Saturday, March 13, 2010



The Earth laughs in flowers.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

My plane had arrived that morning and I found my way – taxi? Metro? I truly can’t remember – back to his house. My trip had been long and tiring, back from deep, dark Africa, and I headed straight for a shower. The house was empty, no one home, so I took my time, pampered myself, hot bath, shampoo… and slipped into my gold satin robe just as he walked in. He had wondered nervously if I would make that decision to return, to join him, doubted that my love was strong enough, real enough to come back. But come back I did. And I walked into his open arms and he wrapped me in his warm embrace, never to let go.

And he had brought me a bouquet of tulips. Yes, I still remember the tulips, orange and red and yellow, wrapped in crisp white paper, fragrant and beautiful. We weren’t a couple made for roses. Roses, gorgeous, deep red or pale pink, roses are too traditional, too mundane, a flower one is expected to give to a lover along with diamonds and Champagne. I’ve always preferred deep, mysterious, blood-red garnets to diamonds, voluptuous, lush peonies or frilly, feminine carnations to roses, a nice, fruity white wine to Champagne. We prefer quiet, out of the way holidays on our own to spending a week at the current hot spot where we can see and be seen, prefer picnics in a vineyard, pulling roasted chicken apart with our fingers and drinking wine straight out of the bottle as Marty dashes in circles around us to a skiing holiday in the Alps. We choose museums and markets, strolling hand in hand through winding, narrow streets, eating in hard-to-find spots with the locals to sun-baked beaches, cruise ship buffets and evenings under strobe lights and pounding music. We are no ordinary couple and the gems, the gifts, the flowers we choose reflect our outlook on life, our unpredictability, a lifestyle some may call bohemian, our romance and passion for life as it is, not as we wish it to be.

Flowers are loves truest language.
- Park Benjamin

On our wedding day, his sister, a gardener and horticulturist by profession, brought us carloads of flowers, purple and blue, cream and pink, roses, yes, but globe thistles and fuchsia, chrysanthemums and irises and more I can’t name, and created arrangements, vases and bowls filled with flowers, bouquets bursting forth in wild abandon. Like our untraditional wedding garb, our outrageous, red tartan-clad best man and artistic, gypsy matron of honor, pretty, tame, traditional arrangements just wouldn’t suit, just not our style.

When we moved into our first home together, that tiny doll’s house of a home sandwiched in between two slightly grander constructions, squeezed in like a second thought, his sister came back and edged our handkerchief-sized lawn with plants, green and bright, and offered us 3 lovely, tiny rose bushes, beautiful, sweet-smelling roses that would burst into bloom in sunshine bright color every spring. Living in that miniature love nest brought us some of our happiest memories, learning to cook in that lovely white, bright kitchen, the French windows thrown open onto our beautiful garden where I could watch the flowers bloom; the walks to the market, coming home, basket brimming over with flowers, tulips, of course, and dahlias and carnations, whatever I chose, to place them lovingly in their vase in the center of my kitchen table to watch me as I cooked, and tiptoeing up that walk to our front door a few months later, another basket in hand filled with bouncing baby boy like a lovely blooming flower himself.

The flower is the poetry of reproduction.
It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life.
- Jean Giraudoux

My first love was gardenias, plump, creamy, velvety gardenias, heady with the scent of something exotic and wild, their dark, thick clusters of leaves hinting of the jungle. We lived in a world rich with hibiscus, yellow, red, pink and orange with their colorful, fuzzy pistil bursting proudly from the center. Hibiscus, bright and gaudy, show-offs of the flower world, ostentatious like glittery showgirls, reminding me of old movie Island girls in this tropical climate, the breeze blowing through their hair, huge hibiscus tucked gaily behind one ear. But the gardenia stole my heart. Each morning as I left the house for the day, each afternoon as I arrived back home after school, those two gracious gardenia bushes edging our tiny front porch would greet me with their enveloping fragrance, would draw me towards their lush beauty. I would pause, breath in deeply and all my worries would disappear into the dreamlike quality of these unique, sensual flowers nestled amongst the jade green lushness, otherworldly in their sandy, brown surroundings, pushing back against the stifling hot steaminess of the Florida days.

Flowers are a regular part of our life; flowers filling terra cotta pots lining our Milan terrace, purple and red rhododendrons next to the rosemary and basil accompanied by two pots of gardenias, JP’s gift to me, flowers bought at the market, together, on a Sunday morning, wrapped in brown paper, flowers never forgotten on birthdays, Valentine’s Day, anniversaries. Cheery bouquets of tulips to brighten up a drab winter day, romantic bunches of peonies adding ardor and warmth to an occasion already brimming over with love, colorful bouquets of fuchsia and tiny carnation buds, sweetpea, amaryllis and freesia, surely signs of friendship, bringing life and joy into our everyday world.

Where flowers bloom, so does hope.
- Lady Bird Johnson

Chilled by this seemingly never-ending winter, bored and frustrated by steel gray skies, greeted every day by bare branches on the trees, bitten by icy winds, Deeba and I decided to look forward towards spring in choosing this month’s Mac Attack challenge theme. Our optimism won out, dreaming of warm breezes, fluffy white clouds skidding across bright blue skies, armfuls of colorful flowers, this month’s theme was Spring Fling: Creating Macarons Inspired by Spring Flowers. I looked across the table to a vase filled with glorious tulips and was truly inspired. Tulips, a whorl of colors in a dizzy dance of movement, tulips bright yellows and pinks intertwined, I used this challenge to test out a new procedure (thanks to Kim) of coloring and blending batches to create a swirl of color on my macs. Simple macarons, half almond meal, half hazelnut with a thick, rich mascarpone honey cream filling green like the stems of my lovely tulips, delicate in flavor like a light, warm spring breeze.

A special thanks to my new apprentice/assistant Mathilde who came and helped me make these macarons. She was extremely patient, sifting tons of ground nuts, listening to me jabber on about macarons, food blogging, my life, and stayed while I threw together the macaron batter a second time after the first batch failed miserably. But we learned a lot from this experience, understanding the dynamics behind food coloring, dry vs liquid, when to add it into the batter, and mastering the swirl effect. Thank you so much, Mathilde, and I can’t wait for you to come back for the next round!

And I didn’t even have any food in the house to offer her a decent lunch!


Yellow macaron batter :

100 g (3 ½ oz , 1 cup less about 2 Tbs) powdered/confectioner’s sugar
55 g (2 oz, 1/3 cup) ground almonds (I used half almonds, half hazelnuts)
15 gr (1 oz, 2 Tbs + ¼ tsp) granulated sugar
45 g (1.6 oz, about 1 ½ ) aged egg whites
1 tsp powdered yellow food coloring (all natural)

Pink macaron batter :

100 g (3 ½ oz , 1 cup less about 2 Tbs) powdered/confectioner’s sugar
55 g (2 oz, 1/3 cup) ground almonds (I used half almonds, half hazelnuts)
15 gr (1 oz, 2 Tbs + ¼ tsp) granulated sugar
45 g (1.6 oz, about 1 ½ ) aged egg whites
1 tsp all-natural powdered red food coloring
2-3 drops liquid red food coloring

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).

Sift the powdered sugar, the ground almonds and the powdered food coloring together into two separate mixing bowls, one for each recipe.

In a standing mixer or with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites, again, each measure of 45 grams in a separate bowl (preferably plastic of metal) for 30 seconds on low speed then increase speed to high and whip until the whites are foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar as you are whipping the whites until you obtain a glossy meringue. Mine was just stiff.

Add a few drops of liquid red food coloring to one bowl of whites which will be folded into the dry ingredients in which you added the red powdered food coloring.

Gently but firmly, using a plastic or silicone spatula, fold about one bowl of whipped whites into each of the powdered sugar/ground almonds mixtures, being careful to fold the pink meringue into the bowl of dry ingredients in which you have added the red food coloring. Fold the whites into the dry, turning the bowl as you lift and fold, scraping up the dry hidden at the bottom, making sure you fold in all the dry ingredients completely. When the batter is ready to pipe, it should be flow from the spatula 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 and test again, but do not overfold or the batter will be too runny.

You can also fold the powdered mixture into the meringue if it is easier for you.

Fill your prepared pastry bag with large dollops of the two batters, alternating blobs of yellow and pink batters without blending the two together. 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. You should have dollops of batter with swirls of the two colors. 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.) I turn the trays back to front halfway through the baking.

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.

Prepare your filling as your macaron shells cool.


300 g (10.5 oz) mascarpone cheese, preferably at room temperature
60 g (2 oz) orange-blossom honey (or your favorite liquid honey)
2 egg yolks
50 g (1.8 oz) finely ground pistachio nuts, or to taste

Beat the egg yolks together with the honey until well blended. Add the mascarpone and continue beating for a couple of minutes until light, fluffy and creamy. Fold in the ground pistachio nuts.

If the cream seems a bit too soft to pipe out and to sandwich between two shells, simply chill in the refrigerator until firm.

Finish your macarons :

Pair the macaron shells in shape and size. Pipe a dollop of Honey-Pistachio Mascarpone Cream onto the bottom shell of each pair and place the second shell on top.



Deeba PAB said...

Hail the Mac Queen... the best of them all! yes, you did it beautifully sistah, with flavours I would never have dreamt of. What a wonderful sister he has, to get you carloads of flowers, to edge your garden ... BLISS! Life is certainly a feast!! {HUGS}

the wicked noodle said...

I'm envious of your assistant who got to hear all about you! I would love to sit down over a cup of coffee - and one of these GORGEOUS macarons! - and chat with you for hours. Fabulous post, Jamie.

RJ Flamingo said...

Gorgeous, Jamie! I totally see it - they're just outstanding. :-) Don't know if I'll get to play or not, but I look forward to see what everyone comes up with. :-)

tspegar said...

they are beautiful and connect with an equally beautiful story. i had better get on mine... and fast!

Tracie~MyPetiteMaison said...

Gorgeous, can't wait to give it a try. Love your photos. Making your champagne chicken tomorrow night and can hardly wait on that too.

Elra said...

Absolutely pretty and delicious Macarons Jaime. I haven't made it for quite sometimes now.
Have a wonderful weekend,

Leave-Room-for-Dessert said...

Wonderful, wonderful story-beautifully told. My heart swells. Your macs are beautiful and sound divine. I've never been so daring as to try different nuts (would the mac gods punish me for this???) maybe next time... I love pistachios and hazelnuts, I only wish I could have a taste.

The Cooking Photographer said...

Wow Jamie! Now I'm wishing for blooming flowers and homemade macarons!


Happy Cook said...

I want to borrow your SIL so that i can also get loads of flowers :-)
Well this looks so so beuaitufl, ilove sthat 2 colour effect. And thay filling i am so so gonna try that filling.
Totally agree with Deeba this is indeed your best Mac creation.

LetMeEatCake Eat With Me! said...

These macs are so beautiful! I love the colors and the flavor combination. All this flower and mac talk I am ready for spring!

Barbara @ VinoLuciStyle said...

Your bohemian nature is evident in the creativity you bring even to macs; providing all of us with wonderful combinations that I would not have considered!

Thanks for the lovely reminder that spring is just around the corner...I am so ready!

Asha @ FSK said...

Jamie does it again!! lovely flavor combination and a gorgoeus mac yet again reveals itself!! :))

Gloria said...

Jamie is a wonderful and georgeous post! absolutely! I want to read again!!!
Lovely tulip macarons, lovely pictures, all is nice, gloria

Rambling Tart said...

Such a beautiful post, Jamie. :-) I love your unconventional life and hope you never change. Lovely macarons, as always. :-)

Jenn said...

Wow...I envy your macaron making ways. hehehe... As much as I love eating them, I need to eventually give making them a try.

Kim said...

Thank you Jamie for the shout out, your Macarons look gorgeous :)

Mamatkamal said...

Beautiful post! I always enjoy reading your stories.
As usual, your macarons look gorgeous Mrs. Mac Queen!

Barbara Bakes said...

I'm a flower lover too. But I've never experience the availability of flowers the way they have them in other countries. It sounds so wonderful! You macs are so cute - swirly and beautiful!

Chef Dad said...

I feel like an illiterate sausage maker with an e coli problem compared to your blog.

Michelle said...

I'm going to have to rethink my passion for Roses and Champagne!

Wonderful post and very well written!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

So pretty and spring-like! Great flavors and perfect presentation! I love tulips!



Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

All hail to the Mac queen indeed! Jamie I am completely in awe of you and how everything you touch turns to gold in the kitchen. Beautiful back-story too!

Adele @ WillworkforBiltong said...

Jamie, these look beautiful and delicious. Thanks very much for the beautiful post.

Kathleen said...

Oh my goodness these are unbelievably beautiful!!!!

Cristie said...

Just beautiful, beautiful macarons! They have the most stunning feet and the filling looks so tempting. Could you send one via email?

MeetaK said...

jamie you are the deseriving queen of mac! i love the story and these macs look divine - and together they make for a moving and lovely post. sending you lots of hugs!

Debbie said...

Jamie, loved the stories and photos as always. Gardenias are my favs too along with nightblooming the STRONG fragrances :) Great job...loved the pink and yellow(even if I'm usually more of a purple fan) but perfect as the first tree on our street here in Atlanta has burst into pink buds. Hooray....spring is HERE!

Mary said...

Jamie today's post was especially lovely as are your macaroons. You did, indeed, create a garden with lovely hues. The cream sounds out of this world.

Anushruti said...

This sounds straight out of a gorgeous book. The kind I would like to sit and read all by myself sipping a drink and chilling out.

And the macs look as delicate and beautiful as the story of your life. Enjoyed reading it dear Jamie. Hugs all the way from India. :-)

arugulove said...

One of these days I'm going to conquer my fear of macarons and try to attempt them. These look so gorgeous.

VĂ©ronique - French Cooking for Dummies said...

These beauties sound amazing!

I just gave you an AWARD! Come over & pick it up!

Ana Powell said...

Excellent and delightful.
Awesome recipe x

Chez Us said...

Jamie, I cannot read the entire story as I think you are migrating your site; but, you got me on the first paragraph ... romance novel! Love the photos. Coming back to read more later!

diva said...

The most luscious, elegant and very decadent macarons these are I think. I believe they'll be quite comfy in the boudoir of my bedroom. Oh Jamie, thanks for posting this. It's bringing a lot of happiness to me looking at these as I'm going thru quite a rollercoaster week. Hope you sort out your blog comments soon! Even so, you know we have lots of blog loving to send your way. xxx

browniegirl said...

What a stunning post. Well done and congrats on the transition of your blog. I have been following with interest on twitter how it has been going. Stressful :o) Hope you get all your comments back. Your macs are just beautiful. xxx

Deeba PAB said...

Are u still on .com or .net? Can't figure it out?

Nicisme said...

These fit the bill perfectly - beautiful and making me happy that spring is coming.

Heather Davis said...

As everyone has already said these are so beautiful. I love the quotes about flowers too. Really lovely!

Joy said...

I'm not a rose kinda gal, too. I don't want what everybody else wants, and don't want to go where everybody else goes. Your words brought me to another world and made my heart all a-flutter. Ah, love! You're ever so lucky to have a family member who can garden and can supply you with gorgeous flowers!

Your macs are gorgeous! I'd totally be your assistant if I was closer. :) My own personal challenge next time I join mactweets is to be more adventurous with colors and flavors. Yours are so inspiring!

Bonnie said...

Such beautiful, marbled colors. They look just like my favorite tulip. I love the idea of marscapone cheese in the filling.

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Jamie these are lovely and you have given me an idea re: the filling I am having trouble with... Sorry - I though I had commented already but that must have been in the dark days of the missing blog pages!!!

Cristina @TeenieCakes said...

Enjoyed your post. Now those are macarons! They turned out beautiful. Did you make your yellow food coloring too?

asiangrrl said...

What a lovely tribute to your quixotic love affair. as for these macs, they are much more delicious-looking than spring itself.


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