Breast Cancer Awareness month, a.k.a. “Pinktober”, is a month of doing “pink” stuff to raise breast cancer awareness. It is controversial, particularly among survivors, because of both the commercialisation factor and the way that it presents breast cancer as fun and bright and cheerful. But breast cancer is about a lot more than pink. It’s about pain and fear and struggle and surgery and treatments, incredibly difficult choices, long and hard recovery, facing mortality and for some, death. While it grates that lots of big companies will try to flog their pink wares this month for their own profit in a crass attempt to make you feel good about doing something positive, I think the pinktober thing should be a positive. It should be about funding breast cancer research and support networks. It should serve as a reminder to do your self exams, to get that lump checked, to have that mammogram or ultrasound or MRI. You all know somebody whose life has been touched by breast cancer, whether you are aware of it or not, but please don’t feel the need to go and buy a pinktober edition of something expensive in the hope that a few cents will find its way to research. Instead, if you’ve got some spare cash and are so inclined, make a direct donation to a breast cancer support group or research organisation.
At the very least, please let this post be a reminder to you not to be complacent.
I used the ermine frosting yet again. I honestly have not found a better macaron filling than this – it is endlessly variable, being delicate enough in flavour to accept anything you throw at it, it pipes beautifully, it doesn’t set hard in the fridge but it’s firm enough to bite, it doesn’t require more eggs… Seriously, it is the absolute Grade A macaron filling as far as I am concerned. But if you’re a fan of Swiss/Italian/French/German buttercream, go ahead use that instead.
Delicate, not overly sweet but beautifully perfumed macs. I would have loved to add some crushed dried rose petals in the shells. Let me know if you try that!
Makes 30 filled macarons
140g ground almonds
140g powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
100g egg white (from approx. large 3 eggs), room temperature, divided 50/50
100g granulated (white) sugar
a few drops pink gel or pinch pink powder food colouring
120ml (1/2 cup) whole milk
1 1/2 tbsp (4 1/2 tsp) all-purpose (plain) flour
small pinch salt
115g (1/2 cup or 1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
100g (1/2 cup) granulated (white) sugar
rosewater – depends on the brand – start with 1/4 tsp and add more as needed
a few drops pink gel or pinch pink powder food colouring
Prepare 2 parchment lined baking sheets.
Mix the ground almonds and powdered sugar together then grind in a food processor until you have an extra fine texture.
Sift into a large bowl, re-grinding any bigger pieces of almond.
Add 50g egg whites and mix thoroughly into the almond mixture. Set aside.
In another bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the other 50g egg whites to stiff peaks.
Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar and water into a small saucepan and heat on medium-low to 118°C (245°F).
While whisking constantly on low speed (to avoid splashing hot syrup), slowly add the cooked sugar mixture to the beaten egg whites, pouring it down the inside edge of the bowl. Whisk at high speed until the mixture is cool, about 3 minutes. Add the desired amount of pink gel or powder colouring just before the end. The mixture should increase in volume and become firm (you should get a beak when you lift the whisk) and shiny.
Scrape the meringue onto the almond mixture and incorporate with a rubber or silicone spatula until you have a homogenous batter that runs from the spatula in a thick ribbon and a trail in the batter melts back into itself within 20 seconds.
Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 7 – 9mm plain tip (this is best done in two batches, so you don’t overfill the bag). Pipe 60 equally sized rounds, about 3cm, in staggered rows onto the prepared sheets. Hold the piping bag upright with the tip just above the sheet and pipe without pulling upwards or swirling in circles, so the batter comes out in a round blob around the tip, and give a little sideways flick at the end to break the stream.
Tap the baking sheets firmly on the bench several times to release air bubbles and obtain a smooth surface. Leave to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes, until a slight skin forms.
Meanwhile, preheat oven (bottom heat only) to 150°C (300°F).
Bake the macarons for 18 minutes, one sheet at a time, on the middle shelf, turning the sheet half-way.
Remove from oven and remove the parchment from the tray with the shells still on it and place on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes, until completely cool, then remove macaron shells carefully from the parchment. If they stick, you can spray the underside of the parchment with water, let sit for a minute then remove the shells to a rack to dry completely.
Whisk flour into milk and place over medium heat in a small saucepan. Heat until thickened, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes once warm. It should have the consistency of a thick béchamel. Whisk in salt and pour mixture into a small bowl, then cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface to avoid a skin forming. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
In a mixing bowl or a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add rose water and food colouring and mix in well.
With the mixer on medium speed, add the milk mixture one tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated and you have a light and fluffy frosting.
Pipe or spoon a generous blob of filling onto the flat side of half the shells, top with the remaining shells and press gently until the filling reaches the edges.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge to mature for at least 24 hours before eating.