Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ugly Little Macarons

This is my first attempt at making macarons.  I waited a long time before making these little babies. Why?  Well, I was a little intimidated by them.  I'm not that good at folding things, and my piping skills leave something to be desired, as can be seen here:

I'm not so good at piping a bunch of perfect little rounds, all the same size.  So, some are bigger than others, some have weird little bumps or wings.  It's my first try.  I'll get better.  I will just have to keep making more which is just fine by me.

Aside from the obvious flaws in the shape of the shells, I had issues with the fillings. I tried two different fillings:  espresso ganache and banana caramel.  I have no idea what I did, but neither filling really got set up without significant time in the freezer.  It was weird, and troubling.  It was tasty, but messy.  Witness the carnage:

The upside? I gave one of the messier ones to the hubster, and he LOVED it.  I had to threaten bodily harm to keep him away from them long enough to take a few photos.  I have to say, messy as they were, they were also really good.  The shells were crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and super light and airy.  The fillings would have been great had they set up properly. 

So, here are the recipes:

Basic French Meringue Macarons

Source: Helen of Tartelette (she has a handy tutorial PDF about macarons.  Read it before trying to make them)

3 egg whites or 100g weighed
50 g granulated sugar
200 g powdered sugar
110 g blanched almonds, whole or ground

12-24 hours before beginning this, put your egg whites in a covered container and leave them out at room temperature to age.  I know this sounds icky, but it's important.

1.  In a stand mixer fitter with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue.

2.  Combine the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a quick pulse if you use already ground almonds (that you have ground yourself separately). It will break the powdered sugar lumps and combine your almonds with it evenly.  If you use whole almonds, pulse thoroughly for a minute or so.

3.  Add them to the meringue, and start to 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 flatten on its own, you are good to go.  If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple more folds.

4.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper baking sheets.

5.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Let the macarons sit out for an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 10-12 minutes, depending on their size.  Let them cool completely before filling.

6.  Pipe or spoon some of your filling on one shell and sandwich with another one.


Espresso Ganache
Source: Annie's Eats
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
4 tbsp. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. espresso powder

Combine the cream, butter and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Place the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream mixture to a simmer, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand 2 minutes, then whisk gently in small circular motions until the ganache forms. Blend in espresso powder.  Let the mixture cool until it is thick enough to pipe. (To speed chilling, transfer the bowl to the freezer or refrigerator and let cool, stirring every 10 minutes, until thickened.)

Banana Caramel
Source:  Tartelette

1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt

Place the sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan set over medium high heat.  Slowly let the sugar melt and turn into caramel.  This is called a dry caramel and it can be a bit tricky.  If you are not comfortable with it, you can add up to 1/4 cup water to your saucepan and slowly bring the sugar to a caramel color.

Standing back a bit, carefully add the butter, cream and salt.  Do not worry, it will bubble like mad.  When the bubbling slows down, stir until smooth.  Pour into a heat-proof dish and let cool. 

Mix one smashed banana with one half of the caramel sauce.  What to do with the rest?  Put it in the fridge and save it to serve over ice cream!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Would you like a BLONDIE?

I made these blondies twice in three days.  Why?  Because the first time I made them (not the first time ever, but the first of the two times), I used a certain specialty pan that was given to me as a gift, and IT RUINED MY BLONDIES.  So, as I was seeing the same group of people both times, I was determined to make them again, both to make sure the recipe hadn't failed me, and to try and restore my baking reputation. 

The first time I made them, they came out greasy and clumpy, even though I was sure I followed the recipe perfectly.  They were still served to the friends (at the hubster's insistence), and they were eaten, but not by me.  The second time, I went back to my standard pan, and they were perfect. 

I don't really know what happened with the first batch.  I'm a little gun shy with that specialty pan, so I may never know.  And no, there were no pictures of them.  It would have just looked like a big pile of nastiness anyway.

So, here's the goods:


Source: America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

Makes 24 blondies

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups packed (10 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
2  large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (3 ounces) white chocolate chips
1 cup (4 ounces) pecans, toasted and chopped [flour pile note: i don't like nuts in stuff like this, so i omitted them and added a little extra of both of the chips.]

1.  Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with a foil sling and grease the foil.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. 

2.  In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together.  Whisk in the eggs and vanilla until combined.  Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated.  Stir in the chips and nuts.

3.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake the blondies until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 22 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

4.  Let the blondies cool completely in the pan,set on a wire rack, about 2 hours.  Remove the blondies from the pan using the foil, cut into squares and serve.

And, because I've been good about not spilling lately (not by anything I'm doing on purpose!), I have a doozy for you:

That's the front of my shirt and my leg.  It was quite a bit of flour. 

Mmmmm....lemon tart

The hubster and I went to my parents' house the other night for dinner, and I brought dessert (are you surprised? you shouldn't be!).  My mom LOVES lemon curd, so making this tart was kind of a no-brainer for me.  I have made this one time before, and it was really popular, and it's pretty easy.  The individual parts don't take too much work, just a little time.  The tart crust is my new favorite.  I gave you the recipe in THIS post about the raspberry tart.  If you have a favorite tart crust, by all means, use it! 

I served this with a generous amount of slightly sweetened whipped cream, and some sliced strawberries on the side.  It's also delicious with raspberries, but strawberries is what I had, so that's what I used.

And a little note:  again, sorry about the crappy pictures.  It was dark, and I used a ton of whipped cream.

Lemon Curd Tart

Source:  The Way the Cookie Crumbles, and America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.

Serves 6 – 8

tart crust for a 9-inch pan, completely baked and cooled (I used this one)
3 large eggs
⅓ cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) granulated white sugar
4 tablespoons (½ ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon lemon zest

1. In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, whisking constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes pale in color and quite thick (like a hollandaise sauce or sour cream) (160 degrees F or 71 degrees C on a thermometer). This will take about 10 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest, cover, and let cool to room temperature before filling the pastry crust. (Note: The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Covering the lemon curd with plastic wrap prevents a skin from forming on the surface.) [flour pile note: i always end up sticking this in the fridge for a bit before filling.  i also don't put the curd into the crust until right before i serve it. i get paranoid that the crust will get soft.]

Serve plain or with softly whipped cream and fresh berries.

This reminds me that half of this tart is still sitting in my fridge.  I will have to remedy that.

Friday, September 3, 2010

If Double is good, then triple must be...MORE!

I took the original recipe for these cookies from the lovely Jackie over at Not Your Bubbe's Kitchen!  You should definitely go and check out her blog if you are looking for tasty, healthy recipes! 

The recipe I adapted can be found HERE.  I, however wanted to make the cookies, but I don't really do the whole "healthy alternative" thing.  And I don't tend to keep butter and egg substitutes in the house, and I didn't want to buy them just for one recipe. 

Triple Love Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cup Toll House Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup Sugar, Granulated
1 cup butter
1 tsp  Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Pure Almond Extract
2 eggs
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup All-purpose Flour
1/3 cup Cocoa Powder, Natural Unsweetened
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Melt 1/2 c chocolate chips (about 30-45 seconds in the microwave). Stir; set aside

In your mixer, beat the sugar, butter, and extracts til creamy.

Beat in eggs until fluffy.

Mix in melted (but cooled) chocolate.

In a small bowl, combine together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt.

Mix the flour mixture with the fluffly sugar goodness. Add the remaining chocolate chips and white chocolate chips.

Place 2" balls on a "Pam'd" cookie sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes; cool on baking rack.

Flour Pile notes:  I only baked my 9 minutes. They were perfect!  These cookies were so tasty, and really popular with my friends.  I highly recommend them.

And, my pile pictures (there were several):

On the recipe sheet:

And all over the counter: