Pierre Hermé’s Ispahan
Talk about french baking and macarons easily comes to mind. And the one name that is almost synonymously equated to macarons is Pierre Hermé. The celebrated French patissier is renowned and worshipped around the world by dessert and sweets afficionados for his edible masterpieces. Enshrined as the “Picasso of Patissiers”, the one creation which is most often tagged onto him is the Ispahan.
7-cm wide macaron shells in brilliant pink enclosed with a mélange of fresh raspberries, canned lychees and rose petal buttercream, this must had been one of the most bizzare-sounding desserts on the menu that Pierre Hermé created when he was still with Laduree. He is afterall a revolutionary in the French culinary scene, constantly introducing mind-boggling ideas for desserts and patisseries which come in bewildering combinations of flavours or presentation that inspires to astound the world both visually and gastronomically!
Like I’d mentioned in this little post sometime back, one of my first encounters with macarons was a couple of years back from a shop in Toa Payoh Central and have been very much intrigued by these little morsels of creamy squishiness and crunch chewiness ever since. My first attempt at making some was not too long ago and both the making process and results were immensely gratifying. Feeling rather motivated, I decided to give Ispahan a try, in full knowing that I’m probably not sufficiently proficient as yet.
First thing, I need the recipe. Several blogging bakers both local and abroad have recreated Ispahan before very successfully. The closest I got over the internet is from here. But I need the real thing! Feeling rather unsatisfied, I braved myself down to Kinokiniya one morning before my classes and bought myself a copy of Pierre Hermé ‘s ph10! Definitely one of the things one do in life on impulse! But one’s gotta do what one’s gotta do!
Baking the macarion shells aka coques. My first attempt at baking shells bigger than the regular ones. Increased the baking time from 10 min to 14 min, turning the tray after 7 mins and reducing the temperature from 170 °C to 150 °C after the first 7 mins.
Baking also some regular sized macaron shells for some “Petit four Ispahan”
The large shells at around 7-8 cm in diameter. Luckily they turned out quite ok with pronounced feet.
fresh raspberries (framboise fraîches) for the montage et finition.
The other fruit used, albeit canned, lychees (letchis).
Rose pink macaron shells for Petit four Ispahan
unfilled shells being paired and stacked up
the bottom of the shells, cooked but not thoroughly baked through.
rose pink macaron shells, not too satisfied with the macaron shells though. Too much inconsistency in terms of smoothness of the tops, size of the pied “feet”. Definitely more room for improvement!
Montage et finition. First, the bottom shell is laid on a flat surface and the rose butter cream (la crème aux petals de roses) was piped on it. Raspberries of almost equal sizes are placed near the perimeter and a lychee in the middle. The crevices around the lychee and raspberries are then piped with more rose buttercream before finally replacing another macaron shell as cover.
Using glucose, a red rose petal is “glued” onto the covering macaron shell. A fresh raspberry is also secured in front of the rose petal with glucose.
Voila! it’s done!
The difficulty in this recipe is the making of the rose petals buttercream as it involves the assemblage of several components – creme anglaise, meringue italienne, unsalted butter, rose syrup (rose water) and rose essence.
I’d also made some Petits four Ispahans with an open shell concept. ph10 has a recipe entry for that as well but it requires an additional component, on top of the rose butter cream, i.e. a rose glace (glaçage rose) made from Valhrona white chocolate couverture and neutral nappage, which I’m too
lazy exhausted to make. So the rose buttercream would have to suffice for now!
Assemblage of the Petit four Ispahan. Canned lychees are chopping coarsely into small bits and drained off any excess liquids. Give the lychee bits a little squeeze if neceesary. Place the lychee bits over a macaron shell
Assemble by piping a dollop of rose buittercream over the lychee bits and then topping with a rose petal and raspberry.
This is the lazy way of doing it. Herme’s original recipe called for a white chocolate ganache and a rose glacage on top of the rose buttercream but it is simply too much work!
Voila! Petit four Ispahan.
This is recipe from ph10 translated and paraphrased into English (be warned, its a very long !!!)
For 20 7-cm ispahans petits gâteaux
– macaron shells
– rose petals buttercream
– fresh raspberries
To prepare Tart-pour-tant
300g blanched almonds (I used Almond meal from Phoon Huat)
300g icing sugar
Grind the almonds into fine flour and mix well with icing sugar using a food processor and sieve well.
To make macaron shells
600g tant-pour-tant (see above)
100g fresh egg whites
4g dye carmine red coloring (I used Wilton rose pink gel paste coloring)
4g dye strawberry red coloring (omitted)
295g caster sugar
100g aged egg whites
1.5g of powdered egg white
Mix tant-pout-tant with fresh egg whites and powdered coloring.
To prepare the Italian meringue, bring the sryup mixture of caster sugar and water to 117°C. Once the temperature reaches 108 °C, start whisking the egg whites with the powdered egg whites. When soft peaks began to form, increase the speed and slowly pour the cooked sugar mixture into the whisking egg whites.
Continue to whisk and let the meringue cool to about 50°C, and remove the mixing bowl and gradually add the meringue into the first mixture of tant-pout-tant, fresh egg whites and food coloring. Incorporate well by folding carefully until the meringue batter produces a glossy finish. Fill the batter into a pastry bag.
Pipe the batter 7 cm in diameter using a size 11 piping nozzle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in oven at 165 °C in an air ventilated convection oven for 15 minutes. Once the baking is completed, remove from oven. Leave to cool. Store macaron shells in air-tight container.
To make buttercream Italian Meringue (Meringue italienne)
250g + 15g caster sugar to whisk up the white
125g fresh egg whites
First prepare an Italian meringue: In a heavy saucepant, cook water and 250g sugar to 121°C. When the mixture reaches 115 °C start whisking egg whites to soft peaks with 15 g of sugar. Turn the mixer to medium speed and add sugar to drizzle over egg whites mixture. Let cool at the same speed.
Note: After meringue has cooled down sufficiently, it is better to let it run at low speed rather than leave it to stop completely, and the result shall subsequentlly would hold the batter better.
To make buttercream (Crème au beurre)
90g fresh full-cream milk
70g egg yolks
90g caster sugar
375g unsalted butter at room temperature
175g Italian meringue (see above)
Boil the milk in another heavy saucepan, and mix yolks and sugar thoroughtly in a separate a bowl and when milk is just boiling, add hot milk to the mixture and whisk until thickened and colour lightens like a custard, basically forming crème anglaise. and left aside to cool to room temperature.
Using a hand whisk, incorporate the meringue and custard. Cover with cling film and in refrigerator at + 4°C.
To make rose buttercream (La crème aux petals de roses)
450g butter cream (see above)
45g unsalted cold butter
2.5g alcoholic rose essence (Sevarome)
20g of rose syrup (Shah)
With mixer fitted with a whisk, made the butter cream with cold butter to make it light and creamy.When the cream is smooth and homogeneous, add the rose syrup and rose essence, mix and use immediately.
600g canned lychees
800g fresh raspberries
rose buttercream (see above)
Drain the lychees cut into two or three pieces depending on the size of the fruit.
Lay macaron shells on a tray and spray a fine mist of moisture over them using a spray bottle. Cover the base with rose buttercream. Place the drained lychees in the center and the fresh raspberries in a ring around the perimeter of the macaron shell. Pipe more rose butter cream over the lychee bits and cover with a second similar sized macaron shell.
Final finishing (Finition)
red rose petals
On the macaron shell cover, pipe a very small amount of glucose and stick a rose petal on it. Pipe another drop of glucose on the flattened edge of the rose petal and place a raspberry on it.
Voila! Its done!
My “assembly line” of 3 Ispahans to go!
Reflections and Modifications
- I didn’t follow the recipe to the strictest order as I used the French Meringue method instead of the Italian meringue method advocated. that’s basically 46g of egg whites, 60g of almond meal, 110g of icing sugar, 15g of caster sugar and 3 g of egg white powder. Bake time was increased to 14 min, turning the tray after 7min. The results seem satisfactory but there’s always room for improvement! I’m still on the hunt for better methods for making macaron shells so if you know one, please inform me!
- I downsized the proportions and the above proportions for the french meringue method produced easily 6-8 shells. But I repeated the recipe 4 times to experiment with different temperature settings, macaronage technique etc. lots of trial and error.
- The italian meringue for the buttercream was hand-whisked which took longer than using a cake mixer of course. So I had to add water to the boiling syrup twice to prevent it from caramelising.
- Whole lychees were used during assemblage instead of cut them down in to pieces. This allowed me to use less cream to pipe over (the insides of the lychee is hollow) and hence a lighter texture hopefully.
- Despite being well balanced by the tartness of the raspberries, I felt that the buttercream is still on the whole too sweet. Going to cut back on sugar added to the meringue and custard components in the buttercream in future. This would perhaps help to bring out the aroma of the rose essence and rose syrup more.
- During refrigeration, the water- and oil-based components in the butter cream might separate to down an emulsion. but a quick whisk after that should return them back to their original ligh and creamy state.
- once the rose essence and rose water/syrup is incorporated into the buttercream base, the concoction needs to be used immediately.
- try to drain as much of the liquids adhering to the lychee bits as possible. Juices which leach from the fruit bits into the macaron shells can soften the shells substantially and affect the texture.
- I didn’t use the misting method as suggested in ph10. Instead,the shells were rested in the fridge for two days after baking before assemblage to help them to regain some moisture.
The results are very gratifying indeed! visually very astounding for me personally.
When i finished preparing the “La crème aux petals de roses“, I couldnt help but to scoop a dollop of it from the whisk into my mouth. Admittingly, the intensity of the sweetness came as a rather rude shock.. I was quite apprehensive about the concoction and re-read PH 10’s recipe entry and re-calculated everything on my ingredients list to make sure that I’d not wrongly “downsized” anything. But everything seemed to be in the prescribed proportions.
I went on with the assemblage anyway, after keeping the cream in the fridge for a few hours to make it firmer. And necessarily, I plunged a dessert fork down the shell and took one ceremonious bite. The results are quite the contrary to what I’d experienced earlier. The tartness of the raspberry which was to an almost astringent level was delicately balanced by the sweetness of the rose buttercream, one seemingly aiming at taming the other! And above all the coaxing of flavours going on, the aroma of the rose essence elevated amongst the other flavours and enveloped the whole buccal and nasal cavity. The moment was rather magical, I might say.
Pierre Hermé is indeed a genius! Not only is he a patissier held with the highest esteem, he is also an architect of flavours and textures in his own right!
Pierre Hermé’s Macaron Mogador
Pierre Hermé’s Macaron Montebello
Pierre Hermé’s Tarte Ispahan
Macaron Satine and the PH Macaron Project
Pierre Hermé – Macaron Ispahan
Macarons from Pierre Hermé and Ladurée – a Sneak Preview
Pierre Hermé’s Macaron Jardin Enchanté – a reconstruction