Okay, but before we get to those bite-size pieces of deliciousness, allow me to catch you up with what I've been up to for the past week. (If you're interested--otherwise, skip to the food pics, I won't take offense.) This past weekend was the annual national conference for my "day job," and all the linguists of the States (and elsewhere, too) flocked to the sunny Baltimore, Maryland. This was a particularly big weekend for me, because I had my first talk at said national conference, and it was in a special session organized by the leaders in my subfield. So I had myself pretty much shut up for the past couple of weeks working on the talk. Once *that* was out of the way, I tried to see a bit of the city.
Bokeh at Baltimore's Inner Harbour
Unfortunately, we were in a pretty dead area (with no convenient transportation available), and the pub food that was so ubiquitous around the conference area was just downright horrid. So, no fun food news to report from the weekend. But, I did get to go to the Walter museum, and on the way, we checked out America's first cathedral/basilica, which we randomly ran into.
The Walter museum was actually one of the best parts of the weekend! There were awesome exhibits of 16th through 18th century Italian art, arranged in chronological order, so that you could really get a sense of the development of styles throughout the centuries. This one was a particular favorite of the group of linguists I was with:
Allegory of Grammar
Laurent de la Hyre, 1650
Anyways, despite it being fun to be around all of the people from my field, it is nice to be back in (warmer) California--and back in the kitchen (read: not eating gross, oily, fried bar food every day). I was so glad, in fact, that I decided to use up the leftover egg whites in my fridge by making macarons (most definitely the antithesis to pub food).
with dark chocolate-basil buttercream
Now that Christmas and New Year's are over, it's time to look forward to Valentine's Day! (Yes, it's never too early for the next holiday, in my book.) So, if roses are supposed to mean that someone likes you, and chocolates are supposed to mean that someone loves you, what about rose macarons with dark chocolate-basil buttercream? If someone made these for me, personally, I'd probably hop into their arms with little hesitation. ;-P
In all seriousness, though, the initial inspiration for these macarons did not come from thinking about Valentine's Day. These are actually inspired by the movie, Like Water for Chocolate. Now, if you haven't seen the movie yet, I highly recommend it! We were assigned the film for a Spanish class that I'm taking this quarter, and so I watched it the night I returned from Baltimore. Long story short, the film (based on the novel) is a long love story, punctuated by different foods that reflect the main character's various emotions throughout. In one scene where she tries to woo an unrequited lover through her cooking, she makes this roasted quail with rose petal sauce that just looks downright divine.
Ever since then, I've been craving rose myself. Then, a scoop of rose-vanilla ice cream from Ici in Berkeley today only helped to intensify rather than satisfy my craving.
When I was baking these, the whole house smelled of roses. It was absolutely wonderful and fragrant! To go with the macarons, I whipped up a quick dark chocolate buttercream, and to help balance the buttercream with the rose macaron, I added in some freshly-dried basil powder to the chocolate buttercream. The basil, which you can't really place when you eat these, lends this great earthiness to the buttercream, which helps to keep it on the less-sweet side and compliments the flowery flavor of the rose perfectly.
Quite a nice way to unwind after a weekend of travelling, no? :-)
Read on for recipe...
makes ~30-35 macarons (60-70 shells total)
roughly adapted from MyTartelette's macaron recipe
30 gr sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr blanched and slivered almonds
2 Tbspn dried and crushed rose petals
1 tspn dry pink food coloring, optional
90 gr egg whites, at least two days old
(separate eggs in advance, place in airtight container in the fridge for at least two days)
more crushed rose petals, optional
1. Have ready: pastry bag fitted with a tip with about 1/2" round opening and two baking sheets with silpats or lined with parchment paper.
2. In a food processor, process the regular sugar for a few seconds. Remove and set aside.
3. Combine the powdered sugar, almonds, rose petals, and food coloring in the food processor and process until the almonds are finely ground. Set aside.
4. Place the egg whites in a mixer bowl with the whisk attachment. Begin whisking on low, until the egg whites start to foam.
5. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high and beat the egg whites while gradually adding the regular sugar. Beat on medium-high until you reach a glossy, soft-peak meringue.
6. At this point, remove the mixer bowl from the mixer and continue the rest of the way by hand, using a large balloon whisk. Pour (lightly!) the processed powdered sugar+almond mixture into the meringue. Fold to combine, quickly at first, and then slowly after the first few strokes. Make sure to always use deliberate strokes when folding. Mix only until combined, no more than fifty strokes. Usually, it only takes me fewer than thirty, if that. Batter is ready when the peaks will collapse.
7. Immediately transfer the batter to the prepared pastry bag. On the silpat baking sheets, squeeze about 1 to 1.5" rounds. If using, top each macaron with crushed rose petals. Let the sheets sit for 30 minutes.
8. While the macarons rest, preheat the oven to 280 degrees F. Bake the macarons for 15-20 minutes, rotating after about 10. Macarons are done when the shells do not give when gently touched. Remove from oven and let cool.
Quick Dark Chocolate-Basil Buttercream
makes enough to fill 30-35 macarons
1/2 stick butter, softened
2 tspn milk
1.5 oz dark chocolate
1/4 tspn vanilla
1/4 cup + 2 Tbspn powdered sugar
handful of fresh basil leaves
1. Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave. Set aside.
2. To make powdered basil, place the fresh basil leaves on a paper towel in the microwave. Microwave for three minutes. Remove from microwave and crush. Set aside.
3. In a mixer bowl with the beater attachment, beat the butter until light, about three minutes.
4. Add in milk and beat until combined.
5. Add in melted chocolate and vanilla, beat until combined.
6. Add in powdered sugar, beat.
7. Add in powdered basil, beat until combined.
To assemble: pipe a small amount (~penny-sized) of the buttercream onto the bottom of a macaron. Top with another.