Sunday, April 20, 2008

Garden Update/Macarons:

It was over 70 degrees this weekend, so the hubby and I felt motivated to ready the gardens over the past two days. We picked up sticks (we's got lots o sticks out here in the sticks-- 10 + loads full!), raked out and cleaned the perennial garden debris (5 loads full), tilled the kitchen gardens and the large garden patches.. I planted onions, garlic, shallots, beans, peas, spinach, and mesculin/spicy salad mix. I'm sore, sunburned, and feel 100% better, btw.
On a completely unrelated side note:
I made some macarons, and had very little difficulty (unless you count the dog eating a whole tray of them,.. damn!). The cookies turned out perfectly, and they were fabulous with a lightly almond/vanilla infused Italian buttercream (they were overstuffed since I had 1/3 less cookies to frost-- double stuffed macarons.....mmmmmmm). I'm going to try and make espresso macarons tonight, with a little bit of coconut flour in place of some of the almond (since I've conquered the mighty macaron, of course it's time to mess with the 200 year old recipe, wiseass that I am...) Husband says I need a new hobby vs making the most fussy recipes I can find, and I suspect he's right. I told him we needed a POOL, and that could be my new hobby vs the ass fattening one I currently have. I think he secretly wished my new hobby would include being a domestic goddess in other realms (cleaning the house daily, making gourmet dinners each and every night, martini and maribou slippers when he gets home from work each day...), but sorry dude, no such luck. I'll take a pool, and then the endless batches of cupcakes and French pastries will end. At least in the summer.

Espresso Macarons :
120 gr. egg whites, divided (this ends up being 4 egg whites total)
35 gr. sugar
150 gr. almond meal
150 gr. powdered sugar
2 tsp. espresso powder
For the syrup:150 gr. sugar and 50 gr. water

Prepare 3 sheet pans by lining them with parchment paper.Have a piping bag with a 1/2" round tip ready to go.
Sift together the almond meal, powdered sugar and espresso powder. Mix together with 60 grams of egg whites (2 egg whites) until well blended and set aside.
In a stand mixer, whip the remaining 60 grams of egg whites with the 35 grams of sugar to medium-soft peaks, turn the mixer to low speed to keep the whites moving while you prepare your sugar syrup.
-In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring the 150 grams of sugar and 50 grams of water to about 230f.
-Turn your mixer back up to medium speed and slowly pour in the hot syrup (carefully) not worrying about any that sticks to the sides of the bowl. Whip the egg white and syrup mixture until the whites are cooled and you have a very pretty shiny meringue.
-Gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture.-Pipe the mixture into 1" circles onto the prepared sheet pans leaving at least 1" of space between each.
Let the pans sit out for about half hour to an hour to allow a "skin" to form on top (basically when you touch your finger to the surface, no batter will come off).
-Preheat oven to 320f (I found 320f to be too hot for mine, they exploded at this temperature...but then my oven runs hot).
Bake the meringues, one sheet at a time (double sheet panned for insulation on the bottom) for about 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool before filling.

Ganache filling:
6 1/2 ounces good quality semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into about 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1 Tbsp butter
-Heat cream, corn syrup and butter in a saucepan until it boils. Pour over the chocolate, making sure the chocolate is covered in the cream mixture. Let sit about 5 minutes and then whisk until the mixture is smooth and a pudding-like consistency.
-Pipe on bottoms of macarons, and top with another macaron.
-Let cookies sit until chocolate filling has set up.

Basic Macaron Recipe:

225 grams icing sugar
125 grams ground almonds
110 grams egg whites (about 4), aged overnight at room temperature
30 grams granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1. On three pieces of parchment, use a pencil to draw 1-inch (2.5 cm) circles about 2 inches apart. Flip each sheet over and place each sheet on a baking sheet. [Note: You only have to draw circles on the parchment paper if you want absolutely even-sized macarons. If you're skilled with piping and don't mind eyeballing the amount of batter per cookie, skip this step.]
2. Push almond flour through a tamis or sieve, and sift icing sugar. Mix the almonds and icing sugar in a bowl and set aside. If the mixture is not dry, spread on a baking sheet, and heat in oven at the lowest setting until dry. Sift almonds at least TWICE.
3. In a large clean, dry bowl whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar. Continue to whip to stiff peaks—the whites should be firm and shiny.
4. With a flexible spatula, gently fold in icing sugar mixture into egg whites until completely incorporated. The mixture should be shiny and 'flow like magma.' When small peaks dissolve to a flat surface, stop mixing.
4. Fit a piping bag with a 3/8-inch (1 cm) round tip. Pipe the batter onto the baking sheets, in the previously drawn circles. Tap the underside of the baking sheet to remove air bubbles. Let dry at room temperature for 1 or 2 hours to allow skins to form.
5. Bake, in a 160C/325F oven for 10 to 11 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to keep the oven door slightly ajar, and rotate the baking sheet after 5 minutes for even baking.
6. Remove macarons from oven and transfer parchment to a cooling rack. When cool, slide a metal offset spatula or pairing knife underneath the macaron to remove from parchment.
7. Pair macarons of similar size, and pipe about 1/2 tsp of the filling onto one of the macarons. Sandwich macarons, and refrigerate to allow flavors to blend together. Bring back to room temperature before serving.

Italian Buttercream:

-2 egg whites (60 mL)
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 4 oz (½ cup) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into slices
- 1 tsp vanilla
-1/2 tsp almond extract

In an electric mixer bowl, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and heat the mixture, whisking often, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until it feels warm and sugar has dissolved.Transfer the bowl to the electric mixer and whip warm egg mixture on high speed using the whisk attachment until stiff and shiny, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the butter, one slice at a time, and continue to mix until all the butter is thoroughly incorporated. Add any flavourings and refrigerate for 1 hour or until it becomes firm. The buttercream can be kept, covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week. (I just heated the sugar with 1 tb water until it registered 230 degrees on the candy thermometer, and poured the hot syrup into the eggs that were beaten until soft peaks with a dash o cream of tartar; whip about 5 minutes and add vanilla/almond and then the butter) If the frosting looks curdled, just keep whipping it until it becomes smooth, btw...

I made the espresso macarons using the recipe above, and I had problems with it. Some of the cookies cracked, while others didn't, some developed "feet", others didn't, and for some reason, a whole pan refused to bake all the way and were still gooey inside, even after baking 5+ more minutes than the others... odd. It was pretty darn random, totally didn't make sense...
I had much better success with the basic recipe, not 100% sure why-- maybe it was the 2 tb of coconut I substituted for a little bit of almond meal, which I would NOT do again, I just couldn't get the coconut fine enough and it was a little mealy, even tho it was tasty. The coffee flavor was good, but I could easily have added more espresso powder.
I added a tb of espresso powder to the ganache, which turned out perfectly-- great recipe! I let it sit out at room temp for about an hour to get it to piping consistency, and it was excellent.
Overall, not a bad cookie, just not as "macaron" like as the basic one.
I pledged off baking until I could lose a wee bit o the winter weight I gained, but I slipped and made a quick batch today (didn't age the egg whites, only ground/sifted the almonds once-- hope they turn out!), I'm such an addict!

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