You may be aware that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (and if you weren’t aware, then you are now…), and in support of this cause, this month’s Mac Attack theme is “Pinktober“. The premise is simple: make your macarons pink (is it just me or does that sound a bit like a euphemism…?) and/or girly. As soon as I read the challenge, I knew exactly what kind of macarons I wanted to make, but I’ve been putting off making and posting about them. It took me until today to realise why.
Breast cancer is probably one of the most talk-about cancers (in the Western world anyway), and everybody seems to have been affected by it either directly or known somebody close who has been diagnosed with it. Perhaps that’s not the case, but it’s the impression I get. So, here’s the thing that’s been holding me back: talking about breast cancer makes me feel like a bit of a fraud. Thankfully, my exposure to breast cancer has been limited. My Scottish grandma was diagnosed with it when I was 11 or 12, but the extent of my knowledge of the whole affair was that Granny had gone into hospital for a little operation, but everything would be fine. I have a vague feeling that she might have had to have two operations, but I’m really not sure. (She’s fine, by the way – this would be the very same grandma that accidentally char-grilled the summer fruits crumble a few months ago.) We lived in Norway at the time, so there were no hospital visits to drive home the reality of it – perhaps that’s one of the reasons that my memories of it are so abstract (which I feel kind of guilty for – made worse now that I realise, of course, what the outcome could have been). Basically, I’ve been putting this post off because deep-down, there was a lingering, guilt-tinged question: who am I to speak of breast cancer? What do I know of it, of its far-reaching and awful consequences? Nothing, that’s what. And I’m so very aware of how lucky that makes me, but I still feel like a fraud for trying to write a post about it.
Having realised that I had nothing knowledgeable, meaningful or inspirational to say about breast cancer, I decided that I’d better get my act together and make some macarons, because at least when it comes to macarons, I vaguely know what I’m talking about. Ever since I made Rose Martini cupcakes a few weeks ago, I’ve been wanting to try turning the cocktail into a macaron. Since the “Pinktober” theme revolves around girliness and pinkness, a macaron based on a cocktail involving rosewater seemed totally appropriate… I went for plain, pearly shells (it doesn’t really come through in the photos) and pink ganache, and piped little pink ribbons out of chocolate onto some of the macarons. I even made larger pink ribbons out of chocolate. I might not have any meaningful words to contribute to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but if you’re going to do something, do it properly, so at least these macarons look the part. Oh, and the Rose Martini flavour totally works as a macaron. Hurrah! So, here we go, be aware of breast cancer; ladies, you’ve probably been told about 56 million times before, but check yourselves. And eat macarons. They’re not a proven cure for breast cancer, but they make life that little bit more luxurious, and everybody needs a bit of that sometimes.
Rose Martini macarons
Makes about 60 small macarons (so about 120 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!
Ganache recipe adapted from my standard recipe
I added some some edible glittery pearl powder to the macaron shells which gives them a very subtle pearlescent sheen, but you can’t really see it in the photos. In keeping with the “rose” flavour of the ganache and the “Pinktober” theme, I had been planning to colour the ganache a pale pink, but as you can see, I put a little too much colouring in so the ganache turned out bright pink instead. Woops. Both the colouring of the ganache and the pearl powder for the shells are optional. I’ve also included instructions right at the end on how to make the chocolate pink ribbons that are in the photos. Make sure you leave these at least 24h before eating them, in order to allow the ganache to soak into the shells a bit. They can be stored in an airtight box in the fridge – just remember to bring them out at least 30 mins before eating them, so that you can appreciate the flavour fully!
For the macaron shells:
100g aged egg whites (age them for 4-5 days in a sealed jar in the fridge)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar
Edible pearl powder (optional)
For the ganache:
40g single cream
150g white chocolate
15g white crème de cacao
Pink food colouring paste/gel (optional)
For the chocolate pink ribbons (optional):
A few square of dark chocolate (large ribbons only)
A few squares of white chocolate
Pink food colouring paste/gel
To make the macaron shells:
1. Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside. Prepare a piping bag with a plain round piping tip.
2. Blend the icing sugar, ground almonds and pearl powder together (don’t skip this step!). Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl. Sift them again if necessary.
3. Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites at room temperature (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand) to glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.
4. Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well. Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture. Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes. The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.
5. Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 1.5-2cm in diameter). Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round. Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.
6. Leave to set for about 30 mins (this helps to produce the feet). Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C. When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.
7. Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10 mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3 mins longer). Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair them up by size.
To make the ganache filling:
8. Whilst the macarons are setting and cooking, make the ganache filling. Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the white chocolate (broken into pieces), the vodka, crème de cacao, rosewater and a few drops of pink food colouring paste (how much you add depends on how pink you want the ganache to be – remember that if it’s not bring enough, you can add more colouring, but you can’t make it pale again, so it’s best to be cautious!), and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth (don’t let it boil or you will boil off the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?). Allow the mixture to thicken in the fridge (or freezer if necessary).
9. Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a good dollop of ganache onto one shell of each pair. Then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to squash the shell down onto the filling. If you don’t want to decorate them, skip to the very last step.
To make the large pink chocolate ribbons:
10. Whilst waiting for the ganache to cool, line a baking tray with baking paper (it doesn’t have to be perfectly cut or anything). Prepare a piping bag with a very thin piping tip (this is to draw the outline of the ribbon). Melt the dark chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Allow to cool slightly and transfer to the piping bag. Pipe the outlines of the ribbons (if you’re not confident in piping the shape, you could draw the outlines out on the baking paper in pencil before piping). Put the baking tray in the fridge for the outlines to harden.
11. Prepare a different piping bag with a slightly wider tip (this will be to fill in the outlines). Melt the white chocolate in a different small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water, add a few drops of pink colouring paste (as with the ganache, the amount will depend on how bright a pink you’re going for) and stir until smooth. Allow to cool slightly and transfer to the piping bag. Remove the baking tray with the hardened dark chocolate outlines and fill them in with the pink white chocolate. Put the baking tray back in the fridge for the filling of the ribbons to harden. Once hardened, the ribbons can be gently peeled off the baking paper (remember that they are just chocolate, so if left somewhere warm, they will melt…).
To make the small pink ribbons on the macarons:
12. Follow step 11, but when the pink white chocolate is ready to pipe, pipe a ribbon shape directly onto the macarons (I’d recommend practicing on a piece of baking paper or any less presentable macarons first).
13. Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult! But so worth it!!)