So, there we were, thumbing through Instagram, when we came across this:
Those pretty little French macarons are flavored with our Songbird Flora, a lovely liqueur that we make with fresh raspberries, elderflower, jasmine, and hibiscus. We knew that Flora made delicious cocktails, but we hadn't thought to use it in a dessert, let alone macarons.
Holy moly, best idea ever. We had to know more from @ashleyem. So we got in touch. How did the Flora macarons taste? And would she share her recipe?
We were having friends over for a dinner party, and I wanted to end the meal with something extra special. Since they are also huge fans of Flora, I knew they'd love these!
These macarons really showcase the flavors of Flora. They have a nice, light floral flavor to them. Using the Flora, I think, adds some fun dimensions to the naturally sugary macaron cookie — the floral notes from the sweet elderflower and tangy hibiscus work really nicely with the sweet raspberry.
This macaron recipe is modified from Brave Tart’s recipe (which is accompanied by very useful tips and detailed instructions!). I flavored the macaron cookies with Flora, and then I filled them with a buttercream featuring Flora alongside rhubarb bitters. It’s best to prepare these cookies in advance so they have a day to sit in the fridge.
Cardinal Flora Macarons
Recipe by Ashley Palmer; macaron recipe adapted from Brave Tart
FOR THE MACARONS:
5 ounces egg whites
2 ½ ounces sugar
1 vanilla bean (split and scraped; you can save the pod for another project)
¼ teaspoon salt
4 ounces almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
8 ounces powdered sugar
1 tablespoon Cardinal Spirits Flora liqueur
pink food coloring
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM:
1 stick salted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons Cardinal Spirits Flora liqueur
1 tablespoon rhubarb bitters (I use Fee Brothers)
pink food coloring
2-3 cookie sheets (depending on size)
Circle cookie cutter for tracing (1 ½-inch diameter)
2 large pastry bags (18-inch) with a wide, round tip (I use Wilton’s #12 tip)
Stand mixer with both whisk and paddle attachments
Kitchen scale (for measuring macaron ingredients)
Spatula (for mixing macaron batter)
PART 1: PREP
These are all things you can do a day or so before you start baking, if desired.
1. Draw (1 ½-inch) circles onto parchment paper, and place pencil-side down on cookie sheets. You can draw circles on 1 sheet and, using it as a template, tuck it underneath new sheets of parchment paper to pipe your cookies. This way you can save it and reuse it for future projects.
2. Fit a large (18-inch) pastry bag with a tip.
PART 2: BAKING THE MACARONS
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
2. Combine the almond flour and the powdered sugar; whisk together.
3. Put the egg whites in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Begin mixing on medium speed (4 on a Kitchen-Aid). As they begin to froth, add the sugar, salt, and vanilla bean. After 3 minutes on medium speed, raise the speed to medium-high (7 on a Kitchen-Aid) for 3 minutes and then a little higher (8 on a Kitchen-Aid) for 3 more minutes.
4. At this point, your meringue should be almost ready. Add the Flora and pink food coloring (for a light pink tint). Then, whip on the very high speed (9 or 10 on a Kitchen-Aid) for a final minute. The goal here is to build a fluffy meringue that you will then incorporate into the dry ingredients in the next step.
5. Pour half of the almond flour/sugar mixture into the meringue. Gently fold it into the meringue with your spatula, making a light circular motion around the bowl. You don’t want to deflate or over-handle your meringue just yet—the goal here is to incorporate the dry ingredients into the meringue before adding more.
6. Add the remainder of the almond flour/sugar mixture. Fold in using the same gentle circles you used in the previous step until mostly incorporated. Then, begin pressing the mixture against the side of the bowl as you fold (if you think of the mixing bowl as a clock, press the spatula against the bowl when you get to the 3-6 range). This step will largely determine the shape your macarons make when they bake (whether they rise a bit and get feet or stay too tall, etc.). You want to be sure not to over- or under-mix the batter. After about 15 strokes, lift the spatula out of the batter and watch it drizzle back into the bowl: you want it to achieve a lava-like texture where it drips like a ribbon back into the bowl and reincorporates into the batter within a few seconds. Some people compare the desired consistency at this step as lava-like. If it doesn’t drip off the spatula, the batter is still too thick and will not form nice flat cookies (it needs more folding/pressing); if it drips off the spatula like liquid, it will be over-mixed and not form nice cookies when you pipe. If you’re nervous about this step, Brave Tart has great directions about how to successfully do this!
7. Once your batter is ready, pour it into the mixing bag.
8. Pipe your batter onto the parchment-lined cookie sheets. Try to stay within the lines you’ve drawn, as the batter will spread a bit once it sits. If you do notice points at the top of your piped macs, you can lightly dip your finger in water and press down. Rap your cookie sheets on the counter once or twice to eliminate air bubbles.
9. Allow macarons to sit on the counter for the tops to form little shells. When they dry out enough that you can touch the tops without getting batter on your fingers, place the first sheet in the oven. Depending on the humidity that day, drying times may vary.
10. Bake macarons for 16-18 minutes at 300 degrees, turning once halfway through. The macarons are definitely ready when you can gently lift one off the parchment. Allow to cool on cookie racks. As they cool, you can prepare the buttercream.
PART 3: MAKING THE BUTTERCREAM
1. If you’re using a Kitchen-Aid mixer, switch to the paddle attachment for the frosting. Put the butter, vanilla, milk, Flora, and rhubarb bitters in the mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of the sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Slowly, add the remaining sugar, continuing to beat until icing is the desired texture. Add food coloring to achieve desired hue.
2. Place in the second pastry bag to fill the cooled macarons.
PART 4: ASSEMBLING THE MACARONS
1. If your piping skills are anything like mine, you may need to arrange your individual macaron cookies by size. Wait until they have cooled, and then pair like-sized macarons together. Designate the prettier macaron to be the top and use any less-perfect macs for the bottom of the sandwich. If I have any macarons that have cracked or otherwise disappointed, I like to pair them together and use them for sampling!
2. Pipe a dollop of buttercream onto the bottom cookies. Place the top cookie over the buttercream and press down a bit. You might want to try a sample one before filling them all to gauge the right amount of frosting for your taste.
3. Place macarons in a tupperware. You can stack them between layers of parchment. Refrigerate overnight. The flavors and textures will be at their best after congealing in the fridge overnight-- these are great next-day desserts.
4. Enjoy with a Flora Spritzer! (Pour 2 ounces of Cardinal Spirits Flora into a tall glass with ice. Top with club soda, then squeeze in juice from a big lemon wedge.)