Tuesday, October 27, 2009

DB: Macarons- Parlez vous francais?

I was really excited to see macarons as the challenge for this month's Daring Baker's Challenge! When I first discovered the food blog world I saw the abundance of macarons out there in cyberspace, all colors and flavors, and I even tried to make them a couple times. I was expecting this a long time ago, and after a few months of being in Daring Baker's with no macarons I was beginning to think the challenge was never going to happen! Alas, finally, the macaron challenge!

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.

For those who are not familiar: "In the United States, the term “macaroon” generally refers to a cookie made primarily of coconut. But European macaroons are based on either ground almonds or almond paste, combined with sugar and egg whites. The texture can run from chewy, crunchy or a combination of the two. Frequently, two macaroons are sandwiched together with ganache, buttercream or jam, which can cause the cookies to become more chewy. The flavor possibilities and combinations are nigh endless, allowing infinitely customizable permutations." Take a look and see- explore other Daring Bakers to see what they came up with!

So below is a picture of the macarons I made following the Gramercy Tavern Recipe. Strawberry and Chocolate, with a salted caramel filling or a chocolate ganache. Clearly these macarons were unsuccessful. No feet, didn't rise much, but boy did they look pretty! Many people in the forums commented on the ratio of nuts to whites to sugar, and apparently this recipe does not have the optimal foolproof ratio. To make them flavored I added dried strawberries to the food processor to make strawberry powder, and for the chocolate ones I substituted 2 tbsp cocoa powder for powdered sugar. I recommend using Tartelette's recipe or Veronica has the Macaron Chronicles detailing how to make macarons and the many steps. For the ganache I just used about equal parts heavy cream and chocolate chips and a touch of oil for shine.

After that try I gave up on that recipe and went back to Tartelette's recipe that I've made successfully before, but I only had maybe 1/4 amount almonds, so I used that little bit of almonds and supplemented the remainder with hazelnuts. Tartelette recommends using at least half almonds, but mine worked perfectly even with far more hazelnut than almond. I used Veronica's Caramel Fleur de Sel Recipe (except just with Kosher salt!-aka salted caramel). It is good enough to eat with a spoon. It is sweet and salty and not too rich. It is the perfect combo of flavors, and the consistency is smooth and thick. Delicious. It tasted great with the macarons. My only complaint is that they are so sweet! I measure everything out by weight, so I'm not sure if it's something I'm doing or if they're just super sweet by nature, but it's borderline too much! I think I'd enjoy them more with a bit more nut flavor and less sweetness. I want to try more flavors, because I liked the taste of the strawberry and chocolate ones, even though they did not work out well. For a beginner baker they may be intimidating, there are a lot of steps that require a certain amount of precision. I believe weighing the ingredients makes it more accurate and turns out a better recipe. Also good ideas are baking them in low humidity, because higher humidity increases failure rates according to what I've seen. As for the aged egg white question: I used both aged and microwaved in my attempts. I didn't see a lot of difference, but I would recommend one or the other instead of using fresh whites. If pressed for time, just pop them in the microwave for 5 seconds, twice.

Great Challenge Ami!
Basic Macaron Recipe:

Preparation time: Not taking into account the amount of time it takes for you to bring your egg whites to room temperature, the whole baking process, including making the batter, piping and baking will probably take you about an hour to an hour and a half. How long it takes to make your filling is dependent on what you choose to make.

Actual baking time: 12 minutes total, plus a few minutes to get your oven from 200°F to 375°F.

Equipment required:
• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment
• Rubber spatula
• Baking sheets
• Parchment paper or nonstick liners
• Pastry bag (can be disposable)
• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip
• Sifter or sieve
• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off
• Oven
• Cooling rack
• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets
• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)

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)


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.
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 macaroon 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.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.

Additional Information:

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

MSC- Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes

This month's MS Cupcakes Club recipe featured the Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes, in perfect time for Halloween. In the cookbook they have a super cute marzipan cupcake on each cake. Unfortunately I just spent 4 hours working on a garden themed cake with vegetables made of starbursts and laffy taffies and I was just not in the mood to take the time to make a bunch of tiny pumpkins.

Overall, this recipe is a grand slam! The cupcakes are not too overpoweringly pumpkin, they are very light and just the right moistness level. They are not dense and thick like pumpkin bread, and lighter and a bit sweeter than a muffin, they truly live up to a cake consistency. The flavor is amazing. My family doesn't usually like pumpkin flavored things, we're more sweet potato people, but these cupcakes definitely make me rethink that. They're delicious!
We started eating them without frosting because I made them late night, and the universal feeling was that they don't really need frosting at all because they are so delicious naked.
These cupcakes are a perfect way to welcome in fall and pumpkin season, and a cinch to make! I had all the ingredients already at home except for the canned pumpkin. I halved the recipe and still got 18+ cupcakes! For whatever reason Martha's recipes always turn out way more than the predicted amount. Overall this recipe was fantastic, and I will definitely be making it again!

Broken Computer

So guys, my computer screen has been out of commission, and after an hour long stay at the apple store, they took it in to get it fixed. Interestingly, the screen started to work as I was trying to back up my time machine in the store! AH! Now I'm waiting to pick it up. It's 9:52 and they dont open until 10:00 so I figured Id just give you the heads up that new posts are coming! The first one will be Martha Stewart's pumpkin patch cupcakes! Theyre the latest recipe for the MS Cupcake Club. I have been cooking in the meantime, just unable to post online! Worst part is, all of that, and they can't find anything wrong with it. Just my luck. I guess its better than needing to keep it for weeks to fix it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

DC: Pho:n Food!

I love Pho (pronounced fuh), especially on a cold winter day, or when I think I might be coming down with something. The savory hot broth and added extra spice clears sinuses and satiates an empty stomach. This is why I was really excited to see that Jaden (food blog celebrity of Steamy Kitchen) was hosting Daring Cooks and chose Pho for our challenge. We are using her shorthand version, but an extended version can be found on her site here, and in her new Cookbook, due out this month!

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

If you're not familiar with Pho, here's what wikipedia has to say:"
Phở (Vietnamese pronunciation: [fə̃ː] (Speaker Icon.svg listen); in English, written pho and typically pronounced /ˈfʌ/[1]) is a Vietnamesebeef and noodle soup from North Vietnam.[2] The soup includes noodles made from rice and is often served with basil,lime, bean sprouts and peppers that are added to the soup by the customer."
In other words- Pho is basically a jazzed up noodle soup with a delicious spiced broth and other mix ins that make it customizable to each diner's individual taste.

My experience making the Pho was overall a good one. My main problem came when adding the broth. Somewhere in my freezer is a block of homemade chicken stock. I pulled out what I thought was that stock, went along with the recipe, but was shocked to see shrimp when I began to strain the broth before serving. The block I used was not the chicken broth, but a Thai soup I had made and frozen. Perfect Pho broth tainted with thai soup filled with shrimp, lemongrass, coconut milk, garlic and lime zest. Oh well. Luckily it was probably equal parts thai soup and chicken stock, so it was diluted a bit. I could taste that the broth did not have the clear and pure flavors, but it did not taste bad. The main thing I noticed was that the soup made the broth cloudy and not crystal clear like a good pho is. Overall it is delicious, but not as delicious as my local Pho joint, so I think for now I'll continue to hit up there for my Pho cravings!

On to the goods: the recipe!

Pho Ga


• Frying pan
• Large stockpot
• Tongs
• Strainer, sieve or colander
• Bowls for serving

Preparation Time: 45 cooking time + 15 minutes to cook noodles based on package directions

Servings: Makes 4 servings


For the Chicken Pho Broth:
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
½ onion
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce

1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)

The Spices:


2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice


  1. To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.
  2. In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
  4. Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
  5. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
  6. Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
  7. Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
  8. Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.

Extended Pho Ga recipe: http://steamykitchen.com/139-vietnamese-chicken-noodle-soup-pho-ga.html