A couple of weeks ago now I made sugared native violets to compliment a dessert with native Australian flavours. There were leftover flowers and I decided to use them in a violet macaron.
I can’t take credit for the idea, the inspiration came from a certain Mrs Clarice Thackerey. Mrs T was the cook for a well-to-do family and her macarons were served as petit four with after dinner coffee. They were coloured as violet as violet can be and scented with violet so heavily they resembled glorious, perfumed, purple baubles.
One day, things came to pass and Mrs T packed those violet macarons into a tissue lined tin with a picture of Windsor Castle on it, tucked the “borrowed” tin and it’s fanciful contents under her arm and marched out of 165 Eaton Place…
Long before Downton Abbey, television viewers were riveted to the goings on at 165 Eaton Place, Belgravia, London. Upstairs Downstairs was the show and Mrs T, the cook, along with the butler and the rest of the downstairs staff, gave us all a glimpse into the very particular, pre-war life at home for the British aristocracy. WW11 changed everything, as war does, the distinctions between class and the gender began to blur, things would never be the same again.
Thank you Mrs T, for all the macarons, the coddled eggs, the tureens of turtle soup and the poached chicken with aspic. Thank you for the the kippers, the kedgeree, the moulded blancmange, the riz a l’imperatrice and the beautifully set tea trays for the family “upstairs.” Edwardian culinary excess at it’s finest.
I am using the correct French name here for these delicate, ground almond, egg white and sugar cakes. I actually grew up calling them macaroons. However, I also grew up calling another sweet treat a macaroon. These were an old-school English tea-time special – jumbles of coconut mixed with sugar and egg, baked until lightly coloured and sometimes finished with a half glace cherry. There’s a recipe HERE, they are a lovely, old-fashioned treat that still holds it’s own alongside all the tea-time fancies out there. They become even more delicious when you dip the bottom (or the top) in melted chocolate. Chocolate and coconut really is a divine combo.
Anyway, back to the classic macaron. There are pages and pages and pages on the internet dedicated to these little morsels. Shops specialising in macarons have sprung up like pastel coloured, sweet mushrooms. Macarons do lend themselves to being coloured and flavoured and this does add to their appeal. They are not difficult to make but like many French classics, technique is everything. Don’t be intimidated – have a go.
My macarons were coloured palest pink. They had crushed sugared violets sprinkled on top after piping and while the top was still wet. My pretties were sandwiched together after baking with a native hibiscus/rosella flower flavoured cream. My macarons are by no means perfect, they had lovely liitle macaron feet but they also had naughty little peaky tops – lazy technique ..never mind still very beautiful.
I mentioned the Australian native hibiscus I used in the macaron cream filling in a previous post and you may be wonderfing about them.This is how I buy my native hibiscus flowers in syrup. They do end up costing around AU$1.00 per flower. This large jar holds 50 flowers. Don’t discard the syrup! Use it for cocktail/mocktails, compotes, jellies, glazes, so many uses, be sure you save it 🙂
What an odd little post I’ve written here…as usual, my mind wandered and nostalgia crept in. Never a bad thing, at least, I don’t think so. The past drives so much of the present, the fashions and the passions of the past seep back into our lives to morph and gently evolve into what become today’s traditions.
Lovely to think about.