Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor of Love

Well first off, happy belated labor day... and to everyone who sat outside stuffing their face with hot dogs and tipping back icy beverages, all I have to say is that you probably had a lot more fun than I did.

I'll never turn down an opportunity to make a macaron; no matter how overdone they may be in the blogosphere, to me they are their own artform inside the world of pastry.  I've made macarons before, and luckily they turned out relatively good on my first try.  However, the macaron gods this past labor day decided it was time I experience what macaron hell is like.

Trial 1: Raspberry macarons.  I've successfully used freeze dried fruit before in order to flavor the macaron shells.  After pulverizing freeze dried raspberries in the food processor, I substituted them for some of the powdered sugar.  However for some reason it messed with the texture during macaronage, making the batter thicker than usual.  As a result, I kept mixing and mixing, thinking the batter was too viscous.  They piped and dried out nicely, but alas, they crumpled and cracked in the oven, and their feet became enveloped under the wrinkly shells.

 fail #1

Trial #2: Green tea macs.  This was straightforward enough- I overmixed the batter again, and I knew it.  The batter was running out of the tip of my piping bag as I was filling it up.  As a result the shells burst in the oven, and the feet spread too widely.

fail #2

Trial #3: Almond macs.  This time I was completely fed up.  I double checked all my measurements, and flavored the them with a teaspoon or two of almond extract, so I knew this time that there was no flavoring that could mess up the macs.  I performed the macaronage step pefectly- the batter was still thick, but settled into perfect rounds when I piped them... Except I piped them on wax paper because I was out of parchment.

As they cooled out the oven they settled beautifully into the most perfect macarons one could envision, with smooth, shiny tops and wonderfully ruffled feet.  Except they stayed there forever.  No matter how much I tried I couldn't pry those little f*ckers off of the wax paper. 

fail #3

It's hard not to get discouraged after having three consecutive failures in one day, and I'll admit that for a while I was in a pissy mood- macarons just have that magical power to toy with your emotions.

And for those of you who will view this post and are curious about how my most daring meal went, I will say that it left me with a mixed bag of emotions.

shrimp and arugula salad

It wasn't bad per se, but the amount of time I put into the meal did not necessarily reflect in each meticulously crafted dish.  Everyday that week I went to bed with sore feet, prune fingers, and garlicky body odor, too exhausted to do any of the other non-food related tasks I had assigned myself that day.  Yet, each dish failed in delivering the epiphany inducing bites I was secretly hoping for.

Don't get me wrong- my guests (family members of course) were as entertaining as always, and I sat in the candlelit glow of good company and slightly dry pork loin.  No matter how critical you may be of your own work, there will always be people there to give you a kick in the gonads and tell you that no matter how pessimistic your feel there's always a redeeming quality in everything.

roast pork loin

Even still, to be honest I felt slightly unfulfilled by the end of the meal.  Was the bar set too high?  Admittedly perhaps, and it is always disappointing to reach below your expectations.  After spending this entire week in the kitchen, I felt like the payoff wasn't as big as I wanted it to be, and at the end of the day I just want to eat something a little more humble and a little less pretentious.  While my riff on Keller's candied apple for dessert was still very delicious, ironically at the end of the meal all I was craving was that homey, juicy fruit crisp I couldn't stop thinking about but wrote off anyway during my menu planning.

winding down with conversation

P.S. Thank you Brooke of FoodWoolf for your captivating email.

One year ago: Dark Chocolate & Bing Cherry Frangipane Tart 

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