Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Macarons with the Daring Bakers

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

I love macarons! My first macaron was two years ago in Paris at Pierre Herme. I wasn't reading food blogs daily at the time, and they were new to me. When I got home, I started looking for various recipes. I tried David Lebovitz's chocolate mac recipe, and they tasted great, but no feet. Then I tried another plain recipe, and no feet. Then one day I was at a bakery in DC buying macarons, and a baker came out of the kitchen, so I asked him about feet. He told me to add a little powdered egg white to the whites to help stabilize. He also told me to age the egg whites at least a week, and maybe even two. Finally - feet! Leaving the piped macarons out to dry before baking has helped a lot too. I think these may be my best two batches of macarons yet, I'm so excited. My new trick: use a second baking sheet underneath your sheet of shells, this helps the shells cook thoroughly without burning. The Nutella and Dulce de Leche fillings were amazing. I'll be making these again, exactly as is, again and again!!

Thanks so much Ami for such a great pick this month; check out lots of other great macarons here!

Tartelette's Macaron Recipe (with some very slight modifications)

For the shells:
90 gr egg whites (about 3) 30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds (or almond powder) 1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon powdered egg whites (not in Tartelette's recipe)

Place the powdered sugar, almonds, and espresso powder in a food processor and pulse a few times until the nuts are finely ground. Even if you use almond powder or ground almonds, I strongly recommend running everything through the food processor. Otherwise, there might be chunks of almonds big enough to clog the tip when you pipe the macaron batter later on.

Beat the egg whites to a foam. You can use a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, but I prefer to beat egg whites with a hand mixer so as not to overbeat.

Gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Don't go all the way to stiff peaks.

Fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites.
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 flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small peak, give the batter a couple of more folds. If you fold too much, the macarons may develop wrinkly shells.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets.

Preheat the oven to 280F.

Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour; they may be ready by the time you're done piping all the batter. If you touch them, they should have dried out and firmed up a bit. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on their size. In my oven, 23 minutes is perfect for tiny macarons (1/2 inch diameter), 25 for 1" - 1 1/4 " diameter.

Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer.

To fill: pipe or spoon some Nutella or Dulce de Leche on the flat part of one cookie, and top with a second cookie.

Nutella Macs

Dulce de Leche Macs

Here's the recipe for the Pierre Herme macaron (with some slight modifications that worked better in my oven). More pictures, and the recipe for the peanut butter filling, are in my previous post.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Macarons - A Pierre Herme Recipe

1 1/3 cups finely ground almond powder
2 cups + 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large, aged and room temperature)
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered egg whites

Run the almond powder, powdered sugar, and cocoa through the food processor to remove all clumps.

Beat egg whites and dried egg whites on low to medium speed until white and foamy. Turn up to high and whip to firm but not stiff peaks. You want them glossy and supple; when you lift the beater, the whites should form a peak that droops a little.

Gently fold in the dry ingredients in three or four additions. It will seem like you have too much dry ingredients, but keep folding. I think I overfolded though, because I got wrinkly tops (never had that happen before). The white will deflate.

Spoon the batter into a pastry bag, and pipe 1" circles, about 1" apart on parchment paper or a baking mat. Rap the baking sheets on the counter (do it hard, to get the air out of the batter). Let the macarons sit and dry out a bit while the oven preheats.

Preheat the oven to 310 F.

Bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven. Peel the parchment from the baking sheet, and drop a few drops of very hot water between the baking sheet and the parchment paper. Move the pan around to let the water spread out over the whole sheet. The steam will help loosen the cookies. Remove the cookies from the parchment. Let cool.

Pipe a circle of peanut butter cream on one cookie, and top with a second cookie. Enjoy!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Love

Chocolate Peanut Butter Stack

Chocolate Peanut Butter Macarons

I love chocolate and peanut butter - I love them individually and I adore them together. When I was a kid, my poor mom never knew what to give me for lunch, or breakfast for that matter. I didn't like sandwiches, I definitely had no interest in peanut butter and jelly. There was a time I got to have milkshakes for breakfast, because hey, there is protein in there - especially when they're low on the ice cream and big on the milk. I was not easy. I'm still not easy when it comes to food, but I have made some important realizations about myself when it comes to food:

* I cannot eat sugar or white flour before dinner, or I'll be exhausted and without energy the rest of the day (maybe a small cookie, but no cake for breakfast for me, even white rice at lunch wreaks havoc with my blood sugar).

* I need my food (meals at least) to be warm. If I eat cold pizza, it barely registers, but if I have the same amount of pizza warm, it's a meal! Why is that? There has to be a scientific reason.

* I need to eat every 3-4 hours, or my head feels like it's going to explode!

* I am definitely a foodie.

What is the point of all these brilliant observations? Well, I'm definitely a happier person knowing all of this. And, perhaps more importantly, I now realize that I love peanut butter and jelly, as long as it's on whole wheat bread (or a whole wheat bagel) that has been toasted! So delicious! I eat half a whole wheat bagel (toasted!) with peanut butter and raspberry jam almost every day.

One happy consequence of this new discovery? I always have peanut butter in the house, jars and jars, and can whip up a batch of either of these delicious confections. They're like peanut butter cups, but way better.

Chocolate Brownie/Cake (adapted from King Arthur Flour):

2 sticks (8 ounces) butter

3/4 cup (2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder

4 large eggs

2 cups (14 ounces) sugar

1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 10" x 15" pan with baking spray.
(You can use a 9 x 13, but the cake will be thicker.)

Melt the butter, stir in the cocoa powder. Cover, and set aside to cool.

Beat the eggs for 3 minutes (REALLY, no cheating!), then gradually add the sugar, beating 2 to 3 minutes more. Stir in the butter/chocolate mixture. Gently fold in the flour and salt until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Start

Remove the cake from the oven and let cool completely.

Peanut butter filling (from Zoe Bakes):

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

Beat together all of the ingredients until smooth.

To Assemble the Cakes:

Use a biscuit cutter to cut out small circles of cake. Mine are 2," but that yields a very intense serving. A little smaller might be better.

Gather three cake circles for each serving. Top two of the three circles with a generous dollop of peanut butter filling. Place one of the peanut butter topped circles on the other. Top with the final cake circle. Dust with powdered sugar immediately before serving.

*This dessert is so easy, and really good. My friend (also my go-to chocolate-peanut butter recipe tester) declared this to be possibly her favorite dessert ever!

The filling for these macarons is the same as above. The shells are a Pierre Herme recipe - coming soon!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Poppyseed Cake with Cream Cheese Filling and Chocolate Frosting

Fall seems to have gone away here in MA. It's been extremely cold, the wind has blown off all the leaves, and I've even gotten my winter coat and gloves out. I haven't put away my flip flops just yet though, and the cold is a great excuse to stay in the kitchen with the oven on.

I love my kitchen. I don't like the uneven floors or the uneven ceiling or the wall paper with the kissing cows, but I love my kitchen. For me, the kitchen is where you live - where you eat, where you talk with friends and family, where you start your day, where life happens. It's the most important room of the house.

This cake was for my friend Colin's birthday: poppy seed cake with a cream cheese frosting and toasted almond filling, covered in a thick layer of chocolate frosting. I don't think the chocolate frosting and poppy seed cake pairing would be my first choice, but it was yummy, and a little different which is always nice.

Poppyseed Cake (adapted from Baking for All Occasions by Flo Braker)

Makes 1 three-layer 8" cake or 1 two-layer or 1 three-layer 9" cake.  If your cake pans are 1.5" high rather than a full 2" high, be sure to do three layers.

335 grams cake flour (about 3 cups)
1 scant tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup poppy seeds
1 tablepoon vanilla bean paste (or abstract)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
18 2/3 tablespoons butter (2 sticks plus 2 2/3 tablespoons), room temperature
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup egg whites (about 5-6 egg whites from large eggs), lightly beaten, room temperature

Click here for the measurements for 1 9" x 13" sheet cake.

Preheat oven to 350
°F. Spray cake pans with baking spray, line with parchment, and spray again.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Heat the milk until tepid; stir in vanilla bean paste and buttermilk. Cool to room temperature.
Add the poppy seeds and lemon juice, and stir.

Cream the butter on medium speed until light in color, 1-2 minutes. Add the sugar in a steady stream, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Continue to beat until fluffy and very light in color, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the egg whites, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, beating until fully incorporated after each addition. If at any time the batter appears watery or shiny or starts to curdle, beat at high speed until smooth again before adding more egg whites.

On low, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in two additions. Begin and end with the dry ingredients. Scrape down sides of bowl frequently.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans, and bake until a toothpick comes out clean. The cake should spring back when lightly touched in the center, and it should be just starting to come away from the pan, 30-40 minutes for 8" cake.

Cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then remove from pan (run a knife gently around the edge of the pan to help release), and cool upright on cooling racks.

This cake is best used within the next 24 hours; wrap tightly in plastic wrap (when cool) if not using immediately. I haven't frozen this particular cake, but I frequently freeze cakes (before I frost, and then I also freeze fully frosted leftovers), and I imagine it would freeze well for up to a month or so.

Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Martha Stewart)

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat the cream cheese on medium for 1-2 minutes until smooth. Be sure to use cream cheese at room temperature.

Add butter, and cream until smooth, another 1-2 minutes.

Add powdered sugar slowly at low speed, and beat until fully combined. Add vanilla extract.

Beat frosting on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Transfer to an airtight container, and chill until firm and spreadable.
You can freeze any leftover frosting, but use a nice thick layer to fill this cake.

Chocolate Frosting (adapted from Chocolate Chocolate's Old-fashioned frosting)

Makes enough frosting for filling and frosting a three-layer 8" cake or two-layer 9" cake.

9 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid

4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
Large pinch of Kosher salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

6-7 cups powdered sugar, sifted

3/4 cup milk, heated to tepid

Beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes.

Blend in the melted chocolate, salt, vanilla, and 1 cup powdered sugar.

Add in the rest of the powdered sugar in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions (begin and end with the powdered sugar). Add more powdered sugar for heavier (this may be necessary if you want to pipe your frosting) frosting, or more milk for a creamier frosting.

Use the frosting immediately.
You will probably have some extra frosting (you can probably get away with refrigerating the extra frosting for up to one day; beat again to soften, adding a tablespoon or two of milk if necessary).

*If you plan to pipe decorations with the frosting, you may want to use all 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate and add an extra 1/2 - 1 cup extra powdered sugar, especially in warm weather.

To Assemble the Cake:

Toast about 1/2 cup of slivered almonds at 300°F for 5-10 minutes until golden brown (use more or less almonds as desired).

Level each cake layer (this may not be necessary with this cake). Place 1 cake layer on a cardboard cake round or cake plate protected by strips of wax paper or parchment paper. Spread with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting, leaving a slight border at the outside edge; strew one third of the toasted almonds over the filling. Place another layer on top of the first layer. Spread with another thick layer of filling and top with half of the remaining toasted almonds. Top with remaining cake layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the chocolate frosting and the rest of the almonds.

Stumble Upon Toolbar