Friday, December 31, 2010

Lessons from 2010, and Grapefruit-White Chocolate Macarons

While I'm not the biggest believer in new year resolutions, I am a big believer in taking time at the end of each year to think about what's happened and what I've learned.  This year, 2010, was, for me, one of those incredible years in which so much happens and so much changes--one of those years in which nothing goes according to plan and the universe throws literally everything it can think of at you.  But, all of it, in the end, turned out for the best (I think!), and I've taken quite a few important lessons to heart along the way, which I hope you don't mind that I share here.  (And, I'd love to hear what you've learned in 2010 in the comments below!)


Lesson 1.  It's important to be scared.

One of the major changes that happened this year was that I switched from my original and intended field of study in school to a different one altogether, basically upsetting every plan I'd ever made for myself within linguistics.  When I confessed to one of my advisors how deathly scared I am of being in this new field, she calmly said to me, "Being scared is good for you, Stephanie. You need it."

My advisor, as usual, was completely right.  Being scared really kicked my once-lazy butt into gear.  And, having to constantly face up to and overcome things that scare me taught me that, when I put my mind to it, nothing is insurmountable, even if it may seem that way initially.  Sure, I'm still pretty terrified about my new position in linguistics, but the important thing is that I'm not petrified by it.


Lesson 2.  Hard work pays off.

Growing up, my mom always accused me of skating by on "talent," that I never worked hard for anything I did.  And I can admit now that she was right.  But lacking "talent" in this new field of study I'm in, having to play catch-up this late in my graduate career, and being plain ol' scared forced me to work harder this year than I've ever, ever worked before.  (Side effect, though: sleeping less than I've ever, ever slept before...!)  Practice and dedication, it turns out, can make up for a lot.

For example, at the beginning of one of my school terms this year, I remember being so afraid and so intimated by this one professor that I seriously considered dropping out of her workshop because I thought that I just didn't know enough about the topic to keep going.  Thankfully I didn't, because by the end of the term, I'd learned and practiced so much that I could carry on a proper and in-depth conversation on the topic with the professor and offer insights that she hadn't thought of!  That was one of the best and exciting moments of 2010 for me--realizing that through all of the late nights and painful work, I'd actually improved!


Lesson 3.  Be super thankful for the people around you.

I would have never, ever gotten through the vicissitudes of 2010 if it weren't for the incredible support of those around me.  At every point throughout the year when things took a turn for the worst, someone always stepped in to help me out of it, making me realize how unspeakably lucky I am to have an invaluable support structure to lean on when I need it most.  Now more than ever, I am appreciative of people who have faith in me even when I don't: just knowing that someone out there believes in me forces me to work harder and try to live up to that expectation.  It's the one of the best motivators!  (On a related note, never let nay-sayers get you down, either!)


For the final recipe of 2010, I really wanted to make macarons because they represent to me a perfect embodiment of the lessons that I've learned this year.  I started out 2010 making successful macarons before I had read very much about them.  Then, as I started reading more and more about macarons and hearing about how fickle they are, they became incredibly intimidating to me.  Suddenly, every batch that I pulled out of the oven was a huge failure--cracked tops, sunken tops, lack of feet, under-baked, completely brown--you name it, it happened.  Finally, I just gave up and stopped making macs altogether.

One day, I realized how foolish it was of me to completely abandon macaron making just because I was scared of them, and I decided that I would make macarons and only macarons until I got them perfect again.  It turns out that what happened was that I'd memorized the recipe wrong, (stupidly) placing the rack in the wrong section of the oven, but even after I figured that out, I kept practicing batch after batch until the macaron shells came out consistently and to my liking.  And now, I can make macarons.


These grapefruit and white chocolate macarons (grapefruit shells with white chocolate buttercream and grapefruit curd) are for you all--a little tart and sweet (just like 2010 was) to accompany your midnight flutes of champagne--as a thank you for all of the support that you've given me on the blog this year!  It's truly been an extraordinary year, and knowing that there are people out there that I can share my love of desserts with (even virtually) is always a comfort for me and makes me so happy!  :-D!  So, thank you!  and Happy New Year to everyone!  May 2011 bring us even more valuable lessons--and more importantly, even more delicious sweets and eats!

--Addendum--

In 2010, I...

stayed in the Northern California redwoods--one of my favorite places on earth--for a week.
was cited for the first time in an academic journal.
made two wedding cakes.
went to Los Angeles to visit one of my best friends--twice!
had so many wonderful friends over for dinner and dessert.
submitted my first academic article for review.
attended two schools.
went to Bouchon and Tartine bakeries.
posted 12 different pancake recipes.
had Korean fried chicken to celebrate Hanukkah.



Read on for recipe...


Grapefruit and White Chocolate Macarons

for macaron shells*:
200 gr powdered sugar
120 gr blanched and slivered almonds
2 heaping Tbspn freshly grated grapefruit zest
1/2 tspn ground ginger (opt)
1/2 tspn pink powered food coloring, if desired
30 gr granulated sugar
100 gr egg whites, aged 1-2 days at room temperature or a week in the refrigerator, at room temp
1/4 tspn cream of tartar

1. Prepare two baking sheets lined with silpats or parchment paper and a pastry bag with a large round piping tip.
2. Combine the powdered sugar, almonds, grapefruit zest, ground ginger (if using), and pink food coloring, if using, in a food processor and grind until a fine powder. Sift thoroughly through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
3. In a small bowl, have ready the granulated sugar.
4. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and the cream of tartar. Using a balloon whisk, quickly stir the mixture until the entire surface is covered with foam. Then, start whisking the egg whites, gradually adding in the granulated sugar. Whisk until you reach glossy, almost-stiff peaks.
5. Gently fold the sifted almond and powdered sugar mixture into the egg whites in three to four stages, just until the ingredients are incorporated and the batter slowly re-absorbs peaks.
6. Transfer the macaron mixture to the prepared piping bag and pipe rounds on to the lined baking sheets. Tap the baking sheets on the table a few times to release air pockets.
7. Rest the macarons for at least 30 minutes (and up to 60), until the outside shells are no longer tacky and sticky to a light touch.
8. Preheat oven to 290 degrees F, with the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.
9. Bake the macarons in the oven, one sheet at a time, for 24-28 minutes total, rotating the sheet half-way through the baking time to insure even baking.
10. Remove from oven and let cool.

*Note: the resting and oven temperature and times are adjusted to what works in my kitchen and oven (which, to my knowledge and according to two oven thermometers, is quite accurate). Please note that you may have to adjust according to what works in your kitchen and oven.


for grapefruit curd:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
2 Tbspn cold water
3 Tbspn corn starch
1/8 tspn salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 Tbspn butter, at room temperature
2-3 drops pink gel food coloring
3/4 cup boiling water
freshly grated zest of one medium-sized grapefruit

1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually blend in the cold water and grapefruit juice.
2. Add the egg yolks, butter, and food coloring, blending until smooth.
3. Gradually add in the boiling water, stirring constantly.
4. Place the saucepan on medium high heat and bring to a full boil, stirring gently with a spatula and scraping the bottom (to prevent burning). Once the mixture begins to thicken, reduce the heat and simmer for one minute.
5. Remove the curd from heat and mix in the grapefruit zest. Let cool and then use to fill macarons.

for white chocolate buttercream:
1 stick butter, at room temperature
6 oz. white chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
1/2 - 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1. In a mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until fluffy.
2. Add the melted and cooled white chocolate to the butter and mix to combine.
3. Gradually add the powdered sugar until the frosting is the desired consistency. Use immediately to fill the macarons.

Once the macarons are filled, place them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for ~24 hours to "cure" and reach the height of their flavor.



Enjoy!

45 comments:

  1. Happy New Year ♥
    Moltissimi Auguri
    per uno splendido 2011

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  2. Happy New Year! These macarons look delicious - I love the combo of grapefruit and white chocolate, so tasty! :)

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  3. Hey Steph, sending you many many Happy New Year wishes!! :)) the macs look incredible!

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  4. These look so beautiful. I kind of want to make them right now. But I've never made macarons before. You have to start somewhere...right?

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  5. I am so impressed that you mastered macarons - it is on my list! I really enjoyed your post and you have so much to be thankful for and accomplishments to be proud of. Happy New Year!!!

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  6. This is such a lovely post, Steph! I'm glad we had a chance to meet and hang out in 2010. Yay for more hanging out and Berkeley food touring in 2011.

    PS: I hope you'll bring grapefruit curd on our food tour. Just sayin' :)

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  7. Hello Stephanie! I accessed your charming blog through the Fine Cooking site, which showcased your Blackest Forest Gateau Cake post, with its jaw-dropping, black-and-white-trees photos. The cake, with its deep earth interior, snowy frosting and chocolate-drawn-evergreens holding hands around the perimeter reflected and set off the photos in that seamless form-meets-function way that gets me right where I live. I can't wait to try baking one! The question, as always, is: When? Soon. I loved this post too! So thoughtful, and I mean it both ways. Your blog is so tasty, it's going straight to my site's blogroll. Alas, my blog is not a foodie blog. Maybe that will change. You have inspired me. Congrats on your career move. May 2011 bring you all you wish for and more. Smiles, Daniela (a.k.a. The Oracle at D)

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  8. These are absolutely beautiful! I just discovered your blog & I love it - incredible work! Happy New Year!

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  9. It was inspiring reading through the lessons you learned.
    Happy New Year!


    Nisrine

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  10. Your lessons are encouraging advice I hope to keep in mind for the new year (and beyond)! So glad I've found your blog, the photos are a treat, your writing is inspiring, and your recipes are tempting! Happy New Year :)

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  11. Just found your blog while i was searching for Runeberg cakes! Yours look fantastic!

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  12. Absolutamente maravillosos!
    Me encantan los macarons... és amor a primera vista.
    También me gusta mucho tu blog, y espero para este 2011 poder seguirte de una forma más intensa.
    Feliz 2011!
    Mglòria, gourmenderies.blogspot.com

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  13. These macarons not only look amazing, but I can almost taste how delicious they must be. What an interesting combination of flavors!

    Happy New Year to you, too -- love your approach. So glad I've been following you this past year. I've learned that it's important not to overanalyze, and to go with what you've been dealt. If things seem bleak at one point, there's no place to go but up, so don't sit and miss out on life by mulling over the "what if."

    Cheers,

    *Heather*

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  14. Great pictures!!! just love it!

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  15. Thank you so much, everyone, for your new year's well-wishes!

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  16. These macarons look delicious!
    Happy new year by the way! :)

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  17. happy new year steph! sounds like you had a good year.

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  18. hello! i just found your blog and i think i am here to stay! you had me at macarons!!! i have attempted to make them a few times and they are NOT easy!! and these.. just look HEAVENLY!!! happy new year!

    http://www.sandyalamode.com/

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  19. Happy New Year...! Found your blog and love it, I am going to try your macaron recipe and hopefully one day, I too will be able to post pics of perfect macrons!!!

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  20. Happy New Year to you too, hope 2011 brings you the best you desire. I also tried my first macarons on the 31st, but they were'nt at all as I expected them,but i'm just happy I tried them, and will keep on trying til I'm satisfied about it. Yours look great!!!!

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  21. What beautiful pictures. Found you on Tastespotting and am so glad I did!

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  22. Happy New Year Stephanie! I love what you wrote about fear. Fear is my number one adversary always trying to get in the way of my life. You also inspired me to contact a friend I haven't talked to in a few months. We have both been busy and haven't called each other. Thank you for getting me off my butt!

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  23. Just found your blog...its inspiring! You're so going on my daily list. I admire your ability to identify your lessons at the end of each year. And a happy new year to you!

    Your macarons are perfect inspiration for a white chocolate-citrus fruit dessert I have been planning in my head. Thanks for sharing!

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  24. What a great post! I love the pictures they are fabulous!!

    http://dailycrushes.blogspot.com

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  25. These are some of the most beautiful macarons I've ever seen, congrats! I haven't mustered the courage to try them myself. These are wonderful--love the flavor combination. :-)

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  26. Happy New Year, Steph! Sounds like 2010 has been quite the ride for you and I'm so glad it's ended on a high note. Your macarons are darling, and I love how you related them to all the lessons you learned. I agree with you that the support of those who believe in you is so so important. My biggest lesson of 2010 was the maintaining our health is of utmost importance. I guess we all think we're invincible when we're young, but major sleep problems this year put much of my life on hold. I'm glad I had this wakeup call to take better care of my body and am hopeful for a better 2011.

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  27. These macarons look amazing, I love the sweet and tart idea! Also your year sounds exactly like mine! I changed my major because of what I want to get my masters in which is a completely different feild in which I ever planned I would do. Same as you I'm grateful for the wonderful people in my life. I think it sounds like a terrific year!

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  28. I have seen some pretty macarons around the web, but that beautiful combination of curd and buttercream is over the top! Beautiful. Happy New Year!

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  29. You gave the macs such life and spirit with your photos, I like your style Steph. Happy New Year, may 2011 brings the best for you!

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  30. Congratulations on making it through a tough year and conquering those many challenges. I can totally understand the stress of graduate school, don't worry, it's worth it in the end! Once I read that you made 12 pancake recipes this year I knew that I found a kindred spirit, you've got a new follower :)

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  31. oh my goodness...love those gorgeous eye popping pinkilicious photographs! macaroons never looked better!

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  32. These are amazing, I hope you don't mind me using one of them, I will site you as the source if that is alright.

    Thank you,
    Anacristina @ Peachy Keen

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  33. These are amazing, I hope you don't mind me using one of them, I will site you as the source if that is alright.

    Thank you,
    Anacristina @ Peachy Keen

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  34. oh my goodness...love those gorgeous eye popping pinkilicious photographs! macaroons never looked better!

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  35. These macarons look delicious!
    Happy new year by the way! :)

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  36. These macarons look amazing, I love the sweet and tart idea! Also your year sounds exactly like mine! I changed my major because of what I want to get my masters in which is a completely different feild in which I ever planned I would do. Same as you I'm grateful for the wonderful people in my life. I think it sounds like a terrific year!

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  37. Thank you so much, everyone, for your new year's well-wishes!

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  38. Great pictures!!! just love it!

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  39. Just found your blog while i was searching for Runeberg cakes! Yours look fantastic!

    ReplyDelete
  40. It was inspiring reading through the lessons you learned.
    Happy New Year!


    Nisrine

    ReplyDelete
  41. Hello Stephanie! I accessed your charming blog through the Fine Cooking site, which showcased your Blackest Forest Gateau Cake post, with its jaw-dropping, black-and-white-trees photos. The cake, with its deep earth interior, snowy frosting and chocolate-drawn-evergreens holding hands around the perimeter reflected and set off the photos in that seamless form-meets-function way that gets me right where I live. I can't wait to try baking one! The question, as always, is: When? Soon. I loved this post too! So thoughtful, and I mean it both ways. Your blog is so tasty, it's going straight to my site's blogroll. Alas, my blog is not a foodie blog. Maybe that will change. You have inspired me. Congrats on your career move. May 2011 bring you all you wish for and more. Smiles, Daniela (a.k.a. The Oracle at D)

    ReplyDelete
  42. I am so impressed that you mastered macarons - it is on my list! I really enjoyed your post and you have so much to be thankful for and accomplishments to be proud of. Happy New Year!!!

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  43. Hey Steph, sending you many many Happy New Year wishes!! :)) the macs look incredible!

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I love hearing from you and reading your comments! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog. Happy feasting!

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