Love and peppercorns (pink of course)

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As I explained around this time last year, the pink peppercorn has played a contentious role in TD’s and my relationship.  In fact, the pink peppercorn has taken on its own meaning in our little parlay.  One might, if one wanted, consider the phrase, “does it have pink peppercorns?” part of our marital code.  At its most simple it is what TD says when he means, “what kind of crap did you put in this that I potentially will not like?” Its uses have extended beyond food though.  For example, when faced with a request to see what he thinks could be a romantic comedy, TD will say, “no, that movie looks too pink peppercorny.”  Alas, in our matrimonial sphere, the pink peppercorn has become synonymous with dislike.

Poor thing.

So, I thought I’d prove TD wrong–or maybe right–and actually make something with pink peppercorns in it. French macarons to be specific.  That’s right, we’re back there again.  

But before we get to the peppercorns, we’ll start with some freezed dried raspberries.  Trader Joes has a variety of freeze-dried fruit that would work well in a French macaron recipe.  Part of the concern with flavoring macaron shells is that flavor in liquid form has the potential to, well, make the cookie grumpy.  To use a technical term.

I wish I had thought of using ground dehydrated fruit first, but I didn’t and in this recipe, I take my inspiration from Aran Goyoaga,  hostess of the intimidatingly beautiful blog, Cannelle et Vanille.  I did think of making the powder on my own (though I’m sure I’m not the first).  To make the raspberry powder, the already brittle berries easily pulverize in a spice or coffee grinder.

The raspberry powder then gets added to the almond flour and confectioners sugar.  My preference is to grind the three elements together in a food processor and then sift them through a mesh strainer.

Because there really isn’t enough raspberry powder to turn the shells pink, I added a couple of drops of gel coloring to the meringue mixture.

I know folding the dry ingredients into the meringue can be tricky.  Here is a trick that has turned-out to be very reliable.  After you have folded the batter enough that everything is incorporated, give it a few more turns (and by this I mean 5-10).  Then, scoop out a little onto a plate and watch it move.  If it keeps its shape like in the photo below,  the batter needs another few folds, again, start with 5-10.

If the batter spreads very  slowly (the comparison is usually like lava)  and just barely evens out, like in this picture, you are ready to pipe.  Of course,  if your batter runs all over the place, you’ve over-mixed and, well, you’re pretty much screwed.

For this version of my little frenemy, I tried wedging a wooden spoon in the oven door so that the steam could escape.  I alos back a pan or two with the over door completely closed.  In both methods, I did not have any cracking.  

You thought I’d forgotten about the pink peppercorns, didn’t you.  Here is where they come in.  For the filling, I pulled together a buttercream.  Egg whites, sugar and some pink food gel were warmed over a double boiler until warm-to-the-touch.

Then, whipped to Ten Buck Two with the addition of butter.  Lots of butter.

And finally, the piece de resistance, two teaspoons of ground (same method as the raspberries) pink peppercorns.

A little dab on half the shells.

A little dusting of raspberry powder.

And  I give you, the raspberry pink peppercorn macaron. The peppercorn, while subtly spicy adds a wonderful floral aroma to the fruity raspberry.   Who could resist this pretty little cookie as a Valentine’s offering of love?

TD, that’s who.

Hated them (but I think it’s just on principle).

Luckily, others thought they were strangely delicious.

Soundtrack

Thievery Incorporated

When I make French macarons, I like to set up stations in my kitchen.  The island: weights and measures.  To the left of the sink: food processor for grinding.  To the right of the sink: standing mixer for whipping the egg whites.  Actual sink: tableau for stacked baking sheets and piping.  Dining room table: piped shells, aging.  Kitchen table: completed shells.  Sort of like…a…lab.  Thievery Incorporated just happened to be on my iPhone when I plugged it into the speaker dock.  The result? Total CSI montage music, French macaron style.  It was seriously awesome.

Raspberry Macarons with Pink Peppercorn Buttercream

Adapted slightly from Cannelle et Vanille

  • 130 grams egg whites
  • 3 grams egg white powder
  • 80 grams sugar
  • 180 grams almond flour
  • 240 grams powdered sugar
  • 2 grams salt
  • 15 grams freeze-dried raspberry powder (this is the adapted part, I wanted a stronger raspberry presence than the original 7g)
  • 2 drops red food coloring

Directions

  1. Make sure that the egg whites have been separated from the egg yolks at least the night before. If the weather is cool and you are brave, leave them out, covered in plactic wrap, overnight.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, salt and raspberry powder.  Process for 30-60 seconds until thoroughly combined.  Sift into a large bowl.  Discard bits that don’t go through sieve.
  3. Whip the egg whites with the egg white powder until very fluffy, almost fully whipped. Start adding the sugar slowly while whipping. Add the red food coloring and continue whipping to stiff peaks.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the meringue and fold with a spatula until a shiny mass forms. We want to achieve a batter that makes ribbons. You might have to test it to see if it’s done. Pipe a small amount on your sheetpan. If it keeps a little bit of a top when piped, then you have to mix it a bit further, if it spreads really fast, you have gone too far and your macarons will turn out flat.
  5. When you have the right consistency, place the mass in a pastry bag with a number 5 tip (to be honest, I just snip the tip of the bag to about a 1/8-1/4 inch and pipe without the tip) and pipe small rounds onto sheetpans lined with parchment or silpat. Let them dry at room temperature for at least 45 minutes to an hour. The tops must be dry when you touch them.
  6. Have the oven preheated to 350F degrees. Place one sheetpan in the oven at a time and reduce the temperature to 300F degrees. Bake for 8 minutes and rotate sheetpan and bake for another 5 minutes.
  7. Let the macarons cool on the sheet pan.

Pink Peppercorn Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 100 grams egg whites
  • 200 grams sugar
  • 300 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp (or to taste) finely ground pink peppercorns

Directions

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together egg whites and the sugar lightly. Place over a water bath until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.
  • Bring bowl to the electric mixer and whip until stiff peaks form.
  • Continue whipping until the bowl feels cool. Add butter, a tablespoon at a time while whipping. It might look like it is separating but continue whipping and it will come together.
  • Add the ground pink peppercorns and taste.
  • Pair up shells of like-sizes and then line all up.  Pipe or spread buttercream on to on-half of each pair.  Carefully top with second shell.
  • Can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-5 days.

4 thoughts on “Love and peppercorns (pink of course)”

  1. Totally out of my league. But they are so pretty I just might attempt an amateur version… one day… when I don’t have a two year old declaring “I help!” and scooting a chair to the counter every time I so much as look at the kitchen…

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