I just love December so much I could just wrap my arms around it and hug it so tight it would burst! What gets me so excited in December? Well, Christmas light, Christmas decorations, roasted chestnuts, cranberries, get-togethers, oyster roasts...Oh! I don't know...a gazillion things. My heart burst, my head spins and my heart swells a little bigger comes December. Time to take a hand, lend a hand, bake a little, bake a lot, send a hug, write a card...ok,ok...you get it..sorry I tend to not filter my emotions come December.
Indeed, I ride high and I ride low...especially if I don't get to go home for Christmas. B. knows when and how to get the arsenal of chocolate and tissues ready for when I hit my lows and I give him ample warning of long Christmas stories from my childhood are about to leave my lips the moment I start decorating the tree. The creche and the santons, the 13 desserts of Provence, our long dinners and lingering lunches, taking the young ones to a Disney movie on Christmas day, I just start and never stop (like now, oops!)
Like a lot of people away from home during holidays and important celebrations, I like to recreate atmospheres that make me feel closer to the ones I love and like most people they tend to revolve around food or the dinner table. Making homemade cards while having some cake and a cup of tea, making truffles and madeleine as was my "duty" for Christmas Eve as soon as I was able to reach the the counter top perched on my stool. One particular thing I do is make a giant fresh fruit, nuts and dried fruit bowl like my mom has on the dining room table, available at all times. Unshelled almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, dates, dried apricots and prunes, fresh apples, lychees and satsuma oranges. The bowl empties out fast with all the people around, dropping by or simply grazing.
The other day I realized that even with friends visiting, it was mostly the two of us partaking in my mother's tradition and the fruits would end up ripening too fast before we'd get to them. I wanted to bring something a little festive to our weekly gathering with the neighbors, a little green, a little red, a little citrus. Pistachios, pomegranate, and a little satsuma orange, (zest and juice) one of my favorite scents, thrown together, somehow...At first I thought about making macarons with those flavors and then I decided to take the same batter and turn it into dacquoise petits fours instead.
The ingredients are the same for either macarons or dacquoise only your touch in folding will make a difference. Work the batter into a shiny mass and you get macarons. Gently fold your meringue into the nuts and you get a dacquoise. Bake it into disks and you get the base of a yummy cake or pipe into long shapes and you get the perfect two bite dessert to end a meal or to go with a cup of tea. Top with fresh fruits to keep it on the light side, or buttercream for a richer approach as I did here, keep them as one, or like macarons, sandwich two together...the possibilities in flavors and topping are as endless as you want them to be.
Satsuma Pistachio Dacquoise & Satsuma Pistachio Buttercream :
Kitchen Note: feel free to substitute any orange, clementine, mandarin that you find for the satsuma orange used here. Same for the nuts, if you don't like pistachios, replace the amount with any other nut of your liking but as with macarons, keep a certain ratio of almonds to prevent the batter from being too oily. Unlike with macarons, the egg whites do not need to be aged.
For the dacquoise "fingers":
3 egg whites (about 90gr)
70 gr almonds
30 gr pistachios
70 gr powdered sugar
1 tsp powdered green food coloring
2 tsp satsuma orange zest
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry. Combine the almonds, pistachios and powdered sugar in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the coloring and orange zest. Sprinkle the nut mixture over the meringue add carefully fold the two batters together placing your spatula in the center of the bowl, scrape the bottom and bring it over the top. Rotate the bowl 45 degrees and repeat the same motion until both mixtures are fully incorporated. Make sure not to deflate the meringue as you do so. Pipe 3 to 4 inches strips on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes at 300F.
For the satsuma pistachio buttercream:
3 egg whites
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 sticks (170 gr) butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons satsuma orange juice
1 teaspoon satsuma orange zest
1/4 cup finely ground pistachios
1/2 tsp powdered green food coloring
In the bowl of stand mixer, whip the egg whites until they have soft peaks. In the meantime, combine the water with the sugar and bring them to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Bring the syrup to 250F. Slowly add the sugar syrup to the egg whites. If you use hand beaters, this is even easier and there is less hot syrup splatter on the side of your bowl and in the whisk attachment of the stand mixer. Continue to whip until the meringue is completely cooled. Slowly add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. The mass might curdle but no panic, continue to whip until it all comes together. Add the juice and zest from the orange, the pistachios and food coloring.
At this point you can refrigerate the buttercream for a later use up to 4 days or freeze for up to three months. To assemble the dacquoise petit fours, make sure the buttercream is of spreadable consistency and fit a piping bag with a large star tip (or the nuts might clog the flow as you pipe) and pipe on the meringue. Decorate with pomegranate seeds if desired.