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…

ONE YEAR AGO: Michigan and Mackinac Island

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, August 2016

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EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Rhubarb Brouhaha: Revelation Compote

NINE YEARS AGO: Love me tender…

 

 

 

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.

ONE YEAR AGO: Honey-Glazed Sriracha Meatballs

TWO YEARS AGO: Slow-cooker Braised Lamb Shanks

THREE YEARS AGO: How about some coffee with your steak?

FOUR YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Spiral Kick

FIVE YEARS AGO: Carrot Flan with Greens and Lemon Vinaigrette

SIX YEARS AGO: Granola Bars

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Awesome Broccolini

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  A Twist on Pesto

NINE YEARS AGO: Ciabatta: Judging a bread by its holes

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!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Quiche with Asparagus and Fennel

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FOUR YEARS AGO: Grilled Chicken with Tamarind and Coconut Glaze

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EIGHT YEARS AGO: Mellow Bakers: Corn Bread

 

 

 

 

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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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BERGAMOT-CHERRY MACARONS

It was not intentional, but once I was done decorating my babies, I realized they would have been perfect for Mardi Gras, or as we call in Brazil, Carnaval. Made by the Italian meringue method, they were – full disclosure –   the second batch baked in a single day, after a macaron fiasco I intend to completely forget. It involved cocoa powder and despair. Enough said. Undeterred, I cleaned up all the kitchen, sat down, took many breaths in, as many breaths out, looked in the mirror and said “You’ve got this.”  Keep in mind the Winter Olympics were on, so I was contaminated by their unparalleled bravery. Did you watch those snowboarders in the half-pipe?  I mean, give me a batch or two of macarons to bake ANYTIME.

 

BERGAMOT-CHERRY MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by several sources)

for the shells:
150g almond flour (I used fine ground from Bob Mill’s)
150g powdered sugar
110g egg whites, divided (55g + 55g)
red food gel color (I used Americolor)
pinch of salt
150g granulated sugar
40 mL water  (a little over 2 +1/2 tablespoons)

for the filling:
200g white chocolate (I used Lindt)
60g heavy whipping cream
2 drops bergamot essential oil (see comments)
1/4 cup sour cherry preserves

for decoration:
white chocolate, melted
sugar crystal sprinkles, purple and pink

Prepare the filling. Place chocolate cut in small pieces in a large Pyrex measuring cup. Heat the cream to almost boiling and pour over the chocolate. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, then gently stir. When totally dissolved, add the bergamot oil, then the raspberry preserves. Place in a food processor and pulse a few times to homogenize.  If necessary, add a little more cream, but do not allow the mixture to be too liquid. Place in the fridge until needed.

Make the shells. Heat the oven to 300 F. Line two baking sheets with Silpat or parchment paper, and prepare a pastry bag with a plain tip with 1/2 inch opening, or slightly smaller.

Grind together the powdered sugar and almond powder, using a food processor, to obtain a fine powder. Sift through a sieve into large bowl. Mix the first portion (55g) egg whites with red food color, then add it to the sieved mixture of almond and sugar. It will form a paste, a bit thick. Try to incorporate the color homogeneously, keep in mind it will be lighter when you add the meringue to it. You want a light pink in the end.

Make the Italian meringue.  Place the other 55g egg whites and pinch of salt into the bowl of a Kitchen Aid type mixer.  Set aside while you prepare the sugar syrup. In a small saucepan combine granulated sugar with water and place on medium heat. Using a candy thermometer measure syrup temperature. When it reaches 230 F start whipping the egg whites. When the syrup reaches 244 F pour it over the whipped egg whites while mixing continuously. Continue beating until the bowl has cooled slightly, and glossy peaks have formed.

Add the whipped whites over the almonds mixture and using a rubber or silicone spatula gently fold in until combined and smooth. Make sure to “paint” the mixture on the walls of the bowl so that you get a smooth, lava-like consistency. Transfer the mixture to the piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (1 cm) plain tip. Pipe the batter to make macarons the size you like. Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons and to remove air bubbles.  Let them sit at room temperature until a skin forms, about 30 minutes.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. They are ready when the top doesn’t move freely when you hold them and twist gently. Let cool slightly before removing from baking sheet. Marry two by two of similar size, add the filling.  Melt white chocolate and add to a small bag. Cut a small opening with scissors and drizzle white chocolate on top of the filled macarons. White the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle the colored sugar on top.  Place in the fridge overnight before serving them, at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Hard to believe I baked two batches of macs in the same day… The thing with macarons is that when they go bad, they don’t fool around, they go royally bad. And of course, you can try to figure out the reasons, but more often than not, it is a collection of small things and they get together to create the perfect storm. At any rate, I am glad I regained my composure and made my colorful Mardi Gras creatures.  I think the filling worked very well because the shells tend to be so sweet, having a sour note is a must.  Our colleagues seemed to enjoy this batch quite a bit, I got compliments not only on the taste of the filling, but the texture of the shells. No hollows at all, very smooth surface, and reasonably sexy feet. I might be biased, though… they are my babies, after all…

If you do not have bergamot oil, use 1 teaspoon of freshly grated orange zest. I imagine a little bit of orange liquor could go well too, but you might have to play with amounts, as anything could get the delicate white chocolate ganache in trouble. And you definitely want to stay away from trouble whenever macarons are involved. 

Make my day, grab a pin!

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TIRAMISU MACARONS


I cannot say I’ve been in macaron withdrawal syndrome, because I’ve been baking them quite regularly. But the blog has not featured a mac post in a while, so here I am to fix the problem with a batch of my obsession in almond form. Let’s suppose you love coffee, and maybe tiramisu is one of your favorite desserts. It’s settled then, you need these in your life. However, if you’re afraid of baking such temperamental creatures, please consider at least making the roasted coffee butter.  Please.  You can thank Philip later. He came up not only with the filling but the whole design of these lovely cookies.

TIRAMISU MACARONS
(from Baking Fanatic)

for the shells:
125g ground almonds
125g icing sugar
100g granulated, superfine sugar
100g egg whites at room temperature
about 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder

for the filling:
60g mascarpone cheese
70g roasted coffee butter, softened (or use unsalted butter with coffee extract to taste)
50g icing sugar
2 tablespoons Marsala wine (optional)

for the roasted coffee butter:
250g unsalted butter
50g roasted coffee beans, ground to a coarse texture

Make the shells: Put the confectioner sugar, almonds and instant coffee into a food processor and pulse for about 10 seconds until perfectly uniform. Sift into a large bowl. If only a few large bits remain in the sieve you can discard them, or you can add them back to the processor and grind them again.

In a clean, dry bowl whisk the egg whites and the superfine sugar until you get a thick, glossy meringue. With an electric hand whisk this usually takes about 3 minutes. The meringue should have soft peaks so when you lift the whisk out of it, the peaks just holds their shape. Avoid stiff peaks or you’ll get hollow shells later.

Add the meringue to the dry almond/icing sugar mixture. Stir together gently, patting down the meringue into the dry mixture against the side of the bowl as you go, stopping as soon as most of dry mixture is no longer visible. The mixture will feel a little stiff at this point. Continue to fold and pat the mixture together gently until the mixture starts to loosen up. This macaronage stage is a critical part of the process and you don’t want to over-loosen the mixture so that it feels too runny and at all liquid. To test it is ready, lift up the spatula and let some of the mixture on the spatula drops back into the bowl, leaving a trail or ribbon on the surface. This trail should gently merge back into the mixture, disappearing within about 30 seconds. Pour the mixture into a piping back fitted with a round tip maximum 1/2 inch in diameter.

Pipe macarons onto Silpat or parchment paper, aiming at similar sizes. Lift each baking sheet a few inches off the work surface and drop this flat onto the work surface several times, keeping the tin as flat as possible as you drop it. Leave the macarons to rest at room temperature for about an hour or so, until a very thin skin forms on the surface and the surface does not stick to your finger. During this time preheat the oven to 300 F.

Bake the macarons for about 12-14 minutes, depending on the size, turning the trays around after 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes on the trays before carefully lifting them to a rack for matching and filling when completely cool.

Make the filling: To make the filling, start by making the roasted coffee butter (you can make it in advance). Put the butter and the coffee beans in a pan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Bring to a simmer and let the mixture simmer very gently for about a minute. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 30 minutes. Strain it through a fine sieve into a bowl and press as much butter out of the sieve as you can. Refrigerate until set and use what you need in a recipe. You will have some of the grounds in the bottom of the coffee butter but keep them there. If you want to distribute them more evenly, give the butter a mix when it has started to set.

Finalize the filling by beating the mascarpone, roasted coffee butter and powdered sugar together to give a smooth mixture. Beat in the Marsala, a little at a time. Spoon or pipe it onto the macaron shells and dust with cocoa powder. Place in an airtight container in the fridge ideally at least overnight for them to “mature”: the filling.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I’ve been following food blogs for more than a decade, I subscribe to more feeds than I have time to read. So don’t take my next statement lightly: Philip’s site – Baking Fanatic – is THE best food blog for all things baking. Period. When I grow up, I want to be like him. Wait, I am old enough to be his Mom? Bummer. Still, the sentiment holds. Everything he bakes is picture-perfect, worthy of the window of the best patisseries in Paris. Or London, New York, Saint Petersburg, Vienna. But what’s even more amazing, he tells you exactly how to make every one of his delicacies, so once you visit his site you get this feeling of “maybe I can do that too.”  I know, who am I fooling? But still… his instructions make it all seem approachable. That is the mark of a great baking teacher. He will not scare you, he will tease you into baking along.  If you’ve never visited his blog, I urge you to do so.  For starters, take a look at his tutorial for making macarons with a click here. Then, just to be a bit more amazed, see how he tackled for the first time one very challenging recipe for an Italian classic, sfogliatelle. I was in complete awe! Have been dreaming about attempting those ever since that post was published. Did you know sfogliatelle was a technical challenge at the Great British Bake Off?  

Back to macarons. I would like to share with you a bit of meringue wisdom coming from my friend Gary, Pâtissier Extraordinaire.

Egg whites from a freshly laid egg are very difficult to whip into a foam – a problem if whipping by hand. As the egg white ages, it tends to thin out as the main protein, ovalbumin, is altered to S-ovalbumin (if interested in some heavy scientific info about it, click HERE) which makes the egg whites less viscous. This process is greatly accelerated at room temperature. As a result of these chemical changes, aged egg whites are easier to whip into a foam, however, the S-ovalbumin diminishes the foam stability.

Interestingly, the volume of egg white can be increased by adding up to 40% additional water before whipping without reducing the foam stability. So much for the old wives tale of aging egg whites to dehydrate them; it’s really for the chemical composition changes which makes them easier to whip by hand. In today’s world, the eggs you buy in a store have already aged enough to make it easy to whip the egg whites into a foam. Moreover, the use of an electric mixer makes this a moot point anyway.

So there you have a clear explanation why you can grab your eggs from the fridge, separate the whites, let them equilibrate to room temperature and go have fun making macarons. Not need for aging. No excuses. You can bake macarons on a whim! 

And yes, I made this batch on a serious whim. Just 24 hours after I finalized a batch of these.  It turns out that Alex was with us and was supposed to fly to meet his brothers and respective wives in California a couple of days later. So I had this crazy idea of sending a box of macarons with him. And that’s what happened. I don’t know how the decoration held, it was probably not the best choice for macarons that were packed inside a suitcase. If you make them, sprinkle with the cocoa right before serving, just to be safe. The taste of the coffee buttercream is simply amazing. Obviously, both Phil and I tasted one before taking Alex to the airport. For quality control. There are no limits to the level of my self-sacrifice in the name of food blogging.

Philip, thanks for all your help, advice, and encouragement over the net… On a side note, I just got a certain square cake ring… See what you did?

😉

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ELDERFLOWER MACARONS AND MUSINGS ON THE SUBJECT

My last macaron post was on August 15th, so the clock was ticking for another batch of these babies I am still obsessed with. Keep in mind I have two more batches ready to blog about. so if you are also a macaron-lover, stick around.  Once again, I used my default recipe from Craftsy although I’ve been playing with the formula from Philip (at Baking Fanatic) that has calls for less sugar. For this batch I used a lavender gel color, and something called Egyptian gold dust, which I talked about before. I also added a little bit of yellow color in the elderflower buttercream, to have a nice effect with the gold details. Very happy with this batch, which we enjoyed while my stepson Alex was visiting us from New York.

ELDERFLOWER MACARONS
(adapted from Craftsy.com)

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 Gel color from AmeriColor
2 drops vanilla extract

for the filling:
120 g softened butter
200 g confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon elderflower syrup
tiny amount of yellow gel food coloring

to decorate:
gold dust (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. 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:  Cream the butter with the powdered sugar in a KitchenAid type mixer until it reaches the correct consistency for piping. Add the elderflower syrup and beat for a few seconds longer to incorporate.

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: I had two goals with this recipe. First, to make a filling using elderflower flavor because the thought of it made me dream. Elderflower… even the name is musical! Second goal, to use a gold dust powder that I featured back in July in my In My Kitchen post. Small problem. I do not have an air-brush thingie, so decided to search for improvised ways to turn the powder into dust. A small, hand-held fan could potentially work, but we do not own one. Then I remembered the air-compressed can that we sometimes use to clean computer keyboards and small crevices in all sorts of gadgets and equipments. Here it is, in case you don’t know what I’m talking about.

I don’t know if you can read the name of my file by clicking on it, but it doesn’t matter. I will tell you right now. I called it not_the_right_tool. Yeap. Capisci?  It is way too strong, even if you try to  maneuver very delicately the little gun, it will spray air with too much enthusiasm. Which led to Sally having golden eyebrows two months before Halloween. Quite inappropriate. I don’t see an air-brush thingie in my future (pretty expensive little gadget), so I might search for a more well-behaved hand-held fan before I attempt using the powder dust again.  The effect is pretty nice, once you get it correctly. Live and learn. Even if my decorative effect did not have the exact look intended, the macarons were delicious.  The elderflower buttercream worked very well, and I imagine it would be perfect to ice cupcakes too. 

 


And now, I share a few thoughts on macarons, probably one of the most-feared concoctions by bakers everywhere. So many things can go wrong when you prepare the batter and then bake them. All recipes involve three basic ingredients, egg whites, almond flour, and sugar (usually in two different forms).  Basically egg whites are beaten to form a stable meringue that is next mixed with almond flour and, if desired, food coloring and flavoring agents. The method to form the meringue will range from French (egg whites are beaten with sugar at room temperature), Swiss (sugar is dissolved in egg whites gently warmed up and then whipped into meringue), to Italian (most stable meringue, formed by beating a simple syrup at the exact right temperature into egg whites).

The fact that macarons are so finicky would make one think that the proportions of ingredients are set in stone. Any variation, and you are doomed for failure. Well, that’s really not the case. In the table below, I offer you a few formulas, the first uses a Swiss meringue, all others are for the basic French method. You will immediately notice that the variation is not trivial. Particularly the amount of total sugar left me a bit surprised. Each of these recipes have many people who swear by them. They are often described as ‘my default recipe’ because “it never fails.”  I’ve tested two of them, Craftsy and Philip’s, and yes they both worked great. I like Philip’s formula because the shells are less sweet, and complement better some fillings like caramel and chocolate ganache.

All amounts given in grams.Original sources for above formulas, keep in mind my table normalized them all to 100 g egg whites:

Broma: Broma Bakery Craftsy: Craftsy online  tutorial Philip: Baking Fanatic Mimi: Indulge with Mimi Sue: You can do it… at home!  J.O.B. Joy of Baking Tiffany Macarons by Tiffany

The take-home lesson is: focus on technique. The ingredients are a lot more forgiving than we would think. As to aging the egg whites, trust me on this: you can bake a perfect batch of macarons with egg whites brought to room temperature without any need for aging.  I did the experiment myself, and others did too. I know many experts will swear it makes a difference. I would love to have them do a blind experiment baking a batch with aged whites another with room temperature eggs, no aging, and tell me which is which.  If you want to bake a batch of macarons on a whim, go for it. Technique trumps everything else for these finicky babies.  Watch videos showing proper macaronnage, and you will be on your way to success. And, of course use a scale so that you know how many grams of egg whites you are starting with, and adjust the proportions accordingly.

From my friend G.P.E. (Gary Patissier Extraordinaire) I got this nice lesson on macaron basics:

The important ratio in macarons is the sugar to egg ratio. At a 1:1 sugar/egg ratio, the meringue will bake up soft – think lemon meringue pie topping. At a 2:1 ratio, the meringue will bake up crisp – think meringue cookies. So for macarons, you are looking at a 2:1 ratio. Extra sugar ( > 2:1) will make the surface shinier and crisper and, of course, sweeter.  Note how there are two separate additions of sugar – one combined with the eggs and the other combined with the almond flour. That is intentional. Sugar stabilizes the meringue which is good. Stabilizing also means it inhibits formation of the foam. So to optimize stability versus volume, the maximum amount of sugar you want to add with the eggs is 1:1. Furthermore, you add the sugar late in the whipping process; I was taught to gently add the sugar when the egg whites are 75% done. Once you finish whipping the eggs, additional sugar (in this case, that mixed with the almond flour) can be added without affecting volume.

 

So there you have it, mine and Gary’s  little musings on a subject very dear to my heart: French Macarons… love making them, love thinking about making them, imagining colors and flavors together. Love bringing them to our department when maybe they make it easier to face that experiment that refuses to work, the upcoming exam, the preparation of that grant proposal…


or sharing with a very handsome (and very tall) stepson!

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SEVEN YEARS AGO: Home Sweet Home (our beloved Pits in one of his last photos)

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Marbled Rye

 

 

 

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