This month's Mactweet's Mac Attack theme is Vacation Getaway Macarons. Macinistas Jamie and Deeba asked us to create a french macaron reminiscent of vacation.
I've gone on and on here before about my love of scuba diving. I met my husband on a dive boat and most of our vacations are planned around dive trips. This year, we just bought a country house so most of our free time this summer will be spent settling into the house and enjoying it yet we both constantly dream of getting back in the water soon. No telling when now with both our work schedules.
So these macs represent one of the most thrilling dive trips of my life and one I would gladly repeat in the near future and one I will relive for this post.
|Photo Taken off Guadalupe Island, Mexico|
Growing up on a barrier island off of Long Island with the beach just down the street, I was a major mermaid. My mother was an expert swimmer and often took us out beyond the waves to swim in the deep water. I loved the ocean along with all our beach loving neighbors. Everything changed in 1975 when the movie Jaws was released, No one I knew wanted to go in the water that summer...no one except me. I went looking for that shark. I just had to see it up close. It started a life long fascination with these amazing creatures, the apex predator of the oceans.
|Photo Taken off Guadalupe Island, Mexico|
I would not be a responsible member of the diving community unless I take a side note here to point out the destruction and havoc that movie created on the species. It sparked all sorts of dumb asses, yahoos, macho idiots and the like hunting sharks for no reason other than to kill them. So much so that Peter Benchley, the author of the book not only spent the last years of his life speaking up for and promoting shark conservation, campaigning against shark fisheries and swimming with sharks all over the world, he stated if he knew then what would happen to sharks as a result of his book, he never would have published it.
"Knowing what I know now, I could never write that book today," said Benchley, who also co-wrote the screenplay for "Jaws." "Sharks don't target human beings, and they certainly don't hold grudges."
-Peter Benchley, LA Times Feb 13, 2006
"The shark in an updated Jaws could not be the villain; it would have to be written as the victim; for, worldwide, sharks are much more the oppressed than the oppressors."
-Peter Benchley LA Times Feb 13, 2006
Anyway, back to my life long dream of an underwater encounter with a Great White shark. Several years ago Dr. B and I decided to try out a new trip being run to Isla Guadalupe in Mexico. The trip consisted of a 24 hour crossing from San Diego, CA and then three days of living on the boat and diving in cages, observing the Great Whites that congregated there. I was beyond excited.
We boarded the boat, were given and excellent briefing by Lawrence Goth and his crew, divided into four groups to rotate turns in the two cages, (four people to a cage) that would be set up off the back of the boat and went to bed tingling with anticipation hoping that the next day, we would meet Mister Whitey. After all, underwater inhabitants don't get paid to show up. It's all luck and being in the right place at the right time.
The sun was barely up when we were woken up by the sound of Lawrence's voice over ship's intercom system "Good Morning! We have our first Great White shark siting of the day. Teams 1 and 2, you're up!" Dr. B and I could not scramble out of our bunks and get on deck fast enough.
|Me & Dr. B and Lawrence|
Over the next three days we got to observe several large great whites both under water and from the boat as they swam around us close to the surface. It was beyond thrilling. There were up to five of these huge gorgeous creatures cruising around the cages at once, close enough to reach out and touch them (not allowed of course) and stare into their huge black eyes as they cruised past the cages. These picture were taken with a disposable underwater camera (no zoom) that cost 9 euros at the time. So you can see how close we were to the sharks. Over the three days we became familiar with their markings and could identify them by the names they had been given by Lawrence and his crew. Bite Head, Salsa and Patches were just a few.
|Me in shark cage waiting for the sharks to show up. Isla Guadalupe, Mexico|
Then one decided to visit us in the cage. Not his fault. Here's what happened: To keep the sharks interested to get close enough to the cages so the humans could see them up close, off each side of the back of the boat was a long line with half a tuna on it. Mostly, the sharks just mouthed the tuna and turned away looking bored. So there we were, rocking out to Jimi Hendrix coming from the underwater speakers (Lawrence insisted the sharks love Jimi) when one shark decided to take an actual bite of the fish and swung his head around to tear it off the line. In doing so, he ended up with his nose stuck in the large opening in our cage that observers use to stick their cameras through.
|Photo Taken off Guadalupe Island, Mexico|
Sharks have no reverse gear so he started shaking his head from side to side to get free. The cage was shaking as well. Probably some of us in it too in more ways than one. I looked at Dr. B and was thinking...and throwing hand signals...Should we climb out of the cage? Should I kiss him on the nose? (I know but come on people, when would one ever get the opportunity to kiss a great white shark?) Or, should we push him out? If we did, where exactly would we place our hands around those rows of giant teeth to do so? I was seriously concerned that we stupid humans had put him in a situation where he might get hurt. About 30 seconds later, the shark managed to free himself and nonchalantly swam off. No harm done. But talk about a close encounter. Dream come true. Check!
|Going in for observation|
Cut to: A few years later. Setting: Hollywood, California. Place: Sitting in a hotel with a talent I was packaging for a new TV show waiting to start our day of pitch meetings to several networks. Shark week playing on TV in the background. I was going over our written pitch materials when I glanced up because I heard the words "Isla Guadalupe". The VO saying something like "Vicious, evil, powerful blah blah blah.." Me (turning to talent): "That's ridiculous,. That's Bitehead. He's a sweetie," Talent to me: "I have to honestly say you're the only one I know who is on a first name basis with the sharks from shark week".
|Bitehead - Ain't he cute?|
So these wonky Great White macarons are a tribute to one of my most thrilling vacation adventures ever. The shells are a plain flavor. I split the batter in half and added a smidge of powdered black food coloring to get the grey color. A fact I learned about the coloring of a Great White Shark. The reason they are dark on the top and light on the bottom is for camouflage. The dark color makes it hard for their prey to see them from the top and same for the light color looking up from below. I added some homemade sea salted caramel sauce to the buttercream and colored it pink. The teeth are white candy coated fennel seeds.
Plain macarons with sea salt caramel buttercream tasted like pure heaven. Now if I could just get back in the water....
Great White Shark Macarons withFor the Shells:
I used the Tartelette's basic recipe. Use a kitchen scale for precise measurements.
- 3 egg whites - aged at least 2 days. Let them sit out on the counter uncovered.
- 25 grams of fine granulated sugar
- 200 grams of powdered sugar (minus 2 tablespoons)
- 110 Grams of almond flour*
- Black powdered food color
*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.
- Split the batter in half and add a small amount of the food coloring to one half of the batter get a grey color.
- Fill two Pastry bags, one with each color and pipe triangle shapes onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or on a Silpat.
- Let the macarons dry for about one hour until they harden.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F
- Bake for 18-20 minutes.
- I keep the oven door propped open with a dish towel or wooden spoon. Try to refrain from obsessive peeping to see if they get feet.
- Let cool completely and then match up the shells into pairs according to size and fill with the buttercream.
- 1/4 stick butter room temperature
- 1/8 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup sea salted caramel*
- Pink food coloring (optional)
- Beat the butter and milk together with one cup of the powdered sugar.
- Add the remaining powdered sugar one cup at a time.
- Mix in caramel and then food coloring if desired.
- Spoon the frosting in to a pastry bag fitted with a round tip. Stand it up in a tall glass and fill the bag.
- Pipe the filling onto one macaron shell and sandwich together with the other.
To assemble the macarons:
- Line up your grey shells and using black food coloring or a food color marker, paint the gills on the sharks on each side.
- I used a dot of black royal icing for the eyes and put a black candy pearl on each.
- When you are ready to fill the macs, match a plain bottom to a grey top.
- Pipe the filling on the bottom plain shell unevenly, low in the back and high in the front.
- After placing the grey shell on top place the white candy fennel seeds along the top and bottom shells creating two rows of teeth.