Pink Lemonade & Vanilla Custard Macarons



























 
My best friend in primary school was a girl called Catherine. I have never been able to remember when we first became friends or putting it another way, I can't remember a time when we weren't friends.

Catherine was super-intelligent.  I was better described as bright. Together, we didn't quite fit with the other girls in school, who were mostly into perms, My Little Ponies, picking on the poor kids and giggling about boys. We liked those things too (other than bullying and boys, who quite frankly, were beneath us), but we really preferred creating and becoming immersed in our own world.

Another girl was briefly allowed to enter our universe when we got to Top Infants class.  Rebecca, or Gloworm, as we used to call her (being the nearest we could come to pronouncing her Czech surname which began with a G, plus an oddly popular toy when I was small) was a disruptive influence and was always getting us into trouble. For a while, we delighted in the novelty of flouting authority, but she was soon given short shrift when we discovered that she had slyly been playing us off against each other in an attempt to oust one of us from our group.

Not that we needed our peers to help drive a wedge between us.

We were both considered by our teachers to be 'ones to watch' and boy, didn't we know it.  And whilst my parents were content to be quietly proud of my achievements and school and encourage to me to learn and do my best, Catherine's parents were determined that she should excel at everything.  Catherine was definitely the brainiest of the two of us, there was no doubt about that and in most subjects, I would get a B+ and she would get an A-.  But when it came to subjects such as creative writing, drama and music, I was the one who had the edge, being as I had a sometimes dangerously vivid imagination.

The incident that springs to mind as an example is when I persuaded my little sister to hide in the chest freezer in our Great Uncle Tom's greenhouse, then went into the house and told the adults that she had been kidnapped by the gypsies who hung around Roundhay Park Woods. One police cordon and three hours later, my sister, bored of crouching in a freezer eating peas from Great Uncle's summer allotment plunder, came strolling through the back door.

Catherine's mother in particular, was extremely irked by the apparent creativity imbalance and I remember several awkward occasions at Catherine's house at teatime, being grilled about what approach I was taking to particular assignments, what grades I had got etc. Woe betide Catherine, if I had got a higher score than her, or if a teacher had given me a smiley sticker and she had merely received a score and an encouraging comment in the margin of her exercise book.

In the early stages of it, the competition was friendly. 

I don't remember which one of us introduced the 'Famous Five' to the other. But we both took to the series like hungry jackals. One of my recurring memories of that age in my life is Catherine sitting on the bay window sill in her bedroom, facing me sitting on her bed propped up against the wall, both of us reading a copy of the same book, silent except to occasionally ask the other how far they'd got in the book. The feeling associated with these memories is one of utter peace and contentment.

It became a point of pride to be the one who finished the next 'Famous Five' book first. To the point that I used to skim the book without really absorbing it, just to be plausible when I told Catherine I'd finished it. I would them go back and read the book again, properly. Then, I would read it again, just to be sure that I hadn't missed any detail that may have made a difference to my reading of the plot.

Thinking back to why I enjoyed them so much now, I have no doubt as to what kept me reading. Camping, picnics, smugglers, kidnappers, a relationship with parent figures that extended beyond being told what to do, where children were treated as equals with interesting things to say.

This was the world I bought into. The children were completely irrelevant. Even George, the character most feted by Blyton fans, didn't strike a chord, as I wasn't a rebel or a tomboy and had no desire to be either.  But that was the beauty of the Famous Five, because the characters were so inspid they were easy to ignore and instead immerse yourself in the adventure in their place.

Timmy The Dog, will always have a place in my heart, being the dog I couldn't have because of severe allergies and a mother who didn't like animals.


Living in the suburbs didn't offer much opportunity for defeating smugglers or going on treasure hunts. Not that location deterred me.  I badgered my parents for a metal detector for a while, but once I realised one wasn't forthcoming, I decided to make do with guesswork.  One sunny afternoon saw me digging a trowel-sized hole in my dad's newly turfed lawn, in an attempt to find Roman coins. I'd got elbow deep before my dad came barrelling down the garden as though on castors, to drag me indoors to wash the soil off and empty my NatWest piggy bank to pay for the damage to the lawn. 

 It was around the time that I started learning the piano, that the competition between me and Catherine turned into rivalry. A matter of days after I passed my Grade One exam with Distinction, lo and behold, Catherine announced that she too, was beginning to learn the piano.

Things came to a head, literally, when I achieved Distinction on my Grade Three piano exam and Catherine 'only' achieved a Merit. What exactly provoked the fight is lost in my memory now, but the cumulation of the fight itself isn't. A few scuffles and shuffles in and suddenly, all went quiet. 

I vividly remember standing back to see Catherine with blood pouring out of her mouth and another girl, who I hope will forgive me for not remembering who she was, screaming. Catherine had lost her balance and fallen forwards onto the girl. When she stepped away, she forgot to take her front teeth with her, embedded as they were in the other girl's head.

It was a playground scene to remember. I am not exaggerating or being nostalgic when I say that a horde of children ran after us up the slope to the medical room, to where the horrified teachers on playground duty had ferried us having realised that there was a child with the blood equivalent of Nigara Falls flowing from her mouth and another with teeth sticking out of her head.

Despite being pitched against each other in this fashion, our friendship lasted until the penultimate term of our final year of primary school. As I recall, because we were both headed to the same secondary school and I'd got it into my head that I should start to branch out and had to phase Catherine out completely, in order to do so. I think I remember realising that Catherine was sneered at because of her intelligence and that if I didn't want to be tarred with the same brush in secondary school, I had to separate myself from her. What a lovely child I was.


A little competition in one's life isn't always a bad thing, of course. I'm fairly certain that my piano examination results wouldn't have been as good if it wasn't for the thought of having to listen to Catherine and her mother gloating at the news that I had achieved anything less than top marks. It certainly served Catherine well. She went on to achieve a First in Economics at Oxford and now works as the head of department at a high-profile financial services firm.

Having re-read 'Five on a Treasure Island' for the purpose of this post, I was somewhat taken aback at what pigs those children were.  Granted, with all the running about rescuing Uncle Quentin etc., they probably burned off most of the calories.
Nonetheless, there are several references in the books to them having eaten two meals' worth of sandwiches in one go, eating a banquet's worth of fruit and custard in the space of a quick lunch and the merest hint of sunshine is roundly celebrated with a round of ice-cream. Frankly, I'm surprised that by the time they came to the later books, they were able to get in the row boat to their beloved Kirrin Island without it capsizing.
This post is in honour of that first, heady friendship, parallel play, greedy posh children and MacTweets 7.


























Pink Lemonade Macarons

For the shells (makes 20)
45 grams egg whites, separated 48 hours prior to cooking
15 grams caster sugar
100 grams icing sugar
55 grams ground almonds
1 teaspoon raspberry puree

Method
Beat egg whites until they look like bath foam. Gradually sprinkle in caster sugar whilst continuing to whisk, turning the whites from bath foam into shaving cream. Do not overbeat, or the whites will get too dry and be an arse to work with.

Sieve together the icing sugar and ground almonds and add these to the egg whites. Carefully fold the almond mixture into the whites. When all is starting to become incorporated, add the raspberry puree and continue to fold until the batter forms ribbons when dropped into the bowl.  It should take about 50 folds overall.

Test if the batter is ready to pipe by plopping a teaspoon onto itself within the mixing bowl. If it sinks into itself after 10 seconds, it's ready, if it keeps a peak on top, give the batter a few more folds and re-test.

Put baking parchment onto a baking tray and pipe macaron shells onto the parchment. Aim for walnut-sized: about 3-4 cm wide. They do spread a little bit. A space which is about two widths of my forefinger is enough to stop the shells from migrating into each other.

Leave the shells in a cool place for about 30 minutes to 1 hour to form a skin. Test if they have skinned up by gently touching them.

Pre-heat your oven to 180C / 160C fan and bake the shells for 8 minutes, then remove and see if they come away from the baking parchment in one piece, without resistance. If they do not, return them to the oven for two more minutes, then remove and test again. Repeat for further 2 minute intervals if required.

Once the shells are cooked, have a wire cooling rack ready and slide the shells, still attached to parchment, onto the cooling rack and leave for a couple of minutes. They then should be ready to carefully peel away from the parchment and to return to the wire rack to cool completely.

For the lemonade buttercream
3 teaspoons lemon sherbert
2 teaspoons lemon curd
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted

Method
Cream the butter and icing sugar together. I like to manually mix it at first, to allow the icing sugar to 'stick' to the butter, in order to avoid an atomic cloud of sugar rising from the bowl when I put the electric mixer in. 

Beat for a good few minutes, past the stage where the butter and sugar is aflomping about in the bowl and you're standing there, thinking, IS THIS EVER GOING TO COME TOGETHER? Past the stage where it becomes a sandy-textured mixture and keep going until it starts to resemble clotted cream. Then add the 'liquid' ingredients: the lemon juice and curd. Continue to beat until everything starts to look really creamy and any hint of graininess is gone (taste to test).  Stir in the zest.

The sherbert should be kept to one side in a shallow dish. Use it to decorate the sides of your macarons, once sandwiched together, in the way you attached glitter to a glued surface when making decorations.

For the shells
Ingredients and Method are the same as Pink Lemonade Macarons recipe, but substitute raspberry puree for the same amount of vanilla bean extract. If you have vanilla seeds, use them instead.

Put the vanilla in at the same stage that the rasperry puree goes in to the mix.

For the custard filling 
2 tablespoons creme anglaise
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Method
Cream icing sugar and butter, as above. Add creme anglaise and vanilla bean paste and beat until well amalgamated and the mixture has thickened enough to allow its' use as a paste in your macarons.


Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

6 comments:

  1. Loved the read Sarah... from the heart, brilliantly written and so reflective of the childhood years! I was a huge fan of the Famous Five too; books that didn't demand much from the reader, but offered so much adventure in our little minds! You were quite a handful huh?
    Thank you for these gorgeous macs. Love the flavour combination. Refreshing and just right for summer! Thanks for joining Jamie & me at MacTweets

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  2. That's brilliant and your macs look cool too. I have an Enid Blyton style adventure of my own to share for this post if I manage to finish my macs in time!

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  3. Oh my I don't know whether to laugh or cry! This story in unbelievable! What a childhood and what a friend. Well, maybe slightly pathological? But I love the way you loved and read these books and so funny that you could read the adventures without getting involved in the characters! I also think it is amazing when we, all these years later, reread the books and see them in a totally entirely different way! The macs are wonderful and sentimental and I am so glad you made these cool, summer macs for mactweets!

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  4. I laughed and laughed. I am amazed that you survived your childhood and became an adult. So Funny. I am from the U.S. and am confused about the sherbert. Here is the states sherbert is a fruit flavored ice cream (frozen). I am assuming that is is something entirely different in England? Your macarons are beautiful.

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  5. Oh, my!! What a story. Your mac's are beautiful. I love the idea of custard as a filling.

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  6. Thank you for the comments, glad that you liked the post. I promise you, I wasn't a particularly naughty child, but when I went off-piste, I *really* went off-piste!

    Sherbert is a fizzy powder sugar, usually lemon flavored, although you can get cream soda, raspberry etc. It was a staple penny sweet ingredient in the UK when I was young.

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