The Call of the Wild is the theme for June’s Mactweets Challenge. I expect that many people conjure up images of lions and tigers in the African bush, exotic birds and primates of the Amazon, or even whales, sharks and seals of the oceans. For this urban-raised boy with a design background, however, my mind instead went to the color palettes: sandy-earth tones of Africa; brilliant chlorophyll greens and vibrant blues, reds, and yellows of the Amazon; and the array of aqua, blues, and cool tones of the Ocean.
We incorporate these color palettes into our lifestyles to be closer to nature. On the other hand, I find the polar opposite of black and white captivating. There are side-by-side solids, spots, and my favorite—stripes. It’s the most basic—and the most seductive—color scheme in nature. There are penguins, Asian Longhorn Beetles with black and white antennae, fish like Beangel Sargent and Three-spot dascyllus, Dalmatians, and more.
A truly magnificent animal that represents this color palette in all its glory is the Zebra—a standout among its many earth-tone neighbors. The stripes don’t help zebras to camouflage themselves in their habitat but rather to confuse other animals that hunt them when they are in motion. Since zebras form family groups, they travel in herds, so the stripes make it hard for the hunters to identify any individual prey. To me, it is nature’s way of having fun with design and function.
Naturally, my instinct was to create black and white contrasting color macarons–using black and white sesame, another example of the same palette. Black Sesame also happens to be one of my absolute favorite ingredients and flavors. Using black sesame powder in the macarons is not enough to create the jet-black luster, so I used black sesame paste, which also provided a more robust taste . I purchased the black sesame powder, but you can also grind black sesame seeds—just make sure you toast the seeds to release the aroma before grinding or you will get a dull chalky taste. Black food coloring can enhance the color but do not omit the sesame paste and use it alone. It will only get you at most a dark grey, and that is if you use a bottle of the coloring . . . not good eats.
You definitely do not need a theme for an excuse to create these sweet wild things.
Black Sesame MacaronsRecipe by hungryrabbitnyc, 2010
Make 32-35 macarons
2/3 cups (3 oz) ground almonds
1-1/2 cups (5 1/4 oz) confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons black sesame powder or toasted black sesame seeds
1/8 teaspoon table salt
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon black sesame paste
Black liquid food coloring (optional)
1. Prepare baking sheet and template: Using two half-sheet baking pan, fit each pan with a sheet of parchment. Use either a circle template or the wide end of a pastry tip, draw 1-1/8 inch-diameter circles on the papers, spacing them at least 3/4 inch apart. (I get 35 circles per sheet). Set aside.
2. Attach an Ateco #804 tip to a pastry bag. Twist the bag to hold the tip tightly. This prevents the batter from leaking out. Place the pastry bag, tip down, inside a measure cup or any container that will hold the pastry bag vertically. Set aside.
3. Grind almonds confectioner’s sugar, cornstarch, black sesame powder and salt in food processor until powdery, about 30 sec. Sift almond mixture through a medium-mesh sieve. Set aside.
4. Add egg whites into the bowl of a hand mixer or a standing mixer with whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for 45 seconds to break up the whites. Increase speed to medium high and beat until foamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue to beat until meringue holds stiff, glossy peaks, about 1 minute.
5. Reduce speed to low, add black sesame paste, food coloring and vanilla extract to just combine. Remove bowl to a work surface. Using a silicon spatula, fold in half of the sifted almond mixture with a circular motion (scooping from bottom of bowl) until just incorporated. Fold in the rest of the almond mixture with same motion. (Meringue will deflate slightly.)
6. Press and spread out the batter against the side of the bowl. Scoop the batter from the bottom and turn it upside down. Repeat this process about 12 times. This is what the french refers to as ‘Macaronnage’. This technique gives the baked macarons a luster. Be careful not to do it too many times, or you might get oil stains on the surface of your baked macarons, not so pretty.
7. Pour batter into prepared pastry bag, twist or clip to close. Refrigerate batter for 15-20 minutes. This process makes the batter easier to pipe.
8. Pipe the batter onto the center of the circles. Make small circles since the batter will spread out after it’s piped. (You’ll get the hang of it once you’ve piped a few.) Rap the baking sheet firmly on the counter. This will help the macarons to hold the rounded shape and pied (little foot) to formed.
9. Adjust oven racks to middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350°F.
10. Dry the batter at room temperature, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes. A slight crust should form on top of the macarons. (This might take longer on rainy or humid days). The batter is ready if it doesn’t stick to your finger when you touch it gently.
Place one baking sheet in middle rack and immediately reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Bake macarons for 7-1/2 minutes. Rotate baking sheet, front to back and place it on rack in lower-middle position. Continue to bake for another 8-10 minutes, until crisp and interior does not give easily when gently pressed. (Check macarons around 16 minutes into baking to make sure they don’t brown. You can place a piece of foil or parchment on top at this point to prevent top from browning. When done, move baking sheet from the oven and cool on wire rack. (Residual heat from baking sheet will harden bottoms), about 30 minutes. Loosen macarons gently from parchment with offset spatula (they will be fragile).
Swiss Meringue Buttercreammakes 2 cups
2 large egg whites
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks), softened, cut into tablespoons
1-1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1. Put egg whites and sugar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160°).
2. Attach bowl to a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.
3. Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low, add butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. (If frosting appears to separate after all butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more.) Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low; beat 2 minutes to eliminate air bubbles. Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth.
To assemble the macarons
Sandwich flat side of macarons together with a generous teaspoon of Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
COOKS’ NOTE: Filled macarons can be kept in an airtight container wrapped in plastic wrap, chilled 2 days or frozen 1 month. Bring to room temperature in wrapped container (to avoid condensation), about 1 hour if chilled or 2 hours if frozen.