DON’T SHOOT TILL YOU’VE SEEN THE WHITES OF THEIR EGGS
I sit (elbow on table, chin cupped in the palm of my hand) and ponder a jar of egg whites and wonder how I got here. The other day as I stood in this very same spot (legs slightly apart, knees just bent, feet planted firmly on the ground) cracking egg after egg, yolks to the right, whites to the left, my husband stared wide-eyed (hands on hips, mouth hanging open) and finally gathered up the courage to exclaim “What? Again?” before he walked off, head shaking in disbelief. Yes, again. More whites.
I place the jar of whites ever so lovingly on the red kitchen shelf, out of danger, and I slide the second jar containing the deep yellow yolks into the refrigerator. Ideas flit through my head, pudding, cake, Bavarian cream, hollandaise, as I head to the living room where I plop down on the sofa and wonder. Wonder how I ever came to food blogging. Wonder how my life has taken such a turn, actually zig zagging up and down, side to side, back and forth, a long, strenuous yet satisfying voyage to some far away, exotic spot, an island all my own, this place I call my food blog.
Is this separation of whites from yolks symbolic, in some strange way, of my life? Food blog to the left, family to the right? Fresh out of the shell, the regal yolk is so slippery smooth, slithering its way through your fingers, across the plate, begging your immediate attention. Egg yolks, the making of something creamy smooth, ever so rich, as sweet or as savory as you please. Like husband and sons demanding your complete and unwavering attention, add just the right ingredients, motherly love, wifely adoration, gentle handling and you can make the perfect, homely dish: add soft words and smiles, extra care, thank you very much, sugar and spice and everything nice, heat ever so gently with a warm heart, coddle, pamper, indulge and, if you are lucky and you’ve followed the directions to a tee, always sunny side up, you will turn out something oh-so sweet, done to perfection.
Or throw in something spicy, hot and exotic, let it sizzle, baby, and oh you have the making of something fragrant and delectable, tangy and succulent. Throw your arms around his neck and breath in his scent, let your mind travel roads untested and raise the temperature, smoky paprika, fiery peppers, a kick of Tabasco, mustard that bites back when bitten. A little deviled egg, perhaps? Add something racy to the mayonnaise, a little zest to your sauce, a little nip here, a bite there, never hurt anyone. Au contraire, baby, au contraire!
But be warned! Ignored too long, left to their own devices whether on the table out in the heat of the day or jarred up too long in the chill of the icebox, left to simmer a tad too long and woe is me! the smell will permeate your home, rotten through and through, hard and tough or shriveled and cruel; truly a bad egg!
Flip it around and glance at what’s left: the whites. White never so perfectly white, dappled with varying shades of white, whites as delicate and fragile as my food blogging. No need to rush, take them as you please, fresh or aged, left even for days at a time, using only when perfectly ready, depending on your desire, your mood. Toss in just a tad of salt and barely a drop or two of tart, tangy lemon to stabilize and then jump right in. Whites need to be attacked head on, whisk whisking, beaters beating. Don’t be shy, too slow, too careful and nothing happens, just a whole lot of useless froth. Whiz it up, race along on high speed, sprinkle on the sweet, sweet sugar gradually beaten in, forge ahead without even a thought of pausing and, blogger beware, let nary a drop of yolk into that bowl of whites, allow not one teenage son, one wayward, bored husband wend their way into your kitchen or onto your computer or you risk the worst: falling flat! Those whites must be virgin, remain untouched, unsullied by imperfections, greed, jealousy, complaints of too much time spent on the computer, objections over too much baking. Only spotless, pure whites, immaculate recipient, fastidiously clean beaters will give you the perfect whipped meringue. Versatile, heavenly meringue, luscious, glossy, feminine meringue, meringue to be folded ever so carefully into sweet batters and creams, savory or sweet concoctions capable of wowing the most hardened of viewers, softening the heart of the wariest of sons. Those magical whipped whites: poached or baked, floating or smothered, delicate things, yet handled just right, like the best of food blogging, turned into the exotic or the simple, the elegant or the homey, opening doors to adventure, to friendship, to satisfaction and pleasure.
Whites whipped up, folded into nuts, half almond, half pistachio, snowy sugar, a dash of cocoa powder, piped out just so, concentration with each squeeze of the batter-filled pastry bag, left to dry and then popped into the oven to bake. Nose pressed against the glass pane of the oven door, hands clasped in prayer as I utter “Feet, please, feet” over and over again, silent mantra of the Mac Addict. For, once again, I have turned my egg whites into Macarons. And if I whip and fold just right, if I repeat my prayer often enough, if I, like my whites, am pure and good, then maybe, just maybe, I will pull out a baking tray of perfectly domed, gently footed, heavenly, nutty little macs.
For January’s Mac Attack held over at MacTweets, the Macaron Community, our virtual Mac Kitchen, created by Deeba and I for like-minded Mac Addicts, I have indeed Rung in the New Year with Cocoa Pistachio Macarons, using a new recipe – from Ottolenghi The Cookbook, a gift from my beautiful friend Hilda – yet taking this recipe and trying something new, half ground almonds and half ground pistachios. I used a new ganache recipe adding butter and Amaretto to the usual dark chocolate and heavy cream. New new new and I love these sumptuous macs.
CHOCOLATE PISTACHIO MACARONS
Adapted from Ottolenghi The Cookbook recipes by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
3 7/8 oz (110 g) powdered/icing sugar
1 ¾ oz (50 g) finely ground nuts – I used half ground pistachios, half ground almonds
3/8 oz (12 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 (2 ¼ oz/60 g) egg whites
1 3/8 oz (40 g) granulated/caster sugar
Sift and then sift again the ground nuts with the powdered/icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl.
In a separate, very clean bowl, preferably metal or plastic, whip the egg whites on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to high. The whites will become frothy then start to form soft peaks. At this point, gradually add in the granulated/caster sugar as you continue to beat the whites on high speed until you have a glossy, firm meringue.
Using a rubber or silicone spatula, fold the meringue into the nut mixture until completely blended, homogenous and the batter falls off the spatula in a thick ribbon. Put into your pastry bag with a wide tip and pipe out onto parchment-lined baking or cookie sheets (for details, see here and here).
Now is the time to sprinkle either chopped nuts or colored sugar on each shell if you so desire.
Preheat the oven to 280°F (140°C).
Allow the piped macarons to sit for about 30 minutes until a “skin” forms on the surface of each mac. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes until the shells are set, risen to create “feet”, a tiny frill around the base of each shell, and are firm to the touch (when gently touched on top the shell should not have a liquid or soft center, if it does allow to bake for an extra minute or two).
Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off of the hot baking sheet onto your work surface to cool completely before gently lifting off the paper (a flat metal spatula helps) and filling with ganache.
DARK CHOCOLATE AMARETTO GANACHE
2 ¼ oz (65 g) dark, bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 Tbs (15 g) unsalted butter cut into cubes
just under ¼ cup (50 ml) heavy cream
3 tsps Amaretto or to taste (can be replaced with ½ tsp vanilla
Place the finely chopped chocolate and the cubes of butter in a bowl. Bring the cream just to the boil and then pour over the chocolate/butter, stirring until smooth. If all of the chocolate doesn’t melt just place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir the mixture, removing from the heat when smooth and creamy.
Stir in Amaretto to taste.
Allow to rest, stirring often, until piping/spreading consistency.
Pair evenly sized and shaped shells to form couples. Pipe about a pea-sized dot of ganache on each bottom shell then press the top shell to sandwich the macaron.