Monday, June 22, 2009

MACAROON INTERLUDE

ALL THINGS GREAT AND SMALL

Our dark chocolate Macaroons.

The Saga continues and I cannot wait until I can write the epilogue. Here I have been, here I am, and here I will be for at least 2 more weeks, washing, trashing, boxing up. I have spent hours dealing with gas and electric companies, telephone service, notary, parking garage, you name it. I have been down and dirty, down, that is, in the basement, getting dirty piling up all the junk for the junk man (the junk man cometh next week), opening and going through damp, sandy boxes of clothes and books and toys and fabric and separating the wheat from the chaff (in no mood to chaff, either), the good from the bad, and filling up trash bag upon trash bag of crap that we have inexplicably been saving for 10, 15, 20 odd years.

So why oh why, you ask, in the mad rush towards moving day, did you take two entire days to go and make Macaroons with Marie and Eve? Marie has been tempting me for weeks with her chatter about Pierre Hermé Macarons and her invitation to come over and learn how to make these babies. We have been planning this gargantuan project for ages and we finally found a day (two actually) to attempt the feat. She received the cookbook for Christmas and taught herself to make them. Now it was going to be my turn!

And a daunting task it was! I have never made Italian meringue much less jelly, and Chef Hermé’s process for making his delicate, tender macaroons is complex and must be followed to a tee. So temperature gauge in hand, egg whites properly “aged”, chocolates weighed and oven pre-heated, off we went.


The first day we prepared the Confiture Framboise, the raspberry jam, which was fairly quick and easy, albeit rather tiring to stand and hold that hand mixer for 10 whole minutes (or until your hand mixer starts smelling like burning rubber, whichever comes first). Then in the fridge it goes to firm up a bit before using. As it turns out, it never did firm up as we needed it to and it stayed a bit runny. But the flavor was outrageous! Sweet and slightly tangy and so full of the most intense raspberry flavor! Eve, Marie’s sister, and I licked the bowl clean. I even got to take a jar of it home with me (to use as jam) as the recipe made more than needed for the macarons.

For the next couple of hours we sifted. And sifted. And sifted. Powdered sugar and ground almonds enough for about a gazillion macaroons, trying to push the powdered almonds through holes too small. At least it builds muscles and character! At some point I had to get home, so I left the others to “sift” for themselves (he he!).


The next day we started bright and early and planned to devote the entire day to making raspberry, pistachio and dark chocolate macarons. This was no easy task. Marie’s kitchen is tiny, her counter space is limited and her cooking utensils and bowls had to be constantly washed and rewashed. Yet we were all hepped up and raring to go.

Very clever Marie had photocopied the pages of the cookbook and stuck them up around the kitchen for easy access

I will not describe the entire day to you. I will not even give the recipes here. Once you get the hang of one of Pierre Hermé’s recipes, you’ve gotten it all: the ganache is pretty much cream brought to the boil and stirred into the melted chocolate, white or dark, with nut paste added where necessary, and butter stirred in where appropriate. An Italian meringue is made for the macaroon shells, sugar and water cooked until a syrup then whipped into beaten egg whites, then folded into the sifted powdered sugar and ground almonds along with food coloring and melted chocolate for the chocolate macaroons. And all at just exactly the right temperature.

Perfect Italian meringue.

The difficulty comes with the piping out of the shells (les coques). This requires a quick, steady hand and just the right flip of the wrist. First cookie sheet, second cookie sheet, first flavor, second flavor, third. And, of course, we couldn’t do anything the simple way. All of her cookie sheets, no two alike, were out and strewn around the kitchen, eventually finding themselves somewhere on the floor under our feet. We battled with parchment paper, finding a place to cool each set of shells became a balancing act, not dropping the precious macaroons on the floor or cracking the shells as they got pushed around the minimal counter space became an act of sheer faith.

First batch in the oven.

And we were so concentrated on not leaving a little point on the top of the shells that of course we left points on the top of each shell. Try too hard, think too much and you know that you will fail. And seriously, Marie and Eve’s mom, Mme. R, who happens to be my upstairs neighbor and a perfectionist (though I would like to point out that she has never made macarons), popped in to say hi and see how things were going and she took one look at the raspberry shells fresh out of the oven, our first tray and my first attempt, and she said “they all have points. They are not supposed to be like that. They aren’t good!” Arrrgghhh!

This is what it felt like...

So back to the drawing board and another try. Yet with each trayload of shells, the better I got. The second round, pistachio, came out even smoother and more perfectly round and the final flavor, the gorgeous dark chocolate macaroon shells came out (may I say it?) perfect. This I credit with my simply not paying attention anymore. I realized after piping out an entire tray that I had been jabbering on with Marie and not paying attention, just whish whish whish, swirl swirl swirl, and getting into automatic mode. And they came out just beautifully. Just goes to show you!

Then we lined up all these little babies (some a bit discolored from the heat of the oven, but delicious none the less) and spread them each with their personal jelly or ganache. Quickly, quickly as the kitchen was heating up faster and faster and slowly, slowly ganache was melting as we spread. Some smeared a bit and looked rather runny by the time I got my batch home, but each and every one was fabulously delicious!

Raspberry, chewy and tender inside and crispy out.

Pistachio macaroons with a pistachio and white chocolate ganache.


And through it all, I discovered a few things about myself:

1) I can do anything that I put my mind to.

2) I am great at juggling/multi-tasking.

3) I CAN use a pastry bag and get beautiful results!

4) I desperately need both a temperature gauge and a standing mixer. Desperately!

5) Even though the day was physically exhausting what with the sifting, stirring, blending and piping, my right arm feeling as if I had done at least a million one-arm push ups, I did finally drag myself home tired, happy and proud.

And started back in on my packing.

My cookbooks, cooking magazines and notebooks full of recipes.
Which do I pack and which do I keep out?

I am oh so sad to have to pack up my cookbooks and baking things and have tried to keep the necessities aside so I can carry on with the baking for the next few weeks. Baking, after all, is what calms me down when I get crazy and burned out from the packing.

FYI : take a peeky off to the right and you will notice that I have updated my Favorite Food and Other Blog Lists. I have added several more wonderful, enjoyable and favorite blogs written by foodie and non-foodie friends. Enjoy! And if you don’t see your name there yet, patience! patience! Give me a bit of time!

My brilliant son Simon figured out how to add my awards (few in number but much loved and appreciated!) to my sidebar although they are all stuck together. We’ll figure it out in time!

Last bits of news :

My brother is home at mom’s in Florida where he can relax and be taken care of. We love him.

JP got accepted into an MBA program and will truly be Big Man on (worldwide) Campus come September.

Simon is halfway through his Baccalauréat exams and doing fine. And then I hope we can organize his coming year with Americorps.

Clem is also back to school come September. And Marty is none too happy with the cartons.

26 comments:

Sirenoftitan said...

Those macaroons are truly impressive - Wow !

Mary said...

I love to come here and learn about your day. Your photos are icing on the cake. The macaroons look delicious, but you've postponed it long enough ... It's time for you to get back to packing :-). Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

The Cooking Ninja said...

Sounds like you girls had so much fun making it. :) I did some chocolate, pandan flavoured and coconut. :) I haven't found the right ganache.

Jennefer said...

Perhaps you need a glass of champagne to toast the perfect macaroons and the last of your packing!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I love those macarons. You've given me inspiration to try it - someday.

Jenn@slim-shoppin said...

I am a new visitor today. I loved reading your post on macaroons. I totally would have done the same thing. Faced with packing, or taking a break to bake/cook, I would have chosen that!

I take comfort in knowing that there are other cooks out there with limited space/counter tops, that's totally me!

Have a great day and with the continued packing.

Astrid and the kitties Kashim, Othello and Salome said...

Jamie! you are gorgeous! your macaroons look great and yummy. would love to steal some ;o)

Culinary Wannabe said...

I've been waiting to hear about these! I can't believe you got all of these made in the midst of everything else going on. You are the energizer bunny girl! And thanks for adding me to your list - you are such a sweet heart. Oh I wish I could try one of your macaroons - they look tadiefor! And I don't care one bit if they have tips to them or not! :)

Heavenly Housewife said...

How fantastic. I have been wanting to try my hand at macaroons for some time now, but am a bit intimidated. I LOVE LOVE LOVE macaroons, particularly Laduree's pistachio! I am having some on wednesday so I'm super looking forward to it.

asiangrrl said...

Jamie, I am staring at those chocolate macaroons with something akin to lust. Ok, not akin--it is lust. Those are so luscious-looking and tempting, I want to lick the screen. What an amazing job you did. High five!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

They look beautiful and so perfect! A delightful speciality!

Cheers,

Rosa

burpandslurp said...

macaroons are daunting indeed, but the results are SO worth it. Oh man...luscious!

Elra said...

Drooling ... drooling!
What a perfect macarons! My favorite cookie ever!

Pink Little Cake said...

Wow, those macaroon are yummyyyyyyyyyy. Great job!

Sophie said...

Those macarons are truly beautiful! I didn't make macarons yet because we can get superb ones in our excellent patisseries here in Brussels, in Bakery Paul, Wittamer, Marcolini, Neuhaus, Corné,etc.

I think it is a lot of work!!

But is is for sure food Art!

Jamie said...

Thanks all for the compliments.

@Mary: I am so glad that you enjoy reading my posts!

@Culinary Wannabe: energizer bunny girl?! ROTFL! Love it! I'll tell hubby!

@Jennefer: Champagne? Is someone pouring champagne?

@Jenn@slim-shoppin: thanks for visiting and I hope you come often! We are a friendly bunch!

@Sophie: Yes, I can get good ones, too, but I really had to try this at least once! Although I must say, that doing one flavor is no more work that a lot of things. And too delish! And less expensive than buying them, well, at least a bit.

@All you other great friends: Thanks! I wish I could share!

Melissa said...

Those macaroons look scrumptiously delicious! I've only made vanilla, chocolate would be fun. :)

Christina Kim said...

Jamie - thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog! I love meeting new food bloggers! I will be sure to follow you on my reader.

And these macarons are just lovely! I am quite impressed that you made them at home, they are beautiful.

Jamie said...

Just a shout out to all you foodies visiting me for the first time. As Christina Kim said, I also love meeting new food bloggers and discovering new blogs and making new friends.

Welcome aboard.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Jamie, what a wonderful blog! I'm so glad you stopped by mine - I love your profile facts - you sound like a woman after my own heart. And why NOT make Pierre Herme macarons when all is falling down around you? Sounds like the perfect break. I hope the move goes as easily as possible.

Sippity Sup said...

There is always time for macaroons! GREG

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Gracious that's the kind of macaroon lessons I need. That's the kind of exhaustion you can really enjoy when your proud!
I can't bear the thought of packing my cookbooks because I'm sure when that happens I'm going to have to separate out some I can't take ... but I try not to think on that as the time isn't here yet.
Love your macaroons. Maybe one day I'll get brave enough and give it a go.

Donna-FFW said...

Oh absolutely delicious macaroons. You made them beautifully! So impressive!

Karin said...

I just found your blog and I have really enjoyed it.
I have seen macaroon recipes in several blogs and websites and I always say to myself to try them immediately as they look fab and I can't tell you how much I love meringue!. Thanks for the recipe!!!
Have a sweet day :o)

Barbara Bakes said...

How fun to bake with friends. I have yet to taste a macaroon. How sad is that. Yours look delicious!

the ungourmet said...

You are very persistent. I think I would have given up. They did come out beautifully at the end. I would love to try the pistachio.

I love my standing mixer. My MIL gave it to me for Christmas one year. It's getting quite a bit of use lately since I have been trying my hand it baking.

I love the LIFE photos too!

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