Confession number one:
 I have a macaron obsession. Odd, because when I lived in Paris by myself I never touched a macaron. Then a few years later, when Phil and I went back together for a sabbatical, I got hooked. It is the type of  concoction with just the amount of sweetness I like, the different fillings are a feast for the taste buds, but what really gets me, as you might imagine: the colors. I have a soft spot for colors. All of them. You should see my wardrobe. 😉

Back to macarons. A few months ago our friend Gary – Patissier Extraordinaire –  brought to my attention a book by Pierre Hermé, called quite simply Macarons. Once I got it, I quickly realized that  much like his classic masterpiece Desserts, Macarons is not for the faint of heart. My first adventure with it was almost a complete disaster, save for a few pistachio macarons that would barely qualify as such. In the book he says to use a convection oven at 350F, and I guess that was too high, or my oven misbehaved. Hard to tell. All I know is that my beautiful bright green macarons turned brown in 2.5 seconds right in front of my eyes, as I happened to be staring through the oven door when the metamorphosis took place. You know, the one that took perfect macarons to ruined ones.  Of course, they did not turn homogeneously brown, but all blotchy, really unappetizing. Yes, there was considerable amount of profanity that afternoon, in three languages, although French was first.

After that dreadful weekend, serendipity hit big time. I got an email from with a special offer for their online classes. One of them was Miniature French Desserts, which included – you guessed it – macarons! I read the reviews and everyone raved about it. I signed up, downloaded the class and here I am to share with you my first real nice experience with these finicky creatures! Plus, Colette Christian, the wonderful instructor, gave me permission to share the recipe with my readers. How cool is that?



(slightly adapted from, published with permission from Colette Christian)

Yield: About 72 shells; 36 assembled macarons

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
113 g almond meal
1/8 teaspoon dried lavender
113 g egg whites (I aged mine for three days)
1 g or a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
Purple Gel color from AmeriColor
2 drops vanilla extract
for the filling:
170 g white chocolate
85 g heavy cream
2 drops lavender extract

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, almond meal and lavender in a food processor or mini processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 15 seconds. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to medium-high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme. Add the gel color and the vanilla. Staying at medium-high speed, whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm. When you hold the beater up, the meringue should gently fall with and angle supporting the peak at the  with the angle supporting the peak at 11:30hs (easier to understand on the tutorial video). Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the almond meal mixture in three increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with one of the tips listed above. Pipe on the prepared baking sheets.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Then fist bump each end of the sheet’s underside twice. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. Ina dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 330 F (170 C/gas mark 3). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide, then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. The macarons should release without sticking. Check one or two. If they stick, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Make the filling: Place the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a rolling boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and let stand for 15 seconds. Stir with a spatula until smooth. If the chocolate has not fully melted, place the bowl in a saucepan of steaming water (the heat should be off), and let stand for 1 or 2 minutes. Stir again until the chocolate is fully melted. Add the lavender extract.

Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of ganache to the bottom of one of them. Place the other on top and squeeze gently to take the filling all the way to the edge.  Ideally, store in the fridge for 24 hours before devouring them… or sharing with great friends!


to print the recipe, click here


We’ve got feet!

Comments: I cannot tell you how much I loved this online class! Colette is personable, fun and a natural teacher.  The video perfectly timed so that you can actually make them in real-time together with her, pausing the video during baking, obviously. You can pause it, rewind it, save and watch it again and again. You’ll also get printed material with full recipes and variations.  Now, Colette is one super neat chef, because her kitchen ends up in the exact pristine condition as it was in the beginning. The same applies to her apron. I need to evolve into another type of human being to match her serenity and grace.

Her method is pretty straightforward.  For starters, she skips the sifting – and has a rationale for doing so. And she also prefers the simpler French meringue, again for reasons she states during class. I have to say that visualizing the macaron batter, and following her very careful explanation made all the difference. I concluded that in all my previous attempts I failed to mix the batter enough – that’s why many of my shells would crack and end up with a coarse texture, some hard chunks inside. If you have a deep desire to conquer macarons, her online video is a great option. I haven’t watched the other classes in the same video (Madeleines, Lemon Meringue Tartlets, and Opera Cake), but intend to do so in the near future. Madeleines have been on my list of goodies to make for… ever.  Or so it seems.

layersHer tip to add the dry ingredients in layers inside the food processor makes sure that things are incorporated smoothly. Macaron success is all in the small details and proper technique.  These had a very delicate lavender flavor. When you taste the white chocolate ganache – I know you will do it – try to stop after the second teaspoon, or you might run out of filling. Just saying…

Colette also gives many tips to create your own flavors, it is amazing how versatile this cookie can be. As long as you respect simple rules to avoid messing up the basic formula, you’ll be fine. I would also like to invite you to take a tour of the blog Pizza Rossa. Rachael is very creative with her macarons, and came up with wonderful variations, including one that uses sesame seeds instead of almonds. She is inspiring me to spread my wings and try to fly a little higher.

I still want to try again the Italian meringue method because I am stubborn. There, I admitted it. And yes, that was confession number two. But Phil doesn’t need to know.



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ONE YEAR AGO: Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

TWO YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Cupcakes

THREE YEARS AGO: Happy Valentine’s Day!

FOUR YEARS AGO:  A Few Blogging Issues

FIVE YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

SIX YEARS AGO:  Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food





Once again the end of the month brings the excitement of Reveal Day for us members of The Secret Recipe Club.  For those who don’t know what it’s all about, the club pairs two food bloggers in secret, and on reveal day everyone posts their recipe of choice.  I was assigned the blog Turnips2Tangerines, hosted by Lynn, from Wisconsin. Lynn’s site is a very sweet spot, with many recipes centered on all things dessert, but you will also find plenty of savory dishes to drool over. She also publishes a monthly feature called Culinary Adventures, where the cooking of a particular country is highlighted through a menu and recipes. Very nice, check her latest post on Sweden by clicking here.

When classes are over Phil and I tend to get a lot busier in the lab, with daily meetings at 7:30am.  I know that the occasional sweet treat is more than welcome by our students, so I jumped on Lynn’s blog with that thought in mind.  The moment I saw her post on lemon lavender bars, I looked no further.  But, at some point I must make her Chai Spice Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting. They look adorable, and of course, spices make sweets special.  Or how about a Banana Bundt Cake with Maple Glaze? Yeah, baby…

(from Turnips2Tangerines)

for the crust:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup cold butter
1/2 t culinary lavender

for the filling:
4 eggs
5 T fresh lemon juice
1 T grated lemon peel
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1 t culinary lavender

Heat the oven to 350 F.

In a bowl combine flour, confectioners’ sugar and lavender; cut in butter until crumbly (I used the food processor).  Press into an ungreased 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Make the filling by beating the eggs in a bowl until frothy.  Stir in lemon juice and peel.
In another bowl combine the sugar, flour, and baking powder. Stir into the egg mixture, mixing well with a whisk.  Pour over baked crust, and sprinkle lavender over the top.

Bake for 25 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack, cut into bars. If you want, sprinkle confectioner’s sugar before serving.


to print the recipe, click here


Comments:  Yellow might be one of my favorite colors, so it’s only natural that I always have plenty of lemons in the fridge. Plenty.  I cannot imagine cooking without them, even savory dishes.  Lavender is another flavor I am fond of, but of course it needs to be in small doses, it’s easy to have it overpowering a dish. In these bars, the amount of lavender was just right.  I decided to use the food processor for the crust because I felt that the lavender would be better dispersed throughout the crust by doing so. After processing, I dumped everything on the counter and made sure the flour was all coated with butter, no big spots of dry flour remaining.  It is also important to try to spread the crust as evenly as possible, so that it browns at the same rate in the oven. I almost managed to do that, but one corner ended up a bit over-baked.  No major harm done, though.

The bars made a Monday morning early meeting much easier to go through…


Lynn, thanks for a lovely recipe, and I hope you had a great time with your assignment this month!  For my readers, you are all invited to browse through the goodies made by my fellow screters from group D. Just poke the blue frog at the end of this post, and have a blast!

ONE YEAR AGO: Quinoa Fried Rice

TWO YEARS AGO: Carrot Flan with Greens and Lemon Vinaigrette

THREE YEARS AGO: The Secret Recipe Club: Granola Bars

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Awesome Broccolini

FIVE YEARS AGO:  A Twist on Pesto

SIX YEARS AGO: Ciabatta: Judging a bread by its holes



Herbed Goat Cheese Souffle
Last Monday of February, a month that used to be my favorite. Summer in Brazil, carnival (not that I was that much into it, but still, a big break from work in the height of the summer was always well-received). That all changed 23 years ago, when I first moved to France and then, a couple of years later permanently to the US.  February is now a month I do my best to survive. I count the days for it to be over to get some hope of life percolating back into my veins. ANYWAY, I am sure you are not here to read me whine and pout. Instead, you are here for the reward of a revelation: which blog was my assignment for this month’s adventure with The Secret Recipe Club: it was the The Wimpy Vegetarian!  I literally screamed with joy when I got the email notification, because as a regular reader of Susan’s blog, I felt totally at home “stalking” it.  You should visit her “About” page, but let me just say that when she decided to become a vegetarian, or as she put it “to focus more on a plant-based diet“, her husband was not exactly thrilled. He went along with it for a while, but at some point started referring to “farro” as “horse food“. No bueno, folks. But Susan fought back using all the culinary skills accumulated from her classes at Tante Marie Cooking School, and turned veggie dishes (horse food included) into concoctions her husband could not resist. She succeeded big time, and her blog is there to show us how. There were so many dishes I bookmarked as tempting possibilities, but I narrowed them down to these:  Rustic Cauliflower and Tomato Gratin, Arepas Rellenas (I even have the special flour to make them, so I must get to this recipe at some point), Skillet Baked Corn Pudding, Farinata (another recipe I’m always dreaming about), Sweet Potato Biscuit Pillows (excuse me, I need to wipe drool off the side of my mouth), Broccoli-Cheddar Quinoa Casserole Tart. Susan is a fantastic cook and often enters – and wins – cooking contests, so pretty much anything on her site feels quite special.  Pay her a visit, and become a subscriber, even if you are not a strict vegetarian.

For my assignment, I went with very elegant Herbed Goat Cheese souffles. They turned out amazing!


(from The Wimpy Vegetarian)

1/2 teaspoon dried lavender
zest from 1/2 medium lemon
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces fresh soft goat cheese
1 ounce ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon honey
3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup low-fat milk
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour (I used 4)
butter for the ramekins

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prep the ramekins by smearing them with butter and sprinkling grated Parmesan cheese on the bottoms and around the sides. Set aside.

Rub the dried lavender between your fingers to reduce as much as half of the buds to a powder. Combine this with the lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of Parmesan, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the goat cheese, ricotta, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, thyme, honey, egg yolks, milk and flour together. Stir well to completely combine. Add to the reserved lavender mixture.

In a small bowl, whip the egg whites just to a firm peak. Be careful not to get them too firm, or they’ll be difficult to fold into the cheese-yolk mixture. Fold the beaten egg whites into the cheese-yolk mixture in thirds using a large spatula. It’s fine to have lumps of egg whites in the mixture – it will not be smooth. Place the ramekins in a baking dish and fill the dish with hot water one-half the way up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully spoon the cheese-egg mixture into the ramekins, filling them 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until browned on top and springy – firm to the touch. Remove and allow to cool in the ramekins for 15 minutes. The souffles will collapse and start to pull away from the sides of the ramekins. Run a knife around their edges and turn the ramekin upside down. The souffle should slide right out.


to print the recipe, click here


Comments: What I loved the most about the recipe was the inclusion of lavender. It gave the souffle a sort of unusual component, Phil could not guess what it was, but once I told him it was lavender he could detect it. You need to add just a small amount, it is quite potent, don’t go crazy with it.  I was also surprised by the method of preparing the base, as I always make a bechamel type sauce. For this recipe, you mix it all and do not pre-cook, it goes straight into the oven, in a water-bath environment. Because I was afraid the mixture was a bit too liquid, I added double the amount of flour.  Not sure it was necessary, but they ended up with a very nice texture, and un-molded easily.


This is the type of recipe that would be perfect for entertaining, or for that special dinner for two, candlelight and all… a first date, a first year anniversary, you catch my drift.  Any meal will be special when these are part of the menu!

Susan, it was a great pleasure to indulge a little more deeply into your blog, I hope you also had a blast with your assignment this month…

For my readers, the usual reminder to poke the blue frog at the end of my post. She will take you to plenty of great recipes made by my fellow virtual friends at The Secret Recipe Club.

ONE YEAR AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

TWO YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

THREE YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

FIVE YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo (one of the best breads I ever made!)