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Macarons

Strike one off the bucket list: French Macarons

 

 

 

Updated May 2016.

Do you have a cooking bucket list? I’ve had an informal (read: in my head) bucket list for quite some time; on it you’ll find duck, szalonczukor (a Hungarian fondant candy), spun sugar, puff pastry, phyllo pastry and last but not least, French Macarons! This post is about Macarons.

I was first introduced to these French Macarons a few years ago, a friend had brought a few back for me from Ladurée in Paris. My first bite experience was INCREDIBLE: crunchy, airy, lightly sweet, slightly chewy, fragrant, creamy, buttery. It was an awakening! It’s what you Aussie’s would call moreish and I would even go further to say needish, wantish, must-haveish!

The flavour combinations are limitless and I’ve even seen some savoury versions floating about the web-o-sphere (I must admit, a savoury version makes me cringe a bit). Today, I will share with you my second attempt recipe even though my first version turned out wonderfully, they were rather irregular in size and therefore not blog worthy. I used a Martha Stewart recipe for the meringue bit and a standard custard-based butter cream for the filling. The flavours I chose were: attempt 1 was lemon, attempt 2 were ice wine and pomegranate, chocolate and hazelnut. All were really delicious but my favourite was the lemon.

I will begin by saying that making Macarons are not as difficult as you might think; you need patience, a little know how and perseverance. The ingredients are simple and few. It makes me wonder why they charge so much for them, it must be the pomp and circumstance because it isn’t the cost of ingredients!

This blog post is an excellent reference; the professional baker did all the time-consuming comparisons and experimentation and documented it. My advice: Go with confidence and you WILL rock the recipe.

Bucket List

Macarons

Original Martha Stewart recipe can be found here.

Ingredients for basic Macaron:

  • 35 g blanched almond meal or flour
  • 58 g icing sugar
  • 1 large egg white, room temperature
  • 25 g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp gel food colouring (I used Christmas red)

Ingredients for Favoured Macarons:

  • 35 g blanched almond meal or flour
  • 53 g icing sugar
  • 5 g flavour such as unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted) or espresso powder
  • 1 large egg white, room temperature
  • 25 g granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (177° C). Place the rack in lower part of the oven.
  2. Prepare your macaron template using your computer to draw 2.5 cm or 1″ circles about 2.5cm or 1″ apart. Print two sheets. Put the two sheets under your UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner to use as your circle templates.

    MacaronTemplate

    This is the circle template under the UNSTICK liner.

  3. In a coffee grinder, grind the almond flour in batches to a fine consistency (being careful not to make paste (marzipan) out of it). Omit if you can purchase extra finely ground almond flour.
  4. Transfer ground almonds to a food processor and add the icing sugar; process until combined, about 1 minute.
  5. Press the almond/sugar mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the larger bits. You should have no more than 1 tbsp left, if you do, grind in coffee grinder again and press through fine sieve until you have no more than 1 tbsp left (save larger almond bits for something else).
  6. Whisk egg whites and granulated sugar by hand to combine. Then beat on medium speed (#4 on a KitchenAid) for about 2 minutes, then increase speed to medium-high (#6) and beat 2 additional minutes. Then beat on high (#8) for 2 minutes more. The beaten egg whites will hold very stiff, glossy peaks when you lift the whisk out of the bowl. DO NOT OVER WHIP.
  7. Add your choice of flavourings and food colourings and beat on the highest speed for about 1 minute. Just a drop if using flavouring or colour.
  8. Then add dry ingredients ALL at ONCE (yes, I know many recipes say to fold in gingerly, but you really don’t have to), then fold with a spatula from bottom of bowl upward and end by pressing the flat side of the spatula firmly through centre of mixture. Repeat this process until all of the almond/sugar mixture has been incorporated and the ‘batter’ flows like lava (I counted about 35 complete strokes).
  9. Prepare you pastry bag fitted with a 1 cm or 3/8″ round tip. Transfer the batter to the pastry bag.
  10. Begin piping the batter onto the prepared UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner directly over the circles you’ve previously prepared. I found starting at the outer edge and piping into the centre to the easiest way to keep the Macarons uniform, repeat until you’ve used up your batter. Martha suggests you pipe about 1 cm or 1/2″ above the pan, whatever you do, you must be consistent to keep the batter even (so your circles are all the same size). Gently slide out the template paper from beneath the UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner.
  11. Allow the pan to rest for 15 minutes, by doing this you give the peaks time to even out so your Macarons are beautiful and flat on top. Some suggest that you gently bang the pan a few time to remove air bubbles, I found I didn’t have many bubbles.
  12. Bake each sheet separately for 13 minutes, rotating halfway through if your oven doesn’t bake evenly. Gently slide the liner off the baking sheet and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. The UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner allows you to  pry off each macaron half easily onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. You may freeze the Macaron halves at this point in a well sealed, air-tight container.
  13. Prepare your butter cream.
MacaronFlavours

Great flavours to make macarons with.

Basic Butter Cream Recipe:

Ingredients:

    • 3 egg yolks
    • 35 g granulated sugar
    • 3 1/2 tablespoons milk
    • 105 g unsalted butter, softened
    • 62 g icing sugar

Ingredients for Ice Wine and Pomegranate Butter Cream:

    • 5 g ice wine syrup
    • 1 g pomegranate molasses
    • 2 drops generic red icing colour

Ingredients for Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Cream:

    • 2 tbsp Nutella or hazelnut chocolate spread

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the egg yolks, milk and granulated sugar and whisk. Cook over medium heat until the egg thickens to coat the back of a spoon (like pudding). Remove from heat and allow to cool COMPLETELY.
  2. When cool, beat the butter with the icing sugar until light and fluffy and add the cooked egg mixture and beat on high until very fluffy.
  3. To make two flavours, divide the buttercream in half (roughly) and to each half add the flavourings.
  4. Pair each Macaron half to a half that is more or less is the same size and shape, set aside.
  5. Onto one-half of each Macaron pair, pipe the buttercream but not to the edge. Take the other half and gently squeeze the to side together so the buttercream squishes almost to the edge. Set aside. When you have filled all the halves, set on a clean baking sheet and refrigerate until buttercream is set. Store in an air-tight container on their sides until ready to serve. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

A few notes:

    • I prefer weight measures over volume because it’s more accurate.
    • I ground my almonds in a coffee grinder because it results in a finer grind and apparently the grind is very important. Update May 2016: a fine grind almond meal is now available at my Bulk Barn so I no longer require to grind it in the coffee grinder.
    • I used Wilton’s paste food colouring for the ice wine Macaron cookies.
    • I ruined a batch using the convection setting in my oven; they didn’t spread nor did they rise or develop feet.
    • Over the years, I have made quite a few batches of these treats (the latest May 2016 was 146 macarons for our anniversary party). Two observations: Do not over beat the egg whites or they will not form feat and they will crack. Also, I found that they will crack if you do not fold the almond meal into the egg whites enough, the batter really needs to behave like lava, a slow moving thick batter.
    • Update May 5, 2016: I have also used this recipe from the very lovely Lorraine over at Not Quite Nigella and it is excellent. Her recipe makes 461 g of buttercream and by my estimation, each macaron takes about 14 g of buttercream (or if you make small macarons, only about 7 g of buttercream).
Macarons_2

Tender, delicious, delicate cookies

Macarons_4

Betcha can’t eat just one!

Macarons_1

Yes, I did get carried away with the photos!

FirstMacarons_2

For my first attempt, I didn’t grind the almonds quite fine enough and that’s why the macaron is not smooth.

FirstMacarons_1

This is my first attempt, it’s lemon flavoured.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Lapis_4266

I still have to work on getting my layers more even.

I knew when I made this cake before that I wanted to try it again with different flavours. I made this version for a dinner we had for our nephew Brian some weeks back. Hazelnut and chocolate are a great combo, think Nutella and I figured it would make a wonderful layer cake!

Chocolate Hazelnut Lapis_4264

I actually got 16 layers out of the batter because I used less per layer.

Hazelnut and Chocolate Spekkoek Lapis Legit with Chocolate Ganache Topping (Thousand-Layer Spice Cake)

Serves 4-6 depending on how thick you slice it

Ingredients:

  • 170 g (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut butter
  • 1 tsp hazelnut essence
  • 1/4 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp hazelnut butter
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat the broiler (I have this range with two ovens, this time I used the smaller oven and it still took 2 minutes per layer and did not burn).
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of a 4″ x 6.7″ loaf pan and line with buttered parchment paper. I left enough of the parchment to go past the top of the pan, so I could use it to lift the cake out when it was done.
  3. Weigh your empty bowl, write down the measurement. In this bowl, cream the softened butter, 1/4 cup of sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the egg yolks one at a time and beat until smooth. Fold the flour into the batter with a rubber spatula.
  4. In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff and shiny but not dry. With about 1/3 of the beaten whites, loosen the batter by mixing it in with a wooden spoon. Fold the remaining whites into the loosened batter, being careful not to over-mix.
  5. Weigh your bowl with the cake batter. Subtract this new weight from the old weight so you know how much your batter weighs and divide this weight in half. Put a second bowl on a scale that can tare and zero it out. Pour half the batter into this bowl (you can see exactly when you reach half on the scale).
  6. Into one half of the batter, gently fold in the 1/4 cup hazelnut butter and the essence. Into the other batter, gently fold in the 1/4 cup sifted cocoa powder.
  7. Pre-heat the pan (this makes the batter easier to spread out). Pour 2 tablespoons of the hazelnut batter into the bottom of the pan and spread out evenly.
  8. Bake in a hot broiler for 2 minutes. Watch carefully. Mine is exactly two minutes.
  9. Pour 3 tablespoons of the chocolate batter, spreading it over the first layer to form a thin second layer. Place the pan under the preheated broiler for 2 minutes, or until the layer is firm. Continue until you have exhausted both batters. Emeril noted that the cake typically has between 12 and 15 layers — I ended up with 16, not bad for a second timer!
  10. Allow the cake cool on a wire rack, turn out onto a cutting board and even up the sides by cutting clean new edges.
  11. To make the ganache, heat 1/4 cup of whipping cream until it almost boils. Pour over the chocolate chips and stir until melted. Allow to almost cool and pour over the cooled cake (you can allow it to drip down the sides, I didn’t want to).
  12. To make the hazelnut whipped cream, beat 1/4 cup of whipping cream until stiff, add 1 tbsp hazelnut butter and whip until entirely incorporated and smooth.
  13. Slice thinly and serve at room temperature with a dollop of the hazelnut whipped cream.
Chocolate Hazelnut Lapis_4271

A nice delicate hazelnut flavour in the whipped cream balances the chocolate ganache on the cake.

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As you know during our cooking class in Lyon with Chef Villard, we made a wonderful meal and Chef was kind enough to provide the recipes for the dishes we made together in his kitchen. The next few postings will reflect the dishes that we made as we recreated the meal for our good friends Barb and Kevin (Profiteroles and Ponytails).

Of course, I was not able to obtain some of the ingredients, so I had to improvise, but all in all, it turned out very well and I really enjoyed it (I hope our guests did too!)

The Improvised Menu:

Escargot en chou
• Pumpkin velouté scented with vanilla with EVOO sautéed wild mushrooms and seared scallops with hazelnut oil drizzle •
• Halibut wrapped in Prosciutto with a black olive beef stock sauce, new potatoes sautéed in EVOO and snap peas with arugula (rocket) pesto •
• Pear and milk chocolate clafoutis with home made caramel sauce •

I’m starting off with the pumpkin velouté because I’ve already posted about our starter, so please feel free to click on the link. Of course, hosting a dinner party with a complex menu and taking photos for the blog don’t actually go well together so instead of delaying dinner for our lovely guests, I served this soup again the next night when my nephew Brian was over for a much more casual dinner and was able to easily snap a pic without inconvenience.

Chef and I in the garden

Pumpkin Velouté wth Sautéed Wild Mushrooms, Seared Scallop and hazelnut oil

Chef Villard’s Pumpkin velouté scented with vanilla with EVOO sautéed trumpet mushrooms and seared scallops with hazelnut oil drizzle. OMG, this was amazing!

Now, as usual I have made the recipe a little healthier and did not use the called for cream, but if you wish to make it yourself, please go ahead and indulge. I will also caveat that I made some preparation changes to the way Chef Villard made his soup; I oven roasted the pumpkin because all I was able to get was pie pumpkins and they tend not to be as sweet as the pumpkin that Chef Villard used, so I felt roasting would coax the sugars out of it more than just boiling. As well, our mushrooms were just ordinary wild mushrooms and not the intended trumpet mushrooms which are delicately earthy so I sautéed my wild mushrooms in butter to try to temper the strong earthiness of the wild ones! And last but not least, I roasted an entire head of garlic and added that to the soup because I like roasted garlic better than just cooked garlic. Otherwise, it’s exactly the same 😉

Pumpkin Velouté with Sautéed Wild Mushrooms and Scallops with Hazelnut Oil

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 600 g pumpkin (butternut squash would also work very well in this recipe
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 600 mL chicken stock (home made or low sodium if store bought)
  • 1/2 of a vanilla bean pod
  • 150 mL Carnation Light Evaporated Milk (or heavy cream)
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 12 Scallops
  • 200 g wild mushrooms (or trumpet mushrooms)
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed flat (not small pieces, you want it whole enough to extract before serving).
  • 1 tbsp hazelnut oil

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175° C or 350° F
  2. Peel and chop the pumpkin to 2-3 cm (1 inch) cubes, drizzle with olive oil and bake until fork tender.
  3. Peel off all of the skin from the garlic so only the individual cloves have their skin on. Put in a small ramekin and add about 3 tbsp EVOO and sea salt and bake until fork tender.
  4. In a large soup pot, add 2 tbsp EVOO and sweat out the onions until tender. Add the chicken stock and vanilla pod and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds and add it back to the pot.
  5. Add the roasted garlic and pumpkin and cook for about 6 minutes. Blend until very smooth with an immersion blender and press through a fine sieve. Set aside.
  6. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the mushrooms and garlic clove and sautée until the mushrooms are tender. Set aside.
  7. Heat a frying pan up so and add a splash of olive oil. Dry off the scallops and fry each side until golden.
  8. Process the soup one more time with the immersion blender to aerate it.
  9. Plating: using either a large rimmed soup bowl or a small soup cup, add equal portions to the centre of each bowl. Spoon the soup around the mushrooms, garnish with scallop(s) and hazelnut oil.
  10. Enjoy.

Chef’s Notes:

Chef Villard was kind enough to pass along his experience and give us a few restaurant hints, that I would love to share with you:

  • Process creamed soups again just before serving to aerate it, Chef Villard mentioned that this makes the soup extra light.
  • When cooking any type of protein, it’s important to make sure that the thickness is even thoughout otherwise the thin bits will over cook while you finish cooking the thicker bits. So if you have a piece of fish with a thin tail end, fold it back over the next thickest part to even out the entire fishes thickness. Wrapping with prosciutto helps hold it together.

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It’s been blazing hot in Toronto, as I am sure most of my dear readers are experiencing in the northern hemisphere. For our dinner party last week, I decided to make the Armenian Nutmeg Cake (OK, I didn’t make another cake, I simply defrosted the cake I made about a month ago) and I wanted to serve it warm with a cold scoop of hazelnut frozen yogurt. I chose hazelnut because I adore the flavour (no, JT didn’t even save me a bite of the frozen yogurt) and I wanted something nutty to go with the nutmeg cake. I also made a very easy caramel sauce (just used ordinary milk instead of cream, which still worked out but wasn’t as creamy). Now this recipe is not entirely fat-free because hazelnuts contain fat, but it’s about balance, I saved the fat with using fat free Greek Yogurt so I didn’t mind adding the ground hazelnuts. You could leave the ground hazelnuts out entirely opting to use just the extract but then you will need to balance with a bit more sugar, as roasted hazelnuts have a bit of sweetness to them.

All in all the recipe worked out well. The yogurt adds a very nice tanginess to the frozen dessert that I liked. The caramel sauce balanced the tanginess (good call JT). And I adore a contrast of warm and cold; cake: warm, frozen yogurt: cold!

Creamy, nutty, low fat frozen yogurt.

Low Fat Hazelnut Frozen Yogurt

Makes a little more than 500 g of frozen yogurt

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, roasted and peeled (I found this method after I painstakingly peeled mine the old fashioned way!)
  • 2-3 tbsp brown sugar, or to taste
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1-2 tsp hazelnut extract
  • 500 g non-fat Greek yogurt

Directions:

  1. In a coffee grinder reserved for this type of thing (i.e. not coffee) grind the hazelnuts, salt and brown sugar until it becomes a paste (like peanut butter). Mine took about 10 minutes, stopping to allow the machine to cool down every so often.
  2. Whisk the hazelnut extract into the non-fat Greek yogurt, and then whisk in the hazelnut mixture. I found the mixture was a bit lumpy so I took my immersion blender and blended it until I no longer saw any lumps. Doing this will make the yogurt a bit more liquidy, but it still works.
  3. Pour into the chilled ice cream bowl and assemble as per instructions. Turn on and allow the machine to work its magic. Mine took about 20 minutes. Scrape into a freezable container and freeze.
  4. Frozen fat free Greek yogurt doesn’t have enough fat to make it creamy straight out of the freezer, so I had to bring it out to sit on the counter for about 10-20 minutes, depending on how cool your house it. Scoop onto prepared plates and drizzle with the easiest caramel sauce ever.

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