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Cracked Pepper, Mint and Strawberry Macarons – And Tartelette Goes To Japan

Cracked Pepper and Strawberry Macarons-Copyright©Tartelette 2008 Update: I am not going to Japan…I just went there virtually through a magazine article. Sorry for the confusion.

Long title I know….for the macaron story stay right here and scroll down to see how I got to Japan without leaving my couch!

When Chris was preparing her weekend trip here she mentioned that she wanted me to teach her how to make macarons. You know me and the little sweet suckers, I already have the spatula in my hand before you can twist my arm. I also had about 2 cups worth of already separated egg whites (long story, does not involve the puppy), so I decided to get a head start and try to re-create one of my favorite restaurant desserts in a macaron form.

I have always been surprised that the small town my parents live in is surrounded by a handful of amazing small restaurants. Great creativity, impeccable service, freshest of freshest ingredients. There was one in particular that was highly recommended for special occasions because of its amazing location and "nouvelle cuisine" menu (mind you that was 20 years ago). My father decided to take us there one special day in the summer and I can’t begin to describe how we were all looking forward to it after all the hype we had heard from friends and family. The setting was indeed gorgeous, and very "sunday best" but also very inviting. It’s funny the details I remember about that meal, even today.

The menu was creative and all the dishes described perfectly so that all our senses awaken…ah the wait was going to be tough. In my selective memory bank I can’t recall the appetizer part, surely because there was nothing that surprised us there. The waiter arrived with our silver dome covered plates..oh the anticipation was killing me …or was it my stomach growling? One after the other he lifted the domes to reveal the chef’s creations. All 6 hungry jaws fell to the table…all at once. Think about a big painting canvas with 3 little dots and a smudge…for 6 supposedly different paintings. We all tried hard but there were no more than 3 bites to each plate. I think it is a family trait but rather than being upset and uptight about it, we started cracking jokes about it until my grandfather started making up what our desserts could turn out to be.

Oh no! If there is one thing I will get upset about it is dessert, (surprise, surprise), and the thought of my promised Strawberry parfait on a cracked pepper and mint meringue disk also turning into 3 bites, 3 dots and a smudge, was making me a little fidgety on my seat. Desserts finally arrived and to our surprise we were served full portions no "nouveau-schmoozeau" version of sweet endings. Ah! Why didn’t they say the chef really had a sweet tooth?! Knowing my family we would have started there!!

And there it was, all for me…a subtle and light pink frozen strawberry parfait, set on a fragile and crackly disk of meringue spiced up with fresh chopped mint had freshly cracked black pepper. We still got home hungry but I have been recreating those flavors under various forms and techniques and in different plated desserts and pastry ever since that day. Obsessed? Yes, maybe, but only if it’s good…and the combination is just outstanding! I am a big fan of cracked pepper with fruit and sweets, after all it’s not as crazier as balsamic vinegar with strawberries and it really enliven traditional flavors and scents.

For the macarons I simply added some freshly chopped mint and freshly cracked pepper to the shell, and added freshly pureed strawberries to buttercream, as well as a touch of mint extract. The result? Just like I remembered! The mint and strawberry are definitely the first flavors to hit your tongue and then the cracked pepper comes and tickle it at the least expected moment! Happy, happy! Thank you Chris for playing my assistant while shooting these, and adding that one little pepper ball to the mac set up.

Cracked Pepper And Strawberry Macarons-Copyright©Tartelette 2008 Cracked Pepper, Mint And Strawberry Macarons:

Macarons Help available here (click)

For the Shells: (makes about 20-30 depending on size)

3 egg whites (I like to use 1-2 day old egg whites)
50 gr. granulated sugar
200 gr. powdered sugar
110 gr. almonds
2 tsp. chopped mint
3/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper

For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature in a covered container. If you want to use 48hrs (or more) egg whites, you can store them in the fridge. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry and your macarons won’t work. Combine the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Pass through a sieve. Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 300F. Let the macarons sit out for an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don’t let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Pipe or spoon some buttercream on one shell and sandwich with another one. One tip I read is that if you use fresh whites, zap them up in the microwave on medium high for 20 seconds to mimic the aging process.

Strawberry Mousseline Buttercream:
Half a recipe of vanilla mousseline buttercream to which you add 1/2 cup pureed strawberries and 1/2 tsp mint extract.

Cracked Pepper and Strawberry Macarons-Copyright©Tartelette 2008 Allright…so what was that about my trip to Japan? Well, a couple of months ago, one of the editors' of the Japanese magazine Joshi Camera contacted me to see if I was interested in being interviewed and featured in their July issue. I think I about snorted my coffee, checked under the computer and decided that well since it was Christmas in my brain already, "Yes! Of course!"

You would have asked me last year if I knew Joshi Camera, a magazine dedicated to women digital photographers, I would have said no, but the fact that they featured talents like Beatrice or Sabra in previous editions made me all the more appreciative and thrilled. I hope I answered their questions without making a "derriere" out of myself! The magazine is filled with gorgeous photographs (not all food related), positive energy, and quality. And yes Mom, I did ask for another copy for you…

They did go for 2 of my favorites: the Swirly Macarons and the Frozen Rhubarb And Banana Charlottes.Thank you Naomi and dang! why didn’t I take Japanese in school to be able to read the entire issue which you can order here. I hope you don’t think I am being pedantic by telling you about it but as I said, it is Christmas in my brain lately and I also know I am here and there because of your support.

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LizNoVeggieGirl July 24, 2008 um 7:50 pm

Ahh, so much excitement and beauty in one post!! No worries, you’re not pedantic :0)

Anonymous July 24, 2008 um 7:56 pm

I love vicariously through you!

Judy July 24, 2008 um 8:22 pm

Assuming they aren’t rapidly consumed, how long will a fresh macaron last? I would like to know how far in advance I can bake them.

Helene July 24, 2008 um 8:39 pm

Judy: after a couple of days they start to get really soft. I’d say maximum 4 days.

Cannelle Et Vanille July 24, 2008 um 9:00 pm

lovely, lovely, lovely!!! and I am so happy about the magazine article… I clicked on the link but it is all in Japanese… I’d love to get my hands on a copy!

PheMom July 24, 2008 um 9:09 pm

Gorgeous as always!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) July 24, 2008 um 9:19 pm

So glad you and Chris had fun together (was there any doubt that you would?!). Beautiful photos, too.

Katie July 24, 2008 um 9:24 pm

I’ve never had macarons – they sound delicious! Congrats on your feature in Joshi Camera. How cool!

Clumbsy Cookie July 24, 2008 um 10:19 pm

Oh I really though you were going to japan! Congratulations for the interview. As allways you macarrons look great and you soty is delicious. I love strawberries with black pepper and use it quite a lot myself, but never paired them with mint flavours. I’ll try that next time.

Dalybeth July 24, 2008 um 10:25 pm


I want tot thank you again for taking the time to help me with my previous macaron crisis. I am still preparing to do them again once I get the courage. I am baking Martha’s cookies from her Handbook and macarons are last. I vow to make them until they come out. You are my Macaron Fairy!


Leslie July 24, 2008 um 10:36 pm the flavor combos!
Also congrats on the mag!

Anonymous July 24, 2008 um 11:02 pm

A pity that I don’t read Japanese neither… I’m happy for you ! They made a good choice !

Anonymous July 24, 2008 um 11:24 pm

Totally out of control Tartlette. Cracked pepper, mint and strawberries? I am plesantly astounded. Going out on a limb here Helen, I cannot begin to tell you the number of business trips I have been on to Paris where I have forced my American male collegues to go in La Duree in Paris to look at and eat macarons. They are Budweiser drinkers so they don’t get it. I live for these and yours are gorgeous.


Anonymous July 24, 2008 um 11:35 pm

congrats dear friend! That is so exciting!! So proud of you!!

Susan from Food Blogga July 25, 2008 um 12:20 am

Oh, Helen, you must be thrilled! A trip to Japan and a feature? It couldn’t happen to a better person.

Anonymous July 25, 2008 um 12:26 am

I’m so pleased and excited for you – you deserve all your success!

Christy July 25, 2008 um 12:37 am

Congratulations for being featured in that magazine!! Such beautiful macarons and beautiful photos!!

Anonymous July 25, 2008 um 1:33 am

Congrats! That shot of the macaroons with the ribbon is one of my favourite shots of yours too.

Y July 25, 2008 um 1:54 am

Nouveau-schmoozeau.. hehehe.. what a funny trip down memory lane 🙂

Congrats on the magazine feature! By coincidence, I wanted to make your pink swirly macarons yesterday but didn’t have the food colouring :/ I did try your normal recipe though, and loved it.

Pea and Pear July 25, 2008 um 2:13 am

Oh this story reminds me of the first dining experience in my memory bank… I can’t remember the food but I remember the feeling and excitement.. that experience is the reason I got into this crazy world of hospitality.. thanks for jogging the memory.. Ali

Anonymous July 25, 2008 um 2:35 am

Pepper anything is my favorite. I only wish I had taken Japanese to read the interview. I am so happy for you all these exciting opportunities coming your way. You deserve it.

Manggy July 25, 2008 um 2:58 am

Congratulations Helen!! I sure hope they provided for your airfare though O_O I am confident you of all people will be able to touch down on all the hot pastry spots!
Very intriguing choice of flavors for a macaron! I love it! 🙂

Anonymous July 25, 2008 um 3:16 am

That is so cool! To see your stuff in a magazine…NICE!

Cakebrain July 25, 2008 um 3:26 am

You never fail to amaze me with your innovative macaron creations! I just think it’s so appropriate that you’re being recognized like this for your photography too. Well done and congrats!

Chris July 25, 2008 um 3:42 am

You know the majority of the macarons didn’t make it to Atlanta, right. Now, there may have been a few crumbs left on the Highway along the way, but….

I will be making a batch this weekend. Hopefully they will turn out like the ones from the weekend.

Fabulous pics! Its cool to see them posted now that I witnessed all the work/thought you put behind each shot.


cindy* July 25, 2008 um 5:18 am

so perfectly pretty! i had a drink that had strawberries, balsamic and black pepper in it and it was amazing, i wish it had mint as well…darn.

Gigi July 25, 2008 um 5:50 am

congrats! and how exciting! you have been baking up a storm. and i am glad because i am baking vicariously through you! 🙂

Anonymous July 25, 2008 um 6:19 am

Your puppy is soooo cute! OMG, you should not have added that link, I’ll be staring at those pictures for the next couple of hours.

Congrats on the magazine article! I’ll have to go check out my local Japanese bookstore . They have tons of magazines and maybe they’ll have this one for me to buy. I’ll show it off to everyone and say…hey! I read her blog!

Anonymous July 25, 2008 um 6:26 am

Congrats on your Joshi Camera article. Your macarons are some of the most delectable looking things on the food blogs!

Rosa's Yummy Yums July 25, 2008 um 6:30 am

An original flavor combination! Wonderful!




Peabody July 25, 2008 um 7:31 am

Such attention to detail. I love the strawberry slice with the mint leaf and one peppercorn.

Anonymous July 25, 2008 um 11:37 am

That is exciting!!! Congrats!

Bonbon Oiseau July 25, 2008 um 12:06 pm

what a fantastic flavor combination—looks so beautiful (esp little pepper ball on top!) and Congratulations on the article!!!

grace July 25, 2008 um 1:28 pm

i’m deeply ashamed. it’s been months since i was first introduced to macarons, and i still haven’t tried them. these sound like stellar ones to start with, wouldn’t you say? nicely done. 🙂

Jeanine – The Baking Beauties July 25, 2008 um 1:35 pm

Wow, those are so pretty. They look delicious!

Anonymous July 25, 2008 um 3:18 pm

Wow! congratulations, Helen. You deserve it. 🙂

Allison Jones July 25, 2008 um 4:10 pm

I love the idea of using black pepper in something so light and sweet. I wonder if there is a way to make my own mint concoction resembling a mint extract…

Helene July 25, 2008 um 4:39 pm

Oakley Rhodes: you could make a simple syrup with fresh chopped mint in it, as if you were starting a mojito. Bet that would be good!

Patricia Scarpin July 25, 2008 um 5:32 pm

Congratulations, darling! I’m glad to hear the world knows how talented you are, yay!
You already have a huge fan in Brazil, for that matter… 😉

I’m scared of making macarons, but I think you’ll end up convincing me sometime. 😉

Alexa July 25, 2008 um 6:00 pm

Your post was so entertaining… Tu es trop marrante! Visits to your blog always guaranty a good time. Lovely, gorgeous pictures and the macarons ont l’air tres bons. A bientot.

That Girl July 25, 2008 um 7:18 pm

I really need to start putting pepper on my fruits – and vinegars, and other things that seem unfruitlike, but probably bring out the best fruit flavors.

Chico July 25, 2008 um 8:29 pm

I’m a native Japanese so I can read that magazine.
I’m going to the book store right now!

Parisbreakfasts July 25, 2008 um 9:19 pm

You sooooooo deserve this! AND MORE!
You make macs look so easy to whip up!?
Chris is NOT the new pup BTW…just checking..
Would love to know what ARE ?YR FAV COOKBOOKS?
Do tell…hint..hint..
The article is gorgeous..

Zoe Francois July 26, 2008 um 3:33 am

These are my absolute favorite treat! I can’t wait to make them, they are gorgeous and magazine worthy for sure. Congrats!

Jen Yu July 26, 2008 um 3:57 am

oooooh ooooooh oooooooh! You went to JAPAN! I am impressed, my dear. But I am not surprised. Your lovely creations will take you many places around the world 🙂 Your macarons are gorgeous and I think that little black peppercorn is so cute, but – I can only imagine biting down into it 😉 heeeeee heeeee!

Camille July 26, 2008 um 4:56 am

How exciting for you! Congrats on being featured in the magazine.

I have mint in my garden that is running amok. I just pulled some today. I have more than enough mint to make a whole lot of macarons.

Wonderful, unique flavor combination for dessert.

Anonymous July 26, 2008 um 5:35 am

Super l’article dans le magazine Japonais! A garder bien au chaud! Je suis vraiment content pour toi. 🙂
Et vive les fraises, le poivre noir et les macarons! C’est brilliant, comme toujours! 🙂

Anonymous July 26, 2008 um 5:53 am

Helen, congratulations! Too bad this magazine is not available here, isn’t it? I’d like to have a copy.

The macaroons are lovely, wonderful flavor combination!

Mallory Elise July 26, 2008 um 6:59 am

felicitations!!! poivre dans un macaron, brilliant! mmmmmm. how amazing a photo magazine! (I just recieved an email from a lady at a wood working magazine in london asking me for a photo…not as exciting as yours!!!)


Katie July 26, 2008 um 10:44 am

Wow these look and sound fabulous

Snooky doodle July 26, 2008 um 1:00 pm

I ve never tasted or tried macaroons since they re not popular in Malta. Wish to try making them sometime. Nice combination pepper with strawberries. Great photos too,

Rachael Hutchings July 26, 2008 um 1:57 pm

Congrats on the article! I wish I was still there because I would buy a whole stack of the magazines!

Erielle July 26, 2008 um 4:19 pm

Hi Helen!
Your photos look gorgeous. Gorgeous!
Thanks for your really nice comment on my flickr site.
I really really really hope to start blogging again. I just have to muster up some creativity, all of which seems to have sucked out of me by my baby girl! Not that I am complaining. I’ll let you know when I post again. Thanks for the encouragement!

Anonymous July 26, 2008 um 4:56 pm

cracked pepper makes so many things better, though I wouldn’t have thought of this combination. yum. i like to crack fresh black pepper on a juicy slice of cantaloupe. one of these days i’m going to make macarons, and your site will be my starting point, for sure.

Jenny July 26, 2008 um 5:04 pm

Beautiful magazine spread! (And, so that’s what you look like!)
And the macaroons look amazing too. I haven’t made any recently and probably should, just because.

montague July 26, 2008 um 10:21 pm

hi tartlette! thanks for commenting on my blog – i am glad it lead me to yours! best, and i’ll be back! amy

Anonymous July 27, 2008 um 12:00 am

I guess I’m discovering you on the brink of stardom!

Quel joli blog. Ajouté à ma liste immédiatement.

giz July 27, 2008 um 3:21 am

I’m so not surprised that magazines are interested in both your photography and what comes out of your kitchen. I’m so intimidated by macarons but am determined to conquer this FOM (fear of macarons) The day old egg whites is a great tip…thank you.


Elle July 27, 2008 um 4:02 am

Strawberries are so good right now and this is such a great flavor combination…plus that single peppercorn on the strawberry slice is just perfect!

Helene July 27, 2008 um 1:58 pm

Erielle: you are dearly missed and I know I am not the only one thinking it!

Thank you everyone for you comments and I am sorry if I made some believe that I was actually going to Japan. I wish!!

Judy July 27, 2008 um 11:28 pm


Thanks for the information. It’s good to know how long they might last. Sometime, could you also give the weight of 3 egg whites in grams?
Thanks — judy

Cookie baker Lynn July 28, 2008 um 1:13 am

That is so cool! And the macarons are, of course, beautiful. I’d never have thought to pair those flavors together, now I can’t wait to try it.

Helene July 28, 2008 um 2:40 am

Judy: I’d say about 90-100 grams (the 10gr. difference won’t cause any major issue)

Anonymous July 28, 2008 um 6:33 am

You are being showered with wonderful things and deserve it so much. Congrats!

Mike of Mike's Table July 28, 2008 um 10:00 am

That’s awesome news! Congratulations 🙂

Deborah July 29, 2008 um 5:31 pm

I love food created from memories! And congrats on the magazine!

Jaime August 1, 2008 um 3:25 am

what a lovely flavor combination!

Emily August 6, 2008 um 12:58 am

Could you link me to the recipe for the vanilla mouselinne buttercream? This is an amazing recipe.

Kitchen M August 29, 2008 um 4:19 am

Hi! I actually found your blog through the magazine. 🙂
Great discovery for me!

Anonymous October 13, 2008 um 3:39 pm

Bonjour Helene!
I was wondering if the recipe for the vanilla mousseline buttercream was on your blog. I look around for a while and couldn’t find it.

Would you mind posting it? thank you!

Liza August 12, 2009 um 10:11 pm

Hi, for the shell ingredient, the 2 tsp. chopped mint… is that chopped mint leaves?


De (au)Gustibus February 20, 2011 um 9:25 pm

I used your recipe for the shells and they were great! This is what I did eparate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature in a covered container Thanks again, I am sooo happy with the result!!

Cristabel September 28, 2011 um 8:09 am

Hi Helene,
I just have a quick question.. when making the macaron shells, when do we put in the mint and black pepper exactly? when mixing the egg whites?


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