Monday, March 21, 2011

Black Pepper and Strawberry Macs

The MacTweets theme for this month was a spice and a fruit. Weird, but so many delicious combinations! At first I though of the obvious, like apple/cinnamon (yummy!), pumpkin pie (yummier!), and even thought of a lime/cilantro one but besides cilantro not being a spice I really just didn't want to go there! I decided on Black Pepper and Strawberry, which were super delicious! My favorite gelato flavor is an olive oil and black pepper. It is incredibly creamy with just a little bit of a fruity black pepper bite and I DREAM about it it's so delicious! I was hoping for the same effect with the macs. They were good, but next time I will change some things around. Also I decided to give the Italian Meringue version another try. It was better than the first few tries, but I can't quite seem to keep them from being hollow in the middles. Delicious nonetheless, of course! To punch up the strawberry flavor, I ground dehydrated strawberries in a coffee grinder along with the black pepper and filled them with a strawberry jam because I just wasn't sure how a buttercream would work with it. Next time I'll definitely try a mousseline type filling, though.

Here's the recipe that I used with the instructions on Not So Humble Pie's site:

150g confectioners sugar
150g almond meal
185g granulated sugar for syrup (plus one tablespoon for the meringue)
120g egg whites (divided)
50g water
1 tsp black pepper, finely ground
2 TB ground dehydrated strawberries

If you give it a try, let me know what you think!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mactweets Challenge!

I've been lurking the Mactweets page for a while now but finally got the nerve (and the time!) to participate! Hopefully this will be the first of many posts. This month's challenge Mactweets Mac Attack is, what else, but Valentine's Day themed! This worked out well because a sweet friend of mine, who is the best party thrower in the history of party throwers, co-hosted a Valentine's Day themed bridal shower and asked me to make pink and red macarons for the event. I decided on strawberry buttercream filled pink macarons and chocolate ganache with raspberry center AND raspberry jam with rose buttercream filled red macarons. Way too much cuteness in one place!

I recently started using a new recipe for macarons and it has worked out much better for me than the previous one. No more hollow shells! I tweaked this one from Sucre' in New Orleans (which will be in another post, one of many many many that I am behind on). The main problem that I was having with macarons was in the baking. If I baked them on a Silpat they came out hollow. If I baked them on parchment they were misshapen (which I've now found out that you can spray the pan with cooking spray then place the parchment on top of it to hold it down OR space the macarons closer together to weigh the paper down) ANYWAY, I found these babies and LOVE them! They're the perfect balance between Silpats and parchment. You can also cut them to size for your baking sheets. I use these on half sheet baking pans that I double up for insulation.

Ok, so here is the recipe:

100g caster sugar
100g egg whites (I age mine for 5 days in the fridge, covered with a paper towel)
125g powdered sugar
125g ground almonds
25g caster sugar (If it's humid outside I add 5g powdered egg whites to this)

Put caster sugar, almonds and powdered sugar in food processor and process until very fine. Sieve mixture through fine strainer to get any lumps out. Now whisk the egg white together with the second part of sugar at middle speed. Gradually whisk the egg white mixture to become very stiff (add color now if applicable). Fold the sugar/almond mix into meringue. I used to fold it into the meringue in thirds but now I dump the meringue into the sugar/almond mixture and fold and it works just as well. Now pipe the batter onto your parchment in 1.5 inch rounds, give it a good rap on the counter to get air bubbles out, then let sit for a good hour or so until it is not tacky to the touch. Preheat oven to 320. When macarons are ready, bake for 5 minutes, then briefly open the oven door to let some of the steam out, then continue baking for another 8-10 minutes. Let cool on pan, then fill.

For these beauties, I spread seedless red raspberry jam on one side and piped rose flavored Italian meringue buttercream on the other side. Then I smashed them together and let them hang out to become BFFs for a few days. I think they're in love. 

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

King Cakes!

It's that time of year again! We're still not sure if we're going home to New Orleans for Mardi Gras or not this year but either way I have been busy busy making King Cakes! I still have not perfected a really good King Cake icing. Most that I've tried have a raw powdered sugar taste to them and I'm convinced that the real deal has a little butter in it so if anyone has a good recipe please let me know! I also love the crunch of biting into granulated sugar, it's what a King Cake should taste like!

**I'll upload pictures soon

Freezes Well            Preparation time- 5 ½ hours   Makes two 9 X 12 inch cakes

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter  
2/3 cup 99% fat free skim evaporated milk
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 packages dry yeast (Fleishmann's is best and make sure to check the date of expiration)
1\3 cup warm water
4 eggs
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons grated orange rind
5 cups flour
1 cup flour, set aside for kneading and rolling

In a saucepan, melt 1 stick butter, milk, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt. Cool to lukewarm.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 tablespoons sugar, yeast, and water. Let stand until foaming, about 5-10 minutes.  Beat eggs into yeast; then milk mixture and rinds. Stir in flour, ½ cup at a time, reserving 1 cup to flour kneading surface.
Knead dough until smooth, about 5-10 minutes. Place in large mixing bowl greased with 1 tablespoon butter; turning dough once to grease top; cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 stick butter, melted

1 egg, beaten
1 cup sugar, colored (1/3 cup each of yellow, purple and green)
2 plastic babies (3/4 inch) or 2 lucky beans (dried fava)
For filling, mix sugars and cinnamon. Set aside.
For topping, tint sugar by mixing food coloring until desired color is reached (for purple use equal amounts of blue and red food coloring). A food processor aids in mixing and keeps the sugar from being too moist.

When dough has doubled, punch down and divide in half. On a floured surface, roll half into a rectangle 30 X 15. Brush with half of melted butter and cut into 3 lengthwise strips. Sprinkle half of sugar mixture on strips, leaving a 1 inch lengthwise strip free for sealing. Fold each strip lengthwise toward the center, sealing the seam. You will now have 3-30 inch strips with sugar mixture enclosed in each. Braid the 3 strips and make a circle by joining the ends. Repeat with other half of dough.

Place each cake on a 10 X 15 baking sheet, cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled, about 1 hr.  (Alternatively, instead of cutting and braiding the dough you can sprinkle the mixture on top of your rolled dough, then roll it up like a giant cinnamon roll and form it into an oval shape but personally, I think it's prettier braided.)

Brush each with egg and sprinkle the top with colored sugars, alternating colors.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 20 minutes.
Remove from pan immediately so sugar will not harden. While still warm, place 1 plastic baby in each from underneath.
*To freeze: Wrap cooled cake tightly in plastic. Before serving, remove plastic and thaw.