i really like putting herbs into desserts. people generally think of most herbs as savory only, but i actually think if you pair them with the right flavors they can bring out really nice levels of complexity in sweet dishes. so recently, i got to thinking about macaron flavors that i could incorporate some herbs into.
these cranberry sage macarons are the first in what will probably be a series of herb-inspired macarons over the next couple of months. it seemed appropriate to start with these because they feel the most seasonal right now, although you could definitely enjoy them any time of year. starting with thanksgiving and into the winter, we tend to see a lot of cranberry dishes, both savory and sweet. and sage, having a sort of warm woodsy quality, definitely makes an appearance in a lot of cold weather food.
as far as french macarons go, these flavors work really well together. as always, the recipe is a riff on my basic french macaron recipe. you can just barely taste the tartness of the cranberry in the background, and the sage buttercream is sweet, earthy, and herbal. the combination might be a little unexpected for most, but really – when you taste it, it makes total sense.
- 4 oz almond flour
- 7 oz powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons very finely ground freeze-dried cranberries
- 4 oz egg whites
- 3.5 oz granulated sugar
- a few drops of red food coloring gel
- ¼ cup earth balance
- 2 small sprigs fresh sage
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1-3 teaspoons almond milk
- sift together the almond flour, powdered sugar, and ground cranberries. set the dry ingredients aside.
- put your egg whites and a pinch of the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. whisk on medium-high speed until you see soft peaks. then, with the mixer on low, slowly add in the rest of the sugar and the food coloring, then turn the mixer up to high speed. whisk the mixture until it has stiff peaks.
- now, add your dry ingredients to the egg mixture all at once. with a spatula or a wooden spoon, fold it all together – at first it will seem like the dry ingredients won’t incorporate, but just keep folding. you want to keep folding until the batter is “lava-like” – basically, it should fall from the spatula in thick ribbons that slowly ooze back into the rest of the batter.
- line two baking sheets with parchment paper. put the batter into a piping bag fitted with a round tip and pipe it into small circles about an inch apart on the parchment. once you are done piping, take each baking sheet and bang it hard against the countertop a few times – this releases any air bubbles hiding in your batter. now, let the baking sheets sit out on the counter for at least 15 minutes, until the macarons are dry to the touch. while the macarons are drying, preheat the oven to 350°f.
- once the macarons are dry, set one of the baking sheets on top of another empty baking sheet and put it in the oven. bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the macarons peel off easily from the parchment. repeat with the other baking sheet.
- let the macaron shells cool completely before filling them with sage buttercream.
- put the earth balance and sage in a small saucepan. heat it over medium-high heat until the earth balance is melted, then turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 5 minutes. take the pan off the heat and let it cool at room temperature for 15 minutes, then take the sage leaves out and transfer the earth balance to a small bowl. put the bowl in the fridge until the earth balance is the consistency of softened butter.
- transfer the chilled earth balance and the vanilla to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. with the mixer on low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar until everything comes together, then turn the speed up to medium. continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, adding almond milk as needed to reach the desired consistency.