My daughter Peach made clay beads by hand with a wonderful art teacher this summer. This was a two-day process where the beads were carefully molded and dried before painting. She strung them up on a long stretchy cord and presented them to me.
“Here, Mommy,” she said smiling. “These are for you to wear.” She insists I wear them right then. And I comply without second thought. A t-shirt and soccer shorts never looked so fancy.
Peach carefully explains each bead’s significance after placing them around my neck. The blue one is for Daddy. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bead, painted green with a red stripe and two white dots, is for brother Grub. The other blue bead with a smiley face is for me. The orange one is for sister Sky-girl. And the middle bead, black with white polka dots, represents God.
“The white dots are the sin,” she says. “The black is good.”
This opened up so many different thoughts for me.
I am slow to write this as I do not want to minimize racial justice and history with beads or words. Words can sometimes seem twisted or trivialize. Words on a page lack the nuances of a spoken voice. I often fear when I write about cute family quips, they are trite and superficial. Or the heavy topics I delve into are not completely addressed, leaving wispy threads that annoy and trigger people. But this, THIS bead represents something I cannot ignore. It is something I think of every day, with every interaction, with the future of my children. It is the whole entanglement and complexity of racial justice and its immorality in history. It represents the twisted white justification of slavery with Christianity. It embodies white privilege. It represents colonialism, the deep dark underbelly that so many people don’t want to talk about. Death. The acculturation. The blood.
And for some of my readers, if I seem like I am overblowing the situation or I am too passionate, then I ask you to look at your own life and think more clearly. White privilege is all around. If you don’t see it then you’re probably white and you ignore what it means. If you recognize it but choose to ignore it, that is the ultimate white privilege. And that ignorance is the sin, like those white dots, that outright colorblindness (sometimes intentional, sometimes not). White privilege is not something I decide to take off, like a shirt: it is stuck into our subconsciousness, our implicit biases. Dismantling the system that supports it is the only way to destroy it, teach subsequent generations about it, and stand strong to not let history repeat itself, like it has in so many flavors from slavery until now (Aside: National news in August: A group of black women were police “escorted” off of a wine-drinking train in Napa Valley because they were too loud? Having fun and drinking wine?? Really? Ever been to a college frat party? I guarantee those guys are much louder, and rude, and infantile. Those ladies were just having fun — on a freakin’ train marketed for the very activity of drinking alcohol in wine country! And what about November’s news about the killing of Laquan McDonald? Or Tamir Rice? Or TOO MANY?). Recognizing race does not make you racist; what you do with the information and the biases you may impose on people of color or the subtle microaggressions you employ DOES. Those actions speak volumes on what you believe. Change the system, people. It’s our only hope for humanity. Don’t get me started on misogyny, genderism, LBGTI rights, and other marginalized groups. I COULD GO ON FOR HOURS.
That being said (*adjusts self in chair, clears throat, refills wine glass*) and knowing that this is a food blog teetering on a quick brine in social justice, I’ll get to the original point of the post. Black and white. Beautiful beads. Black sesame. The love-hate relationship many people have with peanuts. Black sesame macarons with peanut butter filling. This recipe is a rich dive into a nut heaven for me: there is the nutty bitter taste of the black sesame seeds mixed with the sweetened peanut butter (perhaps a corollary when thinking about my feelings about social justice…). Want a PB&J version? Remember that wonderful Blue-barb (blueberry-rhubarb) pie I made this summer and the leftover maceration juices? I cooked them down a bit to dissolve the sugar, chilled, then dipped these macarons in it. SO GOOD.
Pick your battles and pick them well. Choose the ones that are important to fight, so that your legacies know history but do not see it continuing to play out in front of their eyes. And appreciate the beads your daughter brings you, every color and design.
Two years ago: giant ginger cookies
Three years ago: homemade sugar cubes
- FOR THE MACARON SHELLS: 120 grams black sesame seeds
- 230 grams powdered sugar, corn-starch free if possible
- 4 large egg whites, aged at least 2 days (about 120 g)
- a pinch of cream of tartar (optional -- this can help stabilize the egg whites but is not necessary)
- 72 grams granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- FOR THE NUT BUTTER FILLING (I used peanut butter and sunflower seed butter):
- ½ cup smooth unsweetened peanut butter or unsweetened sunflower seed butter
- scant ¾ cup powdered sugar
- ½ cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
- a pinch of salt
- Prepare your parchment paper macaron templates and line baking sheet. (You may draw circles on the parchment paper, or use a paper with circles drawn on it underneath the diaphanous parchment, removing the template before baking.)
- Pulse a few spoonfuls each of the powdered sugar and black sesame seeds in a spice grinder to form a fine powder. In a medium mixing bowl, combine mixture and sift 2 to 3 times. Set aside.
- In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a wire-whip attachment, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar (if using) on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add granulated sugar, cream of tartar (if using), and the salt. Once all sugar is incorporated, scrape down sides of bowl, and increase speed to high, whisking until stiff, firm, glossy peaks form. To check this, take your whisk attachment off and flip it over. Are the whites holding up? Or do they bend a little? Bending means the egg whites are not stiff enough. Scrape the bottom of the bowl also, as those egg whites may need more beating.
- Sift the ground sesame seed mixture ⅓ at a time over the egg-white mixture, and fold using a large silicon spatula until mixture is smooth and shiny. The first addition is usually the hardest. Fold the mixture carefully: don't smash it. Lift!
- Once the seed/sugar mixture is incorporated, check to see the batter is nicely firm and drips slowly from the spatula (Remember my notes? Like lava, slow, controlled, you get the idea.)
- Transfer batter to two pastry bags fitting with a ½-inch plain, round tip (#12), and pipe rounds on parchment-lined baking sheets (your templates may be ¾-inch rounds, 1-1/3-inch rounds, even an 8-inch pan for a crazy macaron cake!). Don't put the macarons too close together because they will stick together when baking. Need some lessons on piping? You Tube has tons of them. The trick is to be gentle and consistent, without twirling the piping tip around like you are decorating a cake - NO! Don't drink caffeine beforehand; you don't want to be jittery. Think of it like the archers in the Olympics. Aim, focus, gentle, and release! (Videos really are better than my description). If you have some minor peaks, you can gently rub them down with a lightly damp fingertip.
- When piping is completed for one sheet, rap it hard on the counter to release trapped air, then turn the pan 90 degrees and do it again. This is also important to help form the pied, or the foot, of the macaron.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F, racks positioned in the middle. Let pans stand at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes before baking. Macarons are ready to bake when they no longer stick to a finger when lightly touched.
- Remember to stack your baking sheet on an empty baking sheet and remove the templates from underneath the parchment (if using). Bake one sheet at time (may do two sheets if they fit in the oven), rotating pan halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm. This is the trick: check at 7 minutes and rotate pan. If there is browning (Ahhhh! Nooooo!), then turn down the oven to 275 degrees F. Check the macarons at 12 minutes: touching them gently with a fingertip should give no wiggle and they're done. If a wiggle, put them back in the oven for 2 minutes and check again.
- Let macarons cool on baking sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, and transfer to wire rack to cool completely before filling.
- MAKE THE FILLING: Cream the peanut butter (or sunflower seed butter), powdered sugar, butter, and salt together in a stand mixer. Add more powdered sugar, if you like more sweetness. I felt a scant ¾ cup of powdered sugar was very sweet, but I tend to like things less sweet.
- ASSEMBLY: Spoon or pipe filling onto one shell, and close the macaron with a matched-size shell.
- After filling, let the cookies age for two days in the fridge. The ageing process in the fridge actually helps deepen the flavors and soften the cookie. These freeze well after ageing, if wrapped. Before serving, allow to come to room temperature while still wrapped to avoid condensation on the cookies.