Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Luscious Lemon Cream Macarons

a little lemon extract, a little yellow coloring...

I'm playing around with spring/Easter flavors. Lemon is the perfect tea-time flavor, the ladies' flavor, the post-anything-clear-your-palette flavor. Its heavenly.


Followed Traveler's Lunchbox recipe below, using Wilton lemon-yellow coloring and lemon extract. Filled with vanilla buttercream, though next time will probably mix in some lemon curd.

Italian Buttercream
(adapted from The American Boulangerie by Pascal Rigo)

- 2 egg whites (60 mL)
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 4 oz (½ cup) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into slices

In an electric mixer bowl, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and heat the mixture, whisking often, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until it feels warm and sugar has dissolved.

Transfer the bowl to the electric mixer and whip warm egg mixture on high speed using the whisk attachment until stiff and shiny, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the butter, one slice at a time, and continue to mix until all the butter is thoroughly incorporated. Add any flavourings (vanilla, etc) and refrigerate for 1 hour or until it becomes firm. The buttercream can be kept, covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week (although I just keep mine until I run out).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Le Chocolat

Chocolate macarons at last! A few months ago when I attempted these, they sucked hardcore. But after taking my friend Kathryn's advice, I succeeded. I used simple Toll House chocolate for the shells and filled them with the nutella hazelnut-ganache filling. Decadent and not overly sweet. Like a great Belgian truffle.

I'm realizing there are some MUSTS about macarons that weren't emphasized in any of the recipes I've followed, but which are making all the difference in my baking lately.

A) Never use foil to line baking sheets; use parchment paper.
B) Allow macarons to sit at least one hour before baking to develop a filmy membrane.
C) Never "de-nip" the macarons (smooth out the peak) after film has developed; this will cause cracks while baking.
D) Allow macarons sufficient time to bake. Test the feet for dryness with your fingers. Feet should be pretty much dry before removing from oven.
E) Mix batter until it "flows like magma"; i.e. don't be afraid to overmix the meringue. The batter should be a cohesive, thick substance that is nothing like the stiff meringue before the addition of the dry ingredients.
What happens when you use foil and smooth macs after the film has developed:

What happens when you use parchment and smooth macs before film has developed:


Traveler's Lunchbox
Basic Macaron Batter

Source: based on Clement's recipe here. He recommends that you mix the egg whites and almond mixture together gently until it 'flows like magma', or until a peak in the batter will slowly sink back down to a flat surface.
1 1/4 cups icing/powdered sugar
4 oz (1 cup) almond flour or finely ground almonds (if grinding yourself add some of the icing sugar to keep them from getting gummy)
2 large egg whites
pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon extract of choice: almond, vanilla, orange, lemon, pistachio... (optional)
few drops food coloring (optional)
On three pieces of parchment, trace 1-inch (2.5 cm) circles about 2 inches apart. Flip each sheet over and place on baking sheets.
Sift almond flour and icing sugar together into a bowl. In a large clean, dry bowl whip the egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar, extract and coloring (if using). Continue to whip to stiff peaks – the whites should be firm and shiny.
With a rubber spatula, fold in the icing sugar mixture into the egg whites until completely incorporated. The mixture should be shiny and ‘flow like magma.’ When small peaks dissolve to a flat surface, stop mixing.
Fit a piping bag with a 3/8-inch (1 cm) round tip, or take a medium-sized plastic sandwich baggie and snip off one corner. Fill the piping bag or baggie and pipe the batter onto the baking sheets, in the previously drawn circles (I found spiraling out from the center to work best). Tap the underside of the baking sheet to remove air bubbles. Let dry at room temperature for 1 or 2 hours to allow skins to form.
Heat the oven to 160C/325F and bake for 10 to 11 minutes, or until set and firm on top. Rotate the baking sheets after 5 minutes for even baking.
Remove macarons from oven and transfer parchment to a cooling rack. When cool, slide a metal offset spatula or pairing knife underneath the macaron to remove from parchment.
Pair macarons of similar size, and pipe about ½ tsp of the filling onto one of the macarons. Sandwich macarons, and refrigerate to allow flavours to blend together. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
Variation: Chocolate Macaron Batter
Using the master recipe above, add 4 tablespoons of good-quality cocoa powder to the almond-sugar mixture before sifting; increase the sugar to 1 3/4 cups and the egg whites to 3.

Chai Tea Macarons

So, last week I decided to recreate the gingerbread macarons I made during Thanksgiving break. Mais quelle surprise! Since I had no pumpkin pie spice, like I used before, I threw in a bunch of spices instead: cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger. I also used about 1/2 cup of hazelnut flour to replace 1/2 c almond flour. The end result? Nothing short of delicious, but definitely more mealy (like an oatmeal cookie) and with a flavor of chai tea. I happen to really like the fact that they are more substantial than many of the macarons, which sometimes just taste like a very fine and delicate sugar pill/rush (a french version of the Krispy Kreme). I filled them with typical vanilla buttercream. Myum!

Recipe will follow.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Natalie's Buche de Noel

So, my sister (the artist) and I definitely need to go into business together. She made this kickass dessert for Christmas this year. Let's just say it totally put the one I made two years ago to shame. Have a look:
She made Jacques Pepin's recipe and then decorated it with Christmas tree clippings and....I'll have to ask her what else. It was beautiful and delicious. I definitely don't remember mine being quite so, well, heavenly. Ambrosial. Delectable.

Christmas Creme Brulee

For Christmas this year, Crystal gave me a Creme Brulee set, complete with the cute, fluted oval ramekins.

I can't believe I didn't get pictures, but I will publish the recipe, as soon as I do all the others. Suffice it to say, we made a great recipe using real vanilla bean (which are worth $5 each). We made 4 in the oval short ramekins, and 6 in traditional souffle dishes.

Our conclusion:
The ramekins that were oval and shorter (i guess they're traditional for creme brulee?) passed my taste test. They had enough surface area to provide burned sugar to balance the eggy-ness of the recipe. The souffle dishes, on the other hand, were too deep and provided less surface area, resulting in too much egg flavor (unless you're into that), and not enough of that awesome crisp sugar surface.

The recipe was a perfect smooth texture, however. I will definitely use it again!
PS- Because Crystal gave me an awesome present, I'm rewarding her by publishing this picture of her. I'm sure she'll love me for it.

Nutcracker Cake

For my niece's debut on the stage, I made her a cake modeled as my impression of the Land of the Sweets, from the Nutcracker Ballet.

She loved it!

It was 4 layers: 2 homemade Strawberry and 2 Duncan Hines French Vanilla, with homemade icing and rolled fondant on top (kind of like a tutu). I think I could have added some cotton candy to really make it look like a tutu, but ca suffit. I liked the way it came out.

Part of my concern was that I knew Madeleine was worried about being on stage. Of course stage fright is terrifying (aptly-named), so I wanted her to know I was very proud of her facing her fears. This cake was over the top because she deserved it!

Previous Adventures- Thanksgiving

Gingerbread Macarons with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling or Salted Caramel-Vanilla Buttercream Filling

I got this idea from an idea to make pumpkin macarons. Crystal and I tweaked the shell recipe to make gingerbread instead.When the pumpkin filling didn't set up like I wanted it to, I combined it with vanilla buttercream to make it thicker.

In december I found that had a similar idea. Since I don't have any pictures of mine, take a look at hers! So cute. And they were delicious.

Previous Adventures- August

Here are some of the pictures from the previous macarons I've made... along with their recipes.

French Vanilla with Vanilla Buttercream

Pistachio with Chocolate Ganache Filling:

Makes 35
225 gr powdered sugar
60 gr almonds
65 gr pistachios
3 egg whites (about 100gr)
green food coloring (optional) (powdered is better)
25 gr granulated sugar

In a food processor, run the nuts and powdered sugar until the nuts are finely ground. Run through a sieve if needed.Whip the egg whites until foamy, slowly add the granulated sugar, until they are glossy. Add the green food coloring if using.Slowly fold the nut/sugar mixture into the whites with a wide spatula. The mixture should remain shiny and flow easily.Fill a pastry bag with the batter and pipe small rounds onto parchment lined baking sheets.Let the macarons rest for 20 minutes.Preheat the oven to 315 and when they are ready, bake them for 12-15 minutes.Let cool, remove from the paper and fill with the ganache.

Chocolate Ganache Filling:
8 ounces (227 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
1 tsp. ground ginger
Place the chocolate in a medium sized bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Add the butter and stir with a whisk until smooth. Add the ground ginger. Let cool to room temperature and use as desired.

You can see that the macarons did not develop feet. Crystal (my lovely assistant) and I first soaked the pistachios to remove the remnants of their black skins and then ground them. This was a mistake because the wet nuts did not absorb into the batter as they were supposed to. I made them a second time two days later with dried ground pistachios and they were perfect!

Holiday Catering

After spending copious amounts of time this holiday season on a catering order of french macarons, which turned out to be a nightmare, I decided it might be a good time to do my part and blog about it. We (bakers that love specialties and rareties) can use all the help we can get.

So, here are some of the recipes I used and what happened, along with the troubleshooting conclusions I've made for next time.

1) Typical Pistachio Shell Recipe (listed previously)

2) For the Chocolate Nutella ganache:

Heat 1/2 cup of heavy cream to boiling point. Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 cup dark chocolate and 2 Tb. Nutella. Let stand 2 minutes. Stir until well incorporated.
Refrigerate until of spreadable consistency.
Fill the macarons shells ... and eat!

3) Typical French Macaron Shell, plus some hazelnut flour (about 1/4 cup) in place of some almond flour (just for some color)

4) Typical Vanilla Buttercream

5) Satsuma Pistachio Buttercream (thanks to tartelette)

3 egg whites
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 sticks (170 gr) butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons satsuma orange juice (or regular orange)
1 teaspoon satsuma orange zest
1/4 cup finely ground pistachios
1/2 tsp powdered green food coloring

In the bowl of stand mixer, whip the egg whites until they have soft peaks. In the meantime, combine the water with the sugar and bring them to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Bring the syrup to 250F. Slowly add the sugar syrup to the egg whites. If you use hand beaters, this is even easier and there is less hot syrup splatter on the side of your bowl and in the whisk attachment of the stand mixer. Continue to whip until the meringue is completely cooled. Slowly add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. The mass might curdle but no panic, continue to whip until it all comes together. Add the juice and zest from the orange, the pistachios and food coloring.


I didn't let the macarons sit and develop a film for an hour before baking (tried it again this week, it worked).
The humidity was a definite factor. We raised the temperature to 315 F to see if that would expedite the process to counteract the humidity. It helped a little.

After making close to 150 macs, I was toast. You can probably tell in this picture.

Here we are at Crystal's first visit to Laduree in Paris (a must if you're ever there), a year ago (Christmas 2007). I think Laduree was the first tea salon/cafe in Western Europe... a place where people from more than one level of society could come and share ideas (of the Enlightenment...) and have something scrumptious.