I will hold my hand up here. I am terrible at piping, icing or decorating. My biggest achievements when it comes to doing any sort of measly decoration have been Aditi's (very easy) birthday cakes (its not like one can go wrong with Hello Kitty or Binoo) and the odd Christmas or Valentine's Day cookies.
Its not like I am not a creative person. Its just that the majority of my creativity seems to be taken up with savoury food, ice creams, popsicles and easy cakes. Cuisine and desserts, of course, but that's a given. So when my very talented friend Lillian from Beyond Umami asked me if I'd like to learn how to make macarons, I was understandably apprehensive. But then she mentioned that she'd like to play with Indian flavours, at which I relaxed considerably. I can do Indian, and I can do flavour. We brainstormed a bit, and I asked her if she'd be interested in trying out a very classic South Asian flavoured syrup called Rooh Afza. Lil was intrigued, and so we settled on this first flavour.
Rooh Afza is a flavoured rose and herbal syrup from India and is well known all over the subcontinent as a cooler and flavoring for several classic Indian desserts and drinks like kulfi and falooda.
As a kid, we always had a botle of Rooh Afza in the fridge. It came into its own during the hot summers, where we would be out playing in the blazing hot sun all day, and whenever we were thirsty, we came in and drizzled some of this fragrant syrup into cold water and quenched our thirst. Rooh Afza is incredibly sweet, and a little goes a long way, so we would get constantly yelled at for pouring in lots of the syrup into our iced waters, and mum would threaten to take it away if we kept at it. And when I was a little more grown up, during my short stay in Bombay, I loved to hang out at small roadside halwai (sweetshops) that did some of the best Rooh Afza faloodas *more on those in another post.
Rooh Afza is very easy to source in Edmonton. Any desi grocer on 34 Ave will have boatloads of these bottles, and they are reasonably priced too. And like I said earlier, a little goes a long way, and the syrup never goes off, so if you like the flavour (and to be honest, it can be an acquired taste due to its flavour and super sweet taste) its worth getting a bottle.
Coming back to these macarons, though, Lillian and I wanted to make another Indian flavour, and of course, knowing me I was always going to go with cardamom and saffron, my two absolute favourite spices. If you read my site with any sort of regularity, you'll know that this combination of saffron and cardamom is one of the recurring themes on it, especially when it comes to desserts. Kulfi, kheer... you name it, I'll put cardamom/ saffron in it. So of course, it was pretty much a no-brainer when Indian flavoured macaron number two was going to be.
Lil already makes wonderful chai macarons, some of the best I've had, and she actually infuses chai flavour into the shell and not just the buttercream (plus I am so chuffed that she uses my chai recipe for it) So with these two added to that Indian classic, I think its a rather fabulous collection of desi flavoured macarons.
Lillian was a pretty patient, encouraging and very organised teacher. I now know why our mutual friend Diane called her and her husband Dan hardcore foodies :) She is very precise, take lots and lots of notes and loves getting her recipes absolutely perfect, and we were both delighted with how these macarons came out. Well, I was just pleased that I didn't have to pipe them out, as I am pretty sure I would have messed it up, but Lil made me pipe the buttercream and even butterfingers here couldn't mess that up.
I must have been so annoying to her as I kept swiping the macaron shells as they came out of the oven, and here she was going on about how macarons need to be aged for a couple of days before they can be eaten. Ha... like I have the patience... but in the end I did wait, even though it killed me and the flavour was unbeatable. I think the Rooh Afza one was a little on the sweet side, but Lil figured she could fix that easily enough. The cardamom-saffron one, on the other hand, was outstanding. Kay, Aditi and I pretty much devoured them all, and who knows, I might even be persuaded to try to make some of my own soon.
But for now, do head over to Lillian's blog, Beyond Umami, for her recipe and notes on how to make these super decadent, classic French macarons, Indian ishtyle. Enjoy!
Recipe for Rooh Afza Macarons
Recipe for Saffron Cardamom Macarons