Friday, November 13, 2009


“We have not wings we cannot soar; but, we have feet to scale and climb, by slow degrees, by more and more, the cloudy summits of our time.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What are these invaluable things called FEET? When she failed 6 times making macs on a single morning trying to win over the first macattack, Deeba was DISTRAUGHT! Was in tears & constantly on twitter & on the phone with Aparna in Goa, taking non-stop about feet. Mr PAB had this very perplexed look but dared not utter a word. He finally mustered up the courage later when success 'happened' on the 7th attempt! What the hell are FEET? he asked. By which time feetless boxes of macs had been stuffed under sofas, inside cupboards ... everywhere. The next man who raised the FEET question was Mowie, and we thought to ourselves ... Is this 'FEET' question a girls' thing? The bunch of us just took to the word FEET nonchalantly & got down to baking...

Photo courtesy Sunita Bhuyan  Underneath the top smooth shell of the macaron is a ruffled skirt called FEET. 

Those feet are the centre of our MacTweet universe. We can live with them, but we can't live without them. We are emotional about 'em...

From the wailing tweet... "Boohooo this batch had no feet", ... the high pitched one in Cooking Ninja style "U'll get your feets dearie. Can see you jumping up & down in yr kitchen shouting 'I got feets! I got feets!' like u won lotto. ;)"... you can hear it loud and clear!"


Macpassionate & macobsessed, at the end of the day, it's all about FEET! Our world here had been narrowed down in perspective. This mac obssessed group sees FEET everywhere.

Besides real mac feet, we find feet elsewhere too. Nancy Sinatra now sings to us "These feet are made for walkin' ... and takes us back to days when the old LP record with her booming voice would play! Or when Colloquial Cook recently tweeted to Deeba, "I fell off my chair when I saw your macs". Her immediate tweetback " Shall I give you a 'feet' ... oops hand". We have Vino Luci talking about 'feet at size 11', and the party's on...

... Got a 'feet' tale? Share it here, share a giggle...

Follow us and all the Mac Attack Buzz on Twitter @lifesafeast and @vindee

Sunday, November 08, 2009


Probably the most delicate part of making perfect macarons is the meringue. Some of us are passionate about whipping egg whites and follow our instincts surely and without a second thought. Others, not so much. We want to give some tips here about whipping up a meringue that won’t let you down as well as the process of folding the whites into the powdered sugar/ground almond mixture.Our first suggestion is to follow your own instinct. If you doubt yourself and wonder if the whites have been whipped enough, then just beat them a little more. Better a bit too much than not enough.
One important thing that Jamie learned from Chef B, pastry chef and instructor at the professional cooking where she worked, is that it is important to avoid whipping whites in a glass bowl. Why? The glass has no “tread”, nothing to grip onto, so the whites slip around the bowl and it is impossible to completely whip them; you will always find liquid underneath the stiff whites. Copper is the best surface to whip whites on, if not then use a plastic bowl. Jamie always whips her whites in a plastic bowl and they are always perfectly and 100% whipped.
  • First, break your whites into a very very clean bowl (no grease!). You can add a drop of fresh lemon juice plus a few grains of salt to the whites. This (like cream of tartar) helps stabilize your whites.
  • Now, first “break” your whites by mixing them on low speed for about 30 seconds, then increase your mixer speed to medium then high speed.
  • As soon as the whites are frothy and foamy, start to add the sugar, a teaspoon at a time, whipping continuously. Keep whipping until the whites are stiff – you should be able to hold the bowl upside down over your head and the egg whites shouldn’t budge! If they drip onto your head then you haven’t whipped them enough!

Now, there are two schools of folding when it comes to macarons: folding the powdered sugar/almond mixture into the whites or the whites into the sugar blend. Jamie does the latter. Now, no need to try and fold a third of the whites into the dry ingredients as you would for cake batter. Too dry. She adds all the meringue to the dry ingredients then, using her silicon spatula, she folds; scoop down to the bottom around the edge of the bowl, lift and fold, turning the bowl with your left hand as you go.
Make sure you are scraping the dry ingredients from the bottom as you go! This process should be done quickly – as few folds as possible – and gently so you don’t crush the whipped whites.The batter should be completely blended and homogeneous, thick and smooth enough so it falls from the spatula in a thick ribbon or, as Helen describes it, like lava flowing. To test to see if it is ready to pipe, take a clean plate and drop about a teaspoon of the batter on the plate. The point of the batter on top of the mound should flatten and disappear within 30 seconds. If it doesn’t then give the batter a few more folds and turns before testing again. They speak of 30 to 50 turns and folds but I don’t know, I lose count around 10. Again, in Jamie’s opinion, better a few extra turns than a few too few.
Now, take your previously prepared pastry bag with wide tip, fold down the sides, opening up the center. Holding the base of the bag where the tip is (the folded down upper part of the pastry bag should be over your hand) gently scoop up quantities of the batter with your spatula and place it down into the pastry bag as far as it will go, to the tip if possible. Keep filling it up, pulling the pastry bag back up as you fill it. Now push then squish down the batter towards the tip to get the batter into the tip and get out air bubbles, twist the bag closed at the top of the batter and pipe!Hold your pastry bag upright over the center of the drawn circles, squeeze, trying to get each mound out in one push. When the batter has almost come to the edge of the circle, stop pushing batter and flick the pastry tip away from the mound of batter in a sharp quick motion. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll leave behind a minimal point, which will then “melt” into the mound. If you are sprinkling something onto the surface of the shells (half the shells as only half are tops to the sandwich), do so now – colored sugar, finely chopped nuts or whatever.
Now just wait. Leave them babies alone for 45 minutes to an hour – again a bit longer is better. The first time you make macs, gently and barely touch the surface of one and you’ll see that it is wet and sticky like fresh batter. When you think the mac shells are ready to go in the oven, again gently touch just the surface of one – you should be able to feel that a sort of skin has formed. It is no longer like freshly piped batter. If you can’t feel a difference then let them sit for a bit longer until you do feel this skin. Now bake...

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Friday, November 06, 2009


Everyone has been asking about flavors: can we do whatever flavor we want, any filling we choose? Or are we all doing the same? We decided to allow everyone to do as they please this time for 2 reasons:

First, I had asked everyone to make coffee macs the first round and only a few did. Others used their imagination and went their own way which gave us some very exciting macs!

Second, to tell you the truth, Deeba and I were so excited about and busy with our new Mac Kitchen blog that we skipped over this point completely. Yikes! Next time we might have everyone make the same recipe just to compare results and have something to check our own results by. This would help us all understand the complexity and the very nature of these elegant creatures.

We would like to offer a few flavorings to those with little or no mac experience just to help you on your way. The recipe we offer you here, Helen’s recipe, is the simplest basic recipe going. She makes hers with violet sugar, as Jamie did on her first mac try.

Here is the basic recipe with some changes Jamie made.
Basic mac shell recipe:
90 gr egg whites (about 3) *
30 gr (1 oz, 2 Tbs + ¼ tsp) granulated sugar
200 gr (7 oz, 1 ½ cups + 1 Tbs + 1 tsp) powdered sugar
110 gr (3 7/8 oz, 1 cup + 1 Tbs + 1 tsp) ground almonds

* personally, I have never weighed my egg whites. I use large eggs.

Jamie has graciously done the dirty work for those who do not have scales, and has converted the gram measurements into ounces as well as cups/ tablespoons/teaspoons.

If using flavored sugars such as violet, maple, vanilla etc, just replace 1 tsp of the granulated sugar with 1 teaspoon of your flavored sugar then use about 1 teaspoon of the flavored sugar to sprinkle on the shells just after piping.
Coffee shells: stir 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder into the powdered sugar/ground almond mixture.
Chocolate shells: Stir about 1 tablespoon (15 g) unsweetened cocoa powder into the powdered sugar/ground almond mixture.
These are pretty simple and delicious flavors to start with.

If you want to make basic unflavoured yet colourful macs, then add 2-3 drops of liquid colour after the batter is mixed. Gently mix though till no white streaks are visible, and then fill in bag & pipe.

Fillings can be simple ganache, buttercream, jelly or jam, fruit compote, whatever you like that can hold up to being sandwiched in between layers of macaron shells.

If you use a different flavoring for the shells, then we'd love to hear your story. And of course, we will be able to discover your recipes after the round up!

Follow us and all the Mac Attack Buzz on Twitter @lifesafeast and @vindee

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

MAC ATTACK 2... the game is on!


Welcome to Jamie and Deeba’s virtual Mac Kitchen where French Macarons are the order of the day. Some of you remember our first Mac Challenge
with the round up here

We had so much fun and stirred up so much excitement that twitter was all abuzz! More and more food bloggers wanted in, either to try their hand, perfect their skills or to simply play along.

So we, Deeba and Jamie, decided to create a separate space where it all could happen. And we are ready to inaugurate our special Mac Kitchen and name the first date.

We've chosen a recipe from Helen's beautiful blog Tartlette for this challenge. This is a sample recipe, the simplest and clearest of mac recipes, but feel free to use your own. The violet sugar is entirely optional. You can go plain or use any flavour you fancy.

Violet Macarons With Violet And Vanilla Bean Buttercream Recipe:
recipe from Helen @ Tartlette
Makes between 30 to 40 macarons

For the macarons shells:
90 gr egg whites (about 3)
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds
2 tablespoons crushed violet sugar or candied violet petals

For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature in a covered container. If you want to use 48hrs (or more) egg whites, you can store them in the fridge.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry. Combine the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like lava or a thick ribbon. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes.

Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with the crushed sugar or violet petals. Preheat the oven to 280F. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size.

Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer. To fill: pipe or spoon about 1 big tablespoon of butterceam in the center of one shell and top with another one.

Violet and Vanilla Buttercream:
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon violet sugar +1 tablespoon water (or 2 tablespoons violet liqueur)
1 vanilla bean, split open and seeded

Put the sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like marshmallow cream. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat the meringue on medium speed until it cools and forms a thick shiny meringue, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. Divided the buttercream in two portions.

For the violet buttercream: microwave the violet sugar and water for 30 to 45 seconds. Let cool completely before folding it into the buttercream. If using liqueur, just fold it in the buttercream.

For the vanilla buttercream: add the seeds from the vanilla bean to the buttercream and fold with a spatula until fully incorporated. If not using right away, refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to 1 month.

Just make your macs, keep us up to date on your progress, ask questions if you have problems or share your feet via twitter @lifesafeast and @vindee and then post your macs on your own blog by 10th December 2009 with a mention of this challenge, linking back to the Mactweets blog.

The round up of all macs will be put up here on the 15th December 2009.


Follow us and all the Mac Attack Buzz on Twitter @lifesafeast and @vindee

Monday, November 02, 2009

MAC ATTACK REDUX....It's here!!


Macarons … those luscious, delicate, tender French delicacies that everyone falls in love with. And too often our personal nemesis, our downfall. Some hit the nail on the head first time around and the exultation, the thrill is an elixir, Cloud 9 and we’re floating. Some end up with flat, lifeless cookies and we hit the ground, angry, frustrated, swearing to shove our piping bag and tips to the back of the drawer and give up, never to look another egg white in the eye! The Mac gods must be against us! But most of us fall somewhere in between: no feet but cute and yummy enough to sandwich together with gooey, creamy, heavenly ganache and eat, or not so cute but still tasty, so those babies end up crumbled on top of ice cream or layered into a tiramisu.
But there is something so magical, so enthralling about French macarons and something so challenging about a pastry that requires such exactitude, such patience, such skill that we are loathe to give up. The siren call of beautiful images splashed across the web, the perfection of the perfect little macaron, the excitement floating around the blogosphere whenever someone else succeeds and we are drawn into the fray, almost against our will, the desire to create the ultimate, perfect “feeted” macaron is too strong for us to fight. But how? Where can you turn to when the urge, the need to master the macaron. Neither Deeba nor I had ever made a macaron before. It was just something too daunting that we kept putting it off, we turned our backs on it even as we were intrigued, as we longed to be able to make them. No, way too scary.
Until we got to discussing it on Twitter. We finally agreed to take the dive together. Make macs we would, but helping, supporting, encouraging each other, sharing advice and information. Soon the buzz began to spread and others joined in, one by one, then by twos and the first Mac Attack Challenge was created. Soon we were getting messages from other food bloggers, attracted by the noise and excitement, clamoring to be included but not having the time to make the first Mac Attack Challenge deadline.
So Deeba and I decided, with the agreement of the others, to make this a monthly event. Everyone who wanted to try for the first time or improve their skills or just try new flavor combinations was welcome to join in the fun! And finally we decided to create this Mactweets blog as our virtual Mac Kitchen, a place where all of us could gather, share advice and share laughs, find encouragement and solace, cheers or pats on the backs.
Here are the rules of the game:
We will post some basic recipes, maybe make a few flavor suggestions for fillings, all quite simple enough for you Mac Virgins out there, and we will fix a date for macs to be finished and results posted on your blogs. Then send us the link to the post – and make sure that you include a mention of and a link back to this blog! - and attach a photograph of your macs, and we will post the round up on another specified date. And we can all share successes, failures, and everything in between. This blog can be a place to ask questions, give advice and suggestions, share recipes and have fun baking together.Follow us and all the Mac Attack Buzz on Twitter @lifesafeast and @vindee