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.

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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…

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TWO YEARS AGO: Banana Bread with Espresso Glaze

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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

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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.

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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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FOUR YEARS AGO: Blood Orange Margaritas

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CARROT CAKE MACARONS

You read that right. Carrot Cake Macarons. I am a member of a Facebook group for Macaron-Baking-Addicts and a couple of months ago a very experienced baker raved about them. I am usually not that wild about store-bought products, but for some reason that recipe intrigued me enough to make me go for it. The product in question is a Carrot Cake Spread by Trader Joe’s. I added it as the main flavoring for a simple Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and that was the filling for coral-tone macarons. Living Coral, the Pantene color of 2019. I had to try and match it, just because macarons are by definition a celebration of color. At least in my mind they are…

CARROT CAKE MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the shells:
150 g almond flour
150 g powdered sugar
56 + 56 g egg whites
40 g water
150 g granulated sugar, super fine
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
gel food dye (2 parts red, 1 part yellow, 1 part pink)

for the Swiss meringue buttercream filling:
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
pinch salt
3 to 4 tablespoons carrot cake spread 

Make the shells: Add the almond flour and the powdered sugar to the bowl of a food processor and pulse it 10 to 12 times. You want to have it fine but not allow the oil in the almonds to seep out and turn it into a paste.  Immediately sieve it on a large bowl and reserve.

To a small bowl, add half of the egg whites (56 g), then add the food dyes and vanilla. Mix until it is all well incorporated, the dye sometimes resists mixing homogeneously into the egg white.

Now comes the fun part. You will add the other half of the egg whites to the bowl of a mixer and the granulated sugar and water into a small saucepan. Have an instant thermometer ready. Start beating the egg white in slow-speed, as you turn the heat and start bringing the sugar syrup to a boil, without stirring (this is important, or you risk crystallizing the sugar and having to start all over). When the sugar starts boiling, increase the mixer to medium-speed. You want it to be at the stage of soft peaks by the time the syrup reaches 244 F. Once that happens, slowly drizzle the syrup into the egg white-sugar, as you continue beating. Beat until the temperature cools down to around 115F, no need to bring it down all the way to room temperature. You don’t want to have a very stiff meringue at this point, or it will be too hard to incorporate into the almond flour.

The second fun part starts now, the famous macaronage. Add the dyed egg white and the meringue on top of the almond flour and mix gently but decisively. If you have never made macarons before, I advise you to watch some videos on youtube to familiarize yourself with the proper macaronage. You want the batter to flow from the spatula and form a figure eight on the surface as you allow it to drip, but it should not flow too rapidly. If you spoon some batter on parchment paper, it should smooth out in about 30 seconds or so.  Once you get to the right stage, fill a piping bag fitted with the piping tip of your choice (I like a 1/2 inch opening), and pipe on parchment paper or Silpat.

Bang the baking sheet a few times to release air bubbles, and allow it to dry at room temperature for 30 minutes or until the surface feels dry to the touch.

Bake at 300F for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool before peeling off the baking sheet. Decorate either before filling them or after, depending on the type of decoration you choose. I used an air-brush and stencils (see my composite picture), with the color Sunset Orange from Chefmaster.

 Make the filling. Place the egg whites and the sugar in a large metal mixing bowl set above a pot of simmering water. Whisk the mixture until the sugar melts and the mixture becomes warm and very thin in consistency, reaching a temperature of around 160F. 

Transfer the contents to a Kitchen Aid bowl and whisk on high-speed until stiff peaks form. Now, change the whisk to the paddle beater, add the butter and salt, mixing on low-speed.  Add the butter piece by piece and keep mixing. When the butter seems to be all incorporated, even if it looks a little curdled, increase the speed to high. The mixture will become smooth and totally creamy within a few minutes. 

Add the carrot cake spread and mix on low-speed. Taste and add more if you feel like it. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with an open star piping tip and fill your macarons.

Place them in the fridge overnight and bring to room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I have a lot of macaron recipes. They always involve the French meringue method because it is so simple and it has always worked for me. I had issues with the Italian meringue and several batches were a failure, but I know that many bakers find them better in terms of texture and reproducibility. Basically because the Italian meringue is much more stable and is less affected by humidity in the environment.

My main goal in macaron baking is maximize the proportion of feet, because I like them with bigger feet and a plump shell, so I like to try different methods and compare how they work for me. The Swiss meringue method should happen eventually, although for the time being I intend to play with the current recipe a few more times.  I am happy that this batch worked perfectly. The main thing I changed was adding the food dye to one half of the egg white component, and add that to the almond flour together with the Italian meringue. In the past, I followed recipes that instructed you to add the egg white to the almond flour first, forming a thick paste and allowing that to sit while the meringue is prepared. I found that this approach makes it pretty tough to incorporate the meringue and probably negatively affected the macaronage step that follows.

The filling. O. M. G. These macarons will be so unique, different from any macaron you’ll ever have, I guarantee it. It is sweet, perhaps sweeter than most fillings I enjoy, but it has that spicy characteristic of carrot cakes, the cinnamon-clove mixture, that breaks the sweetness a bit. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s around, the product is available through amazon. The texture was perfect, no hollows, and with a nice “macaron-chew.”  I will play with this method on my next mac-adventure, that will involve more than one color of batter. Let’s hope that the stars will align properly at the time…

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VALENTINE’S DAY SWEETHEART COOKIES

Back in December, I made a batch of cookies and “decorated” them. After that experience it became clear that the road to hell is paved with Royal icing. Since it was a real roller coaster, I decided I was done with it for the rest of my existence. Having said that, I don’t know exactly why I woke up one day thinking that the combination of sugar cookies with Royal icing would be the best way to start Valentine’s week. A real sucker for punishment I am. Was it that bad? Sort of. Let’s say it had some ups and some dark and scary downs.

SWEETHEART SUGAR COOKIES WITH ROYAL ICING
(adapted from Alton Brown and Sweet Sugarbelle)

what you’ll need:
heart-shaped cookie cutter
scribe tool
piping bags
icing tips size 2 or 3
rubber bands for piping bags (2 per bag)
paper towels and water for constant clean-up
a Zen attitude
a very understanding partner in case you run out of previous item

for the cookie dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour (360 g)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (225 g)
1 cup sugar (225 g)
zest of 1 lemon
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1 tablespoon milk

for the icing:
2 pounds confectioner’s sugar {907 grams}
5 tablespoons meringue powder {approximately 53 grams}
2 teaspoons vanilla bean extract (I used clear vanilla extract)
1/2-3/4 cups warm water

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg, lemon zest, milk and vanilla, beat to combine. Put mixer on low-speed, add flour, and mix just until the mixture starts to form a dough. Do not over mix or your cookies might be tough. Remove the dough from the mixer and finish mixing it by hand, gently.  Divide the dough in half, flatten each portion as a square or rectangle and wrap in plastic foil. Refrigerate for 1 hour minimum.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove one wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling-pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 3/8-inch thick. Cut into heart shapes, place on baking sheet over parchment paper, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to cool on a rack. Ice the cookies when completely cool, or on the following day.

Make the icing (you can make the day before and store well covered at room temperature). Stir the vanilla into half of the water and reserve. Keep the other half of the water measured and ready to go.

Using a paddle attachment gently mix the sugar and meringue powder. With the mixer on the lowest setting slowly add the water/flavoring mix to the dry ingredients. As the water is added, the icing will become thick and lumpy. Continue to add the remaining water {this may or may not be the entire amount} until the mixture reaches a thick consistency. At this point, turn the mixer to medium speed and whip 2-4 minutes until the mixture is thick and fluffy. When it forms a soft peak, it has been beaten enough. Avoid mixing further, as you don’t want to incorporate too much air in the icing. Too much air might result in bubbles forming after icing.

Adjust the consistency that you need for flooding the cookies, separate the icing in portions, add dye according to your planned decoration. Store in air-tight containers at room temperature. If needed, re-adjust the consistency before piping.

Add the different colors of icing to piping bags fitted with the appropriate icing tips. I like number 3 for the basic color used for flooding, and a number two for the details. Flood each cookie, make the edges as neat as possible with the scribe tool. Decorate with the design you like, one cookie at a time, as the base color needs do still be wet, unless you prefer to do a wet-on-dry method. In this case, the base needs to dry for several hours before proceeding with the decoration.

Dry the cookies for at least 6 hours before handling them.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I had no issues with the cookie component, I prefer the taste of a sablé type cookie, but as far as sugar cookies go, these are very nice. They retain a little chewiness upon baking (especially if you don’t let them get too dark), and the lemon zest brightens them up considerably. Now let’s talk Royal icing. I watched online classes and youtube videos. I read cook books.

Here is my advice for those who are as inexperienced as myself and for some irrational motive decide that a naked cookie must be dressed for party.

  1. Make the icing and the cookies the day before decorating them. Not only it is better to ice cookies that are not freshly baked (I am echoing some experts here), but it will save you a lot of trouble and make decorating day easier.
  2. Keep things simple. White icing plus two or at most three colors. Trust me on this. You will need bags and icing tips for each color you want to work with. Some people can make those cute piping bags from parchment paper. I am not one of those people. Sometimes I get them right, more often than not there is drama.
  3. Prepare all materials you will need and have them ready on a neat and clean counter top. Paper towels and a bowl with water are two best friends of the rookie-decorator.
  4. Tie your hair up if you have long hair. Wear gloves if you prefer to avoid stained fingers.
  5. Get rubber ties for your piping bags like these. They are indispensable and work better than improvised methods. Tie the bag close to the icing tip before you fill it. Tie the top after you fill it (see my composite image, middle photo in the bottom row). Remove the band closest to the tip when you are ready to ice your cookies. This simple measure prevents quite a bit of mess from happening.
  6. Have a rack ready to spread the freshly iced cookies with enough surface to accommodate them all. They take hours to fully set and should not touch each other. Be very careful not to grab them touching the icing. Often the surface looks dry but it’s still soft and fragile (don’t ask me how I know).
  7. Let your inner Rembrandt fly. Or Monet. If all fails, go Pollock. Not that there’s anything wrong with him. Obviously not.

But, the most important thing is obviously the most elusive for beginners: the consistency of the icing. Nothing is more frustrating than filling the piping bag and realizing the icing is a tad too thick. Or worse yet, too thin, which will cause the icing to roll off the cookie and tears to roll down the baker’s face. There are tricks to judge the perfect consistency. For instance you can run a spatula or small knife into the icing bowl, and in about 15 seconds it should go back to a smooth, leveled surface. I was probably off by 20 seconds on my first attempt, which led me to say a few choice words, empty the bag, thin the icing, and start all over. Sadly, it was still a bit thick, but I could not bring myself to empty the bag again. So the white icing used to flood most of the cookies was not top-notch. Getting the consistency perfect is probably something that comes with practice. Perhaps I’ll get there before 2019 is over.

I developed a huge respect for those who do this type of stuff for a living. It is really time-consuming, and I imagine the profit margin is very low. Especially if a baker uses the best ingredients and does intricate decorations, he or she will have to charge a lot more than the stuff you can by at the grocery store in those big plastic boxes. But I guess that is a problem professional bakers are forced to deal with.

Several of my cookies had small boo-boos, but some made me very happy. So happy that I created a little composite photo with them.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

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RASPBERRY GANACHE MACARONS


The first recipe of the year should be special. Special in the sense that it should involve something I love to make, something that turned out particularly delicious, and that I will be making again and again as the year goes by. Two options fought hard in my mind to be featured. Mirror-glazed cakes, and French macarons. If you’ve been around the Bewitching, you know that my obsession with macarons is several years old. Mirror glaze is a more recent adventure, but not less fascinating for me. What made me go for macarons? The fact that I have five macaron recipes not yet shared with you. Mirror-glaze cake? I only have one. Another factor that tipped the scale was that my last macaron post happened last August, whereas  shiny cakes were featured just a couple of weeks ago. So that pretty much settled it. I made this batch of pink macs to give to dear friends, which also made them much more special to me.

RASPBERRY GANACHE 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:
8 ounces white chocolate
1/2 cup raspberry jam
2 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream

to decorate:
drizzle of white chocolate
freeze dried-raspberries
sparkly sprinkles

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. If using edible gold powder,  sprinkle a little with a brush and use a hand-held fan to spread it over like dust.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 330 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.

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, or leave them plain. Store in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am very happy with this bake. I think the raspberry ganache worked very well as a filling, because the white chocolate is sweet, but the raspberry balances it all. I made this exact filling twice, first time I used raspberry jam with seeds, this time it was seedless. I liked them both, actually. Since seedless can be a bit harder to find, I advise you not to worry too much about it, either way it will be great.

But what gave me the real thrill was finally getting a nice swirl pattern on the filling. I guess the secret is whipping the ganache once it’s cold and making sure it is the right texture for piping a nice star-shaped mound. Until this time the swirl would just be lost once I sandwiched the cookies together, the filling (be it buttercream or ganache) did not have the correct density to hold its shape.  I hope I can repeat it in the near future…

To get the raspberry dust, simply press a few freeze-dried raspberries through a small sieve on top of the chocolate drizzle before it sets. These little bits of powder pack intense sharp flavor and really pump up the raspberry component. Freeze-dried fruits last a long time, so I always make sure to keep a bag in the pantry.

On the chocolate drizzle: you don’t have to temper the chocolate for that. It will not be as shiny as if you go through the trouble of tempering, but with all the other sprinkles on top, I don’t think it makes much difference. You can conceivably use Candy Melts, but their taste does not compare with the real thing. And for great friends, how could I not use the very best?

Finally, I little comment about the pictures. The two initial photos were taken with my camera, all others with my cell phone. The difference in color is striking. Oddly enough, the cell phone depicted them more realistically as far as the shade of pink. I don’t know why that would be the case, it’s a bit frustrating, as I think overall the quality of the shots with a real camera is much better. Oh, well. If anyone has some input, drop me a line at sallybr2008 at gmail dot com. MERCI BIEN!

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