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).



43 comments:

natalia said...

They are so beautiful !!

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

They're so lovely Jamie. Mine are coming up on the weekend....

The Pleasure Monger said...

This entry really speaks to me. My aunt suffers from breast cancer too, and she's just gone into relapse after a period of remission. It's a terrible journey..

Thanks for coming up with such a meaningful theme on Mactweets, I think this counts as one of the most memorable things I've done, to join Mactweets for the first time and to promote the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign.

And on the macs, they are gorgeous, Jamie! Milk chocolate and berry tea sound yum, here's yay to using tea in macs =)

Debugcooking said...

oh Jamie what a wonderful post and such gorgeous MACs...Your Macs have gr8 feet and where did ya find those cute pearls?
I knew a lady who suffered with breast cancer and after various chemos and stuff finally her kids asked the doc to mercy kill her..cant get over it till date :-(

Jamie said...

@The Pleasure Monger & @Debugcooking : these are sad sad stories. My cousin is in stage 4 and her doctor told her she needs to continue chemo but at the same time it is too dangerous so she doesn't know what to do. All much too terrible. Thanks for sharing your stories and baking this month with us.

Happy Cook said...

Wow beautiful i love those pearl rounds on top, so elegant looking.

Deeba PAB said...

They are pretty as they are precious Jamie; nostalgic too in many ways. Life is amazing and terrifying and even though your story is painful, the human spirit shines right through! HUGS sistah ...am glad we went PINK!!

SMITH BITES said...

I watched a dear friend die of breast cancer and remember many details of her journey from diagnosis until her death. Some memories are happy while others are quite sad but I do remember her 'living' once the diagnosis was made: dinner at a great restaurant which involved dancing on the tables, a day of boating where the wind carried away her hat exposing her bald head and we all laughed until we cried, sitting with her in the hospital during grueling chemo treatments that had her crying out in pain and finally, sitting at her bedside, singing to her while she passed from this earth into another in the wee hours of the morning.

I think of her often and every single October since she's been gone. Thank you for the post and for giving us all an opportunity to stop for a moment and realize the importance of really living - disease or not.

MeetaK said...

A friend passed away this year after battling breast cancer for years! I love the way we foodies get together and raise awareness of topics that are close to our hearts. These macarons are delightful!

Dinetonite said...

they are looking delicious. Yum!!!!!!!!!

chefpandita said...

What a lovely shade of pink!

FrenchTwistDC said...

Very pretty! We'll be making some pink macarons at my place this weekend. Hope they turn out as lovely as yours!

Asha @ FSK said...

What perfect little pink pearls Jamie! and a brilliant way to raise awareness for the cause!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

They are so cute and perfect, just like jewels!

Cheers,

Rosa

Cake Duchess said...

These are gorgeous mon amie. Tu sei bravissima. WOW. Stunning photos. And of course, your post is wonderful. Your writing is touching as always. xx

Lora said...

Berry beautiful macs! I just love the pearl.

So sorry about your cousin. Her courage sounds exemplary. I just hate this disease. Fortunately I don't know anyone who has had breast cancer but the fight reminds me a little of the AIDS crisis on the 80's. I lost a whole address book full of people and then some. The one spot of good was how people dug deep and mobilized to help others, surprising themselves with how much they could make a difference.

Many thanks to you and Deeba for facilitating pinkarons. Who says a cookie can't be part of saving a life?

Heavenly Housewife said...

THe macs look beautiful. Pinktober is a wonderful way of bringing awareness to breast cancer.
*kisses* HH

Seattle Pastry Girl said...

Jamie,a lovely post and beautiful macarons from a beautiful person

Paper + Food said...

This is very sweet of you.

My cousin's wife (a Registered Nurse) passed away last year from breast cancer. Sadly, she noticed a lump long before she ever went to the doctor, so it was too late to save her. I am very thankful for this cause because it will raise awareness and hopefully, it will result in a cure.

Sara@OneTribeGourmet said...

Jamie, what a wonderful & touching post! My aunt is battling breast cancer and I'm afraid she is not winning her battle with this horrible disease. We all need to do our part to spread awareness.

Gorgeous Macaroons, love the pearls!

El said...

Beautiful macs and a meaningful post.

Barbara Bakes said...

Andrea sounds like an amazing woman. Berry sounds like a fabulous mac flavor. Well done!

5am Foodie said...

Hi Jamie. Gorgeous post as always. Last year my sister in law lost her battle with what started out as breast cancer, so I can relate to what you're saying. And as for the macs - can you send some over to the UK?

Jamie said...

I thank you all for your beautiful comments and it is sad how many of us know or knew someone with this disease. This says it all: we need to spread the awareness and beat this disease! Thank you all! Personally, I have had two lumps removed, one benign one malignant and I am very lucky it was no more than that. But I know how vital it is that all women have regular breast exams - mammographies and sonograms - and take care of themselves.

Kulsum@JourneyKitchen said...

Beautiful Post Jamie! I love how food blogger come together to spread awareness. Loved the macarons and that pearl is such a great shot!

Cakebrain said...

beautiful macarons! I always love pink and brown together!

Ananda Rajashekar said...

what a lovely pink pink post, love ur 2nd pic gorgeous, help all the post around brings the needed awareness :)

girlichef said...

They're so pretty and girly and wonderful! Plus they promote awareness, so it doesn't get much better than that. Beautiful, Jamie :)

Sophie said...

You are certainly one of the best macarons makers , I know!!

These pink berry macaro,s filled with that lusciously chocolate filling truly ROCK,...girl!!

Kisses from Brussels to you!

Lisa said...

What a beautiful tribute to 'A' and such a delicious flavor combo (diehard milk chcolate junkie). I really, really wanted to take part this month, but I had so much on my plate, before I knew it, it was too late :( Well, at least I get to see all the beautiful and creative pink macs, all in the name of such a wonderful cause.

Kasia Dietz said...

What a beautiful and touching post. How true are the words 'Embrace life and be thankful for what we have.' Every minute of every day.

I lost a few women in my family to breast cancer (my aunt and grandmother) and my father to cancer. I miss him dearly.

Thank you for sharing such deep and soulful expressions of personal life and love.

On a sweeter note, LOVE the pink macarons!!

Megan said...

A beautiful cookie for a wonderful cause! We have lost to many women from such a horrible disease. My prayers go out to Andrea.

I love all the flavors you used. I bet this was one tasty mac!

Fresh Local and Best said...

I think it is commendable that you have traced your genealogy, it's something that I wonder about every so often. I'm afraid of the daunting task, but hearing your story of reconnecting with your cousin Andrea is inspiring. These macarons and this post is an incredible tribute to her.

Reeni said...

Your macarons are gorgeous Jamie! So elegant. Thank you for blogging for this cause. Your cousin sounds like an amazing woman.

shaz said...

Gorgeous pinkarons Jamie. You and Deeba came up with a great theme yet again. Hugs to your cousin, I cannot even start to imagine what she's going through.

Rose&Thorn said...

I lost a close friend on the 30th of September to breast cancer. She also fought right until the last day of her short life. These pink creations are a beautiful way to celebrate those who have fought and those still fighting this dreaded cancer. Thank you for sharing your story.

5 Star Foodie said...

Gorgeous macarons for a wonderful cause! Excellent!

Sue said...

These are gorgeous, Jamie! Lovely post, as usual. Your cousin has an amazing attitude! My sister had the same attitude as your cousin. When my sister(like my mom) was diagnosed with ovarian cancer she continued on with her masters degree amidst her chemotherapy, and continued teaching kindergarten up until a few weeks before she died. I can only hope, that if ever faced with the same type of difficult situation as your cousin and my sister, that I could muster up such an attitude.

Sigal said...

amazing macs! ! !
loved the pictures! =)

Eliana said...

These could not look more perfect. They are absolutely stunning.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

These did make me -ahem - titter when I saw them!!

Such a pity my raspberry pinkarons fell flat but I enjoyed seeing everyone elses in the round up.

asiangrrl said...

Great entry as usual, Jamie. The macarons are appropriate and lovely.

Mover Packer said...

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.

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