COCONUT AND LIME MACARONS

So many macarons, so little time… These were made using my default recipe – French meringue, resting for about 30 minutes before baking (the macs, not the baker) – but with one small change in the method: I did most of the macaronage in the Kitchen Aid mixer with the paddle attachment. If you are new to making macarons, I don’t advise trying it on your first time, but as soon as you get a bit more familiar with the extent of mixing needed before piping, go for it. It is fast, a lot easier on your arms, and works like a charm. I must say these are fighting to sit in the position of Sally’s Favorite Macarons of All Times. Can you imagine that?

COCONUT AND LIME MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
113 g almond meal
113 g egg whites at room temperature
a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
Green food gel from Chefmaster
1/8 tsp coconut extract

for the filling:
250 g white chocolate, chopped finely
50 g heavy whipping cream
50 g coconut milk (full-fat)
zest of 1 lime

to decorate:
melted white candy melts
sprinkles of your choice

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar and almond meal   in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 15 seconds. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to medium-high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme. Add the gel color and the vanilla. Staying at medium-high speed, whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm.

Switch to paddle attachment. Add half the almond meal mixture, turn the mixer on low and mix for about 3 seconds. Stop and add the rest of the almond mixture, turn the mixer on low, and process for about 5 more seconds. It should still be reasonably thick, but the grains of almond should be more or less disappearing in the batter.  Remove the bowl from the mixer, and finish the macaronage by hand.  Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with one of the tips listed above. Pipe on the prepared baking sheets.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Then fist bump each end of the sheet’s underside twice. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. Ina dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 300 F. Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide, then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. The macarons should release without sticking. Check one or two. If they stick, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Make the filling: Place the chopped white chocolate in a bowl. Warm up the heavy cream almost to boiling, add the lime zest and allow it to sit for 15 minutes, covered. Add the coconut milk, heat the mixture again to almost boiling, pour over the chocolate. Wait for a couple of minutes and gently mix the chocolate to dissolve it fully. White chocolate is very delicate, if you need to heat it in the microwave to fully dissolve it, do it in at most 10 second intervals using 50% power. Once it is fully dissolved, allow it to cool to room temperature and then whip it with a handheld mixer until fluffy. Do not do it for too long or the ganache will turn grainy.

Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of filling to the bottom of one of them. Place the other on top and squeeze gently to take the filling all the way to the edge.  Store in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Macarons inflict fear on bakers. Things can go wrong, and when they do, it’s pretty frustrating, although there are uses for ruined shells. Macawrongs, as some call them, can be crumbled and used to add texture in cake layers, can go over mousses or ice creams, no need to trash them. In fact, I have recently seen amazing macarons in which badly cracked shells turned into works of art. The clever baker simply used gold pearl dust dissolved in vodka and painted the cracks using a fine brush. The effect is stunning!  I’ve been hoping for cracked shells, but of course, once you want them, they don’t happen. Yeah, macarons. They know how to keep you on your toes. 

These macs delivered just what I wanted, a good taste of coconut with the delicate sourness of limes to go with it. The labor of love was separating the white and green sprinkles from the other colors, but it was worth it.  Since I used candy melts for the drizzle, I had to work fast because that tends to solidify quickly. So I drizzled four macarons at a time, decorated them and moved to the following set of four. I felt pretty fancy using tweezers to place the large sprinkles exactly where I wanted, but of course that slows things down. Baking: one of the most efficient ways to practice patience.

Summarizing what’s new about this post: you can do 90% of the macaronage in your Kitchen Aid, just change the whisk to the paddle, add the almond mixture in two installments. Beat 3 seconds after first addition, in low-speed, add the second half, and beat 5 seconds.  Finish by hand after that. And, to make a coconut flavored shell and filling, simply use coconut extract instead of vanilla in the shells, and a portion of coconut milk in place of heavy cream when you make the ganache with the white chocolate. You can use that as a basis for different flavors, maybe adding a touch of passion fruit, or mango instead of infusing the cream with lime zest.  Have fun with it… That’s what macs are for. Apart from sometimes driving you crazy.

ONE YEAR AGO: Flank Steak Carnitas

TWO YEARS AGO: Sesame and Poppy Seed Sourdough

THREE YEARS AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken from Southern at Heart

FOUR YEARS AGO: Lamb Shanks en Papillote with Cauliflower-Celeriac Purée

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chestnut Brownies and a Blog Award!

SIX YEARS AGO: Quinoa with Cider-Glazed Carrots

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday: Heirloom Tomatoes Steal the Show

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Pain de Provence

NINE YEARS AGO: Golspie Loaf, from the Scottish Highlands

ASIAN-STYLE EGGPLANT “MEATBALLS”

Disclaimer: these are not meatballs, they are actually vegetarian. But it’s hard to avoid the association. Eggplant Balls? Eggplant Morsels? Nah, neither one works for me. Plus, “meatballs” is  the way Katie Lee referred to them in the FoodTV show The Kitchen, so I can always lay blame on her. Having said that, these are pretty awesome. A bit more work than you might expect, but worth it. What makes them a bit more involved is the fact that you must (according to Katie) process each component separately.  Other than that, a very straightforward method, for a tasty alternative to meatballs.

ASIAN-STYLE EGGPLANT MEATBALLS
(slightly modified from Katie Lee)

6 cups small cubed eggplant, peel left on (from 1 large eggplant)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup unsalted raw cashews
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 large egg, lightly whisked

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place eggplant in a large mixing bowl and slowly drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir and drizzle in an additional tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread on a prepared baking sheet. Combine mushrooms and remaining teaspoon oil and spread on remaining baking sheet.

Bake eggplant and mushrooms 10 minutes, then stir and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees F. Pulse eggplant a few times in a food processor until coarse in texture. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Pulse mushrooms until coarse and add to the same bowl. Pulse cashews until coarse and transfer to bowl.  Add panko, ginger, basil, egg, salt and pepper to the mixture and stir to combine.

Use a small ice cream scoop or yours hands to scoop eggplant mixture into 12 balls and arrange on reserved lined baking sheet. Bake until crispy and browned, about 20 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was our dinner on a Monday, so I prepared everything up to the final roasting on the day before. It would be too hard to make it after work, but if you can spread the preparation in two days, it is perfect. Less than 30 minutes and a nice dinner is ready for you. I took them into a more Italian territory by warming up some tomato sauce and serving with them. These are quite delicate, so don’t try to simmer them covered in the sauce, they might fall apart.  Mine were probably more fragile even, because since my eggplant was a bit small, I included one zucchini in the mixture.  Zucchini has quite a bit more moisture, and I should have adjusted the amount of panko to account for that.  I am giving you the original recipe, and advise you to stick with eggplant and mushrooms only.

Making them the day before also helps them retain the shape during baking, but you could stick them in the fridge for an hour or so and proceed with roasting.  It is nice to reduce the amount of meat we consume, so these are quite likely going into our regular rotation. They could work well also as appetizers, making them smaller and serving with a dipping sauce, perhaps a tahini-yogurt to keep with the Asian flavor, if so desired.  Two thumbs up from both of us, omnivores at heart…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Uzbek Flatbread

TWO YEARS AGO: First Monday Favorite – Black Sesame Macarons

THREE YEARS AGO: Chocolate Orange Mini-Cakes

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, May 2015

FIVE YEARS AGO: P90X3, a Review of Tony Horton’s Latest Fitness Program 

SIX YEARS AGO: Pasta and Mussels in Saffron Broth

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Triple Chocolate Brownies

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Shanghai Soup Dumplings

NINE YEARS AGO: Bite-sized Chocolate Pleasure

 

 

A MODERN TAKE ON TARTE TATIN

It started with Shepherd’s Pie. It continued with Avgolemono Soup and Moqueca. Clearly, I’ve been taking liberties with classics and not acting ashamed. Tighten your seatbelt and be prepared for another wild ride. I share with you a modernized version of Tarte Tatin. It has no flaky crust. It is not cooked on the stove top. It does not have a thick, gooey layer of caramelized apples on top. But the overall concept is similar enough. Or so I say. A cookie base replaces the flaky crust, and a layer of apples slowly cooked in caramel sits proudly on top of it. Don’t skimp on the whipped cream. It adds a creamy and refreshing counterpoint that goes perfectly with the other components.

A  MODERN TARTE TATIN
(slightly modified from J’en reste Baba)

mold used: Silikomart Vague, but you can also use a 20cm ring or cake pan

for the caramel-apple:
5 Golden Delicious apples
65g of honey
40g of sweet butter
125g granulated sugar
60g of whipping cream
5g of gelatin in sheets (I used Platinum strength)

for the cookie base:
220g all-purpose flour
30g cornstarch
1 pinch of salt
40g ground hazelnuts (or hazelnut flour)
90g powdered sugar
130g softened butter
1 egg

for the stabilized whipped cream:
1 cup whipping cream (232 g)
14 g powdered sugar
1 tsp gelatin (powder)
1/2 tsp vanilla (I used clear extract)
golden sprinkles to decorate (optional)

Prepare the apple topping: Peel the apples, core them, and cut them in small pieces (as shown in the composite photo below).

Put the butter and honey in a pan and melt them together. Add the apple pieces to the pan and coat with honey and butter mixture. Cook the apple slices over low heat until soft and slightly translucent, then set aside. If they released any juices, drain the liquid.

Soften the gelatin sheets in cold water while you make the caramel. Heat the cream gently in a saucepan or in a Pyrex container using the microwave. Heat another small saucepan and pour the powdered sugar into it, one-third at a time, turning the pan after each addition so that the sugar mixes well and turns into caramel, slowly. Watch the sugar like a hawk, do not allow it to burn, keep moving the pan off the heat if necessary. Do not use a spoon, or you might set up a catastrophic crystallization reaction and will have to start all over.

Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add the hot cream (beware of splashing), stirring with a spatula as you gently pour it on the caramel. Mix everything well, allow it to cool to about 80C and add the drained gelatin.  Once the gelatin is well dissolved, pour the whole thing on the apples reserved. Gently combine caramel and apples, and add to your silicone mold, or to a ring (make sure you use some type of acetate or plastic wrap to facilitate un-molding later.

Pack the layer of apples well, because you want that component to lay fully flat on the cookie base. Freeze the apple-caramel overnight.

Make the cookie base: Sift together the flour, cornstarch, powdered sugar, and salt into the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer with the flat beater. Add the hazelnut powder, turn the mixer on and combine all ingredients lightly.  Mix the egg gently with a fork inside a cup and add to the bowl. Give it a few turns in low-speed. Add the softened butter in pieces and mix gently until the dough starts to form a ball. At this point stop the mixer and turn the dough into a countertop, finish mixing by hand. You do not want to develop gluten.

You should refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out 4 or 5mm thick.  Cut a circle 3 cm bigger than the diameter of your mold. Silikomart Vague is exactly 20cm in diameter, I cut my dough a bit larger than 23cm. Refrigerate the disc for 30 minutes or place it in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking.

As the dough cools, turn the oven at 370 F. Once the pastry is cool, bake it for about 20 minutes, until the edges start to get golden, and the center is fully set. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool completely. Cookie base can be made a few days ahead.

Make the whipped cream.  In a small saucepan, combine the powdered sugar and gelatin. Gradually stir in ¼ cup  of the cream. Bring the mixture just to a boil, stirring constantly. It will thicken slightly. Scrape the mixture into a small bowl and allow it to cool just to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla. In a chilled mixing bowl, whip the remaining cream just until traces of the beater marks begin to show. Add the cooled gelatin mixture in a steady stream, beating constantly. Whip  just until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised.

Assembly: remove the frozen topping from the freezer and carefully un-mold it. Place the cookie base on the serving platter, set the frozen apple insert centered on top. Spoon the whipped cream in a piping bag fitted with a 1M tip or any other star tip of your choice. Decorate the sides and the center of the tart with the cream. You will have whipped cream leftover.  If you like, decorate with golden sprinkles.

Keep 1 to 2 hours in the fridge to defrost before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I wish I could take credit for this interpretation of The Tatin, but all credit must to go to the food blog that originally featured it over a year ago: J’en reste Baba. I followed her recipe to a T, except for the whipped cream, which I opted to stabilize with gelatin. As I’ve mentioned before, my desserts are all made the day before they are enjoyed, as I take them to the department on Mondays. That “Mondays with Sweetness” thing. I am normally out of the house by 7:15am, so the idea of fiddling with whipping cream and piping bags earlier than that would be a bit too crazy. Stabilizing the whipped cream works well, and this method my favorite by far. The taste is unchanged and the texture perfect.

The tart can be served straight from the fridge once it de-frosts, but keeping it at room temperature for a while makes the texture of the topping even better, so consider that option if you make it.

This preparation could be used in different types of presentation, don’t let the lack of a Silikomart mold stop you. You can do a simple round insert, or even make individual portions, cutting circles of cookies and using a dome or flat circle for the apple. Just make sure to cut the cookie base with enough space around to allow for the whipped cream piping.

I had a bit of trouble using the 5 apples. At first it seemed to me there was too much fruit for not enough caramel. I might have left 3/4 of the last apple out of the mixture. After having made it, I’d say it would probably have been ok to add them all, but I was afraid that too much fruit would interfere with un-molding the topping. Kind of a tough call. Weighing the fruit could be a better way to go. But if you start with 5 medium apples and use your best judgment, I anticipate no problems.

The dry caramel is the trickiest component. I had never made dry caramel before and things can degenerate quite quickly once it gets going. It does give it a stronger taste and if you go overboard, it could end up bitter. If I make this dessert again (so hard to repeat things when I have that mile long list of things to try), I might try a “regular” caramel made from sugar-water as a starting point.

I really loved the combination of the cookie, the apples and the whipped cream, and the tart was gone by 10am, which I suppose is a good endorsement of this modernized Tatin…

ONE YEAR AGO: Minnie-Macarons, a Fun Project with a Happy Ending

TWO YEARS AGO: Nigella Lawson in the Bewitching Kitchen

THREE YEARS AGO: Walnut-Raisin Bran Muffins

FOUR YEARS AGO: Gingersnaps with White Chocolate Chips

FIVE YEARS AGO: Turkey Chili with Almond Butter

SIX YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club: Leek and Cheese Tart

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club; Triple Chocolate Brownies

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Shaved Asparagus Salad

NINE YEARS AGO: Indonesian Ginger Chicken

 

 

NOT QUITE MOQUECA

Moqueca is one beloved dish in Brazilian cooking. Several ingredients are mandatory: coconut milk, dende oil, tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro. The main protein can be shrimp, fish, or both. It is spicy, luscious, quite filling, and always served over a simple white rice. I have already messed up with this classic before, but with this recipe I shall infuriate my fellow native Brazilians a second time.

MOQUECA-STYLE SHRIMP AND CHICKPEAS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1.5 pounds large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (14.5 oz)
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 shallot, finely diced
1 red or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon harissa (or to taste)
1.5 cups crushed tomatoes with their juice
3/4 cup light coconut milk
fresh cilantro to taste
juice of half lemon

Heat the oil on a large sauce pan. Add the fennel, shallot and bell pepper, saute everything together seasoning with salt and pepper until translucent and very fragrant.

Add the crushed tomatoes, harissa, and chickpeas, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the shrimp and  coconut milk, simmer gently until the shrimp is cooked, 5 minute or so. Add the cilantro, lemon juice and serve over white rice.  If you like, add some hot sauce on the plate.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Moqueca originated in one of the hottest states of Brazil, Bahia. Even though it is a kind of stew, it is enjoyed the whole year, even at the height of the summer. I like to bring this up because those of us living in the Northern hemisphere are headed to very warm days. Don’t twist the nose to a nice serving of moqueca for that reason. This will please you no matter how hot it is outside.

I completely forgot to get fresh cilantro at the store, so I added a couple of Dorot frozen cilantro cubes together with the coconut milk/shrimp mixture. But don’t make this mistake, fresh cilantro not only looks great but it adds a lot more flavor, especially if added right before serving the meal.

I committed many sins with the recipe, but served it over white rice as any good Brazilian would. I hope this helps restore my reputation.

ONE YEAR AGO: Roasted Butternut Squash with Cashew Nuts

TWO YEARS AGO: Mississippi Roast and the Open Mind

THREE YEARS AGO: Walnut-Raisin Bran Muffins

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Star is Born!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chestnut Flour Sourdough Bread

SIX YEARS AGO: Kinpira Gobo and Japanese Home Cooking

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Walnut Sourdough

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Thai Chicken Curry

NINE YEARS AGO: Zen and the art of risotto

 

CHOCOLATE TARTLETS WITH HONEY CARAMEL FILLING

Care to find out what’s my latest obsession? Afternoon Tea Cookbooks. Most are not available as Kindle books, so I tend to be very selective when inviting one into our home. Reviews must be absolutely stellar, and pictures must be included for most (if not all) recipes. One book that made the cut is Afternoon Tea At Home, by Will Torrent. It is absolutely wonderful. As I was browsing through its pages and trying to decide what to make first from it, I had this crazy idea and immediately acted on it. Handed the book to Phil and said “Here, pick a recipe, any recipe, and I’ll make it.”  I call that Self-Inflicted Technical Challenge. He needed less than 2 minutes. Of course, the recipe he chose involved a crust, a caramel filling, tempering chocolate, and using transfer sheets to decorate it. Me and my big mouth. When will I ever learn?

CHOCOLATE TARTLETS WITH HONEY CARAMEL FILLING
(adapted from Afternoon Tea at Home)

for the crust:
200g all-purpose flour
150g butter, cut in pieces, cold
90g powdered sugar
60g almond flour
20g cocoa powder
pinch of salt
4 egg yolks

for the filling:
1 cup (320 g) honey
½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream

¼ cup (60 ml) sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup (85 g) corn syrup
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 

for the topping:
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar (or to taste)
1 tablespoon skimmed dry milk
100g tempered dark chocolate
12 sugar bees

Make the crust: Put the flour and butter in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer and mix until the butter gets into crumbs, coated by the flour. In a separate bowl mix the sugar, almond flour, cocoa powder and salt. Add this mixture to the butter/flour, mix on very low-speed to combine (you want to avoid developing gluten). When it is almost fully combined, add the egg yolks and again mix very gently.  Form a dough, flatten it, wrap in plastic and place in the fridge for 1 hour.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll out to 1/8 inch thick. Cut 12 rounds that will fit a muffin pan, coming all the way to the sides. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before blind-baking at 325 F.  I like to use plastic wrap to enclose rice or pie weights, it is safe to bake at this temperature, as long as the plastic does not touch the metal surface of the tin. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the weight, and bake for 5 to 10 more minutes. The tartlets must be fully baked, as no more cooking will take place.  Cool in the pan.

Make the filling: Combine the honey,  cream, condensed milk, corn syrup, and salt in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the mixture reaches 240F. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Divide among fully blind baked shells and allow to cool to room temperature. 

Make the chocolate decoration. Temper the chocolate according to your favorite method. Spread over the transfer sheet (make sure to use the correct side of the sheet!), let it set for a few minutes, then stamp circles the exact size of the top of the tartlets. Once fully set, gently peel the chocolate off the transfer sheet. Marvel at the design, pat yourself on the back.

Make the whipped cream. Beat the heavy cream with sugar and powdered milk until it forms medium peaks, transfer to a piping bag with a simple round piping tip.

Assemble the tartlets. When the crusts are cold, fill them with the caramel, place in the fridge to speed cooling a bit. Once the surface is set, gently place the chocolate decoration on top. Pipe the whipped cream, and set a little sugar bee on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This recipe, originally called Beehive Tarts, comes from David Girard, Head Pastry Chef from The Dorchester. I kept the crust and the chocolate decorations, but changed the filling and the topping. The filling was a honey caramel thickened with gelatin, but I worried that it would not set up enough to be neatly sliced in half. Since I take my bakes to the department, I prefer to offer a larger number of small portions, so more colleagues can enjoy them.  For this reason, I used a caramel adapted from a recipe I made a couple of years ago.  As for the topping, in the book he uses lemon curd (it did give a nice yellow color very cute with the little bee sitting next to it), but I love the combination of chocolate, caramel and whipped cream. I stabilized the whipped cream with powdered milk, a trick I learned from Anna Olson. It does stabilize it very well and is super simple to do, but I prefer the taste of whipped cream stabilized with gelatin (I will talk about it in the very near future).

The chocolate disc decoration… Tempering chocolate is the number one culinary task that gives me hyperventilation. So many failures, it’s not even funny. Somehow this time things worked beautifully in the microwave/seeding method. Two basic changes in my approach: I grated the chocolate finely instead of keeping it in chunks, and used a microwave-safe plastic bowl instead of Pyrex, in very short cycles of heating, not more than 10 seconds at a time. I kept 1/4 of the chocolate grated at room temperature to use as “seed.”  Then I stirred, and stirred, and stirred some more, monitoring the temperature very carefully.  Once the chocolate was tempered, it was spread over the transfer sheet. I tried my best to do it as uniformly as possible.

At that point, I waited for the chocolate to start setting, but did not allow it to fully harden. You have a good window of several minutes to work, no need to panic. You could panic, of course, but it’s not mandatory. Then using a cookie cutter, I pressed into the chocolate, and lifted the disc. That is what I call a rookie’s mistake. If you use this technique, press the cookie cutter, forming the edges as sharply as possible, but do not lift the disc yet. Wait until it is fully set. That will ensure that the pattern will efficiently transfer. My first discs clearly showed some variability in the pattern, weak at some spots, well-defined in others. But for a first time, I am pretty happy with the way it turned out.  The sugar bees? I bought them from amazon.  If you have artistic inclinations, you could make some with fondant, or modeling chocolate. I cringe to imagine what my bees would look like if I attempted to make them from scratch. Rotten mangos? Pineapples after a wild boar stampede?  Neither option would look right.

But the heart of the matter is: can Sally bake without drama? Sometimes yes, but not always. After I took the photos for the post, I placed my cute tartlets in a tray to take them to the fridge, where they would sit until Monday morning. A very unfortunate bump of my hand on the shelf of the fridge, and they slid off the tray, one fell all the way to the floor, some tumbled inside the fridge… Can you feel the pain? At first I thought they were all ruined, but luckily enough most were ok after I shaved off a bit of broken crust  here and there. I had to discard a few bees that were messed up when they got shoved into a puddle of whipped cream. I also had to remove all the cream very carefully, clean the tops and decorate them again. The tartlet that fell to the floor? You can guess who swallowed it before I could do anything to prevent that from happening. Yes, there was chocolate. Yes, he was totally fine and quite pleased with that twist of canine fate.  Never a dull moment, folks. Never a dull moment.

The tartlets are quite decadent, the little bees have a melt in your mouth texture, not hard as rock sugar. I was pleasantly surprised. Obviously you can skip that component, without compromising the dessert. I just felt like going the extra mile, because the person who requested the recipe deserves only the best…

ONE YEAR AGO: Zucchini Soup with Tahini

TWO YEARS AGO: Black Sesame Macarons

THREE YEARS AGO: Fine Tuning Thomas Keller

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Tortillas

FIVE YEARS AGO: Majestic Sedona, Take Two

SIX YEARS AGO: Secret Ingredient Turkey Meatballs

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Swedish Meatballs and Egg Noodles

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Italian Easter Pie

NINE YEARS AGO: Black Olive Bialy

 

 

 

FRESH TAKE ON FARRO WITH ROASTED VEGGIES

Grains and roasted veggies are a classic combination, one that I like a lot and shows up at our table on a regular basis. But lately I’ve incorporated a small extra step into it, and it is a game changer.  Interesting expression, by the way. From my “foreign perspective”, it is not necessarily a good thing.  After all, if the game is going well, a game changer would ruin it.  But the term, adopted by the Oxford dictionary very recently (2012), always has a positive connotation. Which makes it perfect to describe the addition of fresh veggies right before serving this dish. Game-changing. I promise.

FARRO WITH ROASTED VEGGIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup farro
5 carrots, peeled and cut in sticks
bunch of asparagus
drizzle of olive oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
yellow grape tomatoes, cut in half
fresh lemon juice to taste

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil.  Add the farro and cook (as if cooking pasta) until al dente. Cooking time will depend on many factors, start checking at 25 minutes, it might take 40 minutes or a tad longer. When cooked to your liking, drain and reserve.

Coat the carrots with a bit of olive oil, season with paprika, salt and pepper. Roast uncovered in a 420F oven for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus. Lay they on a microwave-safe dish, season very lightly with salt and sprinkle with lemon juice. Add a paper towel on top to cover them lightly. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve.

When the carrots are almost done roasting, add the asparagus and gently mix them. If necessary, add a touch more of olive oil. Roast the two veggies together for a final 5 minutes. Immediately add the fresh tomatoes, toss all veggies together, and place in a serving dish together with the farro. Adjust seasoning and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: First, let me say that cooking farro as if it’s pasta (freely swimming in a huge pool of water), is another game changer. The problem with farro is that if you go by a specific ratio of water to grain, sometimes you hit the jackpot (that is the grain is perfectly cooked when the water is absorbed), but sometimes it is either too hard or mushy.  This method takes all the guessing out of it, you cook, you test it as the cooking goes along, and when it reaches the level you like, it’s over. Drain it, and incorporate in any recipe you like.

As to the veggies, I realize this is a little more involved than roasting a bunch of them together and calling it a day. The thing is, I am not too fond of the woody texture that the asparagus gets when simply roasted. With braces, the situation gets even worse. So I use my favorite method of preparing them, a very brief encounter with the microwave, and then finalizing in the oven. It gets the best of both worlds.

Finally, the fresh component. The real game-changing bit. Amazing what that does to a roasted veggie concoction. It brightens up the flavors, and makes the whole thing taste quite a bit lighter. You can use tomatoes of any color, diced cucumber, radishes, kalamata olives, and guess what? Grapes! Seedless grapes, cut in half. You will be surprised how well they pair with roasted veggies. I intend to try strawberries next. Why not, right? With a little rose harissa just to take it truly over the top…

ONE YEAR AGO: Secret Recipe Club Reunion 2018

TWO YEARS AGO: Parsnip and Tomato Soup

THREE YEARS AGO: A Retro Dessert

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Tortillas: Going low-carb and loving it!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Clementines in Cinnamon Syrup

SIX YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2013 

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Thrilling Moments

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Maple-Oatmeal Sourdough Bread

NINE YEARS AGO: Pork Trinity: coffee, mushrooms, and curry

MACARONS FOR A LITTLE PRINCESS

Time goes by way too quickly. Not too long ago we were thrilled with the idea we would be grandparents, and all of a sudden, that sweet little baby turned four years old!  To celebrate the occasion, we wanted to send her a box of pink macarons, as pink is her favorite color. I settled on blackberry filling, and decided to try a bunch of different decorations, so she could choose her favorite.

BLACKBERRY MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar (I used Cherry Bakewell flavored)
113 g almond meal
113 g egg whites at room temperature
a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
pink gel color from AmeriColor
2 drops vanilla extract

for the filling:
8 ounces white chocolate
1/2 cup blackberry jam
2 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream

to decorate:
Royal icing
sprinkles of your choice
edible marker drawings
melted white chocolate

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar and almond meal   in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 15 seconds. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to medium-high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme. Add the gel color and the vanilla. Staying at medium-high speed, whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the almond meal mixture in three increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with one of the tips listed above. Pipe on the prepared baking sheets.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Then fist bump each end of the sheet’s underside twice. If using sprinkles, add them now, before the shells dry. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. In a dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 300 F. Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide, then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. The macarons should release without sticking. Check one or two. If they stick, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Make the filling: Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a pot of simmering water on low heat. Stir chocolate until melted. Remove from heat, and whisk in jam and heavy cream. Cover and chill 2 hours, or until cold. Whip it with a hand-held electric mixer until it reaches a good consistency for piping. Transfer ganache to a piping bag fitted with a 1/4-inch star tip.

Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and pipe a good amount of filling to the bottom of one of them. Place the other on top and squeeze gently to take the filling all the way to the edge.  Decorate any way you want. Store in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The logistics of gifting macarons to someone living a thousand miles away is a bit complicated, but of course doable. Where there is a will, there’s a way, right?  Keeping in mind that macarons need to sit overnight in the fridge to “mature”, you must start the process a couple of days early.  The maturation process is essentially absorption of moisture from the filling into the shells. Macaron shells start pretty dry and crumbly, as you’ll notice if you bite into them right after they cool down. Once you add buttercream or ganache, the moisture slowly permeates into the shells and turns the cookie into perfect little morsels of sweetness, with the exact amount of chewiness. But anyway, back to the issue of gifting macs.

Her birthday fell on a Thursday, so we had to ship it overnight on Wednesday. You can conceivably do a 2-day shipping to save considerable cash, but this was a special occasion, so we splurged. With that in mind, baking day was set for Tuesday after work. I had my fingers firmly crossed for the Macaron Gods to smile on me, because that was it, I needed them to be perfect, no time to try again. Stars were properly aligned: success! By 22:45hs  they  were  going  into the fridge, and the baker into a warm bed…   😉  

I used royal icing decoration in some of them, sprinkles in others, went Jackson Pollock in some, and even tried my hands at free drawing with edible markers (first time I dared doing it). The markers are from Chefmaster and have a very soft tip, you have to still use a light hand on the very delicate macaron shell, but trust me, if I could pull this, anyone can.

and her favorite….  DRUM ROLL!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Gilding the Sourdough Loaf

TWO YEARS AGO: Lolita Joins the Bewitching Kitchen

THREE YEARS AGO: Cashew Cream Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Blood Orange Margaritas

FIVE YEARS AGO: Smoked Salmon Appetizer

SIX YEARS AGO: Clementine Cake

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Springtime Spinach Risotto

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The end of green bean cruelty

NINE YEARS AGO: Torta di Limone e Mandorle