Devil Macarons

February 1st, 2012 :: 2 comments :: permalink

I consider the macaron to be the supermodel of cookies. The first time I had one was at Miette Pâtisserie, in San Francisco. We were staying right across the street and happened to discover Miette while walking through SF’s Ferry Building. I ended up eating an obscene amount of macarons on that trip. Although delightful to eat, these little devil cookies took a lot of effort to prepare at home. At one point we were ready to throw in the towel, thinking the cookies were going to be horribly disfigured. Luckily, it all seemed to work itself out through the baking process.

Making macarons seemed like a two person job. Dustin made the frosting while I worked on the cookies. This was our first time making frosting with raw eggs, so we really didn’t want to mess that up. Watching the eggs and sugar thicken in our mixer was amazing.  They changed from an odd light brown translucent color to a fluffy white bowl of delightfulness.

Everything is so precise with baking. I used the imprints of a miniature cup dipped in flour for a size reference when squeezing the batter out of a pastry bag.

We learned a lot about what not to do while making macarons, but even after our two mini-meltdowns, and almost starting over, they ultimately looked pretty good. The texture seems more fluffy than store bought macarons, and they just melt in your mouth. Next time we’ll be a little more generous with our all-natural food coloring in the hopes that we can get the cake and frosting colors to match. Even though the recipe isn’t easy, I think most people would have a good chance of coming out with a delicious product that doesn’t look half bad.

Ingredients

  • Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3 sticks (1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Macaroons
  • 1-3/4 cup confectioner
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • all-purpose flour, for dipping
  • 1-1/2 cups (4 ounces) sliced almonds, finely ground, or almond flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 recipe Swiss Meringue Buttercream (increase vanilla to 2-1/2 teaspoons)

 

Preparation

French Almond Macaroons
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Sift confectioners’ sugar into a bowl. Whisk in ground almonds; set aside. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats (such as Silpats), and mark circles using a 1-1/2-inch cookie cutter dipped in flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy; add salt. Gradually add granulated sugar 1 teaspoon at a time, until the whites reach medium-soft peaks. Transfer to a large bowl.

Sprinkle half of the sugar-almond mixture over the egg-white mixture. Using a large rubber spatula fold until just incorporated. Add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and remaining sugar-almond mixture, folding until just incorporated. Firmly tap the bottom of the bowl on a counter or work surface to eliminate any air pockets.

Transfer mixture to a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip (such as an Ateco #806). Pipe mixture into marked circles on prepared baking sheet.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until macaroons feel slightly firm to the touch and can be gently lifted off the parchment (the bottoms will be dry), 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer parchment and macaroons to a wire rack to cool completely. Using a small offset spatula, carefully remove macaroons from parchment. Spread 2 teaspoons buttercream on the flat sides of the half of macaroons; sandwich with the other halves, keeping flat sides down. Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes, before serving. Filled cookies can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

 

Strawberry Macaroons Variation
Follow instructions for French Almond Macaroons, adding 4 drops of red food coloring to the egg whites just before you add the sugar-almond mixture (batter will be pink). For the filling, do not increase vanilla, and fold 1/3 cup strained strawberry preserves (3-1/2 ounces) into Swiss Meringue Buttercream after butter has been incorporated. Proceed with the recipe.

Chocolate Macaroons Variation
Follow instructions for French Almond Macaroons, sifting 2 tablespoons Dutch-process coca powder with the confectioners’ sugar. For the filling, place 5 ounces finely chopped semisweet chocolate in a bowl. In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup heavy cream until it just starts to simmer; pour over chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute; stir until melted. Let ganache stand at room temperature until thick enough to spread. Proceed with the recipe.

 

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 160ºF).

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg-white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.

Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. (If the frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more.) Beat in vanilla. Beat on lowest speed to eliminate any air bubbles, about 2 minutes. Stir with a rubber spatula until frosting is smooth.

The Recipe is all Martha

 

My dad’s famous beans and rice

January 18th, 2012 :: 1 comment :: permalink

It’s all in the sauce. It may sound crazy, but every major holiday all I want is my dad’s flavorful beans and rice. It’s as close to a steak as I’m going to get as a vegetarian. The beans take on the flavor of all the ingredients that slowly simmer in the sauce. My dad originally made his sauce with bacon, which adds a big hit of flavor. When I became a vegetarian, it took a lot of trial and error to get that flavor back. I asked my dad years ago for the recipe and he said there really isn’t one… just a little of this, and a little of that. I’ve been experimenting with different ways to make it my own for 10 years. It is all about intuition and changing it for your taste buds. Here’s my interpretation of my family’s beans and rice.

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Liege Waffles

January 1st, 2012 :: 8 comments :: permalink

Breakfast is definitely Dustin’s strong suit. He’s made the usual pancakes, crepes, and an odd looking, but tasty Dutch Baby. Out of all of his breakfast creations I’ve most enjoyed his infatuation with making the perfect waffle. He says he is getting closer and closer. Lately he has been experimenting with a recipe for a specific type of Belgian waffle he read about on a few blogs. We usually make a large quantity of these on a Saturday or Sunday and they come in handy during the week when we are crunched for time. All we have to do is toast them and they are sweet enough to eat without a topping. On weekends I go a little crazy and top mine with powdered sugar, syrup, and homemade whipped cream.

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Vanilla Custard

December 19th, 2011 :: 0 comments :: permalink

Our original idea was to make custard to fill puff pastries, but while making it we realized it was enough of a dessert on its own and maybe too much in a pastry. You can top the custard with blueberries, lemon zest, powdered sugar, raspberries and I’m sure much more.

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Potatoes Dauphinoise

December 12th, 2011 :: 0 comments :: permalink

Dustin is a big fan of the local restaurants Alinea and Next. The serve very modern and forward thinking dishes that are difficult to replicate. The have released a couple of cookbooks though, so we picked one of their easier recipes to make at home. This dish comes from Next’s Paris: 1906 iBook and was perfect for the cold grey day we were having.

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00 Pizza dough

December 10th, 2011 :: 0 comments :: permalink

Living in Chicago and not liking deep-dish pizza didn’t leave me with very many pizza options, so I have been trying to create my own. Over the last few months and through much trial and error, Dustin and I have gotten pretty close to what I would consider perfect pizza dough. After going to Sunday Supper Club (a local dining club that hosts dinners in the chefs’ home, with a new theme each month), we found the missing piece… 00 flour. It is a super fine flour and dough made with it is much more wet than regular dough. Making dough from scratch is more work than just buying it premade or calling for delivery, but it tastes so much better fresh and is so much more gratifying to make (and eat!). I made a vegetarian pizza with seared tempeh and a carnivore’s version with Milano salami for Dustin.

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Fat cookies

December 2nd, 2011 :: 6 comments :: permalink

Like most people, I grew up eating store bought cookies. This is the first real cookie recipe I’ve ever made and I’m convinced it has to be the best one anywhere. The cookies come out super fat and gooey. I gave half of them away to my co-workers to prevent myself from eating the whole batch. Even taking pictures of them was a hard task, because they kept disappearing. I will never buy a store bought chocolate chip cookie again. Why waste the calories?

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Homemade Pesto

November 15th, 2011 :: 0 comments :: permalink

Making pesto is super easy. It’s very versatile as it can be used for pasta, pizza, salad dressing, meat dishes, or sandwiches. I like to prepare as much as I can on the weekend to make cooking a more enjoyable process throughout the week. I don’t think there is a set standard of exactly how much of each ingredient you should put in your pesto. I just add more of whatever I like.

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