When I think of Provence, the delicate scent of lavender immediately comes to mind. Quaint villages seem to sprout from the fields of purple that dominate this beautiful region of southern France. While I was there in late June, I was hoping to catch the lavenders in full bloom. Unfortunately, it was a colder and wetter year this year, and in many place we expected to see purple, we found green instead. It smelled fragrant already, but it wasn’t the shocking sea of purple that I expected to see.
However, never lose hope! While the typical places like Valensole, Sault etc. weren’t in full bloom yet, keep your eyes pealed when driving across the region. As we crisscrossed Provence, visiting the various markets and villages, we’d randomly come across huge chunks of purple over the hill from somewhere that is still mostly green. For example, the lavender field in front of L’Abbaye de Senanque had only a hint of purple, but behind St. Paul de Mausolee (a monastery where Van Gogh stayed for a year and produced many works of art), the lavender field was in full bloom and it was absolutely gorgeous.
While I’m sure Provence is beautiful all year round, I can’t even imagine going any other time in the year. I can’t even fathom Provence in winter. For me, Provence is perpetually sunny and it just doesn’t work under dreary clouds. Go back home clouds.
Another surprise was the amount of lavender in the Drome Valley, the region above Provence. It was remarkably less touristy and more agricultural. The hilltop villages there rivaled those of Provence and while most of Provence’s lavender hadn’t bloomed yet, all of those in Drome already had, and some plots were already harvested in late June.
So it definitely doesn’t come as a surprise that lavender was incorporated into EVERYTHING. I’m talking lavender ice cream, lavender honey, lavender tea, lavender soap, and of course, lavender macarons. The macarons really spoke to my heart. I knew I had to make some as soon as I got home when I got my hands on some lavender for cooking at Les Baux.
The problem with a lot of florally flavored foods (if that’s what you call them…) is that they can easily start to resemble soap more than food when it’s too fragrant, and you definitely have to be careful with lavender. If you’re unsure how strong you prefer the lavender, use less than you think you would need and if the flavor is too light, add more next time. It’s better to end up with macarons with a hint of lavender than lavender soap macarons.
Makes ~15 macarons
1 batch macaron shells, recipe here
purple food coloring (I used gel)
50 g chopped white chocolate, preferably Valrhona
100 g heavy cream, split 50/50
1 teaspoon lavender
1. Follow the instructions to make the macaron shells. When whipping the meringue, add in the purple food coloring until you get a lavender shade of purple.
2. For the filling, bring up 50 g of heavy cream to almost a boil in a saucepan with the lavender flowers. Remove from the heat, cover, and let the cream infuse for 20 minutes.
3. After 20 minutes, strain the lavender out and bring the temperature of the cream back up to almost a boil.
4. Pour the hot cream directly over the white chocolate in a small bowl. Let it sit for thirty seconds. Slowly, mix the the white chocolate and the cream together until it forms a smooth ganache.
5. Cover up the ganache, and let it cool until room temperature.
6. In a separate bowl, start beating the other 50 g of heavy cream. Continue until the heavy cream reaches the same consistency as the room temperature ganache. Slowly pour in the ganache and continue beating until the mixture thickens to the point where the beaters are leaving distinct tracks. Be very careful not to over beat the cream, as it’ll thicken up much faster than meringue. This won’t be as stiff as whipped cream and will still be a little gloopy, but don’t worry. Stick the bowl into the fridge for 3-4 hours until the ganache is thick enough to pipe and hold it’s shape.
7. Be careful to not warm the ganache up too much when piping with your hand. As soon as you’re done, stick the macarons back into the fridge and let it refrigerate at least over night. Keep in mind that because there’s a lot of heavy cream, these macarons will be temperature sensitive.