Mortality isn’t something most people really think about or even like to talk about, but sometimes it shoves itself front and center in your face and you have no choice but to confront it. Over the weekend, I got word that a classmate of mine had passed away. For some back-story, I went to parochial schools in Cincinnati. I spent first through fifth grade at Our Lady of the Rosary, then over that summer, moved, and spent sixth through eighth grade at St. Margaret Mary (which I understand has been shuttered by the Cincinnati Diocese). There are a handful of people from O.L.R. I still talk to, mainly through the occasional Facebook like and such, but many of my St. MM friends I still consider close. It’s those friends I went and visited back in 2013:
The classmate who passed away isn’t pictured there in that photo, and while I don’t think I’ve seen him since our eighth-grade graduation, it’s a sad situation all-around. We’re all still so young–I don’t feel like I’m knocking on the door of 40 (even though I will reach that milestone, gods willing, this November), and I don’t feel like any of us are old enough that we should be having health problems or passing away.
It’s a kick in the arse, and a reminder to take advantage of the time you have. Last week, I made some Maple Macarons for some friends, and the bambino begged to have some. I put him off by promising him we’d make more together the following weekend, and he was okay with that. I didn’t want to break my word to him, so we made these simple Almond Macarons with Chocolate Ganache.
It won’t be long before he’s too cool or too busy to hang out in the kitchen with his old ma, so I want to take advantage of the times he is willing to bake cookies with me. Sadly, you just never know when your time is up. I remember reading through a “getting to know you” booklet my great-grandmother had filled out before she passed away, and I was struck by how many things she said she regretted throughout her life. If I’m lucky enough to live as long as she did, with my wits still about me, I don’t want to look back and think “If only I’d taken the time…” or “I wish I’d done this differently.”
2 large egg whites, room temperature, and aged at least 24 hours
53 g granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
For the ganache:
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 C heavy cream
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Weigh the almond flour and confectioners' sugar using a kitchen scale. Combine the two in the bowl of a food processor and process for about 1 minute. Pour the contents into a sieve to remove any larger almond chunks. Process again, or until you have 2 Tbsp. or less of almond pieces. Set the almond flour mixture aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and the granulated sugar. Whip on medium speed for 2 minutes, then medium-high speed for 2 minutes, and high speed for 2 minutes, or until the whites are glossy with stiff peaks.
Add the almond extract, and whip for 1 minute more on high.
Begin folding in the almond mixture, taking care not to over-mix. The batter should resemble cake batter or lava.
Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a round 1/2-inch tip (Wilton 2A or Ateco #804). Pipe 1-inch circles onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about an inch of space in between each. Bang the baking sheets on the counter several times to release any air bubbles. Allow to "dry" for 30 minutes, while preheating the oven to 350 degrees F.
Baking one tray at a time, place in the oven for 7 minutes. Rotate, and bake 7 minutes more. At this point, the macaron shells should be easy to remove from the parchment paper. If one or two are, remove and place the shells on a wire rack to cool completely. Bake the 2nd tray in the same manner.
While the shells are cooling, make the ganache. Place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream until just below boiling (you'll see bubbles along the sides of the saucepan), then pour over the chocolate. Allow to stand for at least 1 minute, then stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the butter. Refrigerate 30 minutes, allowing it to thicken, before spreading on the bottoms of the macaron shells to make sandwiches.
Place the macarons in an air-tight container and refrigerate 12-24 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.