December 30th, 2011


Project Macaroon

So in coming to Mississippi, I had two goals: to do a collaborative art project with Mary, and to learn how to make macaroons (as the last time I visited I gave her a box from La Duree and she said she was going to quit her day job and become a macaroon chef).

Today has been macaroon day, which required a trip into town to buy a sifter (we found the missing nice one later). We're into our second batch of macaroons, and I'm going to keep a list of the things that went wrong. The book we're learning from has a picture of four different possible macaroon errors, which somehow reminds me of "different ways you can sink a boat," IE bad navigation, storms, poor warning system, badly made iron. But my suspicion is I will find many more ways to make mistakes. This is why I came with enough ingredient for us to make four batches of macaroons.

Batch one: too flat. Suspicion: meringue not stiff enough. Also: irregularly shaped macaroons. Suspicion: incompetent pastry bag use; as parchment paper not cut to fit pan properly, batter ran toward the center of the pan. Still, delish with lemon curd between them.

Near failure for second pan as they were almost put in without any time for drying. However, this disaster was averted by quick, "Um yeah so about the drying?" on my part.

Batch two: meringue failure, complete and utter non fluffing. Suspicion: dirty beater bars, or I added the sugar too soon. This batch went in with the pig slop. They will be thrilled when it makes it to the pen later.

More updates after batch 3 (raspberry!) makes it in the oven.
Macaroon with ice cream Macaroon with ice cream This is a great way to make something memorable out of a damaged macaroon

LATER: Okay, batch 3, nice and puffy, but not as shiny as the other macaroons! The puffy (thanks to extra whip for the meringue) was good but if we were purists we'd be upset about them not being shiny. Also note that the puffy ones don't run as much. That said, the runny ones were GREAT with ice cream in them.

3 egg whites (whip soft peaks then add)
5 T sugar (whip near stiff then add)
Vanilla (whip stiff)

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup almond "flour" (blend together with food processor than sift together twice)

Mix "flour" into the egg whites slowly, then "slap" the dough in the bowl in the approved "macaronage" style. Pipe onto pastry paper in small circles, let sit until dry to the touch (15-30 mins), then bake at 375 until done.

Anyway, that's just the very basics on how to do them, there is a lot more detail on how to make each little bit right in the cookbook we followed TO THE LETTER and while I could copy it from the cookbook I think it's better just to say that the technique for making them is somewhat similar to what I have described and you'd best just expect you're going to have to work a while to get this right unless you have an experienced baker to teach you the ropes.

The saddest moment of the year

It's been a year of lots of ups and downs for me - much better than last year (what with going mad from loneliness) but still with a lot of downs (job evolving into a nest of snakes, realizing that I wasn't considered partner worthy by either of the men I love) to accompany the much better tenor of the year (January through August was quite fine, eight good months to 2010's one). So overall much more up, but still lots of depression and tears in 2011. Believe it or not I've written very little about it on here - I should have done it for my own memories if nothing else but it's just never been recorded at all.

I have a highlight of the year I'll share when I can find the picture. But this is one of the lowlights, and this is the song that illustrates it, the Flaming Lips's "Do You Realize:"
(hopefully that YouTube thing will work)

I went to see the Flaming Lips with Jason this summer, a concert we'd bought tickets for nearly a year before, when we had no idea where things were going to go with us. And as this song, a song about how important it is to tell the people you love how you feel about them because we've got so little time on this planet anyway, as this song played Jason was standing in front of me with tears rolling down his cheeks, and I was pretty sure that so much of what he was crying about was me and him and me. And yet there I was, only six inches away from him, watching him cry and feel miserable but not turning to me to say to me what Wayne Coyne was urging him to do, because, as near as I could tell, he was feeling sorry and miserable about all of the love he had lost, but that where ever his love was going .... it wasn't toward me. I was crying a bit, too, but I just stood there quietly feeling broken and lonely, because there was no one there to comfort me, and I had no comfort to offer, just bad memories and a yawning sense of loss.

Roll on 2012, as they say.
Mano Poderosa

On losing weight (or not)

I've been keeping track of a series of articles about weight loss and gain I've been seeing, mostly in the New York Times, and this most recent one, "The Fat Trap," is an excellent examination of how damned hard your body works to keep weight on once you've got it. The effect they described seems to be a particular problem for yo-yo dieters, if I'm reading their research correctly - basically your body sends signals to MAKE YOU HUNGRIER and then becomes more efficient at burning calories so you actually get LESS value out of the same amount of exercise as someone who hasn't lost a bunch of weight.

One of the things I liked best about this article, though, is that it said it should be solid evidence to those in the medical community that losing weight is so much harder than they like to imagine. Ive got friends who tell me every time they go to the doctor, they harp on about losing weight and pretty much fail to acknowledge any weight loss that has happened. Perhaps a printout of this would help change their tune.