SWIRLS AND WHIRLS

This post could also be entitled Having fun with Wilton… Probably the most useful icing tip you can stick in your piping bag, Wilton 1M shines with many types of icings and doughs. In this post, I share three adventures using choux-pastry, French meringue, and a butter cookie. They all get a stylish look thanks to the open-star tip. Easy to use, even a recovering cake-o-phobe can do it.

SAMANTAS
(from Show de Receitas)

250 mL whole milk
1 Tbs sugar
100g butter
pinch of salt
4 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
granulated sugar for coating
powdered sugar for sprinkling after baking (optional)

Place in a saucepan the milk, sugar, butter, and salt. Bring to a boil, and add the entire cup of flour. Mix with a heavy wooden spoon over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, until the dough forms a sticky residue around the bottom and sides of the pan.

Transfer the hot dough to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for a few minutes to release some of the heat. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition.

Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with the Wilton 1M tip, and pipe small circles on parchment paper.

Bake in a 400F oven for approximately 20 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on a rack and enjoy with additional sprinkling of powered sugar, if you like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe for Samantas, click here

These are delicious and believe it or not, unknown to this native Brazilian, until my virtual friend Angela from the Brazilian blog Ora, Pitangas shared a picture of Samantas she bought on a trip and raved about them. Of course, being 6 thousand miles away meant that the only way to satisfy my curiosity would be rolling up my sleeves and baking a batch… Totally worth it! As all things made with choux-pastry, they tend to lose their crispness quickly, so if you make them the day before, place them in a 350 F oven for a few minutes to bring them back into top shape.

BOYSENBERRY MERINGUE COOKIES
(inspired by several sources)

4 egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons boysenberry jam (or other jam of your choice)
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/2 cup heavy cream

Place the chocolate in a mixing bowl. Heat the cream to simmering, and pour it over the chocolate, all at once. Allow to stand for 3 minutes. Use a wire whisk to stir the cream and chocolate together until smooth and well-combined. Set aside to cool. Whip it on high-speed with an electric mixer until fluffy right before using.

Make the meringues. Heat the oven to 170 degrees F. Whip the egg whites on high-speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, while continuing to whip. Mixture should be very stiff and glossy.

Place the jam in a small bowl, and fold about a cup of the meringue in. Transfer the mixture back into the meringue, and fold gently to combine. Place mixture in a piping bag fitted with the Wilton 1M tip, and pipe rosettes on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 2 hours or until the meringues are very dry and peel off the paper easily.

Pipe or spread about a tablespoon of the whipped ganache over the back sides of half the meringues. Sandwich another meringue rosette on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe for Boysenberry Meringues, click here

These cookies would stand proudly by themselves, but sticking two together with the chocolate ganache took them to a higher level. I used my favorite brand of jam, (from Maury Island Farm). The jam gave a nice color and slight sharpness to the cookie. The only issue with meringue is how quickly it absorbs moisture, so they are best served right away. Or, if you must store them, use an air-tight container.

VIENNESE WHIRLS
(from Mary Berry)

250g very soft unsalted butter   
50g confectioner’s sugar
225g all-purpose flour
25g cornstarch
seedless raspberry jam for filling

For the biscuits, heat the oven to 400 F. Line 3 baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment. Using a 2-inch round cutter as a guide, draw 8 circles on each sheet of paper, spaced well apart. Turn the paper over so the pencil marks are underneath.

Measure the butter and icing sugar into a bowl and beat until pale and fluffy. Sift in the flour and cornstarch and beat well, until thoroughly mixed. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with the Wilton 1M tip.  Pipe 24 swirled rounds inside the circles on the baking sheets.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 13—15 minutes, until a pale golden-brown. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely and harden. Match cookies according to size, in case there is some variability after piping/baking.  Fill them with raspberry jam.  

ENJOY!

to print the recipe for Viennese Whirls, click here

These cookies were a pure delight to eat, but I must admit they were a pain to pipe. I suspect my dough was slightly too hard, so next time I’ll add a little less flour. My hand was threatening to cramp up, and no, it’s NOT the Drama Queen speaking. Well, maybe the DQ surfaced a bit, but only momentarily. She is gone now.  At any rate, don’t let this issue discourage you, these are melt-in-your-mouth little gems, reminded us of shortbread cookies. Note added after publishing: make sure to see Helen Fletcher’s comment, she solves the problem for piping these babies! And she knows, she is a professional pastry baker… I am lucky to have her as a reader of my blog.

So, there you have it, three recipes in a single post, all involving my favorite icing tip. I hope I convinced you to bring Wilton into your home… 

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SIMPLY THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Every once in a while Phil finds a recipe, sends it my way with a little comment: I think we-you should make this. His source is almost always the NYT Food section. I subscribe to that too, but confess to almost never clicking on it. I’m usually absorbed by my mile-long list of stuff I want to make. Soon. Anyway, last week he sent me a link about these chocolate chip cookies endorsed (with enthusiastic ravings) by Dorie Greenspan. You know, royalty in the food world. I made them that same evening, and into the fridge they went, for a mandatory period to mature the dough before baking. The dough contains a fair amount of rye flour. And poppy seeds. And dried cranberries. And chocolate chunks. A sprinkle of Maldon sea salt on top, a step that often makes me roll my eyes to the ceiling (like avocado toast does). But, trust me. It works. These might be the best choc chip cookies I’ve ever made.

MOKONUT’S RYE CRANBERRY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
(from Dorie Greenspan through New York Times)

130 grams rye flour (I used dark rye)
85 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
100 grams sugar
100 grams light brown sugar
1 large egg
cup (50 grams) poppy seeds
cup (80 grams) moist, plump dried cranberries
113 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks
Flake salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling

Whisk together the rye flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, sea salt and baking soda; set aside.

Working with a mixer  beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed for 3 minutes, until blended; scrape the bowl as needed. Add the egg, and beat 2 minutes more. Turn off the mixer, add the dry ingredients all at once, then pulse the mixer a few times to begin blending the ingredients. Beat on low-speed until the flour almost disappears, and then add the poppy seeds, cranberries and chocolate. Mix only until incorporated. Scrape the bowl to bring the dough together.

Have a baking sheet lined with parchment, foil or plastic wrap nearby. Divide the dough into 15 pieces (I made 16), roll each piece into a ball between your palms and place on the baking sheet. Cover, and refrigerate the dough overnight or for up to 3 days.

When you’re ready to bake, center a rack in the oven, and heat it to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the cookies on the sheet, leaving 2 inches between each cookie. Sprinkle each cookie with a little flake salt, crushing it between your fingers as you do.

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, pull the baking sheet from the oven and, using a metal spatula, a pancake turner or the bottom of a glass, tap each cookie lightly. Let the cookies rest on the sheet for 3 minutes, then carefully transfer them to a rack. Serve after the cookies have cooled for about 10 minutes, or wait until they reach room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: These are simply amazing. They are complex, they have sweetness and sourness, they have a hint of salt, and they are addictive. I inhaled three. Me, the Self-Proclaimed-Moderation-Queen, had three cookies. Don’t let their humble looks fool you, they stopped Dorie in her tracks (her own words), and they will stop you too. Make sure you have friends, co-workers, family members to share, because there’s not enough aerobics in a day to counteract the damage you can inflict upon yourself if left in a room with a full platter of these babies. You’ve been warned!

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BLUEBERRY AND MANGO CURD MACARONS

No, not together in the same filling. I am sharing two different takes on my favorite cookie. Curd can be a tricky filling for macarons because anything with moisture is a killer, so normally a buttercream or ganache-based preparation is the best option. But, if you intend to consume them within a day, maximum two, give curd a try. It has the best sharp, acidic flavor to stand against the sweetness of the shells. Since every batch I bake is shared with our departmental colleagues and more often than not they are inhaled within 3 hours of arrival… I never have to worry too much about the issue. The blueberry version is a pure curd, the mango was “tamed” with a bit of white chocolate ganache. They were both delicious, but I must say I haven’t quite hit the mango flavor with the intensity I want. I need more cowbell on that (Saturday Night Live lovers, anyone?).

Blueberry Macs first, scroll down for the Mango version.

BLUEBERRY CURD MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the shells:
see this post
use just a little vanilla to flavor the shells and add purple food color

for the filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon water
zest of half a lime
2 large eggs, beaten slightly

Make the shells and bake them as described in the link.

Make the filling: Place the blueberries and lime zest in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon water and cook gently, mixing occasionally until soft, 8 to 10 minutes.  Pass the mixture through a fine sieve, and place inside a glass bowl that will fit over a saucepan with a small amount of simmering water. Add the butter and sugar and cook until the sugar is fully dissolved and the butter is melted.

Add the eggs and continue to stir over gently simmering water until the curd thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon, and reach about 170 F.  The process can take a while, but I like to start it on the stove and if the temperature gets stuck in a certain level, I place the bowl in the microwave and give it a couple of 20 second bursts to make sure it is heated to 170 F. It is imperative to use a thermometer, so that you don’t risk going over the temperature goal.  You can always just baby-sit the curd on the stove full-time. Once it’s done, strain the curd, and let it cool completely before using it to fill the macaron shells.

Macarons are best enjoyed after 24 hours in the fridge.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I cannot believe how beautiful the blueberry curd turned out. What amazing color! If you like tart-and-sweet stuff, you’ll fall in love with it. When I make the shells I always marry them to get as closely in size as possible (my piping is never too consistent, I’m afraid), then I open them side by side and add the filling to one of the partners. The decoration was very simple, a drizzle of candy melts white. Yes, I took a shortcut instead of tempering white chocolate, because when I made these, I was having quite a few issues with tempering chocolate. Since the drizzle is a minor component of the cookie, I decided that in the name of my mental sanity, I would use it. A sprinkle of decorating purple and pink sugar crystals closed the deal.  It is hard for me to pick a favorite macaron, but this version was very very tasty.

MANGO CURD MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the shells:
see this post
use just a little vanilla to flavor the shells
Separate a small amount of batter ( about 1/3 cup) and add green food color to it.
Add yellow color to the rest of the batter.

for the filling:
mango curd (you won’t need the full amount)
1 cup pureed mango flesh
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
white chocolate ganache:
115 g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
35 g heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp unsalted butter

To decorate the shells with the heart-shaped swirls, place the small amount of green macaron batter inside a piping bag. No need to use a tip, you can cut a small opening so that it will release small drops.  Pipe the shells with the batter tinted yellow. Right after piping, drop three  dots of green batter on the edge of the shells, and run a line through them with a toothpick or a metal gadget for cookie design. Let the shells dry to form a skin and bake as you would normally do (see the link included).

Make the filling: Whisk the mango pulp, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch and salt in a bowl.  Whisk in the egg yolks. Place in a double boiler with water simmering underneath. Cook stirring gently until thickened, it should take only about 5 minutes due to the cornstarch. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time until incorporated.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, pushing it through with a rubber spatula. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely set, at least 4 hours.

Make a white chocolate ganache by placing the chocolate in a bowl and pouring over it the heavy cream heated to almost boiling (bubbles forming at the edges of the pan). Let it sit for a few minutes, swirl gently to dissolve the chocolate, add the butter and mix. Let it cool to room temperature, then add to it 1/3 of a cup of the mango curd. Mix well and refrigerate for several hours before filling the shells. If desired, you can whip the mixture before doing so.

Macarons are best enjoyed after 24 hours in the fridge.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You will notice that I had two different types of decoration in these macarons. The problem is that you need to work very fast to pipe the green batter into the shells and do the swirl. Ideally, this should be a two-persons job. Since I was doing it by myself, I quickly realized I would not be able to decorate them all before mixing one color in the other would become problematic. So, I adapted a Plan B, and used pearl dust in dark green, a little Everclear to dissolve it, and a brush with wide open bristles. The color must be dissolved in alcohol (some say lemon juice works too), but no worries if you serve the macarons to kids, the alcohol quickly evaporates without affecting the delicate shells.

Each shell, once baked and cold, gets a quick stroke of the brush dipped in the alcohol-dust mixture. No need to measure anything, the alcohol is there just to provide moisture. The more pearl dust, the darker the resulting color. Very easy and straightforward.

As to the flavor, both Phil and I felt that the mango flavor did not come through as much as we would like. I have some ideas for next time, while mangos are still around in the grocery store. If you have suggestions, please leave a comment and I’ll be very grateful. I wonder if a pure mango curd would have worked better.

Speaking of it, I got the recipe for the mango curd from FoodTV Network. I was a little puzzled by the denomination of curd when it’s thickened with cornstarch, but I decided to keep it this way, at the risk of offending some heavy-duty bakers. Gary, Jennifer, forgive me, for I have probably sinned.  I will try to behave better from now on…

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SPRINKLED MERINGUES

This is a fun recipe to make with kids. So simple! The idea was in a very nice cookbook, called Sweetapolita, which I very highly recommend for those who have been bitten by the Baking Bug. I haven’t asked for permission to share her recipe and method to make meringues (she has a few little tricks up her sleeve), but you can definitely use any meringue recipe out there. The secret is to bake them slow and low, and allow them to dry for a while inside the closed, turned off oven. I used a closed star tip to pipe mine, but you can go with a regular piping tip, or even just use a spoon.

For a classic meringue recipe using the French method click here.

After they are done, you melt some white chocolate, and add your favorite type of sprinkles into a small bowl. Dip the bottoms of the meringues in chocolate, then coat with sprinkles.  It is a bit tricky to get the amount just right, but no matter what you do, they will be a ton of fun to make and eat.

You can customize the color of your sprinkles too, of course. Maybe your favorite team is playing in the World Cup? Or your kid’s team will have a nice baseball match and you are the one in charge of loading them with sugar after?

Any kid will love these!

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MANGO-LIME MACARONS

Brazil meets France, big time. If I was talking soccer, that would be pretty unsettling, but since I mean macarons, it’s all good! Macarons shells are considered overly sweet by many people, so a filling that balances that is my favorite option. Do not skimp on the lime zest, it is absolutely mandatory in this recipe.  I put my air-brush to work, but in case you do not have one, a simple drizzle of white chocolate will do just fine.

MANGO-LIME MACARONS
(shells from this post, filling inspired by Joanne’s blog)

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
Orange Gel color from AmeriColor
2 drops vanilla extract

for the filling:
230 g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ cup mango puree
zest of one lime or a bit more (taste and decide)

to decorate: white chocolate, melted, white and tinted with lime green (optional)

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. 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.

Decorate shells before filling using an air-brush and stencils, or if you prefer to decorate with a drizzle, do it after pairing and filling the macarons.

For the mango white chocolate ganache, place the chocolate in a heat-resistant bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. When bubbles start to form along the sides, remove from the heat and pour over the white chocolate. Allow to sit for a minute before stirring to combine. Whisk in the butter until completely melted. Stir in the mango puree and the lime zest until combined. Refrigerate overnight, or until set.

Remove from the fridge and whip until slightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Pipe onto half of the macaron shells and then sandwich with a second shell. Allow to chill overnight so that macarons will mature and have a perfect consistency.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am quite smitten with my air-brush thingie… It takes just a little bit of getting used to, the main thing is to make sure you keep the spray 6 inches away or farther from the target. Otherwise the ink blotches and you don’t get the real nice effect of air-brushing.  Obviously, this means it can be a bit messy, but the dyes wash out very easily. I just place a parchment paper under the shell I’m painting.  There is one super cool gadget to help with stenciling cookies, though. I will be featuring it on my next installment of In My Kitchen, in a few days.  Don’t miss it.

The filling for these macs was very tasty. The lime zest brightens it up, and counteracts the sweetness of the white chocolate ganache.

I suppose I must add a new category to my blog. Macarons.
Since I cannot fight my obsession, I shall embrace it.

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MACARONS WITH GANACHE NOISETTE

The filling for these French macs started with a pâte noisette concoction, which was suggested to me by my friend Jennifer, Pâtissière Extraordinaire. You can see a detailed description (in French) with a jump here.  I used part of this amazing paste in a cake (stay tuned) and what was left metamorphosed into macaron filling. The mixture of pâte noisette with ganache is the most gastronomically sensual thing in the known universe. Too superlative for you? Try it. If you disagree, we can discuss the matter further, sharing a few macarons while we are at it…

MACARONS WITH GANACHE NOISETTE
(from Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by this site)

for the pâte noisette (it makes more than you’ll need):
125 g hazelnuts, peeled
125 g almonds
160 g sugar
5 g water

for the ganache noisette:
100 g milk chocolate
160 g pâte noisette
140 g heavy cream

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
3:1:1 brown, green and yellow food coloring
1/8 teaspoon vanilla paste

Make the pâte noisette. Start by placing water and sugar in a large saucepan. Heat up to 245 F.   Then add the hazelnuts and almonds. Gradually, they will be covered with a white film.  Cook until the sugar dissolves and caramelizes, stirring constantly. Be patient, it is going to take a little time. Pour the mixture on a sheet of parchment paper and let cool completely.  Coarsely chop and add to a blender, the more powerful the better.  In a Vitamix blender, in less than 5 minutes you should have a very smooth paste, which is what you want.

Make the ganache. Heat the heavy cream almost to boiling point. Add to the chocolate, cut in pieces. Wait a couple of minutes and stir to completely dissolve the chocolate. Let it cool for half an hour, add the pâte praline made as described. Keep in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to get into spreadable consistency.  Reserve to fill macarons.

Make the shells. 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 your tip of choice. 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 12 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.

Use the air-brush and a stencil to decorate each shell. Pair them according to size and fill.

Filled macarons should stay overnight in the fridge before consumed. The texture is much better on the following day.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The air-brusher. I got it with a special discount from Groupon, after a tip from macaron-obsessed folks from a Facebook group. I am in love. First, it is pretty small and very easy to use. They advise you to practice on a piece of parchment paper, I did so, but realized it was pretty much a no-brainer. It has three speeds of spraying, I used the lowest, it gave good coverage without getting out of control. I mean, who wants to have a dalmatian with the ears sprayed gold? Second, it is super easy to clean. For me, that matters. Something that takes a lot of work to clean makes me think twice before using. This was a breeze. Warm water gets poured through the opening, sprayed inside a bowl with more warm water, done! You need special food color for the air-brusher, but I know it’s possible to improvise with normal dyes diluted in vodka or some other type of alcohol.  I used Chefmaster.

The filling. I suppose you can make a similar preparation using Nutella. But I tell you, making the pâte noisette from scratch and incorporating it in the ganache is a game-changer. It is nutty, almost smoky (it’s the caramel speaking), sweet but with a sharp twist to it. For my taste, it is close to perfection.  I had a little bit of ganache noisette left. It was enjoyed one tiny teaspoon at a time, standing up by the fridge, while telling myself: make this again, roll as truffles, coat in chocolate sprinkles, give to all the special human beings in your life.

Make your life sweeter, grab a pin!

 

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MINNIE MACARONS: A FUN PROJECT WITH A HAPPY ENDING

It all started with a very innocent email from my daughter-in-law. Inside a simple phrase and a single picture… The phrase: Something for you to try… The picture: a gorgeous Minnie Macaron sold at Disney. Miss G, our grand-daughter is crazy about all things Minnie. Basically, the universe conspired to make me  bake a batch.

MINNIE 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
Pink Gel color from AmeriColor
2 drops vanilla extract

for the filling:

280 g strawberries, stems removed
140 g sugar
1 lemon, juiced
250 g white chocolate, chopped fine
1/3 cup heavy cream (about 80g)
1 tablespoon butter

to decorate:
pink bows (melted Candy Melts with a drop of pink gel color)
gold and pink sparkling sugar

Make the filling:  Prepare fresh strawberry jam by mixing strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cook for 30 minutes, mixing every once in a while. After 30 minutes cool and refrigerate. Reserve (you will not need the full amount). You can also use store-bough strawberry jam, if more convenient. Make a white chocolate ganache by mixing very hot heavy cream with the white chocolate cut into small pieces. Mix until fully dissolved. To that, add 1/4 cup of the strawberry jam prepared before, and the butter. Mix well and refrigerate until it’s time to fill the macarons. If too thick, bring to room temperature for an hour or so, whisking a few times.

Make the pink bows: Melt about 1/3 cup candy melts in the  microwave. Whisk until smooth, add a tiny drop of pink gel color. Place in a silicone mold and freeze until solid. Un-mold the decorations, make another batch until you have enough. I made 14 Minnie macarons with this batch, and 16 regular round macarons that did not need the bow on top.

Make the shells: 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 low-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. Divide the mixture (eyeballing is fine) in two piping bags, one fitted with a 1/2 inch piping tip, the other fitted with a 1/4 inch tip. Pipe macaron rounds using the bigger tip, filling one full tray. Pipe small rounds as ears on each round using the smaller tip. Finish one full tray before starting another one.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Then fist bump each end of the sheet’s underside twice. If using sparkling sugar, sprinkle over the macarons. 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 (170 C/gas mark 3). 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.

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.  Glue to each macaron one little pink bow using melted white chocolate.

Store in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The macarons sold at Disney seem quite large, I decided to make them smaller. As to the filling, I opted for strawberry and white chocolate ganache for two reasons. First, Miss G. loves strawberries, it is one of her favorite fruits. Second, a ganache probably stands shipping better than buttercream. I used a lower proportion of heavy cream to make sure the ganache would set, especially considering the added strawberry jam.  I think a little bit of red food color to the filling would have been nice, but I only thought about that when I was done assembling them. Oh, well…

I got a pretty cute silicone mold at amazon.com to make the bows. You can use fondant, real chocolate, or candy melts, whatever you prefer. I have a bit of fondant-phobia, and never worked with it, so Candy melts seemed like a safer option. Worked like a charm. The only problem is having to make several batches, but each needed only 10 minutes in the freezer to un-mold properly. I made the bows the day before and kept them all frozen in a little plastic bag. I know, so organized!  Who could imagine that?

I made half the batch as regular macarons (large image of the composite photo above), and half Minnie-shaped. Those who are very skilled with a piping tip might be able to get by piping the ears with the same size tip as the face. I decided to play it safe, and poured some of the batter in a piping bag fitted with a smaller tip. For the body of the macaron I used a Wilton 2A tip, for the ears, a Wilton 12. With a more complex shape, it is important that the macaronage step be performed correctly.

My tip for perfect macaronage:  when I think I am almost at the right point of deflating the almond-meringue mixture, I get a teaspoon of batter and drop it on parchment paper. I lift the teaspoon, and the little blob that forms must disappear in about 20 seconds. If it does, the batter is ready, if it is still visible, I fold a few more times. Remember that you can always fold a few more times, but if you go overboard, the batter will be ruined. The macarons will spread too much, spread too thinly and it will be impossible to keep the Minnie shape as piped. Plus, they won’t form nice feet.  At the very least you will need a box of Kleenex. If the situation persists, therapy might be your only option.

I cannot tell you how happy I was with this project! It was fun to plan, to get the tools for the job, to make it, and to imagine the look on Miss G’s face when she opened the box and found a bunch of Minnie cookies inside. The filling turned out just as I expected, sweet, but with the right amount of tartness given by the jam, which by the way, I made with a lot less sugar than store-bought versions.

AND FOR THAT HAPPY ENDING….

ONE YEAR AGO: Nigella Lawson in the Bewitching Kitchen

TWO YEARS AGO: Walnut-Raisin Bran Muffins

THREE YEARS AGO: Gingersnaps with White Chocolate Chips

FOUR YEARS AGO: Turkey Chili with Almond Butter

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

SIX YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club; Triple Chocolate Brownies

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Shaved Asparagus Salad

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Indonesian Ginger Chicken

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