SCARY GOOD RECIPES FOR YOUR NEXT HALLOWEEN

Halloween will be back in only 361 days, so I am here to help you get into proper mood for it. Truth is, I had so much fun making these recipes, I cannot stand the idea of waiting for months and months to share. Let me introduce you then to some Friendly Ghost Cookies, Witches’ Fingers, and a Gingerbread Coffin with a chocolate cake inside so delicious that a dead body will rest forever happy.

FRIENDLY GHOST SUGAR COOKIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

360 g all-purpose flour (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
215 g granulated sugar
2 tsp orange zest
¼ tsp salt
227 g cup butter, cold and cut in pieces
1 egg
3/4 tsp Fiori di Sicilia extract
1/2 tsp cardamom

for icing:
4 Tablespoons meringue powder
½ cup water
1 pound powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup (such as Karo)
a few drops of almond extract

Heat oven to 360F.  Make the cookie dough. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg, Fiori di Sicilia, orange zest and cardamom, mix well. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat just until combined.

Dough can be rolled right away in between sheets of parchment paper. Roll to about 1/4″ thick, and cut into shapes. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, freeze for 5 minutes. Bake for about 12 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool to room temperature before icing.

Make the Royal icing. In the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer, with paddle attachment the water and meringue powder for a couple of minutes. Add the powdered sugar (sift over the bowl), corn syrup and almond extract. Beat on high speed for about 5 minutes.

Divide the Royal icing in three portions, one large will be left white. Two small portions will be dyed black and orange.  Flood the cookies with white icing and decorate with black and orange details as shown in the pictures.  Allow to fully dry before serving them.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe click here

Comments: The recipe makes quite a bit of cookies, feel free to halve them if you prefer. Rolling the dough and baking is not a big deal, but of course the decoration demands a bit of time. I made them one evening after work and had this little voice talking to myself “why didn’t you make just half?”

The composite picture below shows you how easy it is to make the decoration for the little ghosts. Three lines, wet on wet, and a needle to pull the lines through, first in one direction, then in the opposite direction.  I cannot take credit for it, I saw a similar design somewhere in Pinterest world.


The combination of orange zest, fiori di Sicilia and cardamon is really wonderful. I need to think about those flavors for macaron filling.

Moving on……


WITCHES’ FINGERS

Recipe from my friend Karen over at Karen’s Kitchen Stories. Click here to get all the details.

RECIPE STEPS IN PICTURES

Comments: At first I was a bit insecure about how much green dye to use (secret is to use less than you think you need), and how to exactly shape the fingers. Well, don’t worry too much about it, no matter how you do it, the result will be gruesome and horrific. Which is pretty much the goal of the bake, right?  They taste delicious, and the nails  almonds add a nice flavor to them. As to the jam, I used raspberry jam with a tiny drop of red food color to intensify the effect. The jam by itself was not as red as I wanted.

Moving on to the final bake…


GINGERBREAD COFFIN WITH CHOCOLATE CAKE
(from Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

for the gingerbread dough:
660 g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 sticks (227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
200 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup unsulfured molasses

for icing:
4 Tablespoons meringue powder
½ cup water
1 pound powdered sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup
a few drops of almond extract

for the caramel glue:
200 g sugar
60 mL water
1 tsp corn syrup
1/2 tsp lemon juice

for the chocolate cake:
463 g sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
70 g Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (237 g) water
3/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
220 g all-purpose flour
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk

for the chocolate icing:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup

for the Royal icing decoration:
(same recipe as sugar cookies)

Make the gingerbread dough. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and spices. In another large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high, cream butter and sugar for about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then honey and molasses.

Slowly add the flour mixture until well combined. Divide the dough into 3 pieces, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about one hour.

Heat oven to 350°F. Working with a third of dough at a time, roll out to ¼-inch thickness on parchment paper well dusted with flour. Cut the pieces you need for the coffin, and transfer the cut pieces to the freezer for about 10 minutes. Bake cookies for 12 to 15 minutes. They must be crisp and dry but not getting dark.

Cool them completely before icing and once the icing is dry, assemble the coffin using caramel.

Make the caramel. Put the sugar and water in a large, low-sided frying pan over a medium-high heat. Without stirring, bring to 320 F.  If you don’t have a thermometer, the syrup is ready when the sugar has dissolved and it turns a golden color, not too dark.  Swirl the syrup gently in the pan to even out the color. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool for a few moments to thicken slightly to the consistency of honey. Dip the edges of the pieces you intend to glue and assemble them. Drizzle additional caramel if needed using a small spoon. 

If the syrup begins to harden in the pan, put it back over a gentle heat until it has returned to the required consistency.

Make the chocolate cake. Heat oven to 350F.  Spray a 13 x 9 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, extending the paper out of the pan to facilitate removal of the cake after baking.

In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, salt, cocoa, and baking soda. Add to it 1 cup of boiling water, stir well and let it sit for 15 minutes.

Pour the hot cocoa mixture into a mixing bowl, add the oil and vanilla and beat on low speed until combined. On low speed, mix the flour into the batter and then add the eggs, egg yolks and buttermilk. Do not over-mix. Pour the very thin batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 35 minutes, rotating the pan after 15 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean when tested in the center of the cake.  Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes on a rack. Run a thin knife around the edge and jar the edge of the pan to loosen. Invert onto the serving platter. Cool completely, then cut in pieces to fit inside the gingerbread coffin. You will have to do some assembling to fit some of the cut pieces in the bottom of the coffin.

Make the chocolate icing. Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler. Add corn syrup and set over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. use immediately, pouring it gently over the cake, once it’s inside the gingerbread coffin.  Allow it to set for a few hours at room temperature.  Use Royal Icing to draw a skeleton inside, if you so desire, or use powdered sugar and a stencil.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Your cake will be baked in a 13 x 9 rectangular pan. You should draw a design for the coffin that makes the lid no bigger than 12.5 inches in length. The sides should be 2.5 inches in height.  It is a pretty easy design, I made the pieces in cardboard and used those to cut the gingerbread dough. The recipe has a reasonably small amount of baking powder, so that the dough does not change much during baking, but you can always use a Microplane grater to bring the edges into better shape.

Most gingerbread sculptures are assembled with very thick Royal icing. It has its problems – I will discuss those a bit more in a future post. Caramel sounds dangerous because it’s so hot and if you burn yourself it’s not fun at all, but the advantage is that it glues quickly and you don’t have the white stuff joining every piece. That is nice for a house or other structures, but I prefer the coffin to be more austere.  Apart from having to clean the pan after making the caramel, I liked the method better than Royal icing for assembling.  Live and learn.

The cake was absolutely wonderful even next day, moist, intense, it gave a bit of moisture to the gingerbread base, which I did not roll as thin as I should have. I need a lot more practice with this type of dough, and find that particularly to roll large pieces, I have issues keeping it thin and uniform. At any rate, Karl Lagerfeld did not seem to mind cutting pieces for Spider Woman. And she was delighted for catching him in her dangerous web. They do make a nice match, even if I say so myself. Biased, who moi?

I hope you enjoyed this little roundup of Halloween recipes. It is a scary job, but someone has to do it.

ONE YEAR AGO: Devil Wears Chocolate

TWO YEARS AGO: Slow-Cooker Pot Roast with Potatoes, Carrots, and Fennel

THREE YEARS AGO: The Best, the Very Best Hummus

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cheddar Cheese Crackers

FIVE YEARS AGO: A New Take on Cauliflower Puree

SIX YEARS AGO:
 In My (NEW!) Kitchen

SEVEN YEARS AGO:
 
The Lab Move and New Beginnings

EIGHT YEARS AGO:
 Honey-Oat Pain de Mie

NINE YEARS AGO:
 Carrot and Leek Soup

TEN YEARS AGO:
 Chicken Parmigiana 101

 

FALL-INSPIRED BAKING

Everyone who knows me is well-aware I am a summer-creature all the way. But there’s something about the colors of autumn that fascinate me. I suppose they fascinate all human beings. Growing up in Brazil, I had never seen trees turning color, but used to marvel at photos from Vermont or other places famous for having the most spectacular color change in their trees. Now I enjoy them in our own backyard, Phil planted a beautiful maple tree that is thriving nicely, each year more magnificent, with a more intense red tone in the leaves. Gorgeous. Today I share with you a series of recent bakes inspired by the season.

I will start with the Maple Leaf Chocolate Sugar Cookies, because I loved making them.

MAPLE LEAF CHOCOLATE COOKIES
(cookie recipe from Lilaloa and decoration technique from Salt and Serenity)

for the cookie dough:
227 g (1 cup) slightly softened unsalted butter
43 g vegetable shortening (43 grams)
300 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs ( about 100 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
80 g unsweetened cocoa powder
490 g all-purpose flour
(if saving the dough to roll at a later time, use 420 g flour)
for the Royal Icing:
80 g egg whites
420 g powdered sugar
food dye (brown, red, orange, and yellow)

Heat oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream butter, shortening and sugar together in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer with the paddle attachment. Add eggs, vanilla, baking powder and salt and mix well.
Stir in the cocoa until well blended.

Add flour and mix until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough holds together in a ball. Roll out on lightly floured surface, cut in the desired shapes.I like to place the baking sheet in the freezer for 5 minutes or in the refrigerator for 15 min before baking. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, cool completely before icing.

Make the Royal icing: whisk the egg whites and powdered sugar using a KitchenAid type mixer until fully smooth. Adjust if needed with sugar or a little milk. I like to have it at around 15 second-icing consistency, because it works both for piping the edge and flooding, which is all I need for this design.

Pipe the four colors starting with brown, finishing with yellow, but feel free to play with them in other arrangements. Pull the colors with a needle or toothpick, watch the tutorial online for details. Allow the icing to fully set at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I urge you to visit Salt and Serenity and watch Cindy’s video explaining how to make this eye-catching design. It is one of those things that seem very complicated until you see how it’s done. Basically, if “I” could do it, you will be able to do it also. Trust me. It is important to use a cookie recipe that holds its shape well, and I was happy with the one I used, especially because you can roll the dough without resting it in the fridge. You know I am not the most patient baker out there.

Moving on to Halloween Brigadeiros…

Brigadeiros are the most typical candy from Brazil, and totally addictive.  I used my default recipe and simply coated them with orange and black non-pareils. For the recipe and to read more about them, visit my old post with a click here.

PUMPKIN CUPCAKES
(adapted from many sources)

for the cupcakes:
170 g granulated sugar
130g brown sugar
225 g all-purpose flour
1 + 1/2 tsp baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
320 g canned pumpkin (about 3/4 of a small can)
150 ml grapeseed oil
3 large eggs
for the icing:
120g unsalted butter, softened
190 g cream cheese, at room temperature
675 g powdered sugar
sprinkles to decorate

Heat the oven to 375 F.  Place both sugars in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and blend with the whisk so that no lumps remain in the brown sugar. Sift all other dry ingredients and mix well with the sugars.

In another medium bowl mix well the pumpkin, oil and eggs. Add to the KitchenAid bowl and mix with the paddle attachment until smooth. Place paper liners in a 12-muffin baking pan, and fill each about 3/4 of the volume.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 18 minutes.

Make the icing while the cupcakes bake and cool. Beat the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until pale and very smooth. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, then add to the butter mixture in three additions, beating well each time. 

When the cupcakes are completely cool, frost them using the icing tip of your choice. I used Wilton 1M.  Decorate with your favorite sprinkles.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: These are deliciously soft cupcakes, with the perfect amount and combination of spices. I used two different styles of piping trying to change things a bit, but the traditional swirl still gets my vote. I suppose if you want to go the more austere route, these cupcakes will shine with just a dusting of powdered sugar, so keep that in mind.

And finally, how could I possibly make a Fall inspired baking post without French macarons?

I used my default recipe, which you can find here, but added orange and brown food color at 4:1 proportion.

PUMPKIN MACARON FILLING

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup canned pumpkin pureed
2 cups powdered sugar (220 g)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch of allspice
to decorate:
White Candy melts (about 3/4 cup)
black gel food dye
sprinkles of your choice

Cream the butter and pumpkin puree with an electric mixer. Add in the sugar and spices. Mix well and scrape down side of bowl. If needed, thin with a very small amount of milk or heavy cream.

Add a small amount of buttercream to a macaron shell, top with another shell. Melt the Candy melts in a microwave or double boiler. Add black food dye. Place in a piping bag, cut a very small hole in the plastic. Pipe lines on top of the macarons, immediately add sprinkles before the drizzle sets.

As always, leave the filled macarons in the fridge overnight before serving them.

ENJOY!

to print the filling recipe, click here

Comments: This is my second version of a pumpkin macaron, and I like this filling better, it has a more complex flavor. For the drizzle with black candy melts I did something a bit different, and unfortunately I am not quite sure how reproducible it is. You are welcome to try it, but if it does not work for you, don’t get mad at me. A couple of months ago I was heating candy melts and used too high power in the microwave. The suspension kind of broke, and I simply tossed it and started all over. Later I learned that you can recover the broken suspension if you add a bit of oil such as grapeseed or safflower. Something mild in flavor, obviously. This time I made the suspension break and brought it back but not to the point that it was fully smooth. I wanted some texture, and I think it worked well, at least it was close to what I had in mind.  So, next time Candy Melts play a trick on you, consider using it to your advantage…

I hope you enjoyed my quartet of bakes. Since summer is over, I might as well embrace what’s good about cooler weather: BAKING WITH ABANDON!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: On a Halloween Roll

TWO YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Macarons

THREE YEARS AGO: Zucchini, Lemon & Walnut Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Paleo Energy Bars

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Honey Mustard Dressing

SIX YEARS AGO: Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Burgers

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Clay-pot Pork Roast

NINE YEARS AGO: Panmarino

TEN YEARS AGO: A Classic Roast Chicken

THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF IS BACK!

Americans who love the show will be very happy because Netflix is releasing each episode just a few days after they air in the UK. I was lucky enough to watch the opening show in London, but now I have to be patient and wait from Tuesday to Friday to indulge.  This year the group of contestants seems surprisingly young.  Or, does that mean I am getting so old that I noticed the trend? Hard to tell, but I have the feeling that in other seasons the ages were a bit more widespread. Still, they picked a bunch of folks with interesting personalities so it should be fun to watch. I decided to bake some of the challenges this year, and will start with the signature from episode 2, Biscuits. The theme is deceptively simple: make 12 chocolate-covered biscuits. I went Japanese with my interpretation. Matcha cookies with a miso-caramel filling. Coated with tempered dark chocolate.

CHOCOLATED-COATED MATCHA COOKIES WITH MISO CARAMEL
(inspired by Japanese Patisserie)

100 g all-purpose flour
150 g cornstarch
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoons baking powder
75 g  granulated sugar
113 g softned butter (1 stick)
2 egg yolks
3 g matcha powder
for caramel:
160 ml whipping cream
1 tablespoons corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
200 g granulated sugar
50 g miso paste
to coat and decorate cookies:
500 g dark chocolate, tempered
100 g white chocolate, gently melted and placed in piping bag
sprinkles of choice (I used edible golden stars)

To make the cookies, mix together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and baking powder; set aside.

Beat the sugar with the softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, then the matcha powder and beat until fully combined.

Gently fold in the flour mixture to form a crumbly dough. If the dough is too dry, sprinkle a few teaspoons of cold water, a little at a time until it forms a dough that adheres when you press portions with your fingers. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 1 hour.  

Heat the oven to 350 F. Roll out the dough, using as little flour as possible on the work surface, to a thickness of around  1⁄4 inch (6mm). Stamp out rounds with the cookie cutter. Roll the scraps again and cut rounds of the same size, but use a smaller cookie cutter to remove most of the central part, so that you can form a barrier for the caramel to be poured inside (as shown in the composite picture). Place the top portion over the circles that will form the base, prick the surface with a fork. Bake in the preheated oven for around 12 minutes until set but not browned. Remove the cookies from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

To make the miso caramel, place the whipping cream into a microwaveable bowl and warm gently for 30 seconds. Put the corn syrup, water and sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently, until it turns into a dark, golden brown caramel color.   Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the warm cream, stirring constantly. Once the cream is fully incorporated, stir in the miso paste. Allow the caramel to cool and then scrape into a piping bag. Add the caramel to the center of the baked, and fully cooled cookies. Refrigerate several hours up to overnight.

Temper the dark chocolate using your favorite method. Dip each cookie in the tempered chocolate, then drizzle melted white chocolate to decorate. Add sprinkles of your choice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Best component of this recipe is definitely the miso caramel. I could enjoy it by spoonfuls, staring at the trees in our backyard, daydreaming… Come to think of it, a drizzle over vanilla ice cream sounds pretty amazing also. Matcha is a flavor that not everyone is fond of. I like it because it cuts through excessive sweetness and since the caramel is obviously quite sweet, it pairs well with it. If you prefer a less sharp and assertive cookie, omit the matcha powder, add some vanilla or lemon zest. But please do try the miso caramel, it goes more or less along the lines of salted caramel, but more subtle in its savory nature.

After coating the cookies in tempered chocolate, avoid the temptation to put them to dry over a rack. They might stick to the rack, so the best way is to carefully lay them over parchment paper once the excess chocolate drips away. This tip is a courtesy of the one and only Philip, from Phil’s Home Kitchen… And since I mentioned him, stop by to see his recent takes on the technical challenges of this GBBO season with a click here and here.

ONE YEAR AGO: Queen of Sheba

TWO YEARS AGO: Brunch Burger

THREE YEARS AGO: Mango Salsa with Verjus

FOUR YEARS AGO: Raspberry Bittersweet Chocolate Chunk Brownies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Scary Good Pork Burgers

SIX YEARS AGO: Review of exercise program Focus25

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

NINE YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

TEN YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

 

PURPLE STAR MACARONS

When it comes to macarons, people are divided in two teams, those who think the color of the shells should match the type of filling, and those who could not care less. I can go either way, but with this bake I joined the rebels. Shells are purple, filling is strawberry-based. My goal was to make macarons with the colors of KSU (purple and silver), but I wanted to use my made-from-scratch jam as part of the filling. So there you go, purple macarons with a strawberry-balsamic-black pepper buttercream.

PURPLE STAR MACARONS
(adapted from Colette Christian’s Craftsy version)

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
purple food gel from Chefmaster
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

for the filling:
3 tablespoons (40gr) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (100gr) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons heavy cream
2 tablespoon strawberry jam (I used this recipe)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

to decorate:
white candy melts dyed purple
silver pearl dust
vodka or lemon extract

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:  Whisk the butter with the powdered sugar until creamy, slowly add the heavy cream and continue whisking until fluffy and smooth. I used a hand held electric beater. Add the vanilla, salt, and finally the strawberry jam. Whisk to incorporate, keep in the fridge until needed.  Place it in a piping bag fitted with a star tip like Wilton 1M.

Paint each shell before assembling.  In a very small bowl, mix silver pearl dust with vodka or lemon extract until it has a nice consistency to brush on the shells. Use a fan brush to get a nice effect. Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of buttercream filling on top of one shell, close with the other, and squeeze gently.

To make the stars, dye a small amount of melted candy purple. Spread on a piece of parchment as a thin layer. Let it set at room temperature, cut star shapes.  Right before using, add a bit of silver pearl dust and shake them gently around to cover lightly. Glue one or more stars to the top of each assembled macaron using candy melts.

Store in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The stars can be a bit tricky to make because the points are very fragile and tend to break, so make more than you think you’ll need.  I coated them with a bit of silver pearl dust, the same one used to brush the shells, except that I added them dry to the candy melt stars.

The strawberry jam is absolutely delicious, and I’ve used it in two other desserts that should be featured in the near future. The recipe comes from the most trustworthy baking website in the known universe: Pastries Like a Pro, from Helen Fletcher. If you want to improve your baking skills, you must follow her. Making the jam was a lot less complicated than I expected, so I see other jam adventures in my horizon. I have plans for a mango version to materialize in the Bewitching Kitchen sometime soon.

ONE YEAR AGO: Smoked Salmon, Fait Maison

TWO YEARS AGO: Kouign-Amann, Fighting Fire with Fire

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, Yin and Yang

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chocolate Toffee Banana Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, June 2014

SIX YEARS AGO:  Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Baked Coconut and “The Brazilian Kitchen”

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Honey-Glazed Chicken Legs

NINE YEARS AGO: French-Style Rolls

 

 

ISPAHAN MACARONS

Little annoucement: I edited my Index page, so that Macarons are now in a category by themselves, separated from other cookies.  I hope you find that helpful…


Pierre Hermé is the genius behind the combination of flavors known as Ispahan: lychees, roses, and raspberries. Nowadays you can find this sexy trio as a base for cakes, tarts, bonbons, but they were originally conceived many years ago as macaron filling. I read somewhere that Hermé designed them while working at Ladurée, but for one reason or another they were not a big hit then. Only when he opened his own shop and included Ispahan Macs in his regular production customers fell in love, head over heels. The rest is history.  You can find his original recipe here. I had a few issues with his macaron recipes in the past (operator error, I am sure), so to play it safe I used the method that almost never fails me.

ISPAHAN MACARONS
(inspired by Pierre Herme’s recipe)

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
Teal food gel from Chefmaster
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

for the filling:
210g white chocolate, diced finely
200g lychees (preserved in syrup)
40g whipping cream
1/8 tsp rose extract
seedless raspberry jam

to decorate:
white candy melts dyed pink
brown food safe marking pen

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. Process the lychees in a food processor to form a puree. Drain excessive liquid. Warm up the heavy cream almost to boiling, add the lychee puree, continue simmering until almost boiling again. Pour over the chocolate. Wait for a couple of minutes and gently mix the chocolate to dissolve it fully. Add the rose extract. Allow it to cool to room temperature and then whip it with a handheld mixer until fluffy.  Place in a piping bag fitted with a star tip such as Wilton 1M.

Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of lychee ganache to the bottom of one of them. Place a bit of raspberry jam in the center, and close with another macaron shell. Squeeze gently to take the filling all the way to the edge.

To make the decorations, dye a small amount of melted candy pink. Spread on a piece of parchment as a thin layer. Let it set at room temperature, cut flower shapes. You can also just fill tiny little silicone flower molds with the melted candy, and freeze. Make enough to have several flowers for each macaron shell. They can be made well in advance and frozen.

Decorate the top of each macaron with branches using a brown food-safe marker. Add flowers using melted candy to glue them on the cookie shell. Store in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I don’t know for how long I’ve been flirting with this recipe, trying to imagine how the flavors would work together. Pierre Hermé makes a raspberry jelly from scratch, cuts in pieces and places that on top of the lychee ganache. I actually did that, but was a bit unsure of how well the gelatin did its job. My little discs of raspberry jelly seemed a bit too watery once removed from the freezer. I did not want to risk ruining my macs, so I used seedless raspberry jam instead. I guess it made them slightly sweeter than they should be, but I really liked the way they turned out. 


For the decoration, I used candy melts, but it’s of course totally optional, they would look pretty nice with a delicate brush of pink luster dust, for instance, making the whole decoration step a lot simpler and faster.  More or less along the lines of these from last year. Keep in mind that these little flowers keep very well in the freezer. In fact, I had made them three weeks earlier. I cannot take credit for the idea, though. I saw macarons similarly decorated on Pinterest a couple of years ago, and saved the idea. I think it was from a German food blog. Wish I could give credit, but a google search did not take me back there.

The lychee flavor is so unique, if you’ve never tried it please do so. It is exotic and mysterious, a great match for the rose extract. Hermé hit this one perfectly. I need to bake a Ispahan Entremet Cake sometime soon. Expect a mirror glaze. Because… Ispahan begs for it…

ONE YEAR AGO: Smokin’ Hot Meatloaf and Homemade Ketchup

TWO YEARS AGO: Banana Bread with Espresso Glaze

THREE YEARS AGO: Slow-Cooker Carnitas & Paleo Planet Cookbook Review

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Making of a Nobel Reception

FIVE YEARS AGO: Fennel Soup with Almonds and Mint 

SIX YEARS AGO: Green Curry Pork Tenderloin

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Farfalle with Zucchini and Ricotta

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Slow-baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme

NINE YEARS AGO: Hoisin Explosion Chicken

 

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

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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

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NINE YEARS AGO: Golspie Loaf, from the Scottish Highlands

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!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

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