It's been many, many years since I've celebrated Lunar New Year properly ...until now! Hi from Asia! *commence emphatic waving*
Last time I was here for the new year festivities was decades ago (omg, 'decades' makes me sound so old), when I was five. My only memory from that visit was my grandfather taking me outside on the street in front of our relatives' large apartment building at night and lighting up sparkler fireworks to play with. How they shimmered in the dark, specks of light dancing off the ends of the wands! After that, we never really celebrated Chinese New Year's in the US: there just isn't the same hubbub of excitement and fun brewing around you that makes it feel like a holiday. And, given that the lunar new year never falls during school breaks, I didn't have the opportunity to freely leave and visit again until now. (Yes, one of the wonderful advantages of dissertating, and shhh, don't tell my advisors.)
In preparation for the new year celebration, I whipped up my own version of a few new year's desserts before leaving on my trip. It's traditional to have oranges during the Chinese New Year--for luck--and to wear red--an 'auspicious' color. Lo and behold, what did I stumble upon at the market a few days before leaving: blood oranges! The perfect combination of red and orange, in a delicious fruit. :)
With the blood oranges, I made a blood orange sorbet, that turned out the most gorgeous orange-red color (rivaling the vibrant purples of the last sorbet that I made). Oh, and not to mention that it tastes deliciously orange-y. :) I also whipped up a batch of saffron and blood orange caramel macarons, which I thought were very fitting for celebrating New Year's, with the red and gold of the saffron and caramel, the nuts that traditionally represent blessings for long life, and, of course, the blood oranges. (Recipe inspired by this wonderful little macaron book.)
[click on photo above for a larger image]
I'm hoping that all of this orange and red really brings good luck to everyone for the Year of the Dragon! The last few days of the Year of the Rabbit were quite unlucky for me. On my second day here, this happened when I fell down a pile of unsecured bricks. I freaked out. Luckily, the repairman here managed to fix it because none of the internal glass elements were broken--you don't know how incredibly relieved I am. Anyways, I have been told that since I clearly used up all of my bad luck and misfortune right before the end of the old year, I should be having an auspicious new year! :)
Happy New Year, everyone!
Read on for recipes....
Blood Orange Sorbet
from The Perfect Scoop
3 cups freshly squeezed blood orange juice
3/4 cup (150 gr) sugar
2 tspn white wine, optional
zest of 1 blood orange
1. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of blood orange juice and sugar. Warm over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat.
2. Add the rest of the blood orange juice, white wine, and orange zest. Cover and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.
3. Once chilled, freeze the sorbet base in your ice cream maker of choice. (Here's mine, which works like a dream, and I also have this one.) Once churned, you may want to let the sorbet harden further overnight in the freezer.
Blood Orange, Saffron, and Caramel Macarons
inspired by Les Petits Macarons
makes 45-50 small macarons
120 gr almond meal
200 gr powdered sugar
big pinch of saffron (6-8 strands)
1/4 tspn yellow powdered food coloring, optional
1/4 tspn orange powdered food coloring, optional
100 gr egg whites
1/4 tspn cream of tartar
30 gr granulated sugar
1 tspn cointreau
1/2 tspn water
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, almond meal, saffron, and powdered 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 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 once the egg whites have reached soft peaks. Whisk until you reach glossy, almost-stiff peaks.
4. Gently fold the sifted almond and powdered sugar mixture into the egg whites in two to three stages. Mix just until the ingredients are incorporated and the batter slowly re-absorbs peaks. Do not overmix!
5. Transfer the macaron mixture to the prepared piping bag and pipe rounds on the lined baking sheets. Tap the baking sheets on the table a few times to release air pockets.
6. 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.
7. Preheat oven to 290 degrees F, with the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.
8. 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.
9. Remove from oven, invert the shells onto their tops, and let cool.
10. Mix together the cointreau and water in a mister. Mist lightly over the bottoms of the macaron shells.
*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.
1/2 cup (100 gr) sugar
3 Tbspn butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 tspn coarse salt
1/2 Tbspn blood orange zest
1. Have all ingredients pre-measured and ready next to the stove.
2. In a small, light-colored saucepan (with tall sides, preferably), wet the sugar with just enough water to make the consistency of wet sand.
3. Cook the sugar on medium heat. Do not stir once the sugar starts boiling; swirl the pan around gently instead to insure even cooking. Cook until the sugar is a deep amber color. Immediately add the butter and whisk thoroughly.
4. As soon as the butter has completely melted, remove from heat and add the heavy cream and salt, whisking continuously.
5. Once the cream has incorporated, pour the caramel into another heat-resistant container to cool, straining through a fine mesh sieve to remove unevenly cooked sugar, if necessary. Let cool briefly and whisk in the blood orange zest. Caramel will continue to thicken as it cools.
6. Once completely cooled, spoon a small amount on the bottom of the macaron shells and sandwich the shells together. Let the macarons cure overnight before serving.
[Disclaimer: the publisher sent me my copy of Les Petits Macarons, but, as always, I would not be telling you about the book unless I personally really love it. This book is adorable and super creative with macarons, which is difficult to do in today's overly-saturated macaron market!]