“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
When I was inspired to write this week’s blog, I had the above words in mind. I didn’t know it was a quote from the Lady Roosevelt, nor did I know the context in which she said it. It comes from her book You Learn By Living: Eleven Keys For A More Fulfilling Life. I kind of just knew the tag at the end and was going with that. The context I had given that tag is so pale in comparison…but here I go.
I made French macarons. Not the coconut macaroons. There is a difference. If you want to make those, use Ina Garten’s recipe. I thought French macarons were an impossible culinary feat, only to be made by pastry chefs. I happily spent $3 a piece on these sweet delicacies that I first ate in Paris, with no desire to make them myself. Until…December 2014.
Some ladies whom I adore were coming to my home for a little holiday cheer and they have gluten intolerances and I wanted to treat them to something decadent and special that they could enjoy without getting sick. I decided to tackle these little sandwich cookies that have no wheat flour in their ingredients, they are bound by almond meal, which is just ground up almonds. Blah blah blah, I did it. They were delicious and adorable and perfect. Yay me.
Let’s get back to that quote. You must do the thing you think you cannot do. My cookie making adventure didn’t entail horror or real fear, it was more an exercise in stretching myself, taking a risk in my kitchen, and trying to create something special for people that I love.
Yes, my ego wanted them to be delicious and adorable and perfect. You know, my ego is like a cheap date; one drink and I’m yours. Easy to please. Certain fleeting experiences like compliments, retweets, favorites, and Facebook LIKES that please my ego are practically disposable compared to the joy in my heart I receive from certain lasting experiences, associations, and lessons.
This is a great way to finish out the year or even begin the new one; do something you think you can not do that will bring joy to your heart. Take things to the next level, go outside your comfort zone, up the stakes, take more chances. And the kicker is, dedicate and direct your efforts towards serving someone else and you truly can’t fail. That’s where the real joy comes in. It can be that last thing on your To Do list for 2014 that you’ve been avoiding. It can be that thing you procrastinate about because you think you have all the time in the world. Um, have you seen the world lately? Time is zipping by. Unexpected things are happening. Do the thing, my friends.
Also from Eleanor’s book You Learn By Living: Eleven Keys For A More Fulfilling Life (which I have not read, nor do I own, but if there is any room on Santa’s list…) is this quote:
“Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart. Don't be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you. The chances are that they aren't paying any attention to you. It's your attention to yourself that is so stultifying. But you have to disregard yourself as completely as possible. If you fail the first time then you'll just have to try harder the second time. After all, there's no real reason why you should fail. Just stop thinking about yourself.”
Stultifying. Ooh that’s a good word. Thank you Eleanor for teaching me a lesson about my cookies and how I want to close out my year. Look out 2015, I’m coming for you. With all my heart.
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cups almond meal
5 large egg whites, room temperature(warm eggs whip up easier)
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT GANACHE:
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semi sweet chocolate
1 tablespoon salted butter, add a pink of extra salt as well
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract, (more to taste)
Peppermint candies, finely chopped, for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Double up two baking sheets and line the top one with a silicone mat
2. In a food processor, pulse together the confectioners' sugar and almond meal until it is powdery (four 10-second pulses.)
3. Sift the almond meal and confectioners' sugar, set aside.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar. Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until they are stiff peaks. They should still be glossy and smooth. Gently fold the almond meal mixture into the egg whites. Once the whites and almond meal are combined, the batter will still be too stiff to pipe. You will know they are right when you lift the rubber spatula out of the mixture and it runs off like a lava flow.
5. At this stiff stage is when you want to add your food coloring. I went for a light pink that took a lot of drops.Once you have reached the right color, you are ready to pipe.
6. Set up an 18-inch piping bag with a large round tip. Fill the bag about 1/3 full. Holding the bag straight up and down and about a 1/4 inch above the silicone mat, squeeze until there is a dime-size mound of batter.
7. Once you have them piped out, lift the tray about 4 inches off the counter and slam it down. This is meant to take out the air bubbles and flatten the tops of your macarons. Repeat three or four times, until they are smooth.
8. Double up the baking tray or the bottom of your macarons will darken and get too hard. Bake at 200 degrees F for 15 minutes. Rotate the tray and turn up the oven to 350 degrees F, bake for 8 to 10 minutes. They are done when they have puffed and the sides are set firm, but not hard. Take them out of the oven and cool completely. They can be frozen for up to a month before filling them.
To make the ganache:
Heat the cream over low heat, just until simmering. Pour over the chocolate , salt, and butter and stir continually until the mixture is smooth and chocolate and butter are melted. Add the peppermint extract. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until set.
Fill the cooled macarons with a thin layer of peppermint ganache with a piping bag or just spread with an off-set spatula. Sprinkle one side with crushed peppermint candy, make a sandwich with another ganache sided cookie. Roll the edges in more peppermint candy. Serve the macarons right away or you can refrigerate them for several days.