When they see you out with me
I don't blame them
When you're passin' by,
Flowers droop and sigh
I know the reason why
You're much sweeter
We were driving down the highway one summer day years ago, windows rolled down, wind in our hair and radio blasting as we sang along. Radio Nostalgie, our preferred road trip station, was keeping us toe-tapping happy with The Best of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, French, English, American and even some Italian thrown in, the perfect driving music. All of a sudden, JP leaned over and turned the volume down. He glanced nervously in my direction and exclaimed, “I’m worried. There must be something wrong with me.” “What?” “Well, I just realized that I know all the words to every single song! Shouldn’t I be worried about that?”
I owe my music education to my husband. He does indeed know them all and carefully taught me to appreciate – and sing along with - each of them: the Groovy (Johnny, Michel Polnareff, Dalida, Mike Brandt, Michel Berger), the Classic (Piaf, Aznavour, Brel), the Unexpected (Fernandel and Bourvil) the contemporary (Jovanotti, Zucchero, Gainsbourg). He has all of us, sons included, singing along to Cat Stevens and Simon & Garfunkel, Willy Deville and Leonard Cohen. And jazz? His favorite. Ella and Louis, Nina, Chet and Django. Jazz, swing, fado, rock, the blues, from Pink Floyd to the Beatles, from The Dubliners to Gregarian chants, he listens to learn and then to enjoy. And he adores Opera! The very first videocassette he bought his young sons was Losey’s Don Giovanni, which he played over and over until they could sing from beginning to end. For my 40th birthday he took me to see Cosi Fan Tutte at the Paris Opera. Magnificent! And from there we were onto all the classic operas and opera singers, beautiful lessons indeed. Not to poo-poo those classic musicals either: West Side Story, Peter and the Wolf, Oklahoma and even Hairspray and Grease. His range is astonishing, his collection vast and ever growing.
So while I was listening to Journey and the Eagles, Boston and ABBA, he was listening to, well, absolutely everything! A day without music is torture for him. While I am perfectly at peace with complete silence wrapping her soothing arms around me, with simply the hum of distant cars and the mild roar of the city keeping me company or absolutely mesmerizing me with a delicious feeling of being near the seaside, he paces back and forth, uneasy and nervous until he slips in a CD or pulls up his abundant collection of music on his computer and yes, music does indeed soothe the savage beast!
You just have to touch my cup
You're my sugar
And it's oh so sweet when you stir it up
When I'm takin' sips
From your tasty lips
Seems the honey fairly drips
As romantic as we are, we have never been romantic in a conventional sort of way. No pet names, no roses and champagne to celebrate those most traditional of occasions, no diamond ring has ever been slipped onto a finger. We were never formally engaged, the proposal, if you can call it that, was made on the sidewalk on our way to shop for the evenings’ dinner and it had more to do with having children than getting married. Our homemade wedding was most unconventional. He loathes celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries, dates mean nothing to him. And heaven only knows how it is that he pampers me and showers me with gifts on Valentine’s Day, for he adamantly refuses to play along with the silly faux holidays. “I don’t need someone else to tell me how or when I should show you how much I love you!” Personally I think it has to do with him turning into an old softie, but that’s just my opinion. But we do have an “our song” as strange as that may seem to those who know us well. Sappy and sentimental, it just isn’t his thing, but we simply stumbled upon a song that was perfect for us, romantic and a touch racy, jazzy with a dash of swing, a song to sing, a song to dance to in his arms around the living room, a song to make me giggle and him to gently roll his eyes while he amuses me, allowing me to carry on the silly idea that we actually have an “our song”.
Yes, ladies (and gentlemen), it is indeed that time of the month again. Another Mac Attack moment. This month Deeba and I asked all of our dear friends who bake with us in our virtual Mactweets kitchen to invent a macaron inspired by a song. Of course, there is no song closer to my heart than Honeysuckle Rose, our song, written by the great Fats Waller and sung by the wonderful Dinah Washington, the version I love the best. It is a song to inspire, a song that brings joy to all and any who sing it loud and saucy, eyebrows wiggling, hips swaying back and forth, arms waving like branches swaying in a gentle breeze.
Honey and Roses, sweet as can be, Honey and Roses will surely make a fabulous macaron. And indeed they did. I started with Strawberry Rosehip tea (because it looked so beautiful in the package) and whizzed a couple of tablespoons up with my ground almonds. Oh boy, the tea didn’t smell particularly enticing but processed with the almonds and the kitchen filled with the most mouthwatering scent of strawberries and rose. And the nuts took on a gorgeous deep mauve color. The shells baked perfectly though sadly they discolored ever so slightly and took on a sad, yellowish tinge. But it didn’t affect the luscious berry, rosy flavor of the shells. I was stunned by just how flavorful they were! I wanted to use honey in the filling but knew that a chocolate ganache would go over best with the son and his friends so I chose the only viable solution: Toblerone, that perfect honey nougat spiked milk chocolate and, strangely enough, my husband’s one and only chocolate weakness. It was perfect! These may be the most delicious macarons I have made yet on my long and winding macaron road.
From your tasty lips
Seems the honey fairly drips
HONEYSUCKLE ROSE MACARONS
Strawberry Rosehips Shells with Toblerone Ganache
For the macaron shells:
The shells are made with the same basic recipe I used to make my Chocolate Macarons with Pink Praline Filling, my Blueberry Hibiscus Macarons, my Chocolate Espresso Sea Salt French Kiss Macarons, my Coffee Macarons and my Violet Macarons:
200 g powdered sugar
110 g finely ground blanched almonds
3 large egg whites, about 112 g *
30 g granulated sugar
2 Tbs Strawberry Rosehips tea made all naturally with edible dried fruit, berries and leaves
1/2 tsp powdered red food coloring
A couple of drops of liquid red food coloring
Click on any one of the links about for full recipe and step-by-step how-to pictures.
* The egg whites should be left out in a covered container at room temperature for 24 hours.
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).
Whiz the tea together with the ground almonds in a food processor or coffee grinder until fine. Sieve through a mesh strainer into a large bowl. I must say that since my tea had tiny chunks of soft, chewy dried fruit, the ground almonds became a tad damp in the process and I wasn’t able to push all of it through the sieve so I simply topped off what did get sifted with enough to make up to the needed 110 grams. The rest I saved to stir into cookie dough or something.
Sift the powdered sugar and the powdered food coloring into the bowl with the now mauve ground almonds and whisk to combine.
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 and beginning to thicken. Gradually add the granulated sugar as you are whipping the whites until you obtain a glossy, stiff meringue. Add a drop or two of liquid red food coloring and beat just to evenly distribute the color pink.
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, scraping up from underneath, making sure you fold in all the dry ingredients. 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.
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 half of the shells with dried or candied rose petals or a bit of the tea if you desire. 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!
Allow the macarons to sit out for 45 minutes to an hour. The top of each shell should form a “skin” (it will feel like it hardened a bit when gently touched).
Preheat your oven to 280°F (140°C). 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). If your oven bakes unevenly as mine does, flip the trays front to back 5 minutes before the end of the baking time.
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.
Allowing the shells to sit over night (I store them in a metal cookie box) made them wonderfully chewy underneath the crispy outer shell, just as I love them.
I used approximately 150 g Toblerone with 125 ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream and proceeded as I would a regular ganache:
Coarsely chop the Toblerone and place in a medium bowl. Heat the cream just to the boiling point. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and stir until smooth and creamy. Allow to cool until thickened and piping consistency.
Mine would not firm up enough, even in the refrigerator so I melted and added 50 g more caramel milk chocolate, warmed up the ganache and stirred them together until smooth and creamy. Again, I allowed it to chill until firm enough to pipe and hold its shape under the weight of the top macaron shell.
Fill the macarons:
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.
Fabulous! The delicate chocolate honey filling married perfectly with the incredibly fruity shell. In fact, it was so delicious I ran right out and bought a second package of this brand of infusion that was dried elderberry, blackberries and blueberries and I can’t wait to try using it to flavor macaron shells.