My second day back in baking classes and we were assigned a practical, for the next day - sheesh. As if I wasn't still consumed with settling into my place and just generally transitioning back to living Vermont - a process, which I always forget, where after the honeymoon excitement of a new location wears off - you're suddenly alone in this different place again. And then it's pretty hard for 3 weeks. Then, after that, I'm reminding myself, things start to become comfortable, and you begin to consistently enjoy things again. Which will be a lot nicer than this up and down manic confusion of, "wait, where am I" ... "I have to go to class?"..."was I really on the other side of the continent just 3 weeks ago?"
Anyway, the thing that always lightens and enlivens me is being creative with food, and for our final one of our tasks was to successfully make a french macaron. I had my heart set on making green tea macarons, and then saw that there was already a recipe for them in the instructor's book, at which point I realized - I might actually be incapable of directly following a recipe. If a product is going to reflect upon me, like for a final, I am a slave to my need to change things up and add at least one quirk. I mean, there could be worse things, but my final would have been so much easier if I could have just kept everything classic, followed the recipe, and called it a day.
But, these aren't too offbeat (I actually considered sun-dried tomato or beet macarons) they just weren't directly in the recipe book, and most importantly, sounded really delicious in my head: a classic almond macaron with a bit of toasted sesame, and then filled with balsamic chocolate ganache, and a bit of strawberry preserves - mmm mm mmm.
S e s a m e M a c a r o n s
makes about 16
1/3 cup ground almonds
3 tbsp finely ground sesame seeds pluse 1 tsp extra black sesame to decorate
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 extra large egg whites
1/4 cup superfine sugar
I. Mix together the ground almonds, ground sesame seeds and confectioner' sugar and sift the mixture into a bowl. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
II. Place the egg whites in a large bowl and whip until soft peaks. Gradually beat in the superfine sugar to make a firm, glossy meringue.
III. Using a spatula, fold the almond mixture into the meringue - one-third at a time. When all the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated continue to cut and fold the mixture until it forms a shiny batter with a thick, ribbon-like consistency. Make sure not to over work them!
IV. Pour the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch/1 cm plain tip - or whatever tip you think you can successfully pipe quarter sized circles. Pipe 32 small circles, about the size of a quarter onto the prepared baking sheets. Gently tap the baking sheets firmly onto a work surface to remove air bubbles. If you're working with a fan - assist convection oven - be sure to pipe around the edges of the parchment paper so they don't blow all over the place once you put them in the oven.V. Sprinkle over the sesame seeds. Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes so that the piped macarons form a firm skin around them.
VI. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 - 15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Carefully peel macarons off the parchment paper and let cool completely.
C h o c o l a t e G a n a c h e B a l s a m i c F i l l i n g
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate
1/2 ounce unsalted butter
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup strawberry jam
I. Bring cream to a boil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Pour cream over chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Don't stir!! Let sit for 2 minutes so that the cream can begin to melt the chocolate and then add the butter and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Let cool, stirring often.II. Once the ganache is cold, add the balsamic vinegar in stages of 3, mixing after each addition. The mixture may for a few seconds seem runny, but the balsamic actually ends up setting the ganache.
III. Fill a piping bag with jam and using a small circular tip, pipe dime sized amounts of jam on one half of each macaron. I actually used chunky strawberry preserves, which I quickly realized won't squeeze out of a small piping tip, so I used a small spoon and carefully placed a dollop on each half. The finish isn't as neat, but it still worked well.
IV. Fill a piping bag with the balsamic ganache, and using a 1/2 inch/ 1 cm tip, pipe a thick, dime sized layer on the other half of each macaron. Once finished, carefully sandwich the jam and ganache halves - and - there you go! French macarons!