Checked off on the Lady of Leisure Bucket List: try my hand at baking macarons; these are the prettiest four passionfruit cream macarons that we made
My life as a lady of leisure is on borrowed time. We came to Malaysia knowing that my visa wouldn't allow me to work, and since we plan on returning to Washington after the hubby's assignment here ends, I've been on a rat race to cram in all the things I've always said I wanted to do but never had the time to back home. I call this imaginary list my Lady of Leisure Bucket List. It hasn't ever been formalized, which to me means that I've never written it down in a pink-and-purple diary with a heart-shaped lock on the cover. In my head, though, I'd always had certain fun goals for myself that I thought I'd like to tackle if I ever found the time.
Well, now I do, and I've been running around at breakneck speed trying to check things off my list. Learn to take good photos. Eat some delicious food. See the world. Write a blog. Try not to sink like a rock when I swim. Sew his-and-her matching banana costumes for Halloween.
On the left: making the almond flour into a paste with egg; on the right: folding simple syrup into beaten egg whites to combine with the almond paste and make a smooth, glossy macaronade
Last week, one bucket list items got crossed off when a couple of friends came over. We set about tackling the arduous task of making French macaron cookies. Macarons are no fool's game, yet they're dainty and easy on the eyes, qualities that ladies of leisure like my friends and me appreciate. From everything I'd read about them, they're frustratingly impossible to make and require several hours of dedicated time to produce correctly.
Then, a few months ago, I read this article about Michelle Obama's inaugural dress designer learning how to make macarons at home. The article's tone is breezy, offering helpful "shortcut" tips and making it sound like baking macarons at home is as easy as putting on a pair of pants. Gosh, I thought. I'm pretty good at putting on pants. Surely I can do this.
On the left: tapping the macarons to eliminate the peaks and give them a uniform domed appearance; on the right: being in Southeast Asia means we can use fresh passion fruit to make our puree for the cream filling
Well, the short answer to my supposition is that yes, one can make macarons at home, but with several caveats. First, at least three people need to be involved in the process. The recipe has to be read carefully, probably several times before doing anything in the kitchen, and tasks must be divided. Everyone has to monitor their own task carefully -- beating egg whites just so, making sure the simple syrup temperature reaches an exact 240 degrees, and measuring out all the other ingredients just perfectly. As a trio, we were able to closely monitor each step of the process, piping out perfect little rounded macarons onto baking sheets lined with wax paper and Silpat (which we learned later was a mistake, as the macarons stuck stubbornly to the wax paper; later batches with the Silpat came off without a struggle). Being in Southeast Asia, we were able to use fresh passion fruit to make the puree for the cream filling.
Another lesson we learned was that even though everything might seem okay in the mixing and the shaping process, the actual baking is a roll of the dice. We set out to make 40 perfect macarons, imagining ourselves skipping home to our husbands with a white bakery box tied with twine and unveiling perfectly crunchy yet pillowy soft cookies. Instead, our perfection was limited to four macarons. Four.
Regardless, the cookies still tasty pretty good, and the fresh passion fruit made the cream just a little pleasantly tangy. After my friends left, I poured myself a cup of tea and propped my feet up to savor my one solitary cookie of perfection. We ladies of leisure still need to take the time to smell the roses, no?
(Oh, and because making delicate French cookies isn't enough of a challenge, my friends and I also cured 3 kilos of pork belly that afternoon. Four days later, the hubby and I ate gloriously delicious carrot and daikon soup garnished with that salt pork. To echo my dad, pork fat really does rule.)