Thursday, October 21, 2010
THINK PINK MACARONS for PINK OCTOBER
PINK BERRY MACARONS WITH MILK CHOCOLATE GANACHE
Old faded Kodachrome snapshots scattered across the table bring back a flurry of half-faded memories. Family vacations down in Miami Beach, that long drive down the coast, catching glimpses of the frothy white surf framed against the backdrop of Florida blue. Excited visions of palm trees reaching skyward and swaying gently in the ocean breeze offering us her heavy fruit snatched up from where they lay fallen, hidden in the bushes around Uncle Eli’s house. The magic of Wolfie’s delicatessen, huge bustling Wolfie’s, waiters scurrying between the tables heaving trays groaning under plates piled high with hot pastrami sandwiches, thick slices of salty lox hugged in between halves of chewy bagels and bowls of steaming golden chicken soup and snappy green dill pickles, the delights we enjoyed much too rarely. And cousins. We had little contact with my dad’s side of the family except on these much-too-rare, hurried weekends down in Miami. Vacations were always spent with my maternal cousins, aunts and uncles; and as dad never even talked about his family, there was always something mysterious and intriguing about them, about this odd, once-in-a-blue-moon contact with my paternal cousins.
One trip down, I was maybe 12 years old, we met my dad’s sister, her husband and their three children, all around our ages. They were the height of New York sophistication to our small town naiveté. Our maybe just my own. My cousin A., two years older than I, was gorgeous and chic, funny and outgoing, everything that I wasn’t. Everything that I longed to be. I simply wanted to be like her, but feared that I never would be, never could be. Our visit with them that weekend in that luxurious hotel made me wonder just what we had been missing not being in touch with this side of the family, and created in my mind a curiosity that would hang over me for many years to come, only strengthened by the occasional brief meeting, few and far between.
I finally got to know A. After spending 5 years researching our genealogy, I tracked down all of these mysterious aunts and uncles and cousins, an astonishing extended family most of whom I knew absolutely nothing about, some of whom I had known not even of their existence. And I organized a family reunion, the first of two. I spent much time talking with Andrea who was still beautiful, chic, sophisticated, funny and outgoing. We were adults, wives and mothers now but not much else had changed. She was still easy to talk to and just as fascinating, just as much fun. We stayed in touch for a while but, as usually happens, time and distance put a space between us and we didn’t talk again until I called her this past summer. I called her to talk about my brother, his illness and death. Michael and A. had stayed in touch and, as they lived fairly close to one another, saw each other more often than the rest of us did. Pained words passed between us as we mourned his loss, pained words that slowly transformed into happy thoughts as we discussed the husbands and the kids, all grown now – or mostly so – and how well they have each turned out. And then we talked about her.
You see, A. has been battling breast cancer for several years. Really battling against very heavy odds. And listening to her talk about it, I am amazed at her strength and courage in front of such a tragedy. She carries on, head held high, reveling in the joy of her family life and her kids, having a great time at her job, and she speaks of it all in terms of acceptance, a “this is life” attitude. She reminds me of the wonderful friend I spoke of in a different post who also faced the seemingly impossible with strength, courage, dignity while focusing on the here and now, the necessary. Life is what it is and we must deal with it and carry on against all odds. Embrace life and be thankful for what we have. And I have tried to learn from these women who have each accepted their fate, who fight the battle while looking to get the most out of life.
This is Pink October, a month dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness, and Deeba and I have chosen Pink as our Macaron theme, asking all of our fellow MacPassionate bakers to Think Pink! I have created Berry Pink Macarons filled with Milk Chocolate Ganache and share the wish that we all take a moment to think about this devastating disease and how many women around us have been touched by it. I know several. I also understand the importance of research, of cures, of solutions. By Thinking Pink we can all help spread the awareness and share the hope that one day this will be a disease of the past.
THINK PINK BERRY MACARONS for Pink October
With Milk Chocolate Ganache
7.2 oz (200 g) confectioner’s/powdered sugar
4 oz (115 g ) ground blanched almonds
3 large egg whites (about 3.8 – 4 oz/ 110 – 112 g)
1 oz (30 g) granulated sugar
2 Tbs all-natural Berry Tea (I used a mixture of Hibiscus, Apple, Rosehip, Strawberry & Grape, Elderberry, Blackcurrent)
1 tsp cranberry powder
¼ tsp pink gel food coloring
Prepare 2 large baking sheets. On 2 large pieces of white paper the size of your baking sheets, trace 1 – 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).
Place the three egg whites in a medium-sized bowl (I prefer plastic) and add a dash of salt to help stabilize the whites. Set aside.
Place the fruit tea in a grinder with about half of the ground almonds and whiz until as fine as possible. Sift into a large bowl, discard the leftover solids and then add more ground almonds to the sifted fruity almonds until desired quantity/weight. Sift the powdered sugar over the ground almonds in the bowl, add the cranberry powder and whisk to blend.
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 sugar as you continue to whip the whites until you obtain a glossy meringue and all of the sugar has been beaten in. The meringue will be very stiff (turn the bowl upside down over your head and they shouldn’t move) and be dense like marshmallow.
Gently but firmly fold the whipped whites into the powdered sugar/ground almonds, using a silicone spatula or the equivalent, turning the bowl as you lift and fold, making sure you fold in all the dry ingredients completely. When the batter is ready to pipe, it should 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.
You can also fold the powdered mixture into the meringue if it is easier for you.
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. 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!
You can dust some of the shells with pink colored sugar to decorate.
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 or two.) 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 metal cake spatula under the shell as you lift it up. Be careful or the center of the shell risks sticking to the parchment.
Milk Chocolate Ganache
5 ¼ oz (150 g) milk baking chocolate
3/5 cup (150 ml) heavy cream *
* basically, when making ganache with milk chocolate, use equal quantity chocolate and cream
Chop the chocolate and place in a bowl. Scald the cream and pour over the chopped chocolate. Stir until all of the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Allow to stand, chilling in the refrigerator if necessary, until thick enough to pipe while holding its shape (not sliding off of the shell).