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A Party Macaron for Macaron Day: Hibiscus, Blood Orange & Campari.

When Jamie and Deeba announced the latest MacTweet Challenge it was time for more inspiration. That’s what I also adore about macarons: with an empty canvas in front of you, it’s easy to experiment with flavours using the basic recipe. For the challenge, macaronivores were to come up with a new macaron creation to celebrate la fête du macaron (Macaron Day) on 20 March. All the signs were there to do something a bit different. The result? A macaron that’s not really sweet as such; neither is it savoury. One thing is for sure – it’s a party macaron and as addictive as ever!

I’m fascinated by this sprawling hibiscus plant. Ever since we moved it indoors during the chilly months, it didn’t seem to appreciate our company. It’s next to the TV and the piano for goodness sake, so what’s been going wrong since October with no flowers? Suddenly last week, it blooming sprouted! Could it be that my piano students are progressing so it’s getting more tunes – or is it the Six Nations’ Rugby at weekends?

I first discovered hibiscus in Egypt many moons ago when my parents-in-law were living in Alexandria. It was in the form of carcadé – a bright red infusion made with dried hibiscus flowers. I loved this thirst-quenching drink in such a heat, as long as some sugar was added to sweeten its alluring bitter taste. Then the other day when I was cleaning out a cupboard (yes, this happens sometimes), these pretty dried hibiscus flowers pleaded, Infuse me; this bottle of Campari suggested, Finish me; and the blood oranges in the fruit bowl pressed at me, Squeeze me; so I poured myself a glass with a little carcadé, Campari and finished it off with blood orange juice. I highly recommend it while preparing risotto to gradually generate a party mode, especially during the week.

Then bingo: this cool drink just winked at me and begged, “Macaron me, baby.”

I know, I know. This macaron is perhaps not quite in focus. Neither are my eyes just now but I’ve ordered new glasses so patience is the word. What’s incredible about this macaron is that it’s not really that sweet. Before Julie tried one, I warned her about it being a bit bitter but my daughter is a keen taster: no, Mum. Don’t add any more sugar but hang on, can I just have a few more to confirm?

I simply followed the filling recipe on p84 (Whisky macCoffee) but replaced the liquid with 50ml blood orange juice, 30ml hibiscus infusion and 20ml Campari.

Hibiscus, campari and blood orange macaron

The hibiscus has found its friends: Campari and blood oranges… Cheers!

Julie is right; the filling’s bitterness and the macaron shell’s sweetness is intriguing and what makes it addictive. You can even enjoy this macaron as an apéritif and it wouldn’t be out of place (except if you call it macarooooon.) I took to drinking it with a pot of Darjeeling at goûter time. Don’t you just love trying out new concoctions? Thanks to MacTweets for the inspiration and Happy Macaron Day to all you macaronivores on 20th March. If anyone is in Paris, contact me and we’ll go on a macaronathon together to try out the goods! Kick-off at 10am at Pierre Hermé, Opéra…

March into Spring with Mimosa Macarons

This past week the weather in Paris has given us hope for Spring.  Morning frost has quickly surrendered to Azur skies, sweeter air and rays of sunshine are gradually pulling us out of any winter depressions starting to take hold.  Crocuses and electric yellow bushes of forsythia are suddenly announcing that Paris is marching into Spring.  OK, I can just hear you breaking into song with Ella Fitzgerald’s “I love Paris in the Springtime”…

forsythia bush

Forsythia giving their electric glow for Spring

With Antoine travelling for a while, there was less motivation to cook, however. 🙁 Where’s the violin?   So I cheered myself up with a bright and cheery bunch of mimosa flowers.

Many of us know of a Mimosa as a Champagne cocktail mixed with fresh orange juice (in the UK we call it a Bucks Fizz).  I personally love a Grand Mimosa with a touch of Grand Marnier in there, too (that managed to cheer me up as well ;-)).   There’s even a Grandaddy Mimosa, adding rum and lemon juice… Now that sounds my kind of tipple!   In France, you may have heard of oeufs mimosa: a classic, simple dish served as a starter and great for Easter.  It’s basically hard boiled eggs, halved with the egg yolk scooped out and mixed with mayonnaise, crushed garlic and parsley then stuffed back into the egg cavity.  Sound familiar?  When I was little it wasn’t as posh as the French version.  Two hb egg halves were turned upside down and dolloped with Heinz salad cream and sprinkled with une touche de paprika.  No comment.  Well, perhaps yes.  Sorry, Mum.  I now owe you a box of mimosa macarons…

box mimosa macarons Jill

Anyone for a mimosa macaron?

Back to my bunch of mimosa flowers, though.  Little did I appreciate just how strong the mimosa scent was and the house smelled of its perfume for days, even though its ephemeral blossom had dried out so quickly.  I couldn’t believe how this simple bunch of yellow mini pompoms could also have such a postive mental effect.  There’s even a Mimosa Festival in the South of France which takes place mid to end February with spectacular mimosa floats.  Can you just imagine how that would smell?

Then I remembered that Ladurée had a beautiful mimosa macaron display in their Champs Elysées boutique window last year.  SO why not make some myself?  I’m now on a roll to make new flavours and experiment again!

mimosa macaron pompom Jill

Mimosa macarons: a touch of Paris in the Springtime

Surfing on meilleurduchef.com I was excited to see they even had a mimosa aroma.  So I added a few drops to the macaron shells.

infusing mimosa

infusing mimosa for the buttercream filling

Using the tutti frutti macaron recipe (p.83) as a basis for the filling,  I instead infused some mimosa into the full cream milk for 10 minutes.  It was amazing how the milk turned bright yellow.  I then added a teaspoon of the aroma to the buttercream at the end.  The result?

bitten mimosa macaron

Crispy meringue on the outside, fondant in the middle

They were delicious and surprisingly subtle for such a strong-tasting buttercream.  After 24 hours, they had turned perfectly soft inside with the characteristic crispy meringue on the outside.  Bliss with a pot of Darjeeling tea, so not to overpower the flavour of the macaron.   As a perfectionist, however, I would double the amount of mimosa used to infuse in the cream for next time.  To make a macaron taste of the flavour, the filling does need to be pretty concentrated.

pompom macaron mimosa Jill

Mimosa pompom macaron

Alas it’s the end of the short mimosa season, but there’s still time for you to give it a go!  Next year I must get to the mimosa festival, though.

Opera near Brentanos

Brentano’s bookstore is on the Avenue de l’Opera, Paris (see Events)

Before you go, I’m so excited to annouce my booksigning on Saturday 19th March at Brentano’s American Bookstore in Paris.  The next day is the Fête du macaron but as it’s a Sunday the bookstore will be closed.  So if you’re in Paris, start off the macaron weekend fun between 3-5pm on Saturday. Brentano’s is just next door to Pierre Hermé if you’re needing a macaron fix.  I look forward to seeing you next weekend!