Thank you all for the kind thoughts, good vibes and uplifting words. Thank you also for reading what I had to say about our dear friend. Today we officially said goodbye and I can't stop thinking about what she used to tell me all these years: "Live hard. Love harder. Work the hardest...and always, always eat good food!"
Yes...eating good food that is inevitable with us. If we become friends, you will come over for dinner. And again. And again. I was raised this way. That's the one thing my grandma did that I knew to count on when I was growing up. Sunday suppers around a full tables of nibbles and sweets were not just tradition. They were second nature happenings. Sometimes there were four people, sometimes ten. Did not matter. Same is true of our Sunday table.
The idea was to end the weekend on a comforting note and to send you off into the new with a warm meal and a handful of sweet treats. In my case, both my pockets...ehehe!
Rum babas, petits fours, mini eclairs, financiers, madeleines, macarons...you name it. In my pockets. Good thing we lived across the streets from my grandparents.
Did my grandmother or mother made all these fine treats? Heck no! I think David will confirm this but French people rarely make their babas, eclairs or macarons from scratch. Unless they are foodies. Or unless they have a blog. Or unless they are really into patisserie. If you ask a French person on the street if they make their own eclairs, they'll probably answer "why the heck would I? That's why pastry shops were created you idiot!" (side note: have a French friend say "idiot" for you...I hear it makes you smile - not that would know anything about that?!!)
And you can imagine that the last thing on that list of things-people-would-not-make-from-scratch-because-someone-at-the-bakery-will-do-it-better-than-they-would-is...a macaron. And if you ever ventured to master macarons, you can certainly relate. It might have taken quite a few tries to get them right. Or you got lucky the first time and it's been smooth sailing since. One sure thing, they never leave anyone indifferent. You either love or hate making them or you either love or hate eating them. In my family it's love on both counts if you wonder.
I love making them during the holiday season. They are the perfect size to finish a meal with, they fit perfectly in treat box and I have never heard anyone exclaim "well look at those ugly little things.." Now, I do see a lot of friends rush with passion to eat a few in one sitting and I have to quickly explain that back home, macarons are treated like confections not cookies. We eat them slowly and one at a time, like a good marron glace, or a crunchy meringue.
I tend to favor macarons balancing sweet and strong usually keeping the buttercream on the sweeter side while adding citrus zest or spices to the shells. Nothing too crazy but playing well on opposites. This time I got inspired by a cookie I posted a few years ago and that make their way to our Christmas goodie boxes year after year. And for good reason. They are the perfect balance of sweet and salty, buttery and crunchy. The exact play of flavor and texture I like in macarons.
By judging the last two of twenty five made for Sunday supper, I'd say the flavor combination was a success and makes me wonder who among our friends had their pocket full when they left the house....!
Pistachio Cocoa Nib Macaron With Bourbon Buttercream:
Makes about 25 macarons (more or less depending on the size)
Note: having spent the last 13 years in America, I got completely used to using cups while still using grams. There are times I favor one over the other but really, it's more about ratios than anything else, in either system
To convert easily from one to the other, use this conversion table from Gourmet Sleuth.
For the shells:
200 gr powdered sugar
55 gr almonds (slivered, blanched, sliced, whatever you like)
55 gr pistachios (roasted, unsalted)
90 gr egg whites (use egg whites that have been preferably left 3-4 days in the fridge)
25 gr granulated sugar
1/2 cup cocoa nibs
For the buttercream:
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2-3 tablespoons Bourbon
Prepare the macarons:
Place the powdered sugar, almonds and pistachios in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Sift if desired.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry.
Add the nuts and powdered sugar to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with cocoa nibs. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 280F.
Bake the macarons for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.
Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store the shells in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks (longer and the sugar starts to seep out which makes them sticky).
Prepare the buttercream:
Place the yolks in a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment.
Bring the sugar and water to 238F in a medium saucepan set over high heat. Slowly pour the hot syrup over the egg yolks and continue to whisk until cold. Change to the paddle attachment and beat in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Add the bourbon to the buttercream. Continue to beat for a few seconds until completely smooth.
Assemble the macarons:
Fill the macarons with the buttercream (pipe or spoon about 1 tablespoon per macaron) and store in the fridge for at least 48 hours before eating (the shell should be crisp without shattering in your hands and the center soft without being too mushy).