4TH OF JULY INSPIRED BAKING

HAPPY 4th OF JULY!

Just a couple of days ago I celebrated 11 years of my naturalization! It always gives me a smile the fact that it fell so close to such an important holiday. Today I share four bakes that celebrate the occasion: macarons, sugar cookies, red velvet brownies, and baked donuts. The common denominator? Sprinkles. I bet you are not surprised.

4th OF JULY MACARONS WITH CHOCOLATE COCONUT FILLING
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

For the shells:
200g  powdered sugar
115 g almond flour
115 g egg whites at room temperature (approx. 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
¼ tsp vanilla paste or extract
red, blue, purple and black food gel dye

for the chocolate-coconut ganache:  
180g cream of coconut
1/8 tsp salt
200g chocolate, cut in small pieces (II used 70% Lindt)

to decorate:
white non-pareils

Make the shells:
Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment/baking paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, and ground almonds in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 12 pulses. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl or to a sheet of parchment/baking paper. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and 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 in five additions, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme (marshmallow fluff). Add the vanilla. 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 ground almond/almond meal mixture in two 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 batter in three parts, dye 1/3 red, dye 1/3 blue (using a mixture of blue, purple and black to get the tone of blue you like). Leave the final third white. Pour the three batters side by side over plastic wrap, enclose them wrapping the plastic around like a sausage. Drop the bag with the three colors inside a piping bag fitted with a round piping tip.  If you want to make a set of solid color, divide the batter to get a bigger amount of that color and place some of it in a separate piping bag.

Pipe rounds over Silpat or parchment paper in a half-sheet pan and then slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Add sprinkles, if like.  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 (150 C/130C Fan oven/Gas Mark 2). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide or move (independently of the ‘feet’ when you gently twist the top), then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Check one or two. If they move when gently touched, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes until they don’t move when touched.   Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  The macarons should release without sticking.

Make the ganache. Bring the coconut puree and salt to the boil in a small pan. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate in a bowl. Stir well with a whisk until combined. Cover the ganache with plastic wrap touching the surface and leave at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Do not place in the fridge. Whip with a handheld blender for a minute or so to get a slightly thicker consistency for piping.

Match shells and add the filling (I used a piping bag cut open, no piping tip). Decorations for the small macarons were made with Candy Melts (white) and star-shaped sprinkles. Place the macarons in the fridge overnight to mature before enjoying or freezing them for later.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For the tie-dye color effect, add the three batters to the same bag. The easiest way to do that is to open a large piece of plastic film on your countertop, lay the different colors in three large stripes, side by side. Roll the plastic wrap as a sausage and drop it inside a piping bag fitted with your favorite tip. That will make sure the colors get a random mixing as you pipe the shells. I reserved some blue batter to make smaller macarons, all blue. If you want the colors to be more separated, with clear margins (also a very cool effect), simply place them in three separate piping bags and drop them inside a larger one, after cutting their tips (easy to forget, don’t ask me how I know).

4th OF JULY CARDAMON-ORANGE COOKIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

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

for the Royal Icing:
80 g egg whites
420 g powdered sugar
blue gel food dye

MAKE THE COOKIE DOUGH. Heat oven to 350 F. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Add the orange zest to the sugar and rub it all with your hands to release the fragrant oils. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg, Fiori di Sicilia and cardamom, mix well. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat just until combined.

Dough can be rolled right away in between sheets of parchment paper. Roll to about 1/4″ thick, and cut into shapes. I used large stars, small stars, and rectangles. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, freeze for 5 to 10 minutes. Bake for about 12 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool to room temperature before icing.

MAKE THE ROYAL ICING: whisk the egg whites and powdered sugar using a KitchenAid type mixer until fully smooth. Adjust if needed with sugar or a little milk. Color half of it blue, keep the other half white. Make the small stars first, flooding them with white icing. Add the sprinkles before the icing sets. As they sit on a rack, flood the large stars with blue icing. Keep the very center empty, all you need is a little icing to glue the small star on top. Since it is going to be a bit heavy, if you flood the whole extension of the cookie, it will risk pressing is too much and running down the edges. Place the small star on top and allow them to dry overnight.

For the painted cookie effect, see this post.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This basic recipe for sugar cookies is the one I had planned to use in the Great American Baking Show. I’ve made it so many times now, that I don’t even need to look at the recipe anymore. It always works. My only advice for you is to use regular American butter, like the simple, humble Land-O-Lakes. That butter seems to be the best in terms of less spreading and less fat leaking during baking. And the cookies taste as good as those made with higher fancier brands. Come to think of it, if I had made it in the tent, who knows how they would turn out? I shiver to think.  😉

RED VELVET BROWNIE CAKE
(slightly modified from Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes)

300g semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
200g  butter
200g sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla paste
150g all-purpose flour
1 + 1/2  tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
8 g red gel color (I used Americolor Super Red)

for icing:
300g powdered sugar
3 tbsp very hot water
squeeze of lemon juice
sprinkles

Heat the oven to 325 F.  Grease a  12 x 9 in pan tin and line with parchment paper. Sift the flour with the baking powder and the salt. Reserve. Gently melt the chocolate and the butter together.  Let it cool slightly and add the sugar, eggs, vanilla and red gel dye. Mix well until smooth and shiny.  Add the flour mixture, stir until no dry bits remain.

Pour the mixture into the pan and level the top. Bake for 35–40 minutes, or until risen and a crust has formed on the surface. The middle should feel just firm when pressed with your fingertips. Leave to cool in the pan, then remove it.

Make the icing: Mix the powdered sugar, water and lemon juice together in a bowl to make a smooth paste, adjust consistency as needed. Spread over the cold cake and top with sprinkles. Cut in pieces to serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Pretty much everything I bake these days go for Common Table meals, and they need to be wrapped individually. I am always tweaking the recipes so that they bake as flat and uniformly as possible, and if they have some type of icing, it is not too soft. Crusting buttercream and powdered sugar-based icings are the best.  I tend to use less baking powder than the recipes call for, so feel free to up a little the amount (up to 2 + 1/2 tsp)  if you don’t mind a certain dome effect in the center of your cake. For this recipe a 13 x 9 will give a cake a bit too thin, if that’s the only size you have, perhaps a 10 inch square pan will work better.

4th OF JULY BAKED ORANGE DONUTS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

100g granulated sugar
Zest of 1 large orange
160 g cake flour, sifted
1 + ¼ tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
½ cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 tbsp butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla paste

Spray your donut pans with a very light coating of baking spray. I used one mini donut pan and one regular size.  Heat oven to 400 F.

In a small bowl combine sugar and orange zest until the sugar is moistened and fragrant. In a large mixing bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in sugar mixture.

Add buttermilk, egg, butter, and vanilla and stir until just combined. Add batter to a piping bag and fill each donut cup approximately one-half full.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until the top of the donuts spring back when touched.
Let cool in pan for 4–5 minutes before removing. Finish the donuts with melted Candy Melts and add sprinkles before it sets.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: I’ve made these donuts about a month ago using orange blossom water instead of vanilla paste, and to me they tasted a bit artificial. So this time I kept the orange theme exclusively in the zest. Maybe it depends on the brand of orange water you have. At any rate, they are very simple to prepare and have a nice texture. Fiori di Sicilia would probably be quite nice also, but I did not want to have two exact same flavors in the weekly bake. All these goodies were included in the same Common Table meal of July 3rd.

I hope you enjoyed this small collection of 4th of July bakes, and that you are having a nice weekend. Please stay vigilant, observe social distance, and wear a mask when outside. It is not a political issue, it is a matter of your health and that of those around you.

A mask is a sign that you care.

For a recent review on staying safe during this pandemic, visit this post.

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2019

TWO YEARS AGO: Brigadeiros for the 4th of July

THREE YEARS AGO: Kaleidoscopic Macarons

FOUR YEARS AGO: Zucchini Noodles with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

FIVE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2015

SIX YEARS AGO: Sous-vide Pork Chops with Roasted Poblano Butter

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Roasted Strawberry-Buttermilk Sherbet

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Amazing Ribs for the 4th of July!

NINE YEARS AGO: Baby Back Ribs on the 4th of July

TEN YEARS AGO: Blueberry Muffins

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: A Pie for your 4th of July

 

ONE TWO THREE MACARONS

One color, two colors, three colors, that is…  

Starting from the simplest, the idea is to try to match the shell with the sprinkle, and then choose a contrasting tone for the drizzle. Easy-peasy. What I loved the most about these macarons? The filling. Black Sesame Ganache. It cuts the excessive sweetness of the white chocolate, and echoes the nut component of the shell. I will be making that again for sure. For all macarons, use the basic recipe below.

ONE COLOR

BLACK SESAME MACARONS
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

For the shells:
200g  Icing/powdered sugar
115 g Ground Almonds/Almond Meal
115 g egg whites at room temperature (approx. 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
¼ tsp vanilla paste or extract

for the black sesame ganache:  
300 g white chocolate, cut in small pieces
100 g heavy cream
1 tablespoon black sesame powder
1 tsp black sesame seeds

 to decorate:
Candy melts + food gel dye + sprinkles

Make the shells:
Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment/baking paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, and ground almonds in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 12 pulses. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl or to a sheet of parchment/baking paper. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and 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 in five additions, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme (marshmallow fluff). Add the vanilla. 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 ground almond/almond meal mixture in two 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 choice of piping tip (for rosette macarons, use a Wilton 1M type).  If you don’t have a macaron mat, draw circles on baking/parchment paper about 2inches/5cm in diameter & turn the paper over before placing on the baking sheets.  Pipe shells, I like to count numbers in my head and use the same count for each shell so they end up similar in size.

I pipe inside the circles to about 1 ¾ inches/4.5cm but you can go to 1 ½ inches (3.8cm) & the macarons will spread & fill the circle while drying.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter/worktop. Do not slam the sheets if you are making rosette macarons, just let them 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. Rosette macarons benefit from longer drying time.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 300 F (150 C/130C Fan oven/Gas Mark 2). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide or move (independently of the ‘feet’ when you gently twist the top), then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Check one or two. If they move when gently touched, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes until they don’t move when touched.   Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  The macarons should release without sticking.

For the black sesame ganache: 
Place the heavy cream in a small saucepan, add the black sesame powder (you can grind enough sesame seeds in a spice grinder until you get the right amount, or use store-bought powder).  Bring to a gentle boil, shut down the heat, cover the pan and allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Bring it gently back to a simmer again, drizzle on top of the chocolate. After a couple of minutes, gently mix with a spatula until the chocolate melts. Add the sesame seeds. Bring to room temperature or place in the fridge for a couple of hours. Use a handheld mixer to whip the ganache lightly before using to fill the shells.

Assemble the macarons: match two shells similar in size and add ganache to the bottom of one of them. Place another shell on top and gently squeeze to take the filling all the way to the edge.

To decorate the macarons,  melt Candy Melts in the microwave, add black food dye and use to drizzle the top. Add sprinkles before the candy melt hardens.

Store the macs in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The ganache made a little more than I needed for all the shells, I used it later to make some shortbread sandwich cookies, and it worked quite well also. The only thing to be concerned about when you do a white chocolate ganache is to make sure to increase the proportion of chocolate, or you will end up with a filling that is too soft, even if you whip it.  I hope you try this filling.

TWO COLORS

CHERRY BLOSSOM MACARONS
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

basic macaron recipe above
Divide the batter in two portions, keep one white
Add a drop of pink food gel to the second portion

Place small amounts of batter in alternating colors over a layer of plastic wrap. Enclose the batter by wrapping the plastic around it, then place it inside a piping bag fitted with your choice of piping tip (see composite picture below).

Add sprinkles right after piping, before a skin forms.

for the filling:
8 ounces white chocolate
1/2 cup black cherry jam
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 tsp Sakura essence

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, heavy cream and Sakura essence. 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 and use to fill shells.

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The way you place the different colors inside the piping bag will affect the final look of the shells. In this case, adding them in a random pattern, you’ll get quite unique swirls as you pipe along, it’s really a lot of fun. Yes, I know, I am too easily amused.  You could omit the sprinkles and go just for the swirl look, but I liked the added layer of decoration they provided. Plus, I need to justify my compulsion to buy sprinkles so if there is ANY chance of incorporating them into a cookie… there they shall be.

THREE COLORS

PISTACHIO MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

same basic recipe as above

Divide the batter in 3 portions. 3/4 will be dyed very light green (I used Sugar Art Master Elite Kiwi); the remaining will be divided in two small portions, and dyed darker green (I used Artisan Accents Forest Green), and coral (I used Sugar Art Master Elite Flame). Place the light green batter in a regular piping bag fitted with your favorite tip. Place the other colors in small piping bags, no tips needed. Cut a small opening right before using.

Pipe a slightly smaller shell than you need using the light green batter. Make about 6 shells and stop. Immediately use the other two colors to make your chosen designs.  Continue piping until you use all the batter. If you have leftovers of any color, just pipe small macs or donut macs to use them up. Bang the tray very gently to release bubbles and bake.

for the pistachio ganache:
150 g white chocolate, cut in small pieces
40 g heavy cream
2 tablespoons pistachio paste
tiny amount of green food color (optional)

Bring the heavy cream to a gentle boil in a saucepan. Add to the chocolate together with the pistachio paste, and whisk until melted. You might need to use the microwave very briefly. Add green food dye if you like. Leave it at room temperature or in the fridge for a couple of hours, then whip lightly with a handheld mixer.  Use to fill the shells.

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: These are SO MUCH FUN!  A little departure on my first attempt at a similar decoration technique. Ok, I admit that if you are a beginner at macaron adventures, it might be better to practice a bit with a regular macaron, then move to the two-color version before attempting these. The only problem is that you need to work fast. But the possibilities for designs are endless, really.  I also think that for this particular type, you are better off with the French meringue method. It is a bit too convoluted to do the Italian meringue and divide it in three portions, considering you have to divide the egg whites and the colors in meringue and  almond-sugar portions, so the whole thing  becomes a bit too complex for my taste. Two-colors would be doable, but three or more? I prefer to stick with the French meringue. But if you find a way to do it and the Italian meringue is your favorite method, let me know your secrets…

My first post in the 12th year of blogging had to be my favorite thing to bake. No matter how many mirror glazes, mousse cakes, sourdough breads, or cookies I make, macarons will always have a special place in my heart.

ONE YEAR AGO: Marshmallow Macarons

TWO YEAR AGO: Fujisan Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Air-Fried Tomatoes with Hazelnut Pesto & Halloumi Cheese

FOUR YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Layered Cake

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lemon-Lavender Bars

SIX YEARS AGO: Quinoa Fried Rice

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Carrot Flan with Greens and Lemon Vinaigrette

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Secret Recipe Club: Granola Bars

NINE YEARS AGO:  Awesome Broccolini

TEN YEARS AGO:  A Twist on Pesto

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

 

CHAI-MANGO ROSETTE MACARONS

Today I share a little departure on macarons, piped with a star tip (Wilton 1M). I followed my basic default recipe, but mixed a bit less than so that the batter gets just a tad denser. If you do the regular amount of “macaronage”, aiming at a smooth shell, it will not work here.  It can be a bit tricky to get it right, but it’s a fun technique to play with. Give it a try!

CHAI-MANGO ROSETTE MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

For the shells:
200g  Icing/powdered sugar
115 g Ground Almonds/Almond Meal
115 g egg whites at room temperature (approx. 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
¼ tsp vanilla paste or extract
1 bag double chai tea (Stash brand)

for the mango buttercream: 
6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
pinch of kosher salt
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp heavy cream
A pinch of cardamon
1/2 tbsp Amoretti mango flavor

to decorate:
gold dust + lemon extract
Candy melts + food gel dye + sprinkles

Make the shells:
Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment/baking paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, ground almonds and contents of the tea bag  in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 12 pulses. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl or to a sheet of parchment/baking paper. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and 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 in five additions, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme (marshmallow fluff). Add the vanilla. 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 ground almond/almond meal mixture in two 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 choice of piping tip (for rosette macarons, use a Wilton 1M type).  If you don’t have a macaron mat, draw circles on baking/parchment paper about 2inches/5cm in diameter & turn the paper over before placing on the baking sheets.  Pipe shells, I like to count numbers in my head and use the same count for each shell so they end up similar in size.

I pipe inside the circles to about 1 ¾ inches/4.5cm but you can go to 1 ½ inches (3.8cm) & the macarons will spread & fill the circle while drying.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter/worktop. Do not slam the sheets if you are making rosette macarons, just let them 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. Rosette macarons benefit from longer drying time.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 300 F (150 C/130C Fan oven/Gas Mark 2). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide or move (independently of the ‘feet’ when you gently twist the top), then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Check one or two. If they move when gently touched, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes until they don’t move when touched.   Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  The macarons should release without sticking.

For the buttercream: 
In a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter and salt and whip until light and creamy about a minute. Add in the mango flavor and cardamon and mix to incorporate. Add the sugar and the heavy cream slowly, once you add everything mix for 2 minutes in high-speed. Adjust consistency with more cream if needed. Taste, and if you feel it could benefit from some sharpness, add a touch of lime juice (I did).  Place in a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped tip.

Assemble the macarons: match two shells similar in size and add buttercream to the bottom of one of them. If using rosette shells, they are going to be the top part. Place another shell on top and gently squeeze to take the filling all the way to the edge.

To decorate the rosette macarons, mix a little gold dust with lemon extract and paint over the details. Let it dry. To decorate the regular macarons, melt Candy Melts in the microwave, separate in three small bowls and dye them any color you like. Place in small piping bags and have fun making crazy patterns all over the macs. Add sprinkles before the candy melt hardens.

Store the macs in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Stash Double-Chai Tea works very nicely to flavor the shells. I normally do not like to mess with the shell composition because it’s such a delicate balance, but I simply open the bag of tea and add it to the food processor when I grind the almond flour with the powdered sugar. The mango buttercream (with a touch of cardamon) was a very good complement.

I won’t lie to you, it is not easy to get the texture of the batter just right for piping. The very first time I made it (over a year ago), they worked perfectly, but I made the full batch as rosettes, and when you do that, it’s a bit tricky to sit them on a platter, for obvious reasons… they don’t sit flat.  So I never blogged about it, and to be honest I don’t even remember which flavor I used in the filling. I do remember the boys enjoyed their mandatory sampling of “one-shell-per-pup.”

Ever since that time, I’ve been meaning to repeat them, but other mac temptations and projects got in the way. A couple of weeks ago I finally re-visited this super important issue, but that batch got a little over-mixed and the texture was not sharp enough.

The definition of the piping was a bit lost. Adding lust duster is one way to make the design more evident, so if you run into the same issue, consider a little brushing with gold or other types of luster. But if you get the consistency right, you will be rewarded with sharper texture, for a more dramatic look.

I think these would be very nice at a wedding party, or some milestone Birthday celebration. Perhaps to decorate a cake… Make sure to match a smooth shell for the base with the rosette top.

But, of course, you can take macarons in so many different scenarios. After pairing the smooth shells, I placed them over a rack and went crazy with three colors of Candy Melts and some sprinkles to boot.

No matter the mood,  the right macaron will always be waiting for you!

ONE YEAR AGO: Common Table, Something New in My Life

TWO YEAR AGO: The Daisy, a Bread with Brioche Alter-Ego

THREE YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin, Braciole Style

FOUR YEARS AGO: Raspberry Buckle

FIVE YEARS AGO: Seafood Gratin for a Special Dinner

SIX YEARS AGO: Cooking Sous-Vide: Sweet and Spicy Asian Pork Loin

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Farewell to a Bewitching Kitchen

EIGHT YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen. June 2012

NINE YEARS AGO: Goodbye L.A.

TEN YEARS AGO: 7-6-5 Pork Tenderloin

SMOKED CHOCOLATE MACARONS

Staying safe in Corona virus time: read the guest blog post by Phillip Klebba here.

If I wake up in the middle of the night, my mind often floats through baking projects. This past weekend I woke up thinking about marbled cakes and how much I like the method of pouring the batter in concentric circles instead of dropping patches of different colors around the cake pan. That thought took me to macarons. Two colors of batter. Two piping bags. Alternating colors on each shell, in a concentric pattern. I woke up next morning and went to work.

SMOKED CHOCOLATE MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

For the shells:
200g  Icing/powdered sugar
115 g ground almonds
115 g egg whites at room temperature (approx. 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
¼ tsp vanilla paste or extract
black gel food color

for the smoked chocolate ganache:
150g heavy cream (you won’t use the full amount in the ganache)
1 bag smoked black tea (Lapsang Souchong)
2 tsp corn syrup
230g semi-sweet chocolate in pieces

Start by making the filling, as it must cool down before using. Bring the heavy cream to a gentle boil, add the tea bag. Turn the heat off, close the pan and leave the tea infusing for 30 minutes. Squeeze the tea bag and remove it. Bring the cream to a gentle boil again, then pour 115g of it over the chocolate. Leave it for 5 minutes, gently whisk until smooth, add the corn syrup. Cool it until it gets to a good consistency for piping on the shells.

Make the macaron shells: Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment/baking paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered/icing sugar and ground almonds/almond meal  in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 12 pulses. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl or to a sheet of parchment/baking paper. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and 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 in five additions, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme (marshmallow fluff). Add the vanilla. 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 ground almond/almond meal mixture in two increments. When it is almost combined, divide the batter in two and add black food color to one portion.  Proceed to mix the batters separately until they both reach proper texture for piping (batter should form a figure 8 on the surface as you drop it from a spatula). Put each mixture in a piping bag fitted with a round, ¼ inch tip.   Pipe shells, using a little bit of one color, add the second on top, right in the center, then back to the first color, alternating in concentric circles. If desired, make a design with a needle. You need to work fast and pipe 4 to 6 shells before moving to a second batch.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter/worktop. 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 285 F (a lower temperature is better to keep the white color).  Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 13 minutes. If the tops slide or move (independently of the ‘feet’ when you gently twist the top), then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Check one or two. If they move when gently touched, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes until they don’t move when touched.   Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  The macarons should release without sticking.

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: A few things are important to keep in mind if you try this piping technique. You should prepare two piping bags with round tips that are no bigger than 1/4 inch in diameter. A small opening is better because you will be piping each shell in three steps, alternating colors. Some shells I did “black-white-black”, some shells I did “white-black-white.” As you see in the composite picture, I started with a very small round of batter, and that was not a good idea. It is better to pipe a larger round, then add the other color in the center of it, so that the edge of the first color is still quite visible. The third piping will be pretty much just a small little blob that you do by touching the tip on the surface. My technique was changing a bit as I piped, you can see the “evolution” of the pattern below, from left to right. I also made a few mini-macs with solid color because small is beautiful (wink, wink).

With this method, it will be hard to make a small macaron, so be prepared to have cookies that will be up to 2 inches in diameter. When you make the first color large enough, it is easier to center the second on top, and the final one after that. As I was making the concentric pattern it occurred to me I could use a needle to create additional features to the shells, so that’s what I tried next.

Some stayed simple, and some received the needle treatment. Another thing to keep in mind is that you need to work fast. I made 4 to 6 shells at a time. Piped the first color, switched to the second, piped on top. Back to the first, finished them, and used the needle right away. Moved to the next batch. Working fast is important because you want the two batters to mingle together as one, as much as possible. I did bang the sheets on the surface, and that did not interfere with the design. I started baking the first sheet at 300F as I normally do, but the white got a slight hint of brown even at this temperature. To preserve the white as much as possible, bake them at 285F for a tad longer (I wrote the recipe already with this lower temperature in mind).

The smoked chocolate ganache is quite delicious. I first learned about it in a Japanese patisserie cookbook, and made it a few times in the past. I thought that it could go well with this black and white design of the shells. The tea is intensely flavored, so I think one bag is all you need. Some recipes call for two bags for the same amount of ganache. To my taste, it would be excessive.

I loved baking these macs, because that crazy thought the popped in my mind in the middle of the night materialized the way I hoped. The possibilities are endless, using three colors, different ways to work the needle, I can hardly wait to try it again. And again. I hope you do too…

ONE YEAR AGO: Chocolate Celebration Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Four, May 2018

THREE YEARS AGO: Tangential Quiche with Asparagus and Fennel

FOUR YEARS AGO: Fakebouleh

FIVE YEARS AGO: Yellow Squash Soup

SIX YEARS AGO: Grilled Chicken with Tamarind and Coconut Glaze

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Chicken-Apricot Skewers

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Asparagus Quiche

NINE YEARS AGO: Two-stage Pea and Prosciutto Risotto

TEN YEARS AGO: Mellow Bakers: Corn Bread

 

 

 

 

SPRINGTIME MACARONS BAKE-ALONG


If ten years ago someone would tell me I would be hosting a video tutorial on how to make French macarons, I would roll on the floor laughing. Literally. Somehow, that is actually happening. Mind-blown. Here’s the full story behind it. Back in June last year I joined a Facebook group called Great British Bake Off Fans“, hosted by Christine and Caroline. The group currently has about 20 thousand members, and every once in a while opens to accept new participants, by invitation only. They often host “bake-alongs.”  One baker posts a detailed video of a recipe, and members can bake from Friday through Sunday, posting their results and asking questions if they run into trouble.  Much to my surprise (and with the obvious hyperventilation starting right after I said yes), they asked me to host a macaron-baking video. The big party will take place this Friday. My video (which includes unfortunate footage of yours truly with meringue glued to her chin), is available right now on youtube, thanks to the hard work of Caroline, who edited my 10 short videos, added text, music, and a few well-deserved jokes here and there.

Some steps are omitted from the video, for instance the time the shells rest after piping. I cannot imagine me trying to entertain you with short stories for 30 minutes. And for that I am sure you are grateful. I should warn you that the sound could have been a bit louder. It was my first time doing it, and I now believe a microphone of some kind would be appropriate. I had to place the cell phone a bit far away to get good coverage of a larger area and that compromised the sound a bit. But thanks to Caroline adding text to the video, I think you can get by. Just set your volume to the highest and I hope it will work for you.

SPRINGTIME MACARONS
(adapted from Colette Christian’s recipe)

For the shells:
200g  Icing/powdered sugar (1 ⅔ cups)
115 g Ground Almonds/Almond Meal (1 + scant ¼ cup)
115 g egg whites at room temperature (approx. 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp of cream of tartar (optional)
100 g granulated sugar (½ cup)
¼ tsp vanilla paste or extract
drops of gel food color of your choice (optional)

Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment/baking paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered/icing sugar and ground almonds/almond meal  in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 12 pulses. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl or to a sheet of parchment/baking paper. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and 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 in five additions, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme (marshmallow fluff). Add the vanilla. 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 ground almond/almond meal mixture in two 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. Add drops of gel color and mix them briefly with a toothpick. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with your choice of piping tip (round, ¼ or ½ inch in diameter or 6 – 12 mm).   If you don’t have a macaron mat, draw circles on baking/parchment paper about 2inches/5cm in diameter & turn the paper over before placing on the baking sheets.  Pipe shells, I like to count numbers in my head and use the same count for each shell so they end up similar in size.

I pipe inside the circles to about 1 ¾ inches/4.5cm but you can go to 1 ½ inches (3.8cm) & the macarons will spread & fill the circle while drying.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter/worktop. 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 (150 C/130C Fan oven/Gas Mark 2). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide or move (independently of the ‘feet’ when you gently twist the top), then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Check one or two. If they move when gently touched, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes until they don’t move when touched.   Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  The macarons should release without sticking.

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

A FEW IMPORTANT NOTES BEFORE YOU START

  1. If you want to add solid color instead of the swirls, add GEL FOOD DYE about 1 minute after you finished incorporating all the granulated sugar in the meringue, at the same time that you add the vanilla extract (or other flavoring of your choice). Stop the machine, lift the whisk and add the color right at the bottom of the whisk, this way it goes smoothly into the batter and will not get splashed everywhere.
  2. If you have almond flour that has been laying around for a while, it is a good idea to dry it in a very low oven before using. You can do that the day before. Just add the flour to a baking sheet (over parchment paper) and place in a 250F oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Let it cool completely and use. Humidity is a big enemy of macarons, so if my almond flour has been open for more than a month, I do that just as added precaution.
  3. Hollows. DO NOT worry about them. For the most part they will “fill” once you add the filling and place in the fridge. Particularly in your first batches, don’t worry about perfection. They happen, and they almost always go away through maturation.
  4. Every oven is different. It took me many batches of macarons to figure out the best placement of the rack and the temperature of the oven. Once you are comfortable making the batter, you can play with all the conditions and figure out the perfect environment to bake yours. In my case it is 300F with the rack slightly under the center of the oven. One tray at a time. No convection. Your oven might behave in a different way. You can make several small trays and tweak the baking as you go, writing down your results. Just like in a lab!
  5. Contrary to many other baking goodies, macarons will not be hurt if you open the oven to check on them. In fact, Pierre Hermé, the Macaron King, recommends opening the door of the oven to allow some steam (therefore moisture) to be released. I sometimes open the oven at around 6 minutes to look at the little feet forming. And then again at the 11 or so minute mark to check for doneness.
  6. For different ideas to decorate the macs, I invite you look at a few of my posts. I love doing drizzles with candy melts and adding sprinkles (see this post). If you have an air-brush system and stencils, you can have a ton of fun with it (see this post). You can keep it simple and just add sprinkles to the shells right after piping (see this post). You can dye different colors of batter to the piping bag for a nice effect, although I would do that only after you are more comfortable with making them (see Coffee Caramel macarons in this post). You can cut shapes using candy melts and glue to the shells (see this post).  For a very elegant and incredibly simple effect, use a fan brush and pearl dust with vodka or lemon extract (see this post)
  7. Fillings. Over the years I’ve published many posts on macarons using all kinds of fillings. I suggest you go to my  INDEX PAGE  and look at the Macaron category for ideas. If you want to keep it super simple for your first time, open a jar of your favorite store-bought jam and use it. Absolutely nothing wrong with it.

I will be ready to answer your questions during the bake-along, and I hope you will have fun in your kitchen!  See you then….

Caroline, thank you so so much for all the work you put into editing the video, and Christine, you know how much I love the site that you created and turned into a cozy, friendly, wonderful spot in the blogosphere.

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SIX YEARS AGO: Smoked Salmon Appetizer

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Clementine Cake

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Springtime Spinach Risotto

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