My macaron obsession has culminated in an attempt to recreate the Ispahan, Pierre Herme's confection that catapulted him into pastry chef superstardom. Though "gerbet" style macarons have been popping up in a few select french-style bakeries/patissseries in the Bay Area, I have yet to see any exotic flavors or the larger macarons with additional components in the filling that you can find at any patisserie in Paris. The Ispahan is made with a rose flavored buttercream, with lychees and raspberries, sandwiched between two pink almond meringue cookies. After some extensive research, I managed to procure Herme's recipe for the Ispahan that was revealed in an older issue of Art Culinaire magazine. I spent several weekend procuring some of the more obscure ingredients... rose syrup, egg white powder (not to be confused with meringue powder), glucose syrup. I couldn't find rose paste, except online, so I substituted rose extract.
Both the cookies and the buttercream were actually Italian meringues, which called for stirring molten sugar into stiffly beaten egg whites. For whatever reason, I failed miserably. At one point, the sugar started to caramelize before I turned the heat down, and I also allowed too much of it to hit the sides of the bowl, so shards of caramlized sugar were incorporated throughout the meringue. Actually, it tasted pretty good, but there was no way it would make a smooth meringue or cookie. I wound up straining the meringue for the buttercream, and I ditched the meringue for the cookie and went with plain old stiffly beaten eggwhites. The buttercream, once I flavored it, turned out okay, though there wasn't much of left... just enough for the macaron's I'd be making, and it didn't look silky smooth, like the buttercream I'd made before. Next time, I think I'll the make a traditional recipe and flavor it the way I did before. I'll just cross my fingers when it comes to the molten sugar. The cookies... well, they tasted all right. I was already suspicious, because the recipes I've used in the past called for whipping the whites and folding in (dry) almond flour and powdered sugar. This recipe called for mixing two whites with the almond flour/powdered sugar, than folding it into the aforementioned italian meringue. The almond flour/egg white mixture was EXTREMELY heavy, like pate sucre. I wasn't entirely sure how the final incorporation of ingredients wasn't going to collapse, but I forged ahead. This macaron batter was looser than the batters I've made in the past, and wound up spreading a bit more. I didn't allow them to "dry" before baking as I had in past, and popped them in the oven immediately. The cookies didn't rise, nor did they develop "feet", or a smooth surface. Also, the edges of a few began to brown, and some even burned on the bottom.
When I first tasted the rose buttercream, I thought to myself that it tasted good, but it need some acid to balance it out. As it turned out, the lychees and raspberries did it nicely. The floral notes of the lychees were highlighted by the rose flavoring, and their acidity, along with the raspberries kept it from being cloying. It wasn't perfect, but it tasted damn good. I'll try again, but with the recipe I used before.