macaron fever — time for a check-up ::::
I am a Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation physician. There is a running joke with many of my colleagues that if you stepped into an elevator with five of us, we would all give very different job descriptions. While wide interests prevail, our main goal is to help guide people, usually with a team of various types of therapists, who have had a disabling event or impairment get back to optimal function and learn adaptations to do so. Some physiatrists (note: That word is NOT psychiatrist or physiologist or physical therapist) help oversee rehabilitation for patients after a stroke. Some physiatrists focus on orthopedic/sports medicine rehabilitation. There are physiatrists who work in wound care. There are pain physiatrists, physicians who lead interdisciplinary teams to help with pain management. Other physiatrists enjoy leading an inpatient rehabilitation team for patients needing intensive daily rehab. Some work in managing pelvic floor disorders. Still other physiatrists see patients with spinal cord injuries. Or even brain injury. There are many people who have never HEARD of a physiatrist, despite the fact our specialty had been recognized since 1946 by the AMA, with considerable growth after World War II as injured soldiers returned home. We are chameleons of sorts, blending into Orthopedics, Rheumatology, and Neurology. And that barely scratches the surface. The breadth is wide and unending. I am lucky I do what I do. PM&R is the best medical specialty EVAR.
It kind of reminds me of macarons: there are endless flavor combinations. The breadth is wide. And as I related in my post about leaving my dream job in California last year (my cranberry granita post), when there are endings, new opportunities are laying in wait. Here is the first of many macaron experiments in the next few months. And here’s to the new job opportunity, slowly percolating … I’m SO ready.
One year ago: coconut cream puff birthday (for Peach’s seventh birthday) — This year’s birthday post coming up next.
Two years ago: black cocoa cookie-coffee-almond ice cream sandwiches, salted pumpkin and pepita caramels, strawberry cream cheese frosting (from Peach’s sixth birthday)
- 4 ounces (113g) cornstarch-free powdered sugar
- 7 ounces (198g) almond flour
- 4 ounces (117g) egg whites, aged and at room temperature
- pinch of cream of tartar (optional - it helps the egg whites whip, but not necessary)
- 3½ ounces (100g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
- ½ teaspoon violet essence
- 20g blueberry dust (Finely grind freeze dried blueberries in spice grinder, sift, and use 10g for batter and 10g for sprinkling on top.)
- Violet Swiss buttercream - Look at my "Lesson on Buttercreams" post for the basic recipe. Add in ½ teaspoon violet essence and a bit of purple food coloring.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F, racks positioned in the middle. 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 about ⅓ of the powdered sugar and all the almond flour in a food processor to form a fine powder. In a medium mixing bowl, combine remaining sugar and almond flour and sift 4 times. Or three. Try four. 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. 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. Make sure the egg whites are REALLY stiff. Add in ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.
- Sift the almond flour 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 almond flour 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.)
- Divide the batter evenly into two bowls. Add 10g of blueberry dust to one bowl and gently fold to combine. To the blueberry bowl, also mix in violet essence, To the plain batter bowl, gently mix in remaining vanilla extract.
- 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 scads 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. This is also important to help form the pied, or the foot, of the macaron.
- Sprinkle blueberry dust on top of drying macarons. NOTE: There will be brown seeds even after grinding. Try to avoid using these as it will make the dust look more brown than purple.
- Let stand at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes. 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) before baking. 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 but NOT brown. 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.
- See my buttercream post for the swiss buttercream recipe.
- 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, if wrapped. Before serving, allow to come to room temperature while still wrapped to avoid condensation on the cookies.