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!
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.
submitted my first academic article for review.
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.