These tasty treats were made for my colleague Laura for her birthday. Happy Birthday Laura! I found a beautiful bottle of rose water and I decided that delicate macarons were the perfect destination for this fragrant ingredient. Rose water is a by-product from the creation of rose oil which is used in perfumes. Found predominantly in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, it is commonly used to flavour sweets in the west. You can find instructions to make your own brew of rose water here.

Henri Fantin-Latour, Bouquet of Roses, 1885
oil on canvas, 38.9 x 46.3 cm, National Gallery of Canada

Henri Fantin-Latour was a French painter known for both his flower paintings and group portraits. His style was very precise and he adhered to traditional techniques even though his contemporaries were the radical artists Edouard Manet and Renoir (1). His painting has a smooth enamel quality and his palette is quite somber and subtle. From the 1860s to 1904 he repeatedly painted still lifes of flowers while refining his style and experimenting with texture and colour. To emphasize his delicate compositions, Fantain-Latour often used a gray cloth or piece of cardboard as a background. His attention to light and control of tones allowed him to capture the essence of the beautiful blooms (2).

Traditionally, macarons are made with egg whites, almond powder, and sugar. The word macaron when anglicized becomes macaroon which is easily confused with a similar pastry of the same name that is a dense single cookie (not a sandwich like the macaron) and is made with coconut or almond paste. The confection we know today as a macaron was invented by the French pâtisserie Ladurée (3). The soft and chewy macaron comes in a rainbow of colours and just as many flavours. You can easily adapt this recipe by replacing the 1/2 c ground pistachios with ground almonds and adding any flavoring you desire. Lemon zest, mint, crystalized ginger, and coconut are a few on the top of my list to try.

{Pistachio Rose Water Macarons with Rose Water Meringue Buttercream}

adapted from Martha Stewart

1 1/4 c icing sugar
1/4 c finely ground almonds
1/2 c finely ground pistachios
2 large egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1 tsp rose water
rose water meringue buttercream, for filling (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Whisk the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking until soft peaks form. Reduce the speed to low and add 1/4 c of the icing sugar. Increase the speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Add the remaining icing sugar, ground pistachios, almonds, and rose water. Fold until the mixture is smooth and shiny.

Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag and pipe 3/4 inch rounds on parchment-lined baking sheets. Tap the bottom of each sheet to release trapped air and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven to 325F and bake 1 sheet at a time for 10 minutes, rotating it half way through. Keep an eye on the macarons and as soon as they start to colour, remove from oven and set aside. After each batch, increase the oven temperature to 375 for 5 minutes and then lower it back to 325 before baking the next batch.

Let cool
on the sheet for 2 minutes before carefully transferring to a wire rack. Sandwich 2 of the same size macarons with 1 tsp of rose water meringue buttercream. Serve immediately or store stacked between layers of parchment paper.

{Rose Water Meringue Buttercream}

adapted from Martha Stewart

2 egg whites
1/2 c sugar
188 g butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp rose water

Place the egg whites and the sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of boiling water. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture forms soft peaks.

Remove from heat and whisk on high speed until mixture is cool and stiff peaks form (about 6 minutes). Beat in vanilla and rose water and the butter 2 TB at a time on low speed. Mix thoroughly after each addition and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Will keep for several days in the refrigerator, beat on low speed before using.