Celebrating Food! Celebrating Life!

Pierre Hermé’s Macaron Jardin Enchanté – a reconstruction

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Macarons must surely rank amongst the top in the list of the most versatile foods in the world, with two almond and sugar biscuit shells to be filled with an infinite number of possible fillings from sweet to savory. This became the drawing board for patissiers all around the world, drafting all sorts of flavour combinations from the familiar to the exotic.

It all started from monochromatic flavours like the ever-popular vanilla buttercream, raspberry confiture and chocolate ganache. These fillings, withstanding the test of time, are indeed delicious, but can be rather boring at times. The constant desire to innovate the mind and invigorate the tastebuds motivate patissiers to experiment with “pairings” of flavours, in attempt to add depth and dimension to these petit fours. And these bold attempts to produce something unique and astounding is found in none of than the works of  Pierre Hermé.

2012 is an exciting year for PH’s macarons with the launch of a brand new series of 10 new flavours under his “Les Jardins” collection. Each uniquely conceptualised, the macaron series will take us on a stroll through various thematic gardens reflecting the changes in moods, color and season.

First to be showcased, just last month was Macaron Jardin Enchanté, a beautiful green and red polka dotted piece amalgamating lime, raspberry and espelette pepper. I was immediately curious about the pairing of raspberries with lime, both fruits with very distinct and sharp flavours. How would these two work together? And the incorporation of espelette pepper is most intriguing, an ingredient which was totally new to me. As this was a brand new flavour just out of the oven quite literally, I was totally clueless about its composition. No receipes whatsoever. Thus before I could work on its reconstruction, there were some burning questions to be answered.
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(1) The filling is lime-flavoured, that much we know. But what is the carrier for the flavours? That required some deciphering. “Such a easy question to answer right?!” one might say but a quick search over the internet revealed two different sets of feedback! Some bloggers were fortunate to have tried the piece when it made its brief appearance a month ago when it was available in the PH stores shared views which can’t be any more different! A fellow french blogger reiterated ganache not once but twice when I asked her over her blog. She seemed so fervent and determined that I was too timid to ask another time. NO! You don’t want to anger a French woman, trust me. Yet, another lady who tried the piece cited buttercream. I am left confounded.  So which would I choose if I am  Pierre Hermé? Buttercream or ganache… ganache or buttercream … buttercream or ganache…But I am NOT  Pierre Hermé, so how the hell would I know?! Yes, bordering schizophrenia here.

(2) Figuring out the raspberry in the centre met up with similarly “interesting” discussions. gelée? confiture? I seriously doubt so. The French lady said gelée. Another  said she tasted one whole raspberry but it was quite non-descript. Discussed this with Chef Nicholas from Pave and we’d decided that it would be freeze-dried raspberries, which I was lucky to have some (meant for Madeleine Ispahan but those can wait!). And best part is, no cooking for confiture and preparation of gelée! Yipee!!!

(3) The third and most intriguing component is of course the incorporation of piment d’ espelette aka red peppers from Espelette in Basque country. This is an AOC produce, like Echire butter, and is very locality specific. This supposedly helps to preserve the integrity and standards of the produce. Much of a marketing gimmick if you ask me. But now comes the problem. WHERE into the macaron was it incorporated? The toughest piece of the puzzle to solve. PH had called for the use of espelette peppers in his lesser known (read: more exotic) macaron recipes, where an entire pepper was blanched in boiling water and then plunged in cold water repeatedly, before removing the skin. The semi-cooked pepper is then pureed before incorporating into a dark chocolate ganache. The latter’s dark and intense hue easily conceals the pepper’s fiery red but this is clearly not the case for Macaron Jardin Enchanté, as the filling remains rather pale. A tough nut to crack! Thankfully I wasn’t alone! I roped in Swee San from Sweet Spot, as well as Chef  Nicholas for help. One of the earlier mentioned bloggers shared that the taste of the espelette pepper was almost non-existential, being very mild and could be captured only towards the end of the tasting experience.  So the conclusion derived was just to do a simple dusting of the whole freeze-dried raspberries with dried powdered piment d’ espelette . Sourcing for it was another problem, but thankfully, a local gourmet store carries it and I was lucky again to be able to get some, big thanks to Chef Nic again for pointing out the source to me.
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With everything seemingly in place, the macaron was finally reconstructed, after 3 weeks’ of procrastincation mindful deliberation. And here’s the beta version of the recipe.

Macaron Jardin Enchanté (makes about 72 macarons)

  • For green macaron shell
  • 150g ground almond
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 55g ‘liquefied’ egg whites
  • green food coloring
  • For pale macaron shell with red sugar crystals
  • 150g ground almond
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 55g ‘liquefied’ egg whites
  • red granulated sugar (see “Reflections”)
  • For Italian meringue
  • 300g sugar
  • 75g  water
  • 110g ‘liquefied’ egg whites
  • For lime ganache
  • 100g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 550g white chocolate couverture
  • 200g lime juice
  • 50g creme fraiche or whipping cream
  • To finish
  • whole freeze-dried raspberries
  • powdered espelette pepper

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For green macaron shells
  1. Sift icing sugar with ground almond to make “tant pour tant”.
  2. Stir the green food coloring in the first portion of egg whites and pour over the sugar-almond mixture without mixing.
  3. Boil water and sugar to 118°C
  4. Once the syrup is at 115°C, simultaneously start whisking second egg whites to soft peaks
  5. When the sugar reached 118°C, pour it over the egg whites little by little. Whisk and allow the meringue to cool to 50°C, then fold HALF OF it into the ground almond-sugar mixture. Save the other half for the pale-colored shells.
  6. Spoon the batter into a piping bad fitted with a plain nozzle.
  7. Pipe rounds of batter about 3.5 cm in diameter and spacing them 2 cm apart on baking trays lined with parchment paper.
  8. Rap the baking trays gently on the work surface covered with a kitchen cloth.
  9. With a sieve, sprinkle the shells with a light dusting of cocoa powder
  10. Leave the shells to stand for at least 30 minutes until they form a skin.
  11. Preheat oven to 180°C and put the tray into the oven and bake for 12 min quickly opening and shutting the oven door twice during the cooking time. Our of the oven, slide the shells on to the work surface.
  12. Do not remove from the sheet until they are completely cooled
For pale-colored macaron shells with red sugar crystals
  1. Prepare red sugar crystals a day before (see reflections)
  2. Perform exactly same steps as green macaron shells with the remaining half of the italienne meringue but without addition of any food coloring
  3. Sprinkle red sugar crystals over the shells during drying.
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Baked shells ready to be filled in and assembled.
For the ganache
    1. Cut butter into pieces and set aside
    2. Halve the limes and juice to obtain 200g of juice. Zest the peel with a microplane.
    3. Weigh the juice and take it to a boil together with the zest.
    4. Heat creme fraiche or whipping cream until it just begins to boil and pour over chopped chocolate in a mixing bowl over a pan of barely simmering water (bain marie) to partially melt it. Pour in lime juice in 3 successions over the chocolate. Take care to strain away the zest at the same time. DO NOT incorporate the zest into the ganache.
    5. When the mixture temperature is at 60°C,  add the butter pieces a few at a time. Stir until the ganache is smooth.
    6. Pour into a dish. Cover the ganache by pressing clingfilm over the surface. Set aside in the fridge for the ganache to thicken for a couple of hours.

To assemble and finish

  1. Roll freeze-dried raspberries over a dish containing powdered espelette pepper and gently shake off the excess by tapping and rolling them around in a colander or wire sieve. Check that the raspberries are only lightly laced with pepper by tasting one. The taste should be rather subtle but noticeable.
  2. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain nozzle with the ganache.
  3. Pipe a generous mould of ganache onto the green shells. Place a freeze-dried raspberry over the ganache and pipe another small dollop over the raspberry to conceal it. Top with the pale-colored shells.
  4. Store the macarons for 24 hours in the fridge and bring out 2 hours before serving.

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This is the first time I am attempting to reconstruct PH’s macarons without a recipe. Having attempted some of his other macarons before most certainly helped decipher the motivations behind the components. But most of the earlier ones like Ispahan, Montebello and Satine were mostly “follow the recipe” kinda executions. This was the most mind-boggling experience so far but hey, what’s life without some challenges once in a while yeah?

Red sugar crystals can be prepared by mixing thoroughly granulated sugar crystals with red gel-based food coloring. I worked with Wilton and the results were very satisfactory. Liquid coloring may cause the sugar crystals to dissolve and thus not ideal at all. Powdered coloring is totally useless here. After very thorough melanging to ensure that every sugar crystal is well-coated with coloring, spread the damp crystals onto a piece of baking sheet and place inside a conventional oven at the lowest possible temperature setting. It should ideally be  around 60C but keeping the temperatures lower than 100C works well. Leave the door slightly ajar by placing a wooden spatula between the door and oven. Periodically check on the sugar crystals and take the baking tray out of the oven once they feel dry to touch. Leave to cool completely before transferring to a ziploc bag or small container for storage.

The flavours most definitely have a sharp edge, which I thoroughly enjoyed! Truth is, I made the ganache twice. The first time round, I’d use the chocolat au lait et fruit de la passion ganache filling for Macaron Mogador as a basis and simply replaced Jivara with white chocolate couverture and passionfruit juice with lime juice. But the concoction was immensely acrid, even for a person who loves tart flavours like me! So I adjusted the proportions by decreasing the lime juice from 250g to 200g and topped up the difference with creme fraiche. The acidity is more manageable. The lime juice could probably be decreased further by another 10% but no more than that! Anything less and the flavours would be masked by the sweetness from the white chocolate couverture.

The freeze-dried raspberry is very aromatic to start with and helped by providing a bit more lift, but I would probably add two per macaron instead of just one to boost the aroma and flavours a bit. They soften slightly upon leaving the macaron to “mature” overnight, using moisture permeating from the lime ganache and blended well into the ganache. Espelette pepper wise, it was really mild, with a bit of heat hitting the back of the mouth only towards the end. It has a smoky quality which is similar to paprika but provided a milder and more rounded taste than the latter. I guess paprika would provide a decent alternative but still not quite the same.

Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with the results of this reconstruction, though regrettably I’d never tried Macaron Jardin Enchanté for comparison and probably never will. Will I try to reconstruct any of the other macaron flavours in the “Les Jardins Collection”? Hell yeah!!!
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I’m submitting this for Aspiring Bakers #17 – March Macaron Madness! (Mar 2012) hosted by Alan of Travellingfoodies

PS: Going into the last week of March, tis the last 7 days to make some macarons and join in the fun if you have not!


Other related posts:

Macaron Mogador

Macaron Montebello

Tarte Ispahan

Macaron Satine and the PH Macaron Project

Pierre Herme’s Ispahan


28 responses

  1. Wow I am totally blown away! Amazing effort.

    March 26, 2012 at 8:13 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Thanks Edith! In retrospect, its not that difficult actually. Just that I procrastinated for too long….

      March 26, 2012 at 8:45 am

  2. my gosh – this is a work of art, truly, you. ;D can i ask where did u get those freeze dried raspberries from? ive been dying to get my hands on freeze dried berries!

    March 26, 2012 at 10:44 am

  3. Alan (travellingfoodies)

    Hi Michelle! They are not that difficult to make actually. Once all the components are sorted out… for now at least!

    My sis carried back the raspberries from US actually. Not sure if they are available locally. Such a shame really because the flavours are so intense!

    March 26, 2012 at 10:52 am

  4. Li Shuan

    Alan, these macarons are just irresistable. Oooo… clever idea of adding a dash of espelette pepper into the raspberry. Seriously, I have all the flavours running wild in my imagination when I read through the recipe ingredients. Love it !!

    March 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Hi Li shuan, the use of espelette pepper is quite bizarre if you ask me. Then again, these are Pierre Herme’s conceptualisations, so being bizarre seems to be a norm. 🙂

      glad i am not the only one with weird ideas running through my mind about flavours! 🙂

      March 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm

  5. Wow they look amazing! Lime and chocolate with raspberries and pepper? A very unique combination! Macarons really have unlimited possibilities…

    March 26, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Yes… Really weird with the powdered espelette pepper. Not sure if I can say that it worked really well, but at least it is not too spicy or jarring. Perhaps PH incorporated it by other methods… But until the recipe is published, we would never know. 🙂

      March 26, 2012 at 8:51 pm

  6. I always love macaron with raspberries. The best combination.

    March 26, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Same here! I love the sharp flavours ftom raspberties accompanied by the intense aroma! As mentioned in the reflections, I would probably add one more freeze-dried raspberry into the ganache. The textures after being “reconstituted” by moisture from the ganache made it really yummy!

      March 26, 2012 at 8:55 pm

  7. Hello! I know this is totally unrelated but do you know where to get yuzu in Singapore? Not yuzu products but as in the fruit itself.

    March 26, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Hi amanda, your question is indeed totally random. 🙂 you can try japanese supermarkets like Isetan and Meidi-ya. They do bring in the fruit when it is in season.

      March 26, 2012 at 11:00 pm

      • Oh oh. I guess the yuzu season has just passed. Thanks anyway!

        March 27, 2012 at 7:54 pm

      • Alan (travellingfoodies)

        I checked with some chef friends and indeed yuzu season has passed. but fret not, they will come again. 🙂

        on a random note, if your blog still functional? I’d tried clicking on it several times over the last few days but the “not available or already taken down” message kept popping up!

        March 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm

  8. Pingback: Macaron Sanguine « travellingfoodies

  9. Wow! I’m very impressed and would love to taste these! I think you might be ready to try your own creation, you seem to have a grasp of how to combine flavors. I hope you post all the ones you try from here on….

    March 29, 2012 at 10:29 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      yeah, I think i’m confident enough to start dabbling with a bit by adding my own elements in there once in a while. I did “Macaron Sanguine” just two days back. I think you’d seen it already! LOL

      March 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm

      • I just saw that last night but haven’t had time to really concentrate on it. It did look pretty amazing. I’ve never had a blood orange that was very tasty, is that just how they are or have I never had a good one? I want to make the confiture for sure!

        March 29, 2012 at 10:03 pm

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  11. Pingback: Aspiring Bakers #17: March Macaron Madness!!! (March 2012) [ROUND-UP] « travellingfoodies

  12. Alan, I am speechless!

    April 1, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      LOL your silence is more assuring than words from others!

      April 1, 2012 at 11:07 pm

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  16. Eva

    wow…was this hard to make?

    May 29, 2013 at 12:51 am

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