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Baked: Rose-Lychee Macarons

May 23rd 02:05pm, 2011

052311_MacaronsWelcome to Baked, a new column in which Amrita Rawat will share her adventures in the kitchen as she explores our fair city. Born in India and a longtime resident of Atlanta, Rawat recently moved to St. Louis to attend graduate school at Washington University. After eating her way through places like Hong Kong, Paris, Budapest, Mumbai and Shangri-La, she discovered a love for baking and a knack for creating inventive and tasty recipes. You can  follow her on her sweet journey every other Monday right here on SauceMagazine.com.

I’ve been obsessed with macarons (pronounced “mac-uh-rohn”) ever since I went to Ladurée in Paris. Macarons – or “macs” as I affectionately refer to them – are French sandwiches whose shells are made up primarily of whipped egg whites, ground almonds and sugar. They rise in the oven and are paired together with a sweet filling. There are various methods, recipes and baking times that work for some and not for others (you can read all about the tasty tribulations of macarons here). Although finicky, macarons are delicious, beautiful and – to me – worth the trouble.

Rose and lychee are two flavors that permeated throughout my childhood. Growing up in India, lychees were plentiful and juicy. They are small with a tough, inedible skin, hiding a white-ish pulp inside. There’s also a seed in there, so beware. They have the consistency of a grape but smell far more intoxicating and fresh, almost like a flowery grape. However, they’re available here in the States mostly in canned form. The perfume-y scent is lost through canning but the taste is still quite delicious. Rose water isn’t seen in food in India as often as it is in the Middle East but it’s often enjoyed in syrup form mixed with milk or water. It can also be used for cosmetic purposes as well as in extracts to flavor desserts. I wanted to pair the two together in macaron form.

I’ve made macarons countless times, with many hits and misses in presentation, but they always taste amazing. The ideal macaron is a perfect circle (achieved only with a piping bag with a round tip) and has solid, smooth bases. It has a ruffled “skirt” or “feet” along the edges where it has risen in the oven. It should comfortably slip off your baking mat or parchment paper and be very slightly chewy, yet crunchy. It shouldn’t crumble easily. I used a rose pastry cream for the filling for these, which turned out delicious, but made the shells soggy if not consumed within a couple hours of putting the macs together. So I recommend assembling these just before serving, despite those who believe macs should be sandwiched a day in advance to let the flavors meld together. I promise, it still tastes just as good since the flavors are so strong.

I piped rose pastry cream in the center of half the shells and topped the cream with a slice of lychee before placing another shell on top to sandwich it all together. When I bit into it, I first hit the meringue … chewy with a very slight crunch, then a burst of cool, lusciously soft cream. The lychee was somewhere in between, adding a wonderful mildly sweet taste with a lovely floral flavor. These are the best-smelling macarons I’ve ever attempted.

Rose-Lychee Macarons

Courtesy of Amrita Rawat

Makes about 15 sandwiches

2 egg whites
5 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Pink powdered or gel food coloring
1 cup ground almonds (you can also use almond meal or almond flour), sifted
½ cup powdered sugar, heaped and sifted
Rose pastry cream (recipe follows)
1 can lychees, drained and sliced

• Preheat the oven to 280 degrees
• Beat the egg whites in a clean large mixing bowl, using an electric beater.
• After 1 minute, add in all 5 tablespoons of sugar.
• A minute later, add the food coloring to the egg white mixture (if using).
• Beat until you can hold the bowl upside down and the egg white mixture does not move, about 5 to 7 minutes.
• Fold in the ground almonds and powdered sugar with a flexible spatula. Then, scrape the sides of the bowl and move the mixture to the middle. Do this methodically until everything is well incorporated.
• Pour the batter into a piping bag with a round tip.
• Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
• Hold the piping bag perpendicular to the sheet, about an inch above, and pipe into 30 1-inch circles. Keep the circles 1 inch apart in case they spread slightly while baking.
• Leave the shells out to dry for about 30 minutes.
• Bake for 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking time.
• When finished baking, let the macarons cool completely before attempting to remove them from the pan. (Note: Do not be alarmed if the macarons come out cracked or without feet, they will still be delicious.)
• Assemble just before serving: Turn all the macaron shells to their backs. Fill a piping bag with a round tip with the rose pastry cream and pipe out small mounds of pastry cream into every other shell.
• Place a small cut piece of lychee on the cream and top with another shell.

Rose Pastry Cream

Adapted by Amrita Rawat from a recipe originally published in Ladurée Sucre

1 vanilla bean (or 2 tsp. vanilla extract)
1 2/3 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. rose water*
2 Tbsp. rose syrup*
3 drops natural rose essential oil or rose extract**

• With a sharp knife, slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a saucepan.
• Pour the milk into the saucepan and add the empty vanilla pod. Bring to a simmer and then remove from heat. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes.
• In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until slightly pale. Incorporate the cornstarch. Set aside.
• Remove the vanilla pod from the saucepan and reheat the milk, bringing to a simmer. Once simmering, pour a third of the hot milk over the egg yolk mixture (to temper the yolks). Whisk and pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan.
• Bring to a boil while stirring with a whisk, making sure to scrape down the sides of the pan with a spatula. Boil until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and pour the cream into a clean bowl.
• Allow to cool for 10 minutes so that it is still hot but not boiling.
• Incorporate the butter while stirring.
• Add in the rose water, rose syrup and rose essential oil, stirring well.
• Cover the bowl with plastic wrap until ready to use.

1 vanilla bean (or 2 tsp. vanilla extract)
1 2/3 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks
½ cup plus
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. rose water*
2 Tbsp. rose syrup*
3 drops natural rose essential oil or rose extract**

*Available at Indian/Middle Eastern grocery stores

**Available at specialty baking stores

By Amrita Rawat

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4 Responses to “Baked: Rose-Lychee Macarons”

  1. Stacy @ Every Little Thing Says:
    May 24th, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    The rose cream in the center sounds absolutely divine. Great work!

  2. Emily Barklage Says:
    May 25th, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Where can we get good macarons in St. Louis?

  3. Amrita Says:
    June 8th, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Hm, I went to Rue Lafayette Cafe and it was pretty good, although they are apparently imported from France and therefore are priced rather high! Haven’t checked out the other places although I believe there are a few..

  4. d gita Says:
    June 25th, 2011 at 2:36 am

    hey amrita you could be the address for good macaroons in st. louis, no? these rose and lychee ones sound divine. do you take orders from india? oh, also, i’ve dreamed for years of honey and rum centered macaroons. is that possible? other adult flavors, something with cointreau maybe?

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