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My sister lived in Paris not so long ago. 2001 to be exact. We (me, my ex and his daughter) went to visit her and we arrived on 9/10. The next morning she burst into the room as we slept, jet lagged and yelled something about terrorists attacking New York. She had been walking past a bar and saw a plane go into one of the twin towers. She thought it was a movie until she kept seeing it on the tv screens of restaurant, after bar, after restaurant and realized it was real. It was such a strange trip. Wonderful to see her, wonderful to be in Paris and surreal to see the images of 9/11 from such distance and from a foreign point of view. I don’t think I’ve ever truly grapsed what went on at home, what those initial nationwide feelings were. We got the European view. We went to a vigil in France where people were sad and supportive of America. Things changed later. If you live in the US you probably remember the attempt to use “Freedom Fries” instead of “French Fries”. I don’t think the US will ever be the same as it was before that day.

But this story has a sweet side too. Paris was where I discovered Macarons!  Not macaroons the equally delicious coconut cookie. There’s a bakery by my mothers that makes those amazing coconut macaroons, someday I will have to try to figure out what their secret is. But today is not that day.

Parisian Macarons

I’m sure you may have noticed them at a bakery near you lately? There seems to be an awareness of them recently. If you have not tried one you really must. They are crisp and yet chewy, sweet and filled with a creamy center usually. An exotic, elegant Oreo if you will.  I adore them. I also had forgotten about them since that trip. Until I saw a book while browsing my local Half Priced Books.  There in front of me was a glorious reminder of all the great things about that strange trip…..walking around Paris at night, looking at all the old beautiful buildings and yes, always on the look out for dog poop. You really will see it all over the sidewalks and many unfortunates step in it as they are looking around, be always on guard! The food is really good there too. I had some memorable meals in that city with my sister.  The book that brought it all back.

You can make these at home?!!?!

 I never considered that I could make these myself! Of course you can.  One warning, the book overcomplicates it.  There’s so much talk of aged egg whites (?!?), letting the macarons sit before you put them in the oven, and on and on. I fell for all this     nonsense and had a wonderful experience making them and then a disaster!

Luckily for me I came upon a blog in my travels that debunked all the myths. After all, she said you are making a cookie, I’m paraphrasing slightly here.  Her site is called BraveTart and I suggest if you have any interest in making Macarons you go there and read her 10 myths and her 10 commandments of macaron-making.

I’ve also recently come across lots of posts about pastries in Paris and one particular name keeps coming up as a genius of dessert! Pierre Herme and the dessert that caught my imagination is called Ispahan.  Ispahan is the name of a Damascus Rose with a beautiful fragrance.   The dessert is a combination of Rose, Lychee and Rasperries and from what I can tell the combination is used in a macaron.

Now I’m half Greek so rose scented sweets are nothing new to me. It’s a familiar flavor along with mastica, cloves, all spice etc.  Lychees are another flavor I adore, they are similar in flavor to roses in a way so I get the combination and rasperries?  Who doesn’t like rasperries?  My only thought is that the rasperry might overpower the rest of the flavors.  I also found a blogger who has attempted her own version of this macaron….The Pleasure Monger  she is macaron obsessed and has some very creative cominations.  In this one she uses a lychee marscapone filling and a tea infused jelly!  Well that got me to thinking.

Now I know one day I MUST get an actual Pierre Herme Ispahan but until that day comes I will make a riff as mucisian say on that theme.  Here’s what I came up with……….. Greeks eat alot of Turkish food and yet they claim to despise the Turks, their old nemesis.  They drink Turkish coffee, they eat Turkish delight, which they call Loukoumi.  Turkish delight is rose flavored gel basically, very sweet and very good.  My riff started with imagining a very thin layer of this.

Super thin Turkish delight

 To make this you will need rose water. Most ethnic type stores will have it, usually if they carry middle eastern products.

  • 1/2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tb cornstarch
  • 1 c water
  • 1/4 c suga
  • r2 Tb rose water

 Combine all the ingredients except the rose water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to med low and cook for about an hour, whisking often.  Add the rose water in the last 10 mins and stir well. Remove from heat and immediately pour onto a silicone baking sheet or well greased parchment paper.  You might be able to used greased plastic wrap but I’m afraid it might melt. Let it sit at room tempurature until it cools down. It will be sticky.  If you were going to just make it into Turkish delight you would make much more and put it in a pan, it would be about 1 inch thick and then you would slice it and roll it in powdered sugar. Some people add nuts such as pistachios to it, I prefer it plain.

 Macarons (I’m using BraveTarts basic recipe here, it works very well. Go to the link above and read before you make them)

  • 4 oz almond flour
  • 8 oz powdered sugar
  • 5 oz egg whites
  • 2 1/2 oz sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 300. Combine the almond flour with the powdered sugar in a food processor and blend very well.  Whip the egg whites with the regular sugar in a mixer until you get stiff whites.  It takes about 9 minutes at med-high speed. When they are stiff add the salt & vanilla and whisk again for about a minute to combine really well.  Fold in the almond/sugar mixture all at once until it reaches a lava like stage. This is the hardest part because you can overmix. You will be putting the batter into a piping bag and piping circles onto your baking sheet so you don’t want it to be too runny.  Please read her post for tips. Bake on a parchment covered sheet for 18-20 minutes.  If the macaron comes off the sheet easily and doesn’t stick they are done. Let them cool. Brilliant!

crunchy, chewy goodness

The filling was where I had problems and will have to try again….isn’t that too bad?  I tried basing it off The Pleasure Monger’s recipe.

  •  1/2 package of cream cheese

  • 2 Tb sour cream

  • splash of milk

  • 1/2 cup white chocolate

  • 2 Tb butter

  • 1/4-1/2 c lychee juice

Melt the white chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water. Combine the cream cheese, sour cream and milk until it’s smooth. I blasted it in the microwave for a few seconds.  Add it to the white chocolate mixture and start to add in the lychee juice, tasting it until it’s the flavor is strong.  Her recipe calls for pureed lychees but I didn’t find any fresh or canned locally and didn’t want to go all over. I thought the juice would work but the mixture was too runny.  I tried thickening it with tapioca starch but it should have been thicker.  Next time………. Oh and they were a big hit at my office!

Lychee rose