Thursday, May 17, 2012

Miscellaneous: Pierre Herme's Jasmine, Mosiac and Paris Match macarons

I always find baking with the Mad Baker (she runs her fantastic blog here) an educational experience (and for her, I suspect a somewhat frustrating experience). This weekend was no exception. We had fixed to do several flavours of PH macarons, except that I kept changing my mind, getting tempted by this macaron and then that.

Finally, we came to a compromise. We would do over one flavour that we had tried before, the Jasmine flavour. We had tried this before, using PH's method of steeping jasmine tea in cream and white chocolate and it had, flavour-wise, been a fairly dismal flavour, as the scant aroma of tea dissapated within a few hours. Upon reading the recipe carefully, I discovered a footnote (this is why I think the book is more than a little shoddy) that said, "I use Sambac jasmine essence". Well! Shouldn't that be the first thing and not the last thing that you mention?

Since I had procured a bottle of said essence, I was keen to give it a go. The second flavour, which MB was more keen on, was the Mosiac macaron, which featured a pistachio and cinnamon ganache stuffed with a Griottine cherry, which is a cherry soaked in Kirschwasser (or Kirsch water). It sounded kind of Teutonic, to be honest but an intriguing contrast.

The last flavour was a chilli-ed chocolate, which we were both a little dubious about. "Chilli chocolates are totally overhyped" MB said. Reading the recipe carefully, I discovered that the kind of chilli was actually more like a bell pepper powder. I clearly didn't read the recipe carefully enough, as I missed out that you needed an actual bell pepper for the ganache (we compensated by using more bell pepper powder). The ganache also contained raspberry (it was alternately translated as strawberry and raspberry in different parts of the same recipe, which just confirms my point about shamefully shoddy editing) so I felt that it might give a good contrast between sweet and spicy tastes. I didn't expect them all to be equal winners but the fun thing about trying out these recipes is that you are always educated about new flavours, tastes and possibilities.

The baking itself was fairly uneventful, except that our meringue seemed a little stickier than usual (and indeed the shells were slightly more dense than my last couple of batches). I suspect this is because I was in charge of beating the meringue this time, while I usually leave the egg whites to MB and perhaps also because of the large batch that we were attempting. She was nice enough to let us mess around with the ganache and piping of meringue, while she soldiered on with the baking, matching and piping the fillings.

We literally had piles and piles of little macaron shells and we split the loot over dinner and the next day. Our audience ranged from being huge fans of the Paris Match, to ambivalent on the Mosiac and "it tastes medicinal" on the Jasmine. My own assessment was that after my enthusiastic dousing of the ganache with Sambac essence, the Jasmine smell and taste was somewhat overpowering and shall we say, ethnic. The Mosiac was an interesting combination but the Griottine cherry was a smooth and rummy, rather than a sharp finish- I preferred the pistachio with the raspberry gelee in PH's Macaron Montebello fetish creation. The Paris Match was unexpectedly my favourite amongst the three and the only one that I would probably make again. The raspberry brought out the tannic taste of the dark chocolate perfectly and the bell pepper chilli left a broad, savoury and spicy finish to the sweetness. It was absolute perfection and a genius in taste-making.

While storing the macarons, I had a good idea to leave the Jasmine macarons in the same box as the others, in the hope that the flavour (for jasmine is a weak scent) would disappate overnight. I was somewhat mollified when my colleagues told me the Jasmine was awesome the next day and then after the unexpected heat of the Paris Match, the Jasmine left a beautiful fragrance all the way down the throat.