There is a sad fact about macarons- and I’m sure you’ve already figured it out. Sometimes these cute, delightful, little suckers just don’t come out right. You scratch your head and wonder, “What in the heck did I do wrong?” Well, you are not alone. Even though I have made thousands of them, Lord knows, I have a bad macaron day every now and then. As a result I’m constantly searching out new ideas and ways to master these little gems. I recently spent a good part of a day playing with different techniques and recipes and played around by adding in some dried egg white powder. I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome- they came out delightfully chewy and had the perfect texture. Now that I live in Arizona and the climate is dry I am playing around with different (French method technique) recipes as the humidity here is not as much a factor, although it is still monsoon season here so lately the humidity has been high. Adding in some dried egg white powder can help with humid weather conditions.
I highly recommend the book “Les Petit Macrons” which includes several recipe methods for macarons that includes great photos and trouble shooting tips as well. Plan ahead and make the lavender ganache the day before if you have time, as you will need the extra time to allow the lavender to steep to develop flavor.
recipe adapted from “Les Petits Macarons” by Kathryn Gordon & Anne McBride
165 g ( 1 1/4 C) almond flour
165 g (3/4 C) confectioners sugar
1 tsp dried culinary (food safe) lavender
115 g (1/2 C) egg whites (from about 4 egg whites)
150 g (3/4 C) granulated sugar
1 Tbsp (5 g) powdered egg white
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
purple gel food coloring
1. In a food processor bowl place the almond flour, confectioners sugar and dried lavender, and pulse about 4-5 times to combine. Sift through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl and set aside. Note; you can pick out any pieces of the lavender left in the strainer and add back into the almond four mixture. Prepare a sheet pan with either parchment paper or a Silpat. I prefer parchment. Note- try to pick very flat and not warped pans. If your pans appear a little warped sometimes lining with both Silpat on the bottom and then laying parchment paper on top can help.
2. In a stand mixer bowl place the powdered egg whites and granulated sugar and whisk with a hand whisk. Add in the egg whites and cream of tartar and whisk again. Fit the mixer with whisk attachment and mix on medium speed for about 10-11 minutes until a stiff peak stage. Stop the mixer when the white are about 90 % mixed and add in the gel food coloring and continue to mix gently until desired color. Note: to test if whites are at the correct stage- you can turn the bowl upside down and check; if the meringue does not shift or slide in the bowl then they are perfect!
3. Using a spatula quickly add the whites to the almond flour mixture and fold until mixture falls off in sheets, when the spatula is lifted. To test a shell- place a small amount in a piping bag fitted with a round 1/2 inch circular tip and pipe out a round onto the parchment paper. If a peak forms but does not collapse after a minute or so, then the batter is too thick. Squeeze the batter back into the bowl (do not mix batter) but rather refill the piping bag and repipe the shells. Pipe about 1 inch size shells leaving an inch and a half in between each shell to allow for spreading. Lift the pan about 6 inches off the counter and let the pan slam onto the counter about 4 times to remove any trapped air bubbles. Set the pans on a flat surface and allow to sit for 30 minutes or until the top of the shells are no longer tacky when touched.
4. Preheat the oven to 300° F and bake for about 17-18 minutes turning pan hallway through front to back until shells appear firm at the foot if wiggled. Allow to cool completely over a wire rack. When cooled lift off carefully and pipe with ganache filling.
Lavender White Chocolate Ganache
1/2 Cup heavy cream
1 heaping tsp. dried (culinary) lavender
10 oz. good quality white chocolate (NOT white chocolate chips), chopped fine
Heat the heavy cream to just a boil and place in a small bowl with the lavender and let it steep for several hours (5-8 hours is ideal) stored in the refrigerator. Place the chopped chocolate in a food processor bowl fitted with the metal blade and pulse to chop the chocolate fine. Reheat the cream to a boil and strain out and discard the lavender. Add the hot cream to the chocolate in the food processor and allow to sit for one minute, then turn on the processor and mix until combined and smooth. Store in bowl in the refrigerator until firm. Once firm, stir vigorously until smooth and place in a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe filling between two macarons to sandwich.
Cheesecake. Decadent, chocolaty with a burst of sweet cherries in every bite. Even the person who normally would shy away from eating dessert will usually go for a mini cheesecake as they are not much of a diet breaker being so small. They are literally like 4 bites of sweet nirvana. My child-who is not really much of a dessert person, devoured them. To be precise-imagine him taking one bite and then shoving the rest into his mouth. They are that good. You could dress these up even more by serving them with some roasted cherry sauce or ganache topping, but I kept them simple and topped with whipped cream and a fresh cherry.
Chocolate & Dark Sweet Cherry Cheesecake
yield: 12 mini cheesecakes
Cooked Sweet Cherries
Pitted fresh dark sweet cherries (cut into quarters to equal 1 1/2 Cups)
1 T water
1 T sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. water
In a small saucepan place the cut cherries, sugar, and 1 tablespoon of water. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until become softened. In a small bowl make a slurry by mixing the cornstarch with 2 teaspoons of water. Add to the cherries and continue to cook while constantly stirring for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat, place in a small bowl and set aside while you make the crust and cheesecake batter.
3/4 Cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs 3 T melted butter In a bowl mix together the crumbs with the melted butter.
Chocolate Cheesecake Batter
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 Cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 T Kirsch liqueur (optional)
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey’s)
1/2 Cup semi sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1. Prepare a mini cheesecake pan by rubbing the bottom and sides of each well with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Note: I’ve tried both spraying with non stick spray, and this preparation, and this works better. Firmly press a heaping tablespoon of the chocolate crumb mixture (recipe above) into the bottom of each well. If you don’t have a mini cheesecake pan, you can use a muffin pan and line each well with a foil type of cupcake liner.
2. Preheat oven to 325° F. In the bowl of a stand mixer place the softened cream cheese and sugar and cream on low speed until combined (I mix the entire batter on low speed to ensure no extra bubbles form). Add the vanilla, optional Kirsch, and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the cocoa powder and mix to combine. Add the melted chocolate and mix to combine. Fold in the cherries- you will see some red marbling at first but it will come together okay.
3. Fill each well to the top with batter-(takes about 1/4 cup) note you might have about 1/4 Cup batter left over depending on the size of your cheesecake wells. Place the cheesecake pan on a sheet pan and bake in preheated 325° oven for about 30 minutes, stopping after 15 minutes to turn the pan from front to back to ensure even heating. Note: the cheesecakes will rise quite a bit and appear to separate into a “cap” like appearance but don’t worry-they will shrink back down level once cooled. Allow cheesecakes to cool over a wire rack, then move to the refrigerator to chill completely. Top with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with a cherry.
Who doesn’t like coffee. Yes, there are those who don’t. What is wrong with you people? Seriously. Please. Maybe I’m joking. Maybe not…To each his own. Coffee with cream, first thing in the morning- that first sip is like nirvana to me. I stumble over anything in my way, to make it to the coffee pot. I live for coffee. Right now in Arizona we are experiencing monsoon season and it’s a bit more humid than normal. You can’t really use that phrase- “It’s a DRY heat” right now, but that just means I have to find other ways to come up with treats without using the oven. Enter stage left- panna cotta. It’s the perfect summer dessert because it requires only turning on the burner for a few minutes. It’s cool, it’s creamy, and hits the spot.
yield: 6-8 servings depending on size of ramekins
1 package (1/4 oz.) unflavored gelatin (such as Knox)
2 Tbsp. cool water
2 Cups heavy cream
1 Cup whole milk
3/4 Cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (1 tsp. vanilla may be substituted also)
2 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
For Serving: chocolate sauce (recipe below) and purchased chocolate covered coffee beans (optional)
1. In a small custard cup or microwave safe bowl place 2 Tbsp. cool water and sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let sit about 5 minutes to bloom. Place 4.5 oz. – 6 oz. clean ramekins on a sheet pan or in a shallow pan that will fit in your fridge level.
Tip: If you don’t have or don’t want to purchase ramekins- save your (small) shallow yogurt containers and wash out and use in place of ramekins.
2. In a small saucepan place the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla bean paste, and espresso powder and whisk to combine. Heat GENTLY over medium heat until very hot but not boiling, whisking frequently. While mixture is heating microwave the gelatin mixture for about 10 seconds until liquid. Once cream mixture is hot (but not boiling) stir in the liquid gelatin mixture and whisk to combine. Pour mixture into each ramekin and place in fridge for several hours or overnight to firm up. Serve cold or cool panna cotta with warm chocolate sauce and chocolate espresso beans.
To turn out panna cotta’s: Fill a shallow pan or bowl with 1 inch of boiling water. Run a sharp thin knife around the edge of each panna cotta to loosen, then set each ramekin in the bowl of hot water for about 10 seconds. Place a small serving plate on top of each ramekin and flip over to unmold. Spoon a bit of warm chocolate sauce around the panna cotta and sprinkle with 2-3 chocolate covered espresso beans.
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (about scant 3/4 Cup)
1/4 Cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
In a heat proof bowl (such as pyrex) place the chocolate. In a glass measuring cup place the cream, butter, and corn syrup and heat on high in microwave for about 1 minute until mixture is very hot- stopping half way to stir. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute then stir until smooth. If necessary you can return the bowl to the microwave and heat in 10 second intervals until mixture is smooth, stirring as you go along.
You know I love a good cocktail. It’s Summer and it’s time for a great fruity drink that calls for sipping on the porch or by the pool. Summer is the best time to explore new drinks as the fruit is ripe and plentiful. If you are lucky enough to have a strawberry plant then you can pluck off a little white or pink flower from the plant and use as a garnish, or simply garnish with a ripe strawberry placed on the rim of the glass.
Strawberry Cassis Martini
yield: 2 servings
4 fresh strawberries, (preferably large size) washed and dried
4-6 ice cubes
4 oz. quality vodka
2 tsp. crème de cassis liquer
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. sugar (preferably superfine sugar)
Prepare 2 martini glasses or other decorative glasses by chilling in the fridge. Muddle 2 strawberries in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add in the ice, vodka, crème de cassis, lime juice and sugar. Shake vigorously about 10-12 times. Prepare the rim of the glasses by rubbing with lime juice around the rim and dip each one into sugar. Strain and divide the contents into the two chilled glasses. Garnish each glass with a fresh strawberry on the rim by making a small slit into the berry with a sharp knife.
Happy Independence Day
Raspberry Lemonade Bars
yield: (about 30-32 bars-depending on the size cut)
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 Cup sugar
2 Cups flour
pinch of salt
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk the flour and salt together, then add to butter/sugar and beat until combined. Prepare a 9×13 inch pan lined with parchment paper with a 2 inch overhang. Press the crust into the bottom of the pan and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350° F and bake for 15-20 minutes until very lightly browned. Place the pan on a wire rack while you make the filling.
2 1/2 Cups sugar
zest of 3 lemons
1/2 Cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup seedless raspberry puree (press fresh or thawed frozen raspberries through a fine sieve).
6 large eggs
1 Cup flour
red and/or burgundy gel paste food color (optional)
Confectioners sugar for serving
1. In a food processor pulse the sugar and lemon zest together several times; about 8-10. Add the lemon juice, raspberry puree, and eggs and combine until smooth. Add in the flour and pulse to combine. The filling is not quite the color that I liked- so I added a few drops of red and burgundy gel paste food coloring.
2. Pour the filling onto the crust and bake in a preheated 350° F oven for about 30 minutes until set; when you jiggle the pan the center should not look loose. Let pan cool over a wire rack. Refrigerate the pan of bars until well chilled before cutting into bars. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar before serving.
There is something about eating a juicy ripe peach hunched over the sink. I am talkin’ about a really ripe peach, the kind that you NEED to eat over the sink because the juice is dripping down your hand and arm. When you get a good one, you feel like it’s finally Summer. If you can score some peaches picked at the peak of their flavor burst then treat yourself and your family and make a beautiful pie.
1 Recipe Fearless Pie Crust or your favorite pie crust recipe
9-10 medium size fresh ripe peaches (about 2 1/2 lbs), peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch wedges
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 Cup flour
3/4 Cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling top of pie
1/4 Cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
For assembling pie:
egg white, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1. Make the pie dough and allow to chill for at least 30 minute before attempting to roll out. Roll out dough and line a 9 inch pie plate. Brush the bottom and sides with beaten egg white and return to chill in fridge for another 30 minutes (the chill ensures that the crust does not shrink, and the egg white ensures that the bottom does not become soggy). While the dough is chilling make the filling.
2. Make filling: In a large mixing bowl combine the peach slices with the lemon juice and vanilla. In a separate bowl combine flour, sugars, spices and salt with a fork. Pour the flour mixture over the peach slices and toss gently to coat.
3. Pour the filling into the chilled and prepared crust. Note: If you choose to make muffin size individual pies it is best to cut the peaches into a coarse chop instead of slices. Dot the filling with little pieces of the butter, then cover with either “groovy” flower cut outs as I have done here, or top with crust and crimp and decorate as desired. If using a top crust, make sure to pierce the top with some slits to allow steam. Brush top of cut outs (and/or top crust) with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a preheated 425° F oven for 10 minutes, then decrease to 375° F and continue to bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown and center is not loose. Cover edge of pie with either a pie shield or tin foil as necessary to prevent crust from burning.
4. Note: if you want to make muffin size mini pies; bake at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes. To prepare muffin size pies: spray muffin tin with baking spray and line and fill as above.
I always buy more plums than I think we’ll eat. I really like dark plums when they are almost too ripe as the insides turn a beautiful purple color. If you realize you’ve been a little over zealous in buying plums, this is a great way to use them up and turn them into a side dish for dinner. Try to find the type of plums where the stone comes out clean as they are easier to remove the pits. I was not as lucky- so I had to cut out the pits, either way they are still delicious. They are great along side grilled pork chops or roasted chicken.
Vanilla & Chinese Five Spice Roasted Plums
8 fresh ripe plums (mixture of red and black)
3 Tbsp. pomegranate juice or cranberry juice
3 Tbsp. clover honey
1 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
1 tsp. vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Cut each plum in half and remove pits, place cut side up in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle plums with the spice. Mix together the juice, honey and vanilla and pour over plums. Toss plums to coat evenly. Bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes until soft. Serve warm or chilled as a side dish with chicken or pork or simply as a snack. Store plums along with juice in an airtight container in the fridge.