Missed me? Thankfully we both survived flu season, although we’re a bit worse for wear. I’ve been around but not really “in there” if you know what I mean. I just couldn’t concentrate.
I’m sure most of us are on Classmates and the other day I got one of their notification emails saying that they had just uploaded a copy of a high school yearbook from 3 years before I graduated. Yes it was a very long time ago but I’m comforted that my sister was a part of that class so she’ll always be “the old one.” She loves that. maybe. When she was year 12 I was year 9 – a freshman, first year in high school.
I was a good student and my both my parents expected me to maintain if not an all-A status, no more than one B. So imagine my surprise when my first algebra report card had a C on it. I was mortified! I was also really embarrassed because I knew I should have had an A. The work wasn’t difficult, I just hadn’t been paying attention.
Which brings me to this yearbook. I was happily flipping through the pages and I saw a photo of the reason I got my C. Mike Cowan. If you’re a golfer or a golf lover, you might have heard of Mike or even called him Fluff. He was Tiger Woods’ first caddy. But back in year 9, he was plain old Mike and I thought he was wonderful.
He liked me pretty well too but we never got past chatting all the time. Back in the olden days, I wasn’t too difficult to look at either but you certainly can’t tell it from those curls! Aren’t school photos the worst? These pictures were just pulled off the yearbook pages. Scary, I know.
Mike and I never went out or at least I don’t remember going out but we sat in the back of Mr. Clark’s algebra class and talked about anything we could think of.
So, rewind to me having to bring my report card home from school. My father hit the ceiling. I heard all the “you are better than this,” and “have you not been doing your homework?” Finally, he said the thing I was most afraid of…
“I’ll have a chat with your teacher first thing in the morning and you’re coming with me.” I didn’t sleep a wink all night. I knew what the teacher was going to say and I couldn’t deny it.
True to his word, my father and I trotted in to school at the butt-crack of dawn where Mr. Clark said, and I’ll never forget this, “Maureen is one of the most intelligent people in my class but she sits in the back of the class with Mike Cowan and chats the class away.”
Before you could take a breath my father said, “Can you move her to the front row?” …and folks, that’s where I sat in every class in every subject until I graduated. Front row, right in front of the teacher. It turned out pretty good because by paying attention I didn’t have to study. So Mike and I went to chatting on the phone every night.
There was a tragedy in Mike’s family over that summer and he moved to a nearby town and I rarely saw him after that. A few years later I heard he was heavy into golfing but I had no idea how heavy. He’s still a huge deadhead and a few years ago, according to the news, married a lovely young woman. I couldn’t be happier for him. What does he look like now? He looks older than I do, don’t you think? lol If you know Mike, please tell him I said that.
Which brings me to my macarons. When Mike and I were growing up in Maine, the closest thing we ever saw that remotely looked like a macaron was a whoopie pie – hardly the classic French cookie.
I’ve tried making them a few times and have failed miserably. The time before this batch I remember eating the cookies (I could hardly call them shells) by scraping them off the baking paper with a spoon.
Then I finally decided to buy Mad About Macarons by Jill Colonna. If you don’t follow Jill on Facebook, Twitter and her blog, you’re missing out. You should also find her videos on youtube. There’s nothing better than hearing “macronage” with a Scottish accent.
What I wasn’t doing was macronaging enough. That was all I was doing wrong. Once I figured that out, I could make a batch of these every day. The mister can eat one but he says they’re much too sweet for him. My next batch will have a non-sweet filling and then I’ll ask for something I want. Macarons will get you just about anything.
See? Feet! They lifted right off the paper too. I know, there are people worrying about what constitutes legitimate and illegitimate rape and I’m worried about feet on my macarons. Obviously my priorities are wacky.
- 110 grams almond meal
- 140 grams pure icing/confectioners sugar
- 25 grams cocoa powder
- 100 grams egg whites (about 3 extra-large egg whites), aged at room temperature for 24-72 hours
- 60 grams caster/superfine sugar
- 100 grams chocolate, chopped
- 100 ml cream
- 20 grams butter
- Place almond meal, cocoa powder and icing sugar in a food processor and process until mixture is extremely fine.
- Sift twice into a large bowl to ensure that your mixture will be smooth and then set aside
- Beat egg whites on high speed until foamy, then gradually add caster sugar and continue beating until sugar is dissolved and mixture is glossy and stiff.
- Mix egg whites into the almond meal mixture and stir vigorously about ten strokes to combine the egg whites and almond meal mixture.
- Using a bowl scraper lift, fold and push the mixture against the bowl until the batter is well blended and ribbon like. You won't kill it, I promise!
- Spoon mixture into a large piping bag with a 1 cm nozzle.
- Pipe mixture onto a baking tray lined with baking paper or silicone sheet. (I used a template under baking paper to make sure all my shells were the same size)
- Tap baking tray on the bench to remove any air bubbles and leave on the bench to dry for 30-60 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 160C convection and bake shells for 12-16 minutes. (my oven took 16 minutes)
- Cool completely and match by size into pairs.
- Pipe ganache filling on the bottom of one shell and sandwich its pair.
- Melt chopped chocolate in a double boiler and stir in cream and room temperature butter. Cool to piping consistency.
Did you have trouble making your first batch of “successful” macarons or were you lucky and got it right the first time?