I am not Maison Ladurée, but I can sure try to be.

 

Ah, le macaron.  The iconic, airy, colorful sandwich cookie that evokes the tenants of all things French: chic, beautiful, delicious….and extremely temperamental.  The macaron arguably elicits the very stereotype of the Parisian people that they often deny (or proudly uphold, depending on which one you talk to): complicated, meticulous, difficult to replicate, and exacting to the last detail.

And yes, I’m talking about a cookie here.  The small kind of cookies my husband likes to pop into his mouth in one swift motion, chew three times without actually tasting, and then swallow down his throat without another thought.  I’ve worked eight long years on getting him to enjoy the finer things in life, but even still he has his moments.  But I digress.

You see, this cookie is a big part of my plans.  My dreams.  I’m being real here, at the expense of being laughed at.  Isn’t it so hard to share your hopes and dreams with strangers?  This is my way of keeping myself accountable, or tracking my progression into business ownership.  And I will succeed.  You see, macarons are going to be part of my empire.  Maybe (definitely) not Ladurée style, but part of it nonetheless.

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My friend Alma brought me these direct from Paris.  I took six days to eat them so as to enjoy them as long as possible.  And no, I did not share with my husband.

Do you recall my recent post in which I explained that I have several years until bringing said dreams into reality?  Well, my husband really kind of lit a fire under me to start experimenting and (eventually) perfecting in the kitchen, so that I’m ready to pounce when my opportunity strikes.  And so that very week I went out and bought a bulk-size bag of almond flour, a food scale, and some piping bags and tips (which turned out to be the totally wrong tips, but more on that later.  I made it work).  And that Friday, after doing lots of research online and understanding just how challenging macarons can be – particularly in humid climates – and feeling more determined than ever to do it anyway, I put that baby down for a nap, rolled up my sleeves, put on my apron and I got to work.

I should preface this by saying I scoured the internet looking for the Ladurée macaron recipe.  I figured, if these are going to be a part of my empire, then I may as well learn how to make the absolute best type of macaron.  So after comparing a few blogs who claimed to be using this recipe, and learning you can actually buy a Ladurée cookbook (which I promptly added to my Amazon wishlist and hinted to my husband it would be a perfect Mother’s Day gift), I settled on the recipe by A Bit of Bee’s Knees.

As The Pioneer Woman would say, here is the cast of characters:

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So here are the things you will need that you might not already have in your kitchen arsenal:

ALMOND FLOUR: the key and essential ingredient to macarons.  It makes them light and fluffy and gives them that nutty, airy taste.  Can be found in the baking section of any grocery store, with the specialty flours (or gluten free section).  I found this giant bag at Sam’s club.

A food scale: you can find several recipes that convert the measurements of dry ingredients in grams to cups, but from my research they are not extremely accurate, and said research also taught me that macarons are so temperamental that it really is worth investing in a scale and to just do it the right way.  So I bought this one at Bed Bath & Beyond for like $6.  You can spend a crap ton of money on scales it turns out, but since I’m just getting started I figured a cheapy will do for now.

Piping tips: Ok so I bought cake decorating tips which ARE NOT THE SAME as food piping tips, as the opening to the tips are so much smaller.  The recipe calls for about a .5″ tip opening, and I discovered mine was microscopic.  I made it work, but do yourself a favor and get the correct tools (your forearms will thank you).

A sifter.  I had recently bought myself one as I never had one before, but this is also an essential tool because you must sift the flour and confectioner’s sugar together.  This eliminates all lumps and turns the dry ingredients into a fine powder.  WARNING: sifting takes forever.  So put on some music and be patient.

Food processor.  I note this only because up until about a year ago, I never had one.  Just some crappy Oster blender that was a wedding gift, and couldn’t handle anything beyond a smoothie.  Now I have a fantastic Ninja and ever since we bought it, it has come in handy SO MANY TIMES.  You many not need one if your flour is fine enough- I didn’t actually need one (I realized after the fact), because I bought super fine almond flour, however the recipe technically calls for pulverized almonds, so if you must pulverize your own almonds, you will absolutely need a food processor.

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My baby!  Isn’t she a beauty??

LOTS OF EGGS.  You need 6 egg whites + 1/2 extra (I told you they were meticulous, didn’t I?), AND they need to be room temperature, otherwise your meringue will not be, well, meringue.  I was impatient and nuked mine for 10 seconds on half power, but I recommend planning ahead and just pulling them out well in advance.  I saved the yolks in the fridge hoping to figure out something to do with them, as it felt wasteful to throw away 7 egg yolks.  Sadly I never got around to making custard.  Next time.

Also, I read another blog about using aged egg whites.  According to Food Nouveau (my new Bible for all things macarons), this means separating the egg whites into a plastic sealed container and letting them sit in the fridge for 1-2 days before using them.  Now, I didn’t know this beforehand, but I am going to try it next time and hope that my macarons raise a little bit more in the oven.

And my last bit of advice before you launch into this adventure, is to remember to let your piped beauties sit on their cookie sheets for a LONG TIME before putting them in the oven.  The recipe I used says 10 minutes, or until they develop a bit of a dry shell so that if you very lightly brush them with your finger, you don’t get any batter on yourself.  Well, this took WAY more than 10 minutes for me.  More like 25 minutes until they achieved this consistency (I’m thinking living in humid Florida is the culprit, lucky me).  However, it is an essential step, otherwise your cookies will not pop up in the oven and have a delicate “foot” on the bottom as they are supposed to.

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Waiting…and waiting…and waiting for that delicate shell to harden.  I recommend wine while you wait.
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See the base of the cookie?  That’s the “foot.”  Mine should be bigger, but hey, first time.

And there you have it, things to consider before you attempt your first batch.  You’ll notice I didn’t actually include the recipe here, or show you my step-by-step process.  I had so many thoughts swirling around on this snarky little cookie, that I decided to write about my experiment in a few posts (otherwise this would be entirely too long and you would stop reading halfway through… If you haven’t already). So stay tuned, my next post will be the recipe and my experience trying these for the first time.  If you just can’t wait for that, scroll up to access the recipe via the provided link.

Happy baking!

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This is where I’m meant to be, because this is where I am

Happy Monday!  I’ve been cooking up some great things in the kitchen this week that I plan to share once I get all my images loaded, but in the meantime I thought I would share this post I wrote a while back, as I continue to deal with accepting my lot in life these days.  I know many, many military spouses or anyone who has had a huge life change can identify.  I’d love for you to share your thoughts…

On Friday I received some perspective from the most unlikeliest of sources.  Seriously, I never would have expected this person to offer me some food for thought that would actually leave a lasting impression on me, and that I’ve been thinking about ever since.  It led me to some pretty profound conclusions I am making about my life, namely the acceptance of what my life is, despite my willful denial.

My husband had this boss back in Washington who was always a bit of a challenge for him.  They had a constant personality clash and while they got on and worked together fine, Sean was never quite sure how to read his boss.  I was friends with his wife, as we had babies about 5 months apart, and several things in common such as a graduate education and professional jobs/goals.  Still, I was never able to feel close to his wife for much the same reason that my husband was never in his boss’s club of favorites.

Anyway.  This former boss of my husband’s was in town for work, and we were chatting at a social function.  I think Sean had informed him that I was having a hard time settling in here, because one of the first things he said to me was “So you know, there are a ton of fun things to do here in Florida.”  I sarcastically replied, “Oh really?  Are you sure?” (I’m snarky like that).  And then he went into all the fun things he and his wife used to do when they lived here a while back.  I appreciated the input and really do plan to make the most of this place, when I’m ready, but I also told him I just really belong in Washington and I hope we can go back there soon.

To which he replied with the aforementioned profound perspective that I was not expecting.  He said to me, “The way I see it, you guys moved back ‘home’ to Washington after being in Hawaii for five years, and that really pressed ‘reset’ on your life as a military family.  You got all settled in close to your family and everything familiar, and moving to Florida was like ripping you out of your comfort zone again and reminding you that you actually are a military family.  It will just take time to realize that.”

Mic drop.

Jaw drop.

I played it cool and acknowledged that that was indeed true, all of it, and that I was sure I’d get used to it in time.  But as we left that evening, I couldn’t stop thinking about what he said.  This guy had maybe said three sentences TOTAL to me in the past 3.5 years, and here he was giving me some advice I had never heard from anyone, and which had directed my thinking in a completely different direction.  I like to say I am so much more than a military wife, and I am, but I have to acknowledge that being a military wife is part of me too, and I am who I am today in large part because of the last eight years of my life.

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It was easy to acknowledge being a military wife in Hawaii: I was a newlywed, living in paradise, and therefore excited and proud to be living that lifestyle.  But I also had just graduated college, and had goals that had nothing to do with being a military spouse.  And I met a lot of spouses who seemed like their only goal in life was to be, well, a military spouse.  I was married to the man I love who also happened to be in the military, I wasn’t in love with a military man.  If that makes sense.  Then when we moved to Washington, I was back home.  Everything was familiar and comfortable, and though Sean traveled constantly, my life felt like it went back to normal and it was easy to forget that I was even a military spouse at all.  Heck, all my family lived three hours or less away.

And then we moved to Florida.  And all I do is complain about my life.  And everything is an adjustment again, this time with a small toddler in tow.  And my goals have changed a lot since then, many of which can not be achieved while we live this lifestyle.  And all my family is 3,000 miles away.

And so I struggle.

So I’m having a long and hard think on all this.  I appreciate the perspective and admit it was deeply profound, but it also doesn’t make the transition any easier.  My stepmom, who is a mindfulness coach, explained to me a few weeks ago that this is where I am meant to be, because this is where I am.  Sounds pretty zen, doesn’t it?  But maybe that’s the simple truth of it: despite my wishing I wasn’t here, it is indeed where I am.  I am here with my husband who doesn’t have to travel for the next 2.5 years, my sweet daughter, and sunshine.

So much sunshine.

Maybe that will have to be enough for a while.

Don’t fear your dreams; they’re worth waiting for

You guys… I’m sitting in a salon with my hair painted various colors, all of which I’m hoping are the opposite of the end result. And I’m waiting and staring at the walls. So I thought I’d do some writing instead.

I’ve been thinking… I’ve never shared why my blog is called Café Geneviève, or why I am the Francophile I claim myself to be.


Well, it all started in high school. I was accidentally assigned to a French class as a freshman and decided to give it a whirl. Long story short, I fell in love with language, and discovered I had quite a talent for learning language. Fast forward to the summer of my junior year when my class took a 10 day trip to France, and I fell deeper in love with this glamorous, sophisticated culture that praised beauty, art and delicious food. Who can’t get on board with that??

In college I continued on with French, testing into senior-level advanced courses as a freshman. After a bad breakup, I decided I needed to “see the world” and applied for my university’s study abroad program. By the next fall I found myself having a panic attack in a hotel room in Paris with my best friend. We were all alone, jet lagged, and I had five months of living with a French host family looming ahead of me. What had I done to myself?! Though I yearn for adventure and travel, I am also a creature of comfort and resistant to change. I’m quite a conundrum, aren’t I?

The next five months were filled with frustration, frequent episodes of being lost in translation, adventure, so much travel, self-learning, overcoming fears, growing in confidence and a mastery of a language I was deeply in love with. As I sat in my host mother’s kitchen on my last day in Nantes, having a full conversation with her entirely in French, she pointed out just how far I had come. Wonderfully, miraculously, full circle.

To this day, though my life has been full of many other hurdles, arguably as challenging as this, it is the greatest personal accomplishment of my life. My own fears and lack of confidence almost got in my way of achieving an experience I wanted even more than how heavily my self doubt weighed on me. I overcame a great fear and I believe it made me into the woman I am today.

So, two years of graduate school later, I am armed with a teaching certificate I haven’t been able to use as intended. Being a military spouse hasn’t exactly landed me in areas of high demand for French language teachers. A variety of experiences in teaching has taught me, however, that my desire to indulge my passions will be better accomplished in other ways.

When my family is settled in one place, I have big plans. Until then, my dreams are under construction. I am learning and developing my goals so that I will be ready to hit the ground running with my business. It is often that I feel frustrated by my limitations of our nomadic lifestyle lately, but my husband recently pointed out that I have the gift of time to hone my plan and to learn as much as I can so that I will be successful when my time does come.

And I think the first step was reminding myself through this medium of who I am, what I’ve already accomplished and where I want it to take me.

Do you have dreams you may have had to put on hold at first? How do you keep the passion burning?

One things for sure, I’ll have a fabulous hairstyle when my time does come.