Tuesday, September 1, 2009

VIOLET MACARONS WITH CHOCOLATE VIOLET GANACHE FILLING

CONFESSIONS OF A SHRINKING VIOLET


From the earliest age I was shy. A shrinking violet. Maybe it was because I was the third child. Some may say “Three times the charm.” We called it “Third Child Syndrome.” Struggling to be my own person, I was overshadowed by two mighty powerful figures standing in front of me, blocking all the light and most definitely leaving me in their shadows. Coming in third after a brilliant sister and a talented brother was nothing to sneer at. How many first days of school did I suffer, each first day roll call when the teacher would come to my name? Her/his head would snap up and teacher would say “Ah, another one! I just know you’ll be as brilliant as Sue and Michael! We expect great things from you!” I would slide down just a little bit more in my chair, brush my hair in front of my face creating a screen and slouch down inside my clothes. “No, I don’t think so!” was my silent answer.


At 5 years old, mom came and took my hand and said to me “It’s your turn to start going to dancing school.” Oooh, how I wanted to wear those satiny, sequined costumes and learn how to dance, yet there they were again: sister and brother, larger than life! She was already a star pupil, having 5 years on me already. And he was one of the few boys in the school so of course he always had roles. No, thanks, and I slowly backed away. And I dreamed of drawing or singing… didn’t matter that I had no talent. My brother had enough for all of us, so I never even made an attempt. We would sit on the living room couch, side by side with the Sears catalogue between us, flipping through the pages, having each 3 minutes to draw whichever model our fingers stopped on. His sketches all looked like real people. Mine looked like glorified yet oddly twisted stick people. * sigh * Oh well.


Ditto Girl Scouts. Okay, okay, I’ve already admitted that I hated it all: the uniform and the camping, the forced activities and, well, absolutely all of it except for the S’Mores. She was a long-term scout and loved every second of it. She reveled in it! Badges galore! I tried guitar lessons, but gave up after 4 years. Couldn’t hack it. And he and she had already been playing piano for who remembers how many years. You know the tune: “Anything you can do I can do better…”? Well, with the two of them it was usually true.

So I have a complex. Well, for whatever the reason, I turned into a Shrinking Violet. I have always avoided calling attention to myself for fear of trying and then just not being seen. Self-effacing, receding into the woodwork, you name it, I’ve done it. I always avoided watchful eyes, preferring to work in private where no one could see me, judge me, compare me or make me nervous. Make a hat? Better alone. Bake a cake? Will screw up if someone is watching. Which is why food blogging fits me perfectly. I can get as wild as I want in my kitchen, make a mess, have a disaster, and no one is the wiser (unless the neighbors can hear the cursing). But more often than not, I organize myself, take my time, make a cup of coffee, lick the bowl and work as I please. And more often than not it works. And behind the anonymity of the computer screen I can be who I am naturally and connect with people who “see me” as I am and accept me for that. And I have learned to cook, learned to bake, learned to be myself and enjoy it. I have found just what I am best at! And I have made a slew of fabulous friends.

Now maybe I can do anything!

Which brings me to macarons. As a naturally born scaredy cat, I shrink away from trying new things, things that seem a bit too complicated, sure to end in failure. So I’ve stayed away from macarons, those fancy, elegant treats, that oh-so French delicacy. Except… I love a challenge. Pushed up against the wall and dared to do something, I’ll do it! Give me a deadline and I’m there. Pushed to the challenge makes me determined, courage is gathered, enthusiasm overflows! What makes me tick? Who knows? Start saying something is difficult and I climb into the ring and face the difficulty, shaking my proverbial fist at the challenge, laughing in its face. I’ll throw myself into it with a passion and make sure that it comes out just right!

My darling food buddy, my wonderful friend Deeba of Passionate about Baking dared me! Dared me to make the perfect French macaron and share my recipe and my tips. Several of us were having a tongue-wag over on twitter: Deeba, Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry, Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen, Barbara of Barbara Bakes, Meeta of What’s for Lunch, Honey?, Ilva of Lucullian Delights, and, excepting baker extraordinaire, Hilda, not one of these lovely ladies had ever made a successful macaron. All as scared of this daunting procedure as I was. Yes, I did make macs once before, but with someone that had fairly well mastered the technique, so it didn’t quite count. So we decided to have our own Macaron Challenge Event, a Mac Attack, if you will, kind of pushing and pulling each other along, encouraging, talking through, you know. And for some reason, Deeba named me Mac Ringleader. A few more jumped on board the Mac Express, Shelley of Shelley Bakes, Erin of Explore and Eat, Deborah of Italian Food Forever, Rachael of Fuji Mama and Ria of Ria’s Collection and we’re good to go. Okay, on y va…

The food blogging twitter girlfriends baking together.

I scooted around the internet, food blog to food blog, drooling over gorgeous pictures and scratching my head over amazing recipes and hard-to-find, exotic ingredients. Does no one make just normal flavored Macs anymore? I then turned to the Mac Queen herself, Helen of Tartelette. And I found it! Gorgeous Violet Macarons. Stunning. I used Helen’s recipe, only tweaking it slightly by folding in a teaspoon of violet sugar into the shell batter, which added a beautiful depth of flavor and produced a gorgeous pale violet color. I decided to fill my Macs with a Dark Chocolate Ganache filling with a dash of more violet sugar adding an intriguing touch. The combination of violet and chocolate is incredible!

And perfect macarons they are. Now I can stalk around like Mr. Rooster in the barnyard, display my feathers like the most gorgeous of peacocks. And this Shrinking Violet has bloomed into the most lush, the plumpest, most sweet-smelling flower in the garden.

This Shrinking Violet has bloomed.

Courage, dear friends, these macs are incredibly easy to make. Just trust your instincts, don’t think about it too hard or worry too much, for self-doubt is what creates disasters. This mission, should you decide to accept it, will be to complete 2 – not 1, but 2 – Mac Projects, e-mail the results to me and post the photos on your own blog (with a link back to Life’s a Feast). You have 2 weeks to complete this challenge, for then on Tuesday, September 15 it will be posted on my blog. I’ll be sending a second secret recipe to each of you (via e-mail) that I will make and post the day I post the “round up” of all of your creations, all of your successes! Good luck, and may the Mac Force be with you! (Okay, okay, so I’m mixing my cultural references, but you get the idea!)

Oh, all right, Shrinking Violet will help YOU! Ready for the fight!

VIOLET MACARONS

For the macarons shells:
90 gr egg whites (about 3) * *
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr ground almonds
2 tablespoons crushed violet sugar or candied violet petals *

* This is optional if you cannot find either violet sugar or candied violet petals.
* I replaced 1 tsp of the granulated sugar with 1 tsp violet sugar and I used about 1 teaspoon or so of violet sugar to sprinkle on the shells.


** The egg whites should either be left out in a covered container at room temperature for 24

Prepare 2 large baking sheets. On 2 large pieces of white paper the size of your baking sheets, trace 1 ½ inch-diameter circles (I used the wide end of my pastry tip) evenly spaced, leaving about ¾ - 1 inch between each circle. This will be your template to help you pipe even circles of batter onto the parchment paper. You will be able to reuse these endlessly. Place one paper on each baking sheet then cover with parchment paper. Set aside. Prepare a pastry bag with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809).

If using violet sugar, remove 1 teaspoon of the granulated sugar from the 30 g and replace with 1 teaspoon of the violet sugar. Stir to combine.

Sift the powdered sugar and the ground almonds together into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a standing mixer or with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites for 30 seconds on low speed then increase speed to high and whip until the whites are foamy. Gradually add the granulated (with violet) sugar as you are whipping the whites until you obtain a glossy meringue. Mine was just stiff.


Gently but firmly fold about 1/3 of the whipped whites into the powdered sugar/ground almonds. Add the rest of the whipped whites/meringue and fold, using a silicon spatula or the equivalent, turning the bowl as you lift and fold, making sure you fold in all the dry ingredients. When the batter is ready to pipe, it should be flow from the spatula, as Helen describes it, like lava or a thick ribbon. To test to see if you have folded it enough, drop a small amount onto a clean plate and jiggle it slightly. The top should flatten, not remain in a point. If it doesn’t flatten, give the batter a few more folds.


Fill your pastry bag with the batter. Pipe circles onto the parchment paper, using the traced circles on the template sheets to guide you, holding your pastry bag above each circle and piping into the center. When you have piped all of your batter out, sprinkle each shell with violet sugar or crushed candied petals. DO NOT FORGET TO CAREFULLY REMOVE THE WHITE PAPER TEMPLATE FROM UNDERNEATH THE PARCHMENT PAPER. YOU DO NOT WANT THIS TEMPLATE TO GO IN THE OVEN!


Preheat your oven to 280°F (140°C).

Allow the macarons to sit out for 30 minutes to an hour. The top of each shell should form a “skin” (it will feel like it hardened a bit when gently touched). Bake the shells for 15 – 20 minutes, depending on their size (when I touched macs that were not quite done, the top jiggled a bit as if there was still a bit of liquid batter between the top and the “feet” so I let it continue to bake another minute.


Remove the tray from the oven and immediately slide the parchment paper with the shells off of the hot baking sheet and onto a surface, table or countertop. Allow to cool before sliding the shells very gently off of the parchment by slipping a cake spatula under the shell as you lift it up. Be careful or the center of the shell risks sticking to the parchment.

VIOLET - DARK CHOCOLATE GANACHE FILLING

½ cup (125 ml) heavy cream
½ tsp violet sugar (optional if you don’t have)
¾ cup (about 100 g) chopped dark chocolate (I used Lindt dessert 70%)


Place the chopped chocolate into a medium-sized mixing or other heatproof bowl.

Pour the cream into a small saucepan. Stir in the violet sugar to dissolve. Slowly heat the cream until it comes just to the boiling point. Pour the cream immediately over the chopped chocolate and stir until it is smooth and creamy.


Allow the ganache filling to cool, stirring every so often. If need be (I do this) place the bowl in the refrigerator, pulling it out every 5 or 10 minutes and giving a good, hearty stir. When the ganache is ready to use to fill the macarons, it should be thick and creamy, not runny. You want to be able to pipe the filling onto the shells and have it stay there not run all over the place.

Prepare your pastry bag with a plain tip that will pipe teaspoon-sized dots of filling onto the macaron shells. Pair up the shells so you have sets that match (same size and shape).


Pipe the ganache filling onto one shell of each pair. Sandwich with the second shell.


Allow the filling to set.

50 comments:

Hilda said...

Total GORGEOUSNESS! I'm so proud of you! I'm not exactly a shrinking violet, but I had the same experience as you growing up with my "perfect" older sister, which kind of prompted a similar response from me. I too like to take my time in the kitchen, I think if we baked together you'd be shocked at how slow I am, but it kind of works that way for me (most of the time anyway *giggle*). And you're too nice, I'm no baker extraordinaire, I'm just a girl who likes to bake. I hope I can make macarons again, it's been a while...

Deb Mele said...

Gorgeous macs Jamie, love the color combo! Your photos are a big help too, thanks! I can relate to your story as well. We have moved around a LOT and I find it easier to make (& keep) my friends online.

OK, I am a tad confused about the challenge. We are to make two different types of macs by September 15th, right? You are sending one recipe to us by email, and we find our own for the second one. Is that right?

DebIFF
http://www.italianfoodforever.com

Elra said...

I'm intrigued by the violet sugar. Sounds beautiful, wonderful, and fragrantly delicious!

It's been awhile since I made my macarons. Tempted to make this, but first I must hunt for that violet sugar.

Mowie @ Mowielicious.com said...

Oh my goodness! Those are just gorgeous!!! I'll have to make some soon - your recipes are always so inspiring...

Barbara Bakes said...

They are definitely perfect macarons! I can only hope to achieve such perfection! I'm wondering if I have to make any adjustments for high altitude baking? I think I need to buy a new pastry bag and proper tips and hunt for violet sugar! Thanks for being our Jedi Master!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Those macarons are fabulous!

I know what it is to be shy, to want to be transparent and to be a shrinking violet ;-P... Unlike you, I was more or less an only child.

Cheers,

Rosa

KennyT said...

Wow, these violet macaroons are soooo elegantly beautiful!

Dan said...

I'm incredibly impressed with those macarons. They look fantastic.

I've been a little bit obsessed with them since sampling Pierre Herme macarons in Paris a few months back. I going to have to try to make them.

La Table De Nana said...

You and I were in the same dance class:)
I was 3rd(really 4th) child..but was not shadowed.. too big of age gaps..so I was quite treasured:)(I LOVED IT!)

Your macarons are beauteous!! And now..I think..YOU shine!!!

Mary said...

How gorgeous are those :-). My word. All that alone time has resulted in some great food. These look and sound wonderful. Go to the head of the class, please.

asiangrrl said...

Jamie, as I said on FB, I will give you my soul for a dozen of these gorgeous, luscious babies. It's tattered in places and torn in others, but it's still usable. What do you say?

Chow and Chatter said...

wow perfect what a lovely post your great

MeetaK said...

you are the most gorgoeus peacock my dear! lovely macs and I'll have to see if i can manage this challenge! macs always look easy to make but they certainly are cheeky little things. you mastered them perfectly! HAIL!

♥♥♥Ria♥♥♥ said...

OMG! Jamie! You did it!YAY! So our ringleader...we have to make ours now! :)

Your's is so perfect! I am so green with envy now! :P

Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

Hai you conqueror of all things mac! BOW down to you big! Yes to self-doubt in moi, yes to me still very much in shiver stage & no, they aren't as easy & fuss free as you state. Well, I've boarded the express, & have no way to jump off!Your violet macs are dreamy & fabulous! Did I say I loved reading your post? I DID!! No shrinking violets here dahling; the light's shining BRIGHT! Will you hold my hand on the train? Merci!! Tanti baci bella...
Ooooooh BTW, did th ehub only ask for more, or did he acknowledge the 'force' behind the beauties?

Jamie said...

I must give the story: JP does not like macarons and cannot understand the fuss around something so "chi-chi and only a big fad!". But I asked if he wanted to bring a tin of the Violet Macs to work and he said "Okay". At lunch (not even the end of the day as usual), he brought back the empty tin. "So, what did they say?" I asked? He shrugged and answered "They said there weren't enough and I should've brought more!" I asked if Mme. Perez tasted one. "No," JP answered, "she got there late! And that'll teach her what happens when she gets to work late!"

The Cooking Ninja said...

They are gorgeous. Like you n the rest who haven't tried making macarons, I thought it was hard but it was really easy to make them. I used to make lots of them in different flavours. Because I have no one to give it to, I stop making them. Lucky you to have a place to give them away. :)

hahaha ... perhaps when we move to Singapore. I have a huge social of friends back home to give it to. :)

Aparna said...

These are just perfect, Jamie.
Forget about that complex. Maybe you should get the brother and sister to try making macs!
You know, I tried this recipe and mine had slightly cracked tops! Should have left them longer at room temp before baking I think.

Ok 2 weeks.........

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

There is no way you can eat all those by yourselves. I will have to make the trip over and help you out!
What a great post! My son, 3rd child, refused to go to the schools that his sibs did after about the age of 10. He hated being compared to his high achieving brother and sister too.

Heavenly Housewife said...

I loved this post. HH is a shrinking violet too believe it or not (except around my hubby when i am the tallest sun flower in the garden :D).
Absolutely georgous macaroons. I am 100% in awe. I have still to perfect mine. Thanks for the step by step pics. I'm going to bookmark this and go though it really carefully to see where i might be messing up.

5 Star Foodie said...

Wow, these are so gorgeous! I'm intrigued by the violet petals & sugar, the color is so beautiful and I can just imagine the wonderful delicate flavor!

Cathy said...

Your macaons are gorgeous! I've been building up the courage to try them since I had the amazing opportunity to try them in Paris. Your directions are so clear that I'm ready to tackle the project.

If I can make macarons like yours I will be walking on air.

Jamie said...

@Cathy: Yay! I am always the most thrilled when I convince people to try what they've always been afraid of trying! Come back here and post your macaron success story!

TheKitchenWitch said...

Shrinking Violet, you have found your calling! Those macs look amazing, and I'm proud of you!

Chef E said...

I think I told you my dad loved macaroons, and we always had them in the house, but not like this!

They are so cute, and kind of remind me of Wimpy burgers on Popeye cartoon...hey I will gladly pay you Tuesday for some yummy macaroons today! :)

I used to be able to buy maple sugar in Dallas, I will have to look for this intriguing violet sugar here. Maybe I should look into making sugars...

Jamie said...

@Chef E: I would love to try these macs with maple sugar. I'll bet that would be delicious!

Katy ~ said...

Beautiful. Looks like art!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Beautiful little macs. You are such a talented baker that you make me blush in comparison. I too know what it's like to be shy. It's a hard one to grow out of.
Sam

Cinnamon Girl aka Reeni♥ said...

These are so gorgeous!! I'm inspired! I shall try. You make it look so easy. I'm a shrinking violet too that's why I love the anonymity of the internet!

Apples and Butter said...

Wow. Macarons. That is one area I have shied away from myself. They've always seemed so unattainable, but yours look absolutely beautiful! Perhaps it's time to get over my fear and give them a try!

Joy said...

Hun, these are gorgeous! I've been cowering away from making macarons. Soon, soon... :D

Chef Jeena said...

GORGEOUS! The macs look amazing I would eat so many of these...I love hat you used violet again I totally adore violets.

Great post to readd too it did make me smile. :-)

Barbara said...

The macarons look wonderful; but I love anything made with meringue.

You may call yourself a shrinking violet but your readers know better; we all have our gifts. Yours may not have been discovered til later in life, that's all - cause you surely have them!

lisa said...

Beautiful macaron! Some day I will attempt them. I just don't when that will be. (I've been saying that for years now.)

big boys oven said...

those are elegant macarons, filled with soft chocolate ganache and a touch of violet

buffalodick said...

I was the third child, unexpected, premature, left handed, and small at birth.. My mom wept when I was compared to the other babies in the Maternity Ward. I spent the first month of my life in an incubator.. Yet, I was easily the most successful of their children- adversity builds character and strength! When no one believes in you, believe in yourself..

Anonymous said...

Ha! Right on! Now the macaron weight has been lifted. Yours couldn't be more perfect. I'd love to join you in macron-making but I'm going on vacation. Looking forward to seeing what flavors you'll whip up.

Lien said...

You make it sounds so easy, I really should be making these too. Really! I can't get hold of those violets here, but I came across some freeze dried strawberries recently, I could bang that into powder and use it...
Lovely post, I'm the 4th and my feelings exactly about shy and in the background.. safe blogging feeling too!

Joanne said...

I was a shy child as well. Somehow I grew out of it along the way. But it took a LOT of effort and coaxing from my parents.

I thought those macaroons looked great on their own and then I saw the chocolate ganache! Amazing.

cookingschoolconfidential.com said...

That is a GORGEOUS French macaron.

Crow away; you deserve it!

(See how cooking and baking are as good for the soul as they are for the tummy! It's why I go to cooking school.)

Cheers!

Jessica@FoodMayhem said...

Jamie, I love how much you get to know someone through reading their blog posts. I feel very similarly about blogging allowing you to communicate even when you are shy. It helps me too. Oddly though, I was not at all a shy child, but I became a much more shy as an adult. Weird right?

Fuji Mama said...

See, you have proved why you were appointed the Mac Ringleader! You are The Mama of the Mac Mafia (would that be the Mafiosa?)! I am hoping to do my first set tomorrow...fingers crossed...GULP! That picture of all the women in the kitchen? Coolest picture ever! We need that on t-shirts!

Megan said...

You inspire me to give these a try. Your are lovely!

Colloquial Cook said...

Blimey! They are superb! That's an excellent lesson in mac making too :-) thanks for sharing in so much detail... I must try this French meringue method!

Olga said...

I've never heard an expression "shrinking violet"....I'm going to have to incorporate it into my vocabulary :)

macaroons look great!

SKM said...

Jamie - it's my weekend to try the macs! May the force be with me. :)

glamah16 said...

This really looked like fun. Beautiful flavor combos.

The Cooking Photographer said...

I must attempt these. Must.

tastestopping said...

Hi Jamie,

I am poring over your words, hoping they soak in as I prepare for another attempt! I think I will use a bit of maple sugar (having no violet sugar). I'll let you know how it goes!

Best,
Casey

Jamie said...

@tastestopping - Casey YUM maple sugar. Take your time and trust your instincts and it'll work! And maple sugar! Yum!

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