Monday, December 28, 2009

Lemon Poppyseed Cake with Toasted Almonds

(the inside looked pretty good at least!)

I know better than to frost a cake without chilling it long enough, especially when I plan to frost it with cream cheese frosting... especially when that frosting hasn't chilled long enough... but life gets in the way, and I do things that I shouldn't.  In the grand scheme of things, frosting a cake too early isn't really so bad on the list of things that I could do but should not, right?  It does, however, result in a leaning tower of cake which makes me panic and scramble to see what I can do to make it look a little better.  I made this cake right before Thanksgiving, and thought seriously about not sharing it with you since it's not the prettiest cake on the block, but it's so yummy that not sharing the recipe would just add to the list of things I did wrong here.

Seriously, cream cheese frosting is slippery!  These cake layers are rather large.  Not a good combination unless both cake and frosting are nice and chill(ed).

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Winner

And the winner is.... Topher, who's inspired to cook for his family at the holidays.  Happy baking Topher, I'll send you an email to get your address.  Meanwhile, I really encourage everyone to read My Life in France, and if that's not enough Julia for you, the Julie and Julia dvd is out now too!

Happy holiday baking!!

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Buche de Noel (Holiday Yule Log) and Meringue Mushrooms

These meringue mushrooms might just be the cutest little treat I've ever made!  I'll be making them again and again - they were definitely easier than I'd anticipated.

If you don't have time for the full Buche de Noel, make just the meringue mushrooms (the kids will love them), or just the cake without all the fixin's (you can do just the roulade without shaping it into a yule log and without mushrooms or other decorations; it still looks elegant).

There are some great videos on the Food Network site of Malgieri rolling up the cake and making the marzipan decorations (I ran out of time for the marzipan).  I strongly recommend watching them, at least the one where he rolls up the cake!

And remember, leave a post by tomorrow night on the Chocolate Bombes post for a chance to win Julia Child's book, My Life in France.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Chocolate Meringue Kisses

I love the holidays!  Carols and trees and parties and holiday cartoon specials (does anyone remember The Night Before Christmas, where the smart kid mouse writes Santa an angry letter and Santa decides not to visit their town until the clock maker builds a great big clock to sing a song to Santa on Christmas Eve, except that the smart kid mouse investigates the clock, and breaks something, and the whole things goes kaput.... kapluey!  Love that one, but almost no one knows it.)  Last weekend I got the most beautiful Christmas tree, during the first snow of the season... it was definitely one of those magical holiday moments.

The only thing I don't love about the holidays is the overwhelming amount of rich unhealthy food staring me down and the lack of extra time I have to spend at the gym.  I do have a major sweet tooth, but this time of year when there are truffles and toffee and cakes and cheesecakes around every corner, I start to crave fresh fruit and vegetables - even more than normal.  Now, broccoli doesn't make the best choice for your holiday cookie platter, but these chocolate meringue kisses do provide a lighter option (as long as you don't down 10-20 at a pop).  They're yummy with just a dusting of powdered sugar or cocoa powder, but the chocolate sauce definitely dresses them up a little.

And don't forget:  enter the giveaway for a free copy of Julia Child's My Life in France by leaving a comment on the Chocolate Bombes post by Monday night, December 21st.

My first real tree! (not at my mom's house)

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chocolate Bombes and A Giveaway

 Ed wanted chocolate bombes for his birthday, and this is what we came up with.  I'm warning you, this is an intense dessert.  One hemisphere is plenty, and the whipped cream really helps to cut the heavy chocolate.  It's a chocolate meringue hemispherical shell, filled with dark chocolate mousse, sealed with a chocolate meringue disk, enrobed in a milk chocolate glaze.  I think next time I'd do a milk chocolate mousse with a semisweet chocolate glaze to cut down the intensity just a bit.

There are a few components for these chocolate bombes, but you can easily spread the work over a few days if necessary.  And they were great!  If you need a little pep talk first before attempting something a little more complicated, then I highly recommend Julia Child's book, My Life in France.  I read it a month or so ago, and it was truly inspirational.  Julia was in her late 30's when she began taking culinary classes at the Cordon Bleu in France; she was almost 50 when her masterpiece Mastering the Art of French Cooking was finally published after 10 years of hard work.  She was  meticulous in her research and with her recipes, really makes you believe that you can do anything with enough practice.

This book meant so much to me that I really want you to read it too (plus I really want to meet some of you, my stats counter keeps telling me you're really out there, now's your chance to prove it!).  So I'm giving away a brand new copy!  I hope that reading about her experiences inspires you too, or at least gets you in the kitchen.  Just leave a comment below between now and Monday December 21st at 11:59pm EST, and tell me what inspires you these days - in the kitchen, at work, or maybe just in your daydreams...  (sorry, only open to North American residents.)  Tweet about the giveaway and leave a link in the comments for a second entry.  Or leave a comment on a previous blog post for another entry.

You'll need hemisphere molds to make the bombes as pictured.  I have these.  If you don't have molds, you could try making meringue/mousse stacks or sandwiches (make the meringue disks as indicated, and pipe layers of mousse between meringue disks; glaze).

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Preview....

No time for a recipe yet, but here's a preview of what's to come - chocolate bombes for Ed's birthday... Check back in the next few days for a recipe and a giveaway!

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

It's good fashion sense to own a few quality pieces. You can put them together to create lots of great outfits.  I feel the same way about food.  This chocolate mousse and chocolate cake (almost closer to a brownie than a cake really) should be staples in your recipe box.  The possibilities are endless.  I use the same cake for the base of my Coffee Nutella Cheesecake, and my chocolate peanut butter stacks.
I've used this mousse in chocolate mousse pie, as a filling in a chocolate mousse cake, and as a filling for cupcakes.

This particular combination of mousse and cake is definitely a winner.  It can be made ahead of time, it's very elegant, and it is fantastically delicious.  I've made the 10" version shown here for a crowd.  I've made a 4" version several times for a very large individual birthday cake, and I've also made 2" individuals.  I don't have 4" or 2" spring form pans.  I use a 4" cake pan to make the cake (fill the batter up about half way).  Once the cake is cool, make a parchment paper collar, about 4" - 6" above the cake (tape the parchment paper securely so the parchment paper remains vertical.  Fill the collar with mousse layers as you would the spring form pan; after chilling, remove the parchment paper, and top with chocolate shavings.  This is a great dessert to impress.

10" Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake:  Serves 16-20

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Chocolate Swirl and Crust

I know, I know, what's with all the pumpkin recipes?  I don't know, I'm on a pumpkin kick apparently.  I didn't realize I was even that big a fan of pumpkin!  But this dessert will be great for any holiday parties in your future. It's delicious and elegant, and cheesecakes always impress people for some reason.

I always thought cheesecakes were hard to make - before I made one, that is.  Turns out, they're not!  Well, yeah, there's the whole cracking issue, but there are things you can do to avoid cracks, and the cheesecake still tastes great with the crack.  And other than that, a cheesecake is usually a lot quicker to make than, say, a layer cake or a complicated pastry.  The other great thing is that cheesecake is so rich, one cheesecake feeds a crowd.  And you can make them 1-2 days ahead of time.  I almost always include cheesecake at all my dessert parties.  And there are so many options for flavors, crusts, and toppings, it's a great opportunity to be creative!

In January, I'm teaching a baking course for winter study.  They're letting me use the college bakeshop!  I'm totally excited, but I've never baked with commercial equipment before, so I'll be doing a lot of practicing with all the equipment in the next month.  Did you know there was such a thing as a walk in oven??  Scary.  I baked this cheesecake in one of the convection ovens there, which I'd never used before, and I didn't lower the temperature enough to compensate, so there's a crack in this one.  I had planned on piping some chocolate ganache rosettes around the edge to hide it, but I ran out of time.  Hey, the chocolate swirl hides it a little anyway! 

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Peanut Butter Pie

Is there a limit to the number of peanut butter and chocolate recipes I can post?  I just can't get enough of that flavor combination.  If you feel the same way, you'll like this pie. The mousse is fluffy and creamy, and the crust adds some crunch; in between, just a little bit of chocolate...  you might even want more.

The crust is from the ICE class I took in August.  It has baking powder in it. I'm not sure I've ever put baking powder in pie crust before.  I've been reading the book Bakewise the past few days, and learning lots about leavening and flours, but so far only on their role in cakes, not pie crust.  But Nick Malgieri claims that the "baking powder encourages the dough to puff slightly while baking so that it presses into the hot pan bottom and bakes through evenly, preventing an underdone bottom crust." I like the result.

Oh, and this is my favorite pie/pi plate!  See the 3.14159 on top?  The numbers around the edge are the digits of the number π, well, all the digits that fit anyway.  π is irrational, so the digits go on forever, with no repetition.  On the base of the plate is a huge blue π symbol.  Isn't it adorably geeky?  Love it!
And thank you Ana and Makisha for all your help!

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Foodie

Are you trying to decide what to buy for your favorite foodie for the holidays?  Here are some of my favorite books and kitchen items.  What's on your holiday wish list this year?

Beater Blade:
I love my beater blade!  Not only does it scrape the sides and the bottom of the mixer bowl for you, it really mixes the batter better (and faster).  Be sure to get the appropriate beater blade for your particular mixer model.

My Favorite Cake Pans (and baking pans in general):  Chicago Metallic
I love them, so does Cooks' Illustrated.

Lemon juicer:
Gets a ton more juice out than does squeezing alone, I love it.

Cake Leveler:
You can use toothpicks and a regular serrated knife to split or level cake layers, but this is often even easier.  And only $2.95.


Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker 

Emile Henry Mixing Bowls
Good sizes, heavy and durable, beautiful, and super easy to wash.

Cake Stands:
I have all three sizes, they're gorgeous.

Emile Henry Pie Plates:
I especially love everything in figue.

Food Processor:
I use this constantly to grind nuts.

Parchment Paper Rounds
Sure, I could cut out circles from my rolls of parchment paper, but when I'm baking 5 things at once with flour flying, these are a whole lot quicker!

Jesse Steele Aprons:

The cutest aprons I've ever found (though, to be honest, I usually go with the old jeans and sweatshirt covered in flour look. 


Julia Child book, My Life in France (or DVD)
I just finished reading this book a few weeks ago. Inspirational.

Dorie Greenspan's Baking:
Great all-around baking book, good for all levels.

Pierre Herme Chocolate Desserts
My hero, Pierre Herme.  Great inspirational cookbook, perfect for those who want
more of a challenge while baking.

Still haven't found what you're looking for?  How about a gift certificate for a cooking class at King Arthur Flour (VT), Institute for Culinary Education (NYC), or Culinary Institute of America (NY, CA)?  (Find more info about the ICE pastry class I took here, here, and here.)  Michael's also offers cake decorating classes at most locations.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ok, this post is short and very sweet:  I know I just did a pumpkin bread post not so long ago, but it was so yummy I had to try it in cupcake form.   Terrific!  Perfect complement to the fluffy cream cheese frosting.  And so quick and easy!

Here's the recipe again.  It makes 2 loaves, or about 36 cupcakes, or about 120 mini-cupcakes  (I made 1 regular loaf, 1 mini-loaf, 24 mini-cupcakes, and 6 regular-size cupcakes; update:  another time I made 72 mini-cupcakes and 12 regular-size cupcakes).

Pumpkin Cupcakes (adapted from here)

1 can (about 2 cups) canned pumpkin (or homemade pumpkin puree)
3 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup Canola oil
4 eggs
3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray muffin pans with baking spray.

Combine pumpkin, sugar, water, oil, and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if you'll be using a hand mixer).

Whisk together dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cloves.

Slowly mix in the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin tins - each one should be about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean (minis should take about 10 minutes, but keep an eye on them). Cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then tip each cupcake over, so it's on its side to cool completely.  Frost cupcakes when they are completely cool.

This cream cheese frosting is a little thicker and a little sweeter than this.  The more powdered sugar you add, the easier it will be to frost - but too much powdered sugar, and it's too sweet.  It also seems that the environment plays a role too - if your kitchen is warm, you should probably refrigerate the frosting for an hour or two before piping.

Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Martha Stewart)

16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 sticks butter, room temperature, in small pieces
3-4 cups powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese on medium speed for several minutes, until creamy.  It's hard to get out all the lumps, but keep beating!  

Add vanilla.

Gradually add butter while beating on medium speed.  This will take several minutes.  Turn up to high speed for 30-60 seconds; frosting should be smooth.

On low speed, add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time.  If the frosting is stiff enough to pipe, you can use it now, but depending on the temperature in your kitchen, you may want to refrigerate it before using.  

If it's too stiff after refrigeration, just mix again for 30 seconds or so.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gluten-Free Almond Tart

Last week I finished reading My Life in France Julia Child.  Although I had to shield my eyes during certain parts (every mention of bones crushing or blood gushing or really any too-in-depth meat discussion), it really was an inspirational book.  All I could think of was how much fun it would be to write a cookbook someday.  Now I've written a book before, a math book, and I never thought I'd be doing it again anytime too soon, but a cookbook seems much more exciting.  Julia was so scientific about all her recipe-tasting, much more so like a baker than a cook.  I'm constantly wishing I had the time and money to make certain recipes over and over again with slight tweaks and alterations here and there.  Just last night I made cupcakes out of my pumpkin bread recipe and spent a long time comparing that recipe with another recipe I have for pumpkin cupcakes.  It's still not fully clear to me how a quick bread recipe fundamentally differs from a cake recipe (in terms of ratios of flour to sugar and the amount of fat, etc); quick breads are typically both denser and drier than your average layer cake or cupcake, but there are very moist loaf cakes out there...  It's probably the mathematician in me, but I can't imagine a better way to spend an afternoon (or a whole week!) than finding a definitive answer to this question.  Plus, I really should have answers to questions like these when I teach my baking course in January.  So you should expect lots of fascinating investigative baking projects in the hopefully near future.  And maybe a book, but that's a long way off yet!

Currently I'm reading another book written by a professional chef, a pastry chef this time.  Now maybe I'm being overly harsh, having just finished Julia's book, but this current book irks me.  I don't expect a pastry chef to apologize for her abundant use of butter and eggs and cream, but there are a lot of great reasons to be a vegan, and doesn't a vegan deserve a tasty baked treat too?  I can understand that a pastry chef may decide not to offer any vegan goodies, but to be annoyed that someone would even dare ask about vegan options seems kind of ridiculous to me.  I'll post some of my vegan recipes soon, but in the meantime, here's a treat for the gluten-free folks out there who also deserve some tasty treats.

It's kind of a combination tart/frittata.  Except that I don't like frittatas (even though it's fun to say), and I like this.  It's not too heavy, and it has a great lemon flavor to it.  It's also great with homemade vanilla ice cream, though what isn't?

Recipe (from New York Times):

4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup sliced almonds, more for garnish
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 tablespoons butter
Powdered sugar, for garnish

Heat oven to 400F. In a bowl, combine eggs, sugar, salt, ground almonds, cream, sliced almonds, lemon zest, and juice. 

Melt butter in an 8-inch ovenproof skillet over low heat; when foam has subsided, add almond mixture to pan, tilting pan to distribute batter evenly. Continue to cook tart on stovetop until edges just begin to set, then put pan in oven and finish cooking, about 10 to 15 more minutes.

When tart is done, put it in broiler for about a minute or until just golden on top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and sliced almonds. Serve.  It's great with vanilla ice cream!

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cupcake Party!

Here's a great idea: have a cupcake party!  Sound silly?  Really, it'll be fun.  It's a lot cheaper than a night on the town, you can nurture your creative side and catch up with friends, and it's hard not to have fun while baking and decorating cupcakes.  I recently did a cupcake workshop with a dozen students at my school, and though they had homework to do and papers to write, everyone just relaxed and had fun for a few hours.  Huge dose of stress relief!

So invite some friends over, and tell them to bring along a hand mixer or two, some muffin tins, some sprinkles, maybe some M&M's, a jar of Nutella perhaps...  Pair up, and make your cupcake batters.  Then just keep filling and baking those cupcakes.  Stick the muffin tins in the freezer or outside in the cold to cool off between rounds.  A dozen of us made well over 200 hundred cupcakes in just a few hours.  Once the batter is done, start making frosting while keeping a watchful eye on the cupcakes. When the frosting is done and the cupcakes are cool, put out all the frostings, sprinkles, and other decorations, and get creative!

At our cupcake event, we made 4 kinds of cake:  peanut butter, chocolate, graham cracker, and brown sugar; 3 frostings:  brown sugar cream cheese, vanilla frosting (in 4 colors), marshmallow.  We also made chocolate ganache for filling the cupcakes and caramel to fill or drizzle over the cupcakes.  But 2-3 varieties of cake and frosting is plenty, especially for a smaller group.  Here are a couple recipes to get you started.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

S'mores Bars and Other Things That Make Me Smile

I love to make complicated multifaceted desserts, the kind that require careful planning and preparation, the kind that will definitely impress the crowd.  But it's also great to just be able to quickly toss a few ingredients together and still get the delicious aroma of fresh baked goods wafting out of the oven and through the house.  Plus, the child-like simplicity of a brownie or S'mores bar can't help but make me smile.  Here are some other things that always make me smile:

Puppies, especially my dog Tsuki

Little girls on Halloween

A beautiful sunrise over the ocean

A happy baby

And, p.s., here's something that definitely makes me smile:  did you know that marshmallow fluff is vegetarian? Hooray! Jello was the first meat product I gave up when I was little. I couldn't believe gelatin was an animal product. In my 17+ years of vegetarianism, though, gelatin is the only meat product I have ever ingested (knowingly anyway). It's everywhere! Infuriating...

S’More Cookie Bars (adapted from Baking Bites)

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
12 ounces chocolate chips (or 2 giant-sized Hershey's chocolate bars)
1 1/2 cups marshmallow fluff (not melted marshmallows)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with baking spray. I usually use a glass pan.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined. Press about 2/3 - 3/4 of the dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan.

Scatter the chocolate chips evenly over the dough.

Spread the marshmallow fluff over the chocolate chips - this is harder than it sounds as the fluff wants to pull up the chocolate chips. Luckily this is the hardest step of the whole recipe. You can replace the chocolate chips with 2 giant sized (bigger than king-size) Hershey's chocolate bars which are heavier and therefore more stable under the fluff.

Scatter the remaining dough in clumps across the top of the chocolate chips. Don't leave any big gaps.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned.

Cool completely before cutting into bars (though I think they are best still warm and gooey).

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pumpkin Bread and Vanilla Ice Cream: Simply Delicious!

A student of mine last year sent me pumpkin bread all the way from DC as a thank you for writing letters of recommendation for grad school. I'm not sure I had ever had pumpkin bread before, but I loved it! This pumpkin bread is also wonderful - deliciously moist, even days after it's made and even after it's been frozen (although most cakes are great after being frozen). It's also super easy and quick, and it makes 2 loaves. What more could you want?

In keeping with the deliciously easy theme, this vanilla ice cream is the first ice cream I ever made in my ice cream maker. I went with the easiest recipe in David Lebovitz's book since it was our first adventure (the ice cream machine and me, that is). It was, without a doubt, the best vanilla ice cream I've ever had. By far. I immediately began dreaming up all sorts of interesting variations I could make: fudge and peanut butter swirls, chunks of chocolate cake, raspberry ripples, .... but that's for another post.

It's seriously very hard to express just how easy and incredibly delicious both the bread and the ice cream are. Make them immediately!

Pumpkin Bread Recipe (adapted from here)

1 can (about 2 cups) canned pumpkin (or homemade pumpkin puree)
3 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup Canola oil
4 eggs
3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray two 9" x 5" loaf pans with baking spray.

Combine pumpkin, sugar, water, oil, and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if you'll be using a hand mixer).

Whisk together dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cloves.

Slowly mix in the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans. Bake for 60-65 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then cool on rack.

Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe (from David Lebovitz)

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste*

Pour 1 cup of the cream in a medium saucepan, and add the sugar and salt. Warm over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

Remove from heat, and add the remaining milk, cream, and vanilla bean paste.

Chill thoroughly in the fridge. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. In my Cuisinart, it's ready in about 25 minutes with a perfect soft gelato-like texture. It gets much harder in the freezer.

*You can use a vanilla bean instead of the paste, but I find the paste easier. If you use the vanilla bean, split it lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds into the saucepan; drop the vanilla bean pod in as well. Remove the vanilla bean (before freezing) when you take the mixture out of the fridge; reserve for another use.

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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!

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