Not too long ago I was browsing the internet searching for entremet cakes, and stumbled on a site that was new to me: Cooking Me Softly, hosted by Arianna, a chef from Italy. All I can say is that I had a very hard time moving away from the computer. Her concoctions are things of complete beauty, her flavor combinations unique and her presentation style superb. Not only she shares detailed recipes, but also short videos with the crucial stages of preparation. Basically, her site is culinary gold for those into patisserie. She blogs in Italian, but I can follow most of it closely enough to get the important points. Or so I hope. I fell in love with her Yogurt Tart the moment I first saw it, and could not wait to try and make it. The use of semi-spheres of mousse on top of the tart? Genius.

(slightly modified from Cooking Me Softly)

for Sablé Breton:
80 g egg yolks
100 g granulated sugar
125 g very soft butter
125 g pastry flour
2 g salt
5 g baking powder
grated lemon peel (1 lemon)
MyCryo cocoa butter (optional)

for white chocolate ganache:
340 g Lindt white chocolate
85 g heavy cream

for yogurt mousse:
120 g full-fat Greek yogurt
30 g granulated sugar
15 g of lemon juice, sieved
240 g fresh cream
6 g gelatin, 200 bloom
18 g cold water for gelatine hydration

for decoration:
small meringues
Gold dust
sprinkles of choice

Make the cookie base. In a Kitchen Aid type mixer, whisk the yolks with sugar and lemon zest until pale. Replace the whisk with the leaf beater, add the sifted flour with baking powder, salt, and then the butter. Mix well until creamy.  Place in a piece of plastic wrap, form as a disc and refrigerate for 8 hours.

Roll between two sheets of parchment paper to 1 mm thickness an put in the fridge for another hour, as you heat the oven to 350 F.

Cut a disc of dough with a 20 cm ring (7 + 3/4 in), and bake inside the ring for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, and while still hot sprinkle MyCryo over the surface. Allow it to cool completely. Before continuing with assembling, place the base inside the ring and add a band of acetate around it so that the ganache will be poured nicely on top. I like to use a ring that is adjustable, so that I can tighten it better around the base. Often the base shrinks a little during baking.

Make the chocolate ganache. Melt the chocolate gently in the microwave or in a double boiler. Heat the cream to simmering (about 175 F). Add to the chocolate in three additions, whisking gently to fully incorporate the chocolate and the cream.  Reserve. Cool to about 90F before pouring into the cool base. Place in the fridge to cool completely and then in the freezer overnight.

Make the yogurt mousse. Hydrate the gelatin in the water indicated in the recipe. Heat part of the yogurt with the sugar to about 140 F.  Melt the gelatin heating gently for a few seconds in the microwave (do not boil it). Add the melted gelatin to the warm yogurt/sugar mixture.

Add the lemon juice, the remaining cold yogurt and mix. Whip the cream to the consistency of melted ice cream, and fold gently into the yogurt base. Spoon the mousse into a piping bag (no need for a piping tip) and fill half-sphere molds (3.4 and 5 cm in diameter), smoothing the surface well. Put in the fridge to cool and then freeze overnight.

Assemble the tart. Remove the base with chocolate ganache from the freezer, place in a serving tray and remove the acetate. Arrange the mousse spheres of different diameters over the ganache. Decorate with mini-meringues plain and painted with gold spray. Put in the fridge for about 6 hours to allow the ganache to soften and the mousse to thaw.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I truly enjoy making desserts that involve multiple components particularly because they can be made in advance and wait in the freezer or fridge. Finishing the dessert then is easy and fun (assuming it all worked well in the previous steps). For this preparation, Arianna’s video was very helpful, as the Sable Biscuit is quite a bit softer than I anticipated. Watching how she handled it was key to succeed. Also make sure you make the dough the day before you intend to bake it, it needs those 8 hours in the fridge. Another important point is the white chocolate ganache: you need it to be firm enough to slice and hold its shape. Arianna uses a specific brand of chocolate that would be a bit of a hassle for me to find. Using her proportions with the Lindt bar, the ganache ended up way too loose, so I made another batch using a 4:1 ratio chocolate to cream. You can probably get by with a 3.5:1, but not much less than that.

My schedule went like this: I made the biscuit dough on a Friday evening, baked it Saturday morning and made the mini-meringues, the chocolate ganache and the mousse on Saturday afternoon. Once the ganache cooled enough I spread it over the biscuit base and froze it. Sunday afternoon I un-molded the frozen mousse spheres, sprayed some of the meringues with edible gold color, and assembled the tart.

The only issue I had was the golden stars used for decoration. The ones in contact with the ganache held their shape well, but the yogurt mousse (probably due to its acidity) melted the stars within an hour or so.

The flavors were quite amazing, as the sweetness of the white chocolate ganache stood well to the bright flavor of the yogurt mousse. The biscuit base had excellent texture, even if I overbaked it slightly. It was hard to see it inside the ring, next time I’ll be more careful.

Arianna has a cookbook published online and I could not resist getting my copy. It is absolutely amazing, you can get it with a click here.  The name is just too clever: Aria di Dolci. Loved it! Keep in mind it is in Italian, so you need to have some level of understanding of the language.


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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.

(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.


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.


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Peppermint is the flavor of the season, no doubt about it. Remember my peppermint candy cookies? So very festive… These macarons dance to the same beat, a bright red color, the delicate flavor of mint perfuming the white chocolate, and some green and white sprinkles to boot. They scream Christmas, and New Year celebrations. All macarons I’ve made so far used a French meringue. This was my first batch going for the – slightly more finicky – Italian meringue. I’ve been meaning to re-visit it for a long time, actually. Had one epic failure in the past attempting a recipe from Pierre Hermé, which traumatized me enough to keep Italian meringue at a safe distance. But finally, the light in the end of the macaron tunnel.

(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)
68g heavy whipping cream
1 to 2 tsp peppermint crunch (to taste)

for decoration:
green and white sprinkles (I used nonpareils)

Prepare white chocolate ganache 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 peppermint crunch, tasting as you go.  Reserve, cooling at room temperature for a couple of hours or sticking in the fridge for 30 minutes.

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, so make sure you have a very nice red tone.

Make the Italian meringue. Take a deep breath first so you are relaxed (very important). 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 (see my composite photo).

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. Add sprinkles on top, if using. 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 and place in the fridge overnight. Serve them at room temperature next day.  They freeze well too.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: It all started with an impulse buy. A bottle of peppermint crunch that I found at Marshall’s. That store has amazing gems waiting for a loving kitchen. I had no idea what to do with it, but decided that once in the comfort of our home, I would find a way to make it shine. I thought about sprinkling some on top of the shells before the skin formed, and actually ran a test on a few. The crunch kind of melted in the oven and it didn’t look very good. But adding it to white chocolate ganache? That worked very very well. I more or less eye-balled it, and tried a tiny bit to see if the texture and flavor were the way I wanted. I definitely did not want to have macarons tasting like toothpaste! So if you make it, either with white or dark chocolate ganache, taste as you go and stop when you hit the jackpot.

The amount I used did not even make a dent in the huge bottle… see the problem I have now? Find other uses for my beloved peppermint crunch… There are much more serious problems in life, I’ll tackle this one with a smile. And a bite of macaron, because….

A final comment: French or Italian meringue for macarons? I think the French does a perfect job with a lot less hassle. However, if you live in a very humid climate, the added stability of the Italian meringue might be better for you. At any rate, I feel that mastering the technique of the Italian meringue will come in handy in plenty of recipes. So I’m happy I gave it a try.

Enjoy the holiday season, and grab a pin, because sharing is caring!

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