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Archive for October, 2009

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The latest Bakers challenge is french macarons- you know, those pretty pastel colored sandwich cookies that you see in a patisserie shop or fancy bakery. I always thought that they charged too much for a single cookie. Now I know why. While I made last months challenge (puff pastry) many times, to really get in down and to have fun with different variations, this time around was different. I have had 5 goes at this with mixed results. The  challenge of this recipe is to get “feet” on your cookies.IMG_4092

If you look at the bottom of the cookies they have a crisp raised edge. Seemed simple enough…. 1st batch, no feet

2nd batch, some had feet, some didn’t

3rd batch, yeah!! feet!!!

4th batch, not a foot to be seen… aarrrrggghhhh!!!
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sooooo……. I got up this morning to make yet another batch thinking I would nail it this time and have some great photos to prove. No such luck, once again- no feet.

Honestly, for the life of me I can’t seem to figure this out. I have tried both the DB challenge recipe as well as tartlette’s  recipe since others seemed to have better luck with her version. I actually had better results with the 1st recipe. I tried aging my egg whites on the counter from 24 hours to 3 days to 5 days. Best results with the 5 day old egg whites.  I tried 3 variations, original almond filled with a bittersweet chocolate/grand marnier ganache, walnut macarons filled with a maple buttercream (pictured at top) and my favorite, pumpkin pie spiced macarons filled with a honey buttercream. While this version had no “feet” the flavors were incredible together.

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No feet!!!!

I am posting this with the commitment that I will master this by Christmas. The recipe is simple enough, but then I started reading the pages upon pages of nuances that are involved with making french macarons. Wow…. All of this being said, I completely recommend making these yourself. If they don’t come out of the oven with the traditional “feet”, don’t worry, they will still taste amazing and anyone you serve them to will think you are amazing as well. The slightly crisp outside, the slightly chewy inside, the creamy filling– divine.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Ingredients
Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)
(for my pumpkin variation, I added 2 1/2 tsp. of pumkin pie spice)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients. I counted out loud to 50 so I wouldn’t overmix.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the  for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

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beautiful feet…

Note:  making is somewhat labor intensive, yet simultaneously less difficult than you think it will be. One thing you must do is have your egg whites at room temperature. I kept my egg whites out on the counter, covered, for at least 24 hours but I think longer is better.This ensures they beat up properly, as texture is an integral component to macaroons. You will be piping the batter onto parchment paper or nonstick liners, and some home bakers use stencils to make sure their macaroons are uniform in size. It’s your choice.

Be aware that you are beating your egg whites first to soft peaks. Soft peaks means that the peaks of the meringue curl over when you lift up the beaters. After you add the granulated sugar to the soft peak meringue, you will beat the mixture to stiff peaks, which, true to their name, stand straight up. Be careful not to overbeat your eggs.

You will also be folding the nut flour into the meringue. As with most recipes when you combine something with beaten egg whites, be gentle in your mixing to keep the egg whites light. If you want to try different nuts, don’t use 100% different. The reason almond flour is used is because of the low moisture content in them. For my walnut macarons I used 50/50 ratio of walnut flour and almond flour.

Some recipes call for drying the piped macaroons on the counter prior to baking for 30 minutes to an hour. This recipe stipulates that you bake the macaroons at a low temperature for 5 minutes, then take them out of the oven, raising the temperature, and baking them for an additional 7 to 8 minutes. Drying is necessary to get the trademark “feet” on your macaroons. Experiment to find the best technique for you.

If you plan on using parchment paper rather than nonstick pan liners, be careful when removing the macaroons from the paper, as they can stick and are very delicate. Some recipes suggest lifting up a corner of the paper and letting a drop of water fall onto the hot baking sheet, thus producing steam, which helps the macaroons release.

Additional Information:

David Lebovitz breaks it down: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2008/09/making_french_macarons.htm…
More macaroon 411: http://www.seriouseats.com/2007/10/introduction-to-french-macarons.html
Get inspired by our own Tartlette!: http://www.mytartelette.com/search/label/macarons
Go behind the scenes of Paulette: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXIvX0-CEu0
Watch a pro pipe macaroons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_RfiFoWZKQ&feature=related
Beating egg whites: http://www.glutenfreecookingschool.com/archives/egg-series-no-1-how-to-b…

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Feeling Squirrelly?

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Since it is the week before Halloween and I have a 3 1/2 yr old, it is going to be quite crazy  for the next 7 days. I believe Scarlet has 5 parties to attend before next Saturday. It is going to be  a busy baking week… Since I can’t seem to find any of my Halloween cookie cutters I went with the next best thing, the autumnal feeling of October (even though it snowed here yesterday).

Autumn Sugar Cookies

2 C All Purpose flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking powder
1 1/2 tsp Pumpkin pie spice
10 Tblsp Butter, softened (unsalted)
1 C sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp Vanilla

Whisk the dry ingredients together.
Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy and pale. Add the egg and yolk and beat for another minute, then the vanilla. With your mixer on low, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated- do not overmix! If you are unsure, stop the mixer and finish mixing with a rubber spatula. When mixed the dough will be soft and creamy. Divide it in half and wrap in plastic wrap; place in the fridge for at least 2 hours. IMG_3976
Working with one package of dough at a time, roll out the dough out between 2 sheets of wax paper until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Make sure to occasionally lift the wax paper up and turn the dough so it comes out smooth and even. Lift off 1 sheet of paper and cut out your cookies. Pull away the extra dough for re-rolling. Place your cutouts on a parchment lined baking sheet and put back in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
When the oven is ready, bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes. The cookies should be firm but not browned. Transfer to a cooling rack after about 1 minute to cool completely.

Royal Icing

1 Egg white
1 C of icing sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon extract

beat until a smooth consistency adjusting the amount of icing sugar as needed. It should be slightly runny for the run-out portion and thicker for the outlined piping.
Have fun decorating!IMG_4124
 

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I am making this really great banana bread for my Sugarcraft Guild meeting on Monday. It’s  got a beautiful, tender crumb from the addition of cream cheese and it also has a lovely orange glaze for the top. It contains a little dark rum in the batter as well as the glaze but feel free to leave it out if you wish. This recipe makes 2 loaves so put one in the freezer for last minute guests or to give as a gift.

BANANA PECAN BREAD WITH ORANGE GLAZE

3/4 C  (6 oz / 170g) Butter, softened (I always use unsalted butter for baking)
1 8oz (250 g) pkg Cream Cheese, softened
1 3/4  C Sugar
2 Whole eggs
1 Egg yolk
1 1/2 C Mashed ripe bananas (about 3 or 4, depending on the size)
1/2 tsp pure Vanilla
1 Tblsp Dark Rum (optional, but really nice)
2 1/2 C (8.75 oz) All Purpose flour
1/2 C (2.4 oz) Whole Wheat flour
3/4 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp Salt
2 cups Chopped pecans, Divided

Cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs and yolk, beating well after each addition. Beat in the bananas, vanilla and rum.
Sift the flour, baking powder ,baking soda and salt together; gradually add to the butter mixture. Fold in 1 cup of the chopped pecans.

Pour into 2 greased (I use PAM) loaf pans.IMG_4103 Sprinkle each one with 1/2 cup of the reserved pecans. Bake at 350 for 1 to 1 1/4 hours (rotating pans after 30 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, prepare the orange glaze:
Whisk together
1 C confectioners sugar
3 Tbls Orange juice
1 tsp Orange zest
1 tsp Dark Rum (optional)

Drizzle over loaves when they come out of the oven. Cool them for 10 minutes before removing them from the pans to wire racks to cool completely.

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Rhubarb Custard Melting Moments

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Growing up in New York I don’t think I even recall ever hearing the word “rhubarb” once in my life. Now that I live in western Canada you can’t go into a supermarket  in the spring without seeing  bright red stalks of rhubarb on the shelves. My husband Julian used to bring home bundles of it that he would collect in back alleys from all of the wild plants that seem to grow everywhere.  A few years ago we replanted one in our backyard and every year we get a huge amount to use.  I have made countless rhubard-strawberry pies, rhubarb-pineapple-ginger crisps, rhubarb cakes, rhubarb with chicken, rhubarb compote, etc….  Since I get 2 crops every year, one in the spring and one in the fall, I am always looking for a new way in which to use my rhubarb (I still have 2 large bags in the freezer to use over the winter). When I came across this recipe I just new I had to try it, especially since I had a few stalks right on my kitchen counter.

You will need to cook 2 stalks of chopped rhubarb with about 2 tablespoons of sugar (to taste) and 2 tablespoons of water over low heat, until rhubarb is mushy. Strain and cool

Rhubarb Custard Melting Moments
from Cupcakes,Cheesecakes,Cookies

makes about 25 cookies

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F

1 C butter, softened
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1/2 Icing sugar
1 C custard powder (I used Bird’s)
1 C all purpose flour
1 Tblsp Icing sugar, for dusting

Rhubarb Custard
1 Tblsp custard powder
1 Tblsp sugar
1/2 C Milk
1/3 C stewed rhubarb

Make the rhubarb custard first:

Blend custard powder,sugar and milk in small saucepan; stir over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in rhubarb. Cover the surface with plastic wrap (to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate until cold.

Cookies:

Beat butter for 2 minutes and then add the vanilla and icing sugar and continue beating for another 3 minutes. You want a light, fluffy mixture. Sift in custard powder and flour in two batches and stir until just combined. With lightly floured hands ,roll rounded teaspoon sized pieces into balls. Place about 1/2 inch apart from each other and slightly flatten them with a floured fork. Bake 12-14 minutes or until set. Stand for 5 minutes then cool completely on wire racks.IMG_3958

Once the cookies are cool, sandwich two together with about 1 tsp of the rhubarb custard. When all of the cookies are filled, dust them lightly with the remaining tablespoon of icing sugar.

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fresh out of the oven!

fresh out of the oven...

This is a super simple and impressive roast to make for dinner and it also makes for outrageous sandwiches. I like to serve this with pureed cauliflower and a salad.

Pork Loin Stuffed with Garlic, Rosemary, and Thyme Wrapped in Pancetta

1 head garlic, peeled and minced
2 Tblsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 Tblsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 Tblsp olive oil
3 Lb boneless centre cut pork loin roast
15 slices thinly sliced pancetta
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or water

Mix the garlic, rosemary, thyme and oil in a small bowl or whirl in a mini food processor to form a paste and set aside.
Cut the pork lengthwise, leaving about a 1 inch border down the middle (like the spine of a book). Open the pork up and lay flat. Season well with salt and pepper. Smear about 3/4 of the garlic paste along down one side of your open “book”. Reassemble the pork.IMG_3851 Season the outside of the pork now with salt and pepper and smear in the remaining garlic paste. Set the pork fat-side down on your work surface on top of 6 equal pieces of kitchen twine. Top the the pancetta slices, overlapping them slightly. Tie up with the twine.IMG_3853

Cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour (or more if you can) to develop the flavors.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.IMG_3855

 

 

Put the pork onto a roasting rack in a pan filled with the 2 cups of stock (or water). Roast for 1 hour or the internal temp reaches 145 degrees.
When it comes out the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting it into a slices.

  

The next day with thinly sliced granny smith apple and lettuce on ciabatta

The next day with thinly sliced granny smith apple and lettuce on ciabatta

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Amazing Chocolate Brownies

Mmmmm......

Mmmmm......

Wow. These really are amazing brownies. Well, only if you like brownies that are dense and fudge like. If so, then make these brownies today and you will make many new friends…
This recipe is from Confetti Cakes . I’ve changed it by adding a tablespoon of insant espresso powder but you certainly don’t have to put it in if you don’t have any. I just love what a little bit of coffee does to intensify the bittersweet chocolate. Don’t be frightened by the volume of the ingredients, it makes a large tray. I still have half of a tray in my freezer (which will be gone by this weekend)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the bottom and sides (or spray with PAM) of a 13 x 18 sheet pan with butter and line with parchment paper.

AMAZING CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

2 C all-purpose flour
2 C unsalted butter (yes, 1lb of butter)
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 Tblsp insant espresso powder
8 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 C granulated sugar
2 1/4 C dark brown sugar
1 Tblsp vanilla

In a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate (you will need a large bowl for this) and espresso powder over low heat. When melted stir together well to incorporate the two.
Combine the eggs, sugars, salt and vanilla and beat until combined.
Add the melted chocolate butter mixture and beat until combined. If you are using a mixer stop and take the bowl out.
Fold in the flour, gently, using a rubber spatula.

the batter in the parchment lined tray

the batter in the parchment lined tray

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a shiny crust has formed and is moderately firm. In the original recipe is states to bake them for 1 hour but I found 50 minutes worked for me.
Cool for 20 minutes before removing them from the pan. Run a knife or spatula around the edges and flip over onto another pan or cake board and peel away the parchment.
This makes about 40 2 inch brownies. They can be stored in the freezer, well wrapped for 2 weeks. For easier cutting, freeze the brownies overnight and then allow to defrost for 20 minutes, then cut with a chef’s knife.
Try not to eat them all at once…

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