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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Pink Peppercorn Lemonade Macarons

My maternal grandfather passed away a year and a half ago.

He was the one person in my family that had never criticized or questioned where I was going in life, besides my paternal grandfather. 

Through every drama-queen fit of histrionics, normal teenage angst--oh hell, even when I shat my pants when I was around four and started bawling, he would figuratively kick my ass and then pick me back up.

When I got diagnosed with severe clinical depression at only twelve years old, he was there for me. When I dropped out of college, he was there for me.

Even though he provided the money for my college education and my withdrawal wasted a great deal of his hard-earned money, he said nothing besides reassuring me he knew I was going to go on to do great things, no matter what, and he'd always be in my corner.

His quiet, unassuming confidence in me is something I find unbearable when I'm depressed. How could I ever live up to his expectations of me? I can't even put the right words to paper (or in this less romantic digital age--fingers to keyboard) to properly describe this man, let alone accomplish anything worthwhile or lasting.

My paternal grandfather passed away a couple of months ago.

I can honestly say that I have been monumentally blessed to have not one, but multiple role models in my life. I am even more blessed that they were able to be positive influences in my life for as long as they were, and having all of my family close by, another rare blessing. Most adults my age lost their grandparents a long time ago, or weren't very close.

My paternal grandfather was possibly the kindest, gentlest man I will ever know, who adored kids and having family over at his house.

I'd go over to his house as a child for Sunday dinner and have a whole closet of toys waiting for me. He thrived on conversation, on family, on love and home-cooked food shared around the table.

Both of my grandfathers loved children, and not just playing with them. They wanted to know your dreams and goals, and really treated you like an individual and equal, not just a kid. I wish I had a tenth of their patience.

When they passed away, I was morbidly obese, still unfinished with my education, and working an uninspiring job. My last accomplishment was graduating high school, ten years past. Unless you count not killing myself during almost a decade of soul-crushing mental illness--but that's not exactly something grandpas can brag about at the senior center over a game of pool.

They won't be there to watch me walk down the aisle at my wedding. They won't be there to watch me walk up to the podium if I ever go back to school and get a damn diploma. They won't be there if I ever finally find peace with myself.

Where do I go from here?

What do I do with all of my regrets?

Will I ever be able to look in the mirror and see what they saw?

What would I do with my life if I was guaranteed not to fail?

My entire life I've been told what I am not capable of: that I'm smart enough but not dedicated enough to handle the schooling to become a veterinarian, I'm too lazy for it and therefore shouldn't attempt it.

I won't be competitive at a certain level of equestrian sports. I'll never be skinny, I'm not built for it. I can't pull off red hair, I should stick to blonde. Learning Japanese would be too hard for me, I should take Latin instead.

I've harbored my dearest dreams and desires close to my chest, too afraid to speak them aloud as if whispering them to the wind would cause them blow away like so many delicate leaves.

So instead I decided to make macarons, a recipe I didn't think I had the patience, skill, or tools to make. They turned out easier than I expected, less fiddly than others make them out to be. I made two batches, one after the other, to prove it wasn't a fluke. If only just to prove to myself I'm not as irreparably broken as I think I am. It may be a relatively safe start, but it's a start.

Pink Peppercorn Lemonade Macarons

7 ounces confectioner’s sugar
4 ounces almond flour
4 ounces egg whites, room temperature*
3½ ounces granulated sugar
1 pinch of cream of tartar (1/8 tsp)
3/4 teaspoon whole pink peppercorns
Ameri Color Soft Gel Paste food coloring (electric pink)
1 cup of lemon curd (store bought or make your own)

*Or just not super chilly

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Using a rimmed baking sheet, line with parchment paper or silicone mats.

In a food processor, pulse together the powdered sugar, almond flour, and peppercorns. Sift this mixture through a sieve into a large mixing bowl and then set aside, discarding any large pieces of almond or peppercone left behind in the sieve.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a wire-whip attachment, whisk together the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add granulated sugar. Once all sugar is incorporated, scrape down sides of bowl, add food coloring and increase speed to high, whisking until stiff, firm, glossy peaks form.
 Next, fold the egg whites into the dry ingredients a third of the batch at a time, using a large silicone spatula to gently fold the whites into the mixture. Once the mixture is fully incorporated, the mixture should be smooth and shiny and the batter will ribbon smoothly off the spatula. If it plops off the spatula in grainy chunks, gently fold a couple more turns and try again. Don't overmix! Once it ribbons off the spatula, stop!

After the batter is ribboning, transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip and pipe 1" rounds onto the lined baking sheets. Rap or drop the sheets on your work surface several times to release trapped air. You can also use a toothpick to pop any big bubbles, then rap again.

Let baking sheets stand at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes. Macarons are ready to bake when they no longer stick to a finger when lightly touched.

Stack the baking sheet with the macarons on top of an empty baking sheet (the baking sheet will be double layered). Bake one sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 10 to 15 minutes. If the macarons start to brown, cover with aluminum foil and continue to bake.

Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.

Couple similar shaped macarons to form a pair. Spread or pipe one cookie with lemon curd, then top with the other cookie. You might have lemon curd leftover. Place in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving. Macarons can also be frozen for longer storage.

See Also:
Pickled Beet Eggs
Arnold Palmer Popsicles
Salted Nut Bars

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