond and powdered sugar mixture, and fold into the meringue. You want to deflate the meringue just a little at this stage, to combine the meringue and ground almond mixture.
Add the remaining ground almond mixture, and stir lightly to combine. Now comes the important part - mixing the batter to the correct consistency. Again, this video does a good job of explaining it. Fold the mixture in a series of 'turns', deflating the batter by spreading it against the side of the bowl. Turn the bowl slightly and repeat the movement - scooping the batter from the bottom of the bowl, and spreading it against the side. Continuously check the consistency of the batter - you want it to flow like lava when you lift the spatula from the bowl, and you should be able to 'draw' a figure 8 with it, without the batter breaking (again, watch lots of videos to get an idea! They help so much). This step can take some practice until you know what it should feel and look like. If in doubt you are better to under mix them than over mix them - the process of putting the batter into the bag and piping out will help mix a little too.
Fit a large pastry bag with a medium sized round tip, such as an ateco #805. Place the macaron template on a sheet pan, and place a second piece of parchment over it. Holding the piping bag at a 90˚ angle to the surface, pipe out the batter into blobs the size of the circles drawn on the template. Finish off each piped circle with a little "flick" of your wrist to minimise the batter forming a point (it will still form a small one, but we can get rid of this with banging). Remove the template from under the macarons.
Hold the baking sheet in two hands, and carefully but firmly, evenly bang it against the bench. Repeat this a few more times - this will get rid of any air bubbles, remove points on the top, and help them to spread out slightly.
Repeat the piping and banging process until you have used up all of the batter - I usually make three sheet pans worth. Sprinkle the tops of the macarons with the hundreds and thousands sprinkles.
Allow the macarons to dry at room temperature for approximately 30 minutes, or until they form a skin that you can touch without your finger sticking to them. This time will drastically vary depending on the humidity.
About fifteen minutes before you are going to bake the macarons, place a spare sheet pan in the oven to preheat - this is going to be used to place under the pan with the macarons on it, to double up, which should help with even baking. Bake the macarons one sheet at a time - place the sheet with the macarons on the preheated sheet, and place in the oven.
Bake for approximately 18 minutes, rotating the pan once during the cooking process, and checking for doneness after 15 minutes. The macarons should develop a foot (the ruffled part on the bottom of the macaron), and bake without browning. To see if they are done - press down lightly on a shell. If the foot gives way, it needs a little longer, if it is stable, then it is close to being done. Test a macaron shell - if you can peel it away cleanly from the paper, they are done. If they are stable but cannot yet peel away cleanly, give them another minute or so. Again, this part takes a little trial and error depending on your oven. If they seem done but do not peel away cleanly, do not worry - there is a little trick for that!
Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on the sheet pan for 10 minutes before peeling off the parchment paper and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack. Repeat the baking with the remaining trays, using the same spare sheet pan to double up.
If your macs do not peel away cleanly, place them, on the parchment paper, into the freezer for 5-10 minutes, then peel away from the paper.
Store cooled macarons in an airtight container until ready to use.
FILLING AND ASSEMBLY
Transfer the lemon basil cream into a piping bag fitted with a medium round tip. Transfer the lemon gel into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip.
Pair each macaron shell with another of a similar size. Pipe a ring of buttercream on one half, pipe a small blob of lemon gel in the middle, and then sandwich with the second shell. Macarons taste best if you 'mature' them in the fridge overnight to let the flavours meld, but they are perfect eaten immediately too! Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge - if you are going to be storing for more than 2 days, store the components separately to avoid them going soggy.