This month's Mactweet's Challenge was Long Ago and Far Away. Jamie and Deeba tasked us with creating a macaron inspired by a favorite childhood summer memory.
I grew up by the beach in a city located on a sandbar outside of NYC but my childhood summers were spent in the Berkshire mountains in Lenox, MA.
While other kids were working summer jobs, horseback riding and swimming at the lake, the summers of my youth were spent in a leotard and tights stretching and sweating and losing myself in the music.
|So proud of my 70's "wings" hairstyle, I would wait until the last minute to gather it all up into a ballet bun.|
With exception of the summer I worked as an Assistant Baker at Alice's Restaurant, I was in ballet camp or taking classes all day with a local ballet company for the entire summer.
|I would stretch and practice BEFORE going to dance classes all day. Obsessed much? |
Ballet was my oasis, my refuge, my secret power, my love..
My teachers were an an eclectic group they ranged from those I admired, worshipped and feared. Each shaped a part of who I am today. I cannot even begin to count the life lessons I received from this period of my life. Discipline, confidence, flexibility, observation, respect, agility, balance, an appreciation and eye for artistry are just some of them.
I carried Ballet with me for many years. It was always a way of centering myself, physically and emotionally. I danced my way through college, taking at least one class every day and performed in dance concerts. After leaving college and working in Broadway show production in NYC, I took lessons with Alvin Ailey and other renown studios dancing along side Broadway dancers. When I switched careers to television I continued to dance as much as I could, a feat in itself considering the killer hours I put into my job.
|Ok, I over filled these a tad|
After moving to LA, I found another amazing teacher. Even though I was in my 30's, the gifted Elspeth Kuang taught me how to point my feet for the first time, provided new techniques for controlling my hyper extended knees and managed to get me back on pointe for the first time in years.
As an adult, Ballet took on a new meaning in my life. It was still an escape but also a fixer. With adulthood comes stresses and pressures of job and personal life. In class, every bad or frustrating thing in my life melted away with that first plié. My world and my focus shrunk down to movement and music, executing the steps correctly and pushing my body to it's limit. There was no room for anything else in my head.
Recently I realized a parallel between my love and dance and my love of scuba. Both take you to another world. One of grace and beauty. One where every time I immerse myself in music or water, I find weightlessness, I fly, and I find myself in another world.
Here in my little village in Germany, I miss those dance days. As long as I am not dancing, there will always be a little piece of me missing. For now I will have to settle for my NYC Ballet work out videos.
So in tribute to my former ballerina life I created these Ballerina Dreams Macarons. Like the song from A Chorus Line goes, everything IS beautiful at the ballet...
These macarons are everything a little girl loves about ballet, light and pink and sprinkled with fairy dust...
I was still traveling when I made these, so they were done is someone else's kitchen without (gasp!) a kitchen scale. So the big ironic embarrassment about this post is my ballerina macarons have funky feet which is extra horrible considering how ballerinas obsess over having beautiful pointed feet with deep high arches. However, I had to go through three batches in humid weather before I got these so I decided to quit while I was relatively ahead, or...wait for it...............afoot.
One batch was left in the oven a little longer than the other so I ended up with two different shades of pink, but to my surprise they were both beautiful and very Ballet looking.
For the filling I made rose buttercream to represent the armfuls of bouquets of roses ballerinas receive at curtain calls.
Pretty Ballerina Macarons with Standing Ovation Rose Buttercream
For the shells I used the Tartelette's recipe. (Use a kitchen scale for precise measurements)
- 3 egg whites - aged at least 2 days. Let hem sit out on the counter uncovered.
- 25-50 grams of fine granulated sugar
- 200 grams of powdered sugar
- 110 Grams of almond flour*
*You can buy almond flour that has been ground with or without the skin. I use the later (blanched). The former looks really nice if you are not coloring the shells. You can also grind your own almond flour by putting whole or sliced almonds in a food processor or blender. If you do, make sure you throw a little of the powdered sugar in to prevent the almonds from forming a paste.
- Sift the powdered sugar and almond flour together or pulse them together briefly in a food processor. Make sure there are no large pieces and set aside.
- Whip the egg whites. When they start to get foamy, slowly add the sugar. Continue whipping until you can turn the bowl upside down and nothing slides out. (I also add a pinch each of salt and cream of tartar)
- Add the powdered sugar/almond mixture to the egg white mixture and fold, using quick strokes at first then slow down. No more than 50 strokes all together. The batter should have a "flowing like lava" consistency. Here is where I added a dab of pink gel food coloring.
- Fill a Pastry bag and pipe circles onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or on a silpat. When I first started making macarons, I used to trace circles using a small cookies cutter onto the parchment. Then I would flip it over and use it as a guide for piping perfect circles.
- Let the macarons dry for about one hour until they harden.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F
- Bake for 18-20 minutes and here is the hard part - refrain from obsessively peeping though the oven window or opening the oven door to see if they get feet.
- Let cool completely.
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 stick butter
- Rose extract to taste. I had to use several teaspoons (and then had to add more powdered sugar to adjust the consistency) before I tasted the rose flavor but this may have been because of the brand I used. It did not have an intense rose flavor.
- Pink gel food coloring
- Beat butter until creamy
- Add powdered sugar one half cup at a time
- Add extract
- Add one or two dabs of pink gel food coloring.
To assemble the Macarons:
- Fill a piping bag with the rose buttercream.
- Match up the macarons into identical sized pairs (for those of you like me who are never able to get every macaron shell the same size)
- Pipe the buttercream in a swirl starting in the center of the shell leaving an edge around the outside.
- For the glitter I used an Ultra Color Disco Dust in pink. I bought it at NY Cake but unfortunately cannot find the pink version on their website. I am sure Rainbow Disco Dust would work just as well, or light pink.
- Using a small paintbrush, dilute the dust with a little vodka and lightly brush the macarons all over, including the filling, with the dust.
|Macaron with Tutu|