It's funny having my daughter be pregnant. I get to relive the experience without having to live it. There's the cool parts, like feeling little feet pushing against your hand, hearing the heartbeat, and anticipating the little person's arrival. Then there's the not so cool parts like fatigue, heartburn, and swelling up so that when you turn sideways to scooch through a narrow space you realize that you're thinner face-on than sideways. And the comments.
I hated going out in public after my 5th month. I'm a short person and I carried my babies all out front. Waaaaay out front. At six months I started getting the "Any day now!" comments. I'd have to grit my teeth and say, "No, three more months," and try to pack as much venom into that statement as I could to alert the clueless listener that they were playing with fire if they uttered another word. Usually they would trip blithely on and say, "Gosh, you're huge!!! You're going to explode if you go three more months!"
When pregnant with my youngest daughter, I got so sick of the questions that I had a button made that read "I'm due in October. No, it's not twins." I wore it every time I left the house. It worked... some of the time. Until I reached November.
Also, there's something about pregnancy that breaks down normal social barriers and gives total strangers the freedom to touch your belly, ask personal questions, and relate their own pregnancy/birth sagas in graphic, often horrifying, detail. Really? In what universe it is OK to tell a stranger stories involving your lady parts with your hand pressed on the stranger's pregnant belly?
Almost worse than that, though, are the people who think they're being covert by not approaching you, but merely pointing and whispering. It's not covert and it's not polite. Pregnant women know what they're saying, even if it's in Korean.
One of the very best parts about being pregnant, though, is having a baby shower. Being surrounded by friends and family, getting gifts, having treat food, and being bathed in love. Just what a pregnant woman needs to recharge and be able to face that world of weirdos out there who say things like, "You're pregnant!" Optimum, response: "Wow, thanks. That explains so much."
For my daughter's shower this past weekend I made macaron pops. They were supposed to be a sweet baby pink and the powdered, dried strawberries colored the batter the perfect color. Unfortunately, baking turned them tan. So I compensated by filling them with pink cream cheese buttercream. They might not have been perfect, but they were pretty darn cute, if I say so myself.
Many thanks to Helen of Tartelette for her recipes and invaluable advice and to Bakarella for the inspiration.
Strawberry Macaron Pops
90 grams egg whites (about 3 large egg whites)
1/3 cup (or so) freeze-dried strawberries
20 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds (blanched, slivered or sliced)
1- At least 2 days in advance you need to prep the egg whites. Put them in a clean bowl at room temperature, uncovered or loosely covered with a towel at least 24 hours. Refrigerate after that if desired. You can use eggs that have been "aging" for up to 5 days.
2- Place the dried strawberries in a zip-loc bag. Use a rolling pin to crush the berries into a powder.
3- Place the powdered sugar, almonds, and strawberry powder into a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Sift a couple of times to remove the bits and pieces, regrinding as needed. You should have a smooth powder, with no nut chunks.
4- In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam (like bubble bath foam). Gradually add the granulated sugar, beating until you have a glossy meringue (like shaving cream). Do not overbeat the meringue, or it will be too dry.
5- Add the nuts and powdered sugar 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 falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to breakt he mass and then slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the top flattens on its own, it's good. If there is a small peak, give the batter a couple of turns.
6- Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809 - Note: I couldn't find those at the store, so I used my pastry bag without a tip. Those tips measure 9/16th and 11/16th of an inch, and that was the closest I could get.) with the batter and pip in small rounds about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter onto parchment paper or silicone mat lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit uncovered for 30 minutes to an hour to harden the outer shell a bit.
7- While the macarons are hardening, preheat the oven to 300 deg. F (280 deg. F, if using a convection oven). When ready, bake for 18 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool on the pan then remove to a cooling rack.
Dainty Pink Filling
4 oz. cream cheese at room temperature, cut into pieces
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
Scant 1/8 tsp pure almond extract
1 cups sifted powdered sugar
Red food coloring
Pink ribbon (optional)
Edible ink pen (optional)
1- Make sure the cream cheese and butter are not too soft, or the filling will be too soft. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and almond extract on low speed. Slowly add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add one drop of red food coloring and blend it in. To finish, increase the mixer speed to medium-high for 30 seconds.
2- Scoop the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a round tip (Ateco #12). Pipe the filling onto the flat side of one macaron. Place a lollipop stick onto the filling and give it a 1/2 turn, to the end is covered by the filling. Place another macaron, flat side down over the filling and gently push together. Lay flat on a baking sheet.
3- Chill the macaron pops several hours or overnight. If desired, you can draw on designs with the edible ink pen and tie on ribbons.
4- For presentation, push the bottoms of the sticks into a block of styrofoam and place the styrofoam in a basket or a tin.
Note: The filling softens up at room temperature, so if the room is warm, encourage guests to eat them right away. When the filling is very soft, the pops plop down to the bottom of their sticks.