Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Manifest Macaron

Ginger with Grapefruit Curd and Orange with Rhubarb Compote
I hope that I'm not boring you with my repetitive macaron entries but my goal is to experiment with the different flavor options available to me on this delicate, airy canvas. Cooking is a new world for me and the combinations of tastes and smells, textures and colors is simultaneously intimidating and thrilling. It is my undiscovered country, which I am exploring with every new recipe I tackle and every mistake I make (like using a plastic spatula on the brittle, yes there is some polymer mixed with my toffee).
On the last page of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby", my favorite novel, Nick Carraway realizes that, "[he] became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world... 

Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an ├Žsthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder."

While I concede that there is a difference between the scale of our discoveries, the new world versus food, there is an unmistakable parallel. When one begins to learn how to cook, it marks not only an interest but a maturation. While making food is an accessory to my lifestyle now as a high school senior, soon enough I will have to do it for and by myself. 

A seemingly quotidian occurrence for adults is my manifest destiny. I have so much to try, so many recipes to conquer and so many dishes to stake my individuality within. I am holding breath in the "presence of this continent" just as Nick and Gatsby did, enthralled by the allure of food and captivated by its hold on my imagination.

It is not as if these dishes have not been perfected before, but like any island or body of water, they can be rediscovered seemingly fresh to the explorer's eyes. So today, I decided to find yet another tantalizing flavor marriage between the shell and the filling. I settled upon ginger shells with grapefruit curd and orange shells with rhubarb compote and also decided to exercise patience and clarity of mind.
I used fancy almond flour from Citarella, which cut down the preparation time considerably. It was very fine and led to smooth macaron shells. Instead of grinding the almonds and confectioner's sugar in the food processor, I sifted it together to make sure it was mixed. I used a few shakes of ground ginger and a few tsps of freshly squeezed orange.
Since I decided to make two flavors, I cut the recipe in half and made each batch one at a time which was luxuriously time consuming. I won't go through the motions yet again, you can refer to my previous macaron posts, but heed my new suggestions.
I let the piped cookies sit on the counter for forty minutes so that they developed a pre-baking shell. The resulting macarons were much better: slightly taller and with more pronounced feet, exactly as they should be. Before I lead you on too long, I should confess that while my ginger macarons were perfect, my orange ones were on the whole pretty cracked and footless (with some photographed exceptions).
My conclusion is that since I used a few tablespoons of squeezed orange, I diluted the mixture too much leading to an under-mixed batter. Next time I will reduce the water content of the orange by boiling the juice. Try try again. However, like I mentioned before, even macaron failures are delicious.
For the grapefruit curd filling, I modified my lemon curd recipe by adding half a grapefruit and its zest. Since it was a bit too sweet, I also added some lemon juice and zest and a pinch of salt. The rhubarb compote called for two cups of 1/2 chopped bits of rhubarb thrown into a saucepan with 3/4 cup of sugar and the juice of one lemon. Simmer on a medium low flame for five plus minutes until the rhubarb is soft and then put in the refrigerator for two hours.
One success and one scrumptious eh. I am immensely pleased and tingling with excitement at this newfound method of increasing the chances of a macaron victory. I will continue to forge ahead and discover what older but not wiser people already find mundane. Nick Carraway finishes, "it eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past," but always a step ahead of where we started...macaron-wise that is.

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