Sweet Treats: Macarons

Sweet Treats: Macarons

Macaron Rainbow
Originally uploaded by sweetmilktea

There seems to hardly be a dessert more iconic in lolita fashion than the macaron. (A “macaroon” is an entirely different kind of cookie, and doesn’t feature in anything lolita fashion-related!) Once featured in the Angelic Pretty series “Dreaming Macaron,” the popularity of these tiny pastries REALLY took off! When not appearing tucked into prints on lolita garments, these puffy discs can be seen in a multitude of colors as sweets jewelry. They’re also a common motif for deco projects.

Personally, I love eating AND making macarons, although it isn’t an easy task! Macarons are very delicate, and it takes a lot of patience to prepare the ingredients, incorporate everything just right, and actually bake the halves that will form the sandwich. When I make macarons, I spend a lot of time sifting almond flour until no lumps remain, then carefully folding in the egg whites–which have to be given a few days to age, and MUST be used at room temperature. These are not the kinds of pastries to be made on last-minute notice.

Traditionally, the flavor of a macaron is dictated by the filling, although the pastry itself is colored appropriately. Personally, when I make mine I like to flavor the cookies just a bit with a few drops of extract. Some of my favourite flavor combinations are rose cookies with strawberry, raspberry, or lingonberry jam~ Jam isn’t a particularly traditional filling, but I don’t like most buttery, frosting-type creams; I feel like they overpower the actual pastry.

However, sometimes it’s less stressful to quell a macaron craving with a trip to the bakery~ These small desserts have become very popular in recent years. In Chicago I keep hearing about more and more bakeries trying their hand at these tiny cookies.

When I buy macarons, I go to Bittersweet Pastry Shop. They’re right in my neighborhood, and their macarons are quite good–crisp, not overfilled, and with the appropriately cute “foot.” (That’s the crinkled edge–all good macarons have a foot; it means that the top is crispier than the chewy inside. When the balance is right, it’s delicious!) They’re certainly not the BEST macarons I’ve ever had, but sometimes it’s worth it to spend a few dollars on something tasty instead of spending several days to make them myself. The chocolate macarons are much better deal than the larger, flavored macarons–$16 for one pound, as opposed to $3-$4 per cookie~

Macarons make a lovely addition to tea-time. They both look and taste fancy, and when made or purchased in pastel-colored flavors like rose or violet, it seems that no dessert could be more ladylike! There are few things prettier than a display of multi-colored macarons atop a china plate…although that’s always a fleeting moment for me; they’re too tempting!

Reading Corner: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Reading Corner: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and Secret Fan
Originally uploaded by CharlesPAD

I will admit immediately that this book really doesn’t connect well to lolita fashion. It’s a modern novel, written in 2005, and it takes place in China during the 1800s. There’s nothing resembling lolita fashion in any stretch, and the only focus on beauty is that of bound feet.

The first time I read this book was several years ago. It had just been published, and my Nana had read it for her book club. She was so enthralled by the tale of friendship and the “secret” world of women that she insisted I read it as well. At first, I worried I wouldn’t like it, but it is truly an engaging tale that was very hard to put down–even for a moment! Recently I decided to re-read it, as I had found myself musing over vaguely remembered details.

The story itself is the tale of friendship between two girls who grow up together in a long-term “emotional marriage” of friendship. As a foolish daydreamer, I found the idea of having an “old same” fascinating, likening it to my relationship with my best friend (as we became friends even earlier than did Lily and Snow Flower). It makes me wish that we had a secret messages passed back and forth–we could read through them an reminisce as old women.

Additionally, I find the concept of nu shu a fascinating one. To think that these women, cooped up in their homes with reshaped feet unsuitable for activity, taught themselves to read and write is amazing! They all lived hard lives, with more sorrow than happiness, and this gave them a way to reach out to other women who could offer support and had endured the same hardships. Considering how isolated they were often kept from families and friends, it seems almost unimaginable how tough it must have been for those who were not high-class enough to be literate in nu shu–how could they tell their mothers and sisters about their lives?

After turning the final page, I am hardly envious of these women’s lives. I appreciate the stories they have to tell, which is so different from that which I am used to hearing of or thinking about, but I feel lucky that my own life lacks those or similar hardships. It is a wonderful thing to live in a world where I can make my own choices, own my own property, obtain an education, and have many opportunities open to me.