cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Nut Report

The Virgin Macaron and the Gun

Wouldn't we all love to go to the nut shop where it's always fun. well I suppose first we would all love to actually have a nut shop to go to. I know I would. A nut shop would be a thing of wonder to behold, nuts nuts nuts as far as the eye could see; pistachios, and almonds, walnuts and pecans...Harlan Pepper? To have a nut shop to retreat to would mean to always have those little necessities close at hand. Yes a nut is a necessity. And with this necessity, we can make macarons.

The Salty Cod has never before attempted a macaron. They loomed in our radar as much too far out of our league, why? Perhaps it was their awesome majesty of divine grace exuded in the patisserie windows of Paris. The fancy pedestals, the glittering boxes-- row upon perfect row of every color in the rainbow. I was a common window smudge at Lenotre, gawking at the magnificent macaron trees; each tier a different color. Those are French. Those are French, i would tell myself, someday i will make one. Just not yet. I'm not good enough yet.

Well am i good enough yet? No, but i have had a change of mind--why wait until something is better to go for it, all of the could haves in the interim will be lost if we wait until we are good enough. Perhaps there won't be another chance for it. The idea came while rolling on the acorns in the park, i am going to make macarons, i decide as I skid to a bench to hop over, who cares if they don't look as good as the others out there. It was but a few hours later that I get a call from my boss with a last minute assignment (have I mentioned I am a newspaper photographer?) there's a big army ROTC event over in Mica, Idaho tomorrow morning, it's a training and a memorial, I need you to go shoot it. me: But I had planned on making macarons tomorrow...get someone else. Alright so i didn't say that, yes when and where? As per usual, the correct response. Macarons, afterward.

Winding down highway to farmland nowhere's-ville, I arrive (after a few turn arounds) down a road that (no was not on the map) at the shooting range where the university ROTC were having a rifle training session as well as a memorial to a former student recently lost in Afghanistan. After a lot of army jargon, stiff hand shakes, macho jumping jacks, yadda yadda yeah we all love Sarah Palin, god bless yep yep, I am accosted by an old friend with the words, so are you going to shoot a few rounds? I look at him, Excuse me? He responds, don't be scared, here's a bag of goodies, and i am handed a large bag of ammunition.

The immediate thought was repulsion; I hate guns, I hate the NRA, I do not believe in a right to bear arms, i'm a bleeding liberal voting for mis-ter Obama, I have a shirt that says Make bread not war, and you want me to shoot an army rifle? Have you gone mad? Needless to say when in the middle of nowhere with thirty army guys trying to put an assault rifle in your poor-little feminine fingers, you don't have much of a choice other than to just smile and take it. Or did I? The thoughts quickly ran to when would I ever be in this position of chance again? Is that guilt I feel from the little pebble inside that actually wants to hold that black monster? As a photographer one ends up at many a strange event, treasure chests full of chance encounters, free food, unexpected places, and well high tech military artillery in your hands. Lock and load.

I have shot a gun now. It was not as terrible as I had imagined. Though I did begin to tear behind my sunglasses while overhearing conversations of damn you got him right in the head, you got that bastard! I know that it is people who turn machines into monsters, and though the world would be a better place without them, it is the person holding the gun who is making the choice to pull the trigger. Yes these guys are training for the army. Training to go off and shoot people. Callousness to death is a necessity for a soldier. Me, I will pull the trigger at the cardboard target, blink as the cases ping back off of my glasses and forehead, I will remove the cartridge, set it down, and be content to never hold one again. I am applauded by my army men, but really, guns are no game. Almonds caught in egg beaters shooting astray from their bowl is a much more tempting bullet for me. Let's make macarons.

An initial attempt at a macaron would be ridiculous without consulting the wise teachings of Helen pastry chef at the world renound Tartelette. We cannot do everything on our own, so take help where you can get it. My eyes were glued to the step by step instructions i had studied the previous night repetitively as if for a midterm exam. The Torah of Macarons, the New Testament and the word of Allah all in one. Yes i let sit the egg whites overnight for twenty four hours. Yes I went out and finally bought a pastry bag. Well, a few compromises. No stand mixer. No egg beaters. Meringue by hand hooray! Grind almonds...well the margarita magic bullet, i am finding to be not so magical. Parchment paper? Crap I hate grams...but we will persevere. System D as we say.

Macarons are like blank coloring books, the shapes are there, you however fill in the lines. A macaron shell is a combination of meringue and ground almonds, while the center is n'importe de quoi. Therefore it's up to you. Nuts of course. Inspiration from Helens recent post on pecan pie macarons, i decided to make a thanksgiving macaron. Pecan in the shell as is her recipe, but with a cranberry cream cheese butter cream for the inside. Where we worried? Were we scared? Did it work out? Oui.

Cranberry Pecan Cheesecake Macarons:
Ingredients shell: 1/2 cup ground almods ~ 1/2 cup ground pecans ~ 3 egg whites ~ 1/4 cup sugar ~ 1.5 cups powdered sugar
Ingredients filling: 4 oz cream cheese ~ some cranberry jelly ~ 1 cup powdered sugar ~ 1/4 cup butter

method: just go here.

Our first macaron, our first gun. Two daunting images in one day. Life at the Salty Cod, sometimes isn't so boring after all. I will do the macaron again, the gun, well i can quit you. There is too much pain caused by that one three little word to give it anything more. The ROTC men were all thrills and chills and peppermint pills, for some perhaps they must. Dollface, Betty Crocker--call me what they will, at the end of the day I am more proud of my little macaron than getting up there in front of all their eyes and pulling the trigger.

à bientôt


Núria said...

Have you seen the Lyon king? This last picture made me think of the movie... He, he I have tried shooting and I haven't tried macarons.

The first, I must say I enjoyed but never went back and the second (macarons) haven't taste it nor cooked it. I'm sure yours tasted beautifully :D

Somebody called R got in touch with me ;D We are possibly meeting next monday :D :D I'm taking her to have a Tapa de Jamón (that Jamón!!!!)

Damaris @Kitchen Corners said...

Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. Mint jam huh? do you have a recipe because I have SO much mint!

Christy said...

Good call on asking Helen, Mallory! She is the doyenne of the macaron realm in the blogosphere. And Helen's always so nice and patient in answering questions!

Anyway, when you decide to go to Bali, drop me a line and I'll hop on a plane and be your guide. It'll give me an excuse to go back there! And yes, I'll take you to see the monkeys at the Monkey Forest in Ubud too!

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

first of all, your macarons turned out perfect! helen is a master and with her help you created little beauties.

regarding shooting... i have mixed feelings about the subject. i have hunters in my family that love guns but are the most respectful people on earth. and at the same time, i know people who apparently hate guns but are more violent than the first. so i'm confused!

Mallory Elise said...

i agree Aran, when i was writing this i thought "hey let's say hahahaha down with guns and a curse upon their makers!" but then i thought, wow, that would be quite inappropriate since i live in a country with a standing military, and while im against war, i am not naive enough to say a country doesn't need armed forces, because yes i would take the protection of their guns, and of those of the police if i were in danger. so i say yes it's a confusing thing--but i will say i am not a supporter of civilian rights to bear arms. as for hunting, if people hunt for the gratification of eating fresh meat, im ok with it. but not as a sport.

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

yes, i'm with you. my uncle in law who lives in montana is an avid hunter. he sent us some elk meat last year and we lived off it for about 4 months. so in that respect, i admire and understand the need for hunting for those who enjoy meat. i'm not necessarily a carnivore but i do enjoy meat that has been hunted this way, with a license and with this purpose.

i really cannot stand when people criticize hunting and then eat grilled chicken sandwiches from any fast food joint or any average restaurant for that matter.

so anyway, the reason why i came back to your blog is because I wanted to ask you what you thought about Bourdain's new show. i just watched it. i love him and this show reenforced it. he was right on the money. but i'm not sure about some of those other people that were around the table with him... didn't amy sacco said she likes to make pasta and then said risotto in the same sentence? huh??? i'd like to hear your thoughts.

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

yes, yes... do you think we can call and get tickets like for the oprah show? :)

agree with everything you said. bill buford good. tim allen ok but get rid of the others please!!!!

Pea and Pear said...

Mallory Elise, I much prefer the picture of you holding a mcaron then a gun!!!!

and the nuts... in my hometown (Brisbane, Qld, Aust) we have a great shop called Mick's nuts (heheheh get it mixed nuts... anyway) and I miss it often and al the more after reading your post. I must commend you on your bravery, with both the macaron and the (yucky) gun!!!!!

you should have bartered "ok I'll fire your gun, you whisk my egg whites!!!"

Ali ;)

Helene said...

Guns for hunting and defending, I can see (dad's in the air force) but guns for "fun" or "because"..hell no!
Macarons in place of wouldn't that be an interesting weapon to reach world peace!
Have not seen the new Bourdain show. Curious to hear your thoughts about it.

Unknown said...

I'll be succinct and state that I'll take macarons over shotguns any time of the day. :)

Mallory Elise said...

Yes to everyone---I would love to replace every gun in the world with a macaron. if only right.

Journey to a Centum said...

Guns and Macarons? Is that a band?

Ahhh, I saw your comment on Scott's blog about the Spokane Marathon. Check the calendar on . You will find that Seattle is not the only show in town.

Since Seattle is the race on your radar I'll just suggest that you bring every piece of running clothing you have and dress for the weather that morning. I've run it in total downpour, clear & cold and everything in between.

Good luck and have fun!

Manuela © said...

The delicate macarrons are harder to make than shooting, but the taste is much sweeter :)

I think I got jealous about your shirt with the "Make bread not war" lol

Christy said...

Seems like I'm the only one who didn't comment on the gun. Or shooting. Well, what do I know? I've never been anywhere near a gun all my life; in fact I've never even seen them in real life. But I hold the opinion that killing for food, or for defense, are the only acceptable uses for a gun.

Definitely yes on the idea! I want to go on that tour right now, in fact!! We'll eat the pastries first, then go see monkeys and then break for tea. How does that sound?

Mallory Elise said...

Christy--you ain't missing anything.

yes. let's pull up the business plans---though i think if we advertise "tea WITH monkeys who also sip it" we might pull in even more revenue. tee hee.

Vera said...

Mallory, the macaroons are flawless! Total perfection! And it's your first attempt?!

Susie Homemaker said...

I, too went to Helen. Best decision ever. Love making macarons - I may have to try this pecan pie variety though!
Thanks for stopping by my blog!

cakewardrobe said...

Beautiful first macarons! I've had all the ingredients/flavors sitting in my pantry for weeks and haven't budged up the confidence to make them. I too have studied the art of making macarons as if they were SATs or something!

Anonymous said...

I think shooting a gun, like making macarons or taking a beautiful photograph, requires skill. And you are a rare talent who can do all three very well. You should be proud of that, no matter which skills you choose to practice most in the future. ;)

Anonymous said...

Oh your macarons look perfect!And I am drooling over that apple cheesecake in your latest post!

Anonymous said...


ça c'est trop!


the secret: mix some guns to baking macarrons and photograph it. voila!