I think everyone knows my obsession now with rose flavored desserts, and pistachio and rose are like BFF’s. Since I had some rose buttercream leftover from my macarons it gave me an idea to come up with a recipe for pistachio and rose cake. I still ended up making buttercream since my leftovers weren’t enough but no bother it was a good excuse to make a layer cake. A word to the wise since pistachios are a bit expensive- make sure you buy them from a purveyor who’s supply is quickly turned over and store them if not using right away in the freezer. I had bought some a while back (even stored them right away in the freezer) but when I thawed them they were rancid. It was from a bulk bin of nuts so I think they sat there a while. Anywho…I digress. This cake turned out to be one of my absolute favorites of all time. It kind of reminds me of the preppy pink and green from the 80’s. Muffy and Biff would be proud. I admit I bumped up the color of the cake with a bit of mint green gel food color just because I found it added that extra pretty preppy punch from being nicely dressed to va va voom.
Pistachio Cake, Rose~Pistachio Buttercream
yield: 8 inch 3 layer cake or ~ 24 cupcakes
3 Tbsp. Confectioners sugar
1 C + 2 Tbsp. unshelled pistachio pieces (I get mine from Trader Joes)
3 Cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. + 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 C sugar
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp
4 1/2 large eggs
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp. whole milk, room temp
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. pure almond extract
mint green gel food coloring (optional)
In a food processor place the confectioners sugar and the pistachios and grind/pulse until finely chopped with some nuts being ground into a coarse powder. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare 3 eight inch cake pans with baking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper and spray lightly again. Note: If you only have 2 pans, you may bake the third one separately after allow the pans to cool.
In a separate bowl place the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir to combine well. Set aside.
Cream the sugar and the butter until soft and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat on medium speed until combined. Note: mixture will look somewhat curdled (don’t worry-mixture will come together). Add in half of the flour mixture on medium speed, stopping to scrape down the mixer bowl as needed. In a glass measuring cup mix the extracts with the milk. With the mixer running, stream in the milk and beat on low speed until combined. Add in the last half of the flour mixture and beat until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl to combine everything well. Add in the ground nut mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until combined. Divide the batter evenly among the 3 pans. Bake in preheated oven for ~ 24 minutes or until the cake has a few moist crumbs when pierced with a wooden skewer, or when pressed lightly the cake springs back. Allow the cakes to cool on a wire rack until cool.
Pistachio Sugar Syrup (optional)
1 Cup water
1 Cup sugar
4 drops Pistachio flavored concentrated essential oil for baking (such as Lorann brand) (found in cake supply stores)
Boil the water and sugar until the sugar dissolves, then allow the mixture to cool for 15 minutes and add in the drops of the pistachio flavored oil.
1/2 Cup shelled unsalted & roasted pistachio nuts
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. pistachio oil (or vegetable oil)
1. Prepare a sheet pan with either a Silpat or by lightly greasing with vegetable oil.
2. Pour the water in a saucepan and then add the sugar. With a clean finger mix the sugar and water until it looks like wet sand. Have a cup of water with a clean pastry brush placed in the cup. Bring the sugar to a boil stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once sugar dissolves-stop stirring. If sugar crystals form along the sides of the pan; use the wet pastry brush to let water drip down to dissolve the crystals. Continue to cook until the mixture comes to a light caramel color. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the nuts. Return to the heat and cook until comes to a medium amber color. Working quickly- pour the nut mixture onto prepared pan and with a heat proof spatula do your best to flatten out nuts. Allow the nuts to cool until they become hard.
3. Once mixture is hard and completely cooled- use your hands to break apart any large clumps. Place the mixture in a food processor and pulse several times to initially break up the mixture. Proceed to process the mixture until it starts to form a thick paste. When the blade no longer seems to move add the oil and continue to process until as smooth as possible. Leftover should be stored in an airtight container in the freezer.
5 egg whites
1 1/2 Cups sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, cool but not cold
2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. pistachio paste
1/4 + 1/8 tsp. Rose water (I like Nielsen Massey brand)
mint green gel food color
deep pink gel food color
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and sugar. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl and place on mixer and beat until stiff meringue forms and bottom of mixer bowl is cool to touch; about 5 minutes. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Add vanilla, then beat until smooth. Divide buttercream evenly into two bowls.
To one bowl add the pistachio paste and mix well with a spoon or spatula. Add in a tiny bit of mint green gel color using a toothpick, and stir to combine. Add more a little at a time until desired color is achieved.
In the other bowl add the rose water and stir to combine. Add in the deep pink gel color using a toothpick, and stir evenly to combine until desired color is achieved.
If using the simple syrup: brush each cake liberally with the syrup and allow to seep into the cake a while before stacking and assembling the cake.
Fill a piping bag with each pistachio buttercream and rose buttercream side by side. Using a spiral technique pipe a layer of buttercream over the surface of cake round and stack the next round of cake on top. Continue til all three are stacked. Pipe rows of alternating flavored buttercream onto sides and top of cake and smooth as necessary to create a two toned affect.
Do you love rose flavored treats? I do. What better way to celebrate Valentines day than having a rose flavored treat. I was so inspired I even treated myself and picked up some pretty pink roses. I just love sneaking in a little rose water with different desserts when possible. Try it in blueberry pie sometime, or a blackberry dessert. You have to be careful though because too much and it can taste “soapy”. The key is to start with a little amount and add accordingly with several tastings. The flavor should be subtle and not overpowering. I was lazy when I made these and didn’t sift my almond flour so they didn’t turn out as smooth as I like, but I have to admit I’ve been feeling a little punky lately since overcoming the flu. I’m still trying to recover fully with getting my energy back, so I skipped that step. I does make a difference. Rose water can be a bit pricey, so if you can try to locate an international market or an Indian market for the best price! Try filling a mini spray bottle with distilled water and adding in some rose water for a quick spritz at work when you’re feeling draggy at the end of the day. It’s super refreshing!
75 g egg whites, room temp
pinch of cream of tartar
50 g superfine granulated sugar
90 g almond flour
135 g confectioners sugar
pink gel food color (2-3 drops) (I used half electric pink and deep pink)
1. In a food processor pulse the almond meal, and confectioners sugar, stopping to push contents down into the bowl and process until fine. Sift contents into a bowl and discard any hard lumps. In the bowl of a stand mixer place the egg whites, cream of tartar, and superfine granulated sugar, and hand whisk until foamy. Fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on low speed (Kitchen aide stop 4) for 2 minutes, then medium speed (stop 6) for 2 minutes, then on high speed (stop 8) for 2 minutes, add the gel color then increase to highest speed (stop-i 10) until whites are stiff. Hint: if you remove the bowl and turn it upside down and the whites do not slide out they are ready! (Just be careful when checking!)
2. Gradually add the almond flour mixture to the meringue and mix/fold with a rubber spatula until mixture when lifted is able to form a figure 8 ribbon. About every 5th fold lift the spatula up and let the batter fall gently back into the bowl. Once you can form a figure 8 ribbon without the mixture breaking, the mixture is ready. You want the batter to fall down in ribbons-if it falls off in “plops” then it’s not ready, continue folding. Prepare the piping bag with a round tip. Fill gently with the mac batter.
3. Prepare a sheet pan with either Silpat or parchment paper and preheat the oven to 325° F. Pipe the macarons onto the prepared sheet pan about a quarter size with 1 1/2 inches space between. Note; if after piping there are visible peaks then the batter is too thick and could cause problems such as cracking or not rising correctly. Squeeze out all the batter back into the bowl (with firm pressure) and refill the batter back into the piping bag and re pipe. Usually the act of doing this will thin the batter enough (without having to mix more) to get a more ideal thickness. Once you have piped the batter take the sheet pan and rap it on the counter a few times (3-6) to release any air bubbles. If you still see any visible air bubbles pop them gently with a bamboo skewer or toothpick. Allow the sheet pan to sit for 30-60 minute to form a “skin” so when touched the batter is no longer tacky feeling.
4. Bake the macs with rack in middle position for about 15-17 minutes or until when touching the top of a macaron, the top does not wiggle or slide but is firmly set. If they look like they are getting too browned then cover with tinfoil for the last few minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Do not attempt to remove until they are completely cool. Once cooled fill as described below with the rose buttercream.
Rose Buttercream Filling
3 large egg whites, room temp
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4-1 tsp. Rose water (make sure it’s water and NOT extract)
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and sugar. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl and place on mixer and beat until stiff meringue forms and bottom of mixer bowl is cool to touch; about 5 minutes. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Add the vanilla, then beat until smooth. Add in 1/2 tsp. at a time of rose water and beat till smooth (all rose waters run a little different, so taste test to your liking). I used 3/4 tsp. of rose water Nielsen Massey brand.
I am a cranberry hoarder. Every Fall/Winter I squirrel away fresh cranberries in my freezer for baked goods all year long. I LOVE fresh cranberries. I love the tart burst in a scone or bread and orange is the perfect flavor pairing. The secret to a scone that “stands up tall” is to allow the dough to become firm and cold before placing in a hot oven, so they rise and then dropping the temperature a bit to allow them to bake further. The scones a delight with a cup of hot coffee or tea and perfect for guests or family for a nice breakfast treat.
Cranberry Orange Scones
1/2 Cup whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. white vinegar
1 large egg
2 1/4 C all purpose flour
1/4 C sugar
zest of one large orange, divided
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 stick (1/2 C) unsalted butter, cut in 1/2 inch pieces and kept cold
1 Cup heaping fresh cranberries, some cut in half
Egg wash: one large egg whisked well
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl or measuring cup mix the milk with the vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes, then whisk in the egg.
In a large bowl whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and half the orange zest. Using a pastry blender cut in the butter until mixture resembles the butter in size of peas. Add the milk mixture and mix until dough just comes together. Fold in the cranberries. Mixture will be sticky. Turn out the mixture onto a large piece of plastic wrap. With floured hands, flatten the dough into a circle about 1 inch thick. Wrap the round securely with the plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.
Unwrap the dough and using a pastry cutter, cut in 8 pieces. Place scones onto prepared baking sheet 1 1/2 inches apart. Brush each of the scones with egg wash. Place the entire baking sheet in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 400° F.
Remove baking sheet from fridge and bake scones in middle of oven for 10 minutes, then decrease oven temperature to 375° F and bake for another 5-6 minutes or until scones are golden brown and set. Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheet over a wire rack. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then spoon orange glaze over each scone. Serve warm or at room temperature.
1 Cup confectioners sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
zest of half the orange
pinch of salt
In a small bowl stir the ingredients together vigorously until no lumps of sugar remain.
I’ve always been a person that is mostly “out of the box”. I tend to think a bit differently than your average Joe, so when I saw this recipe for a stump de noel vs. the traditional buche de noel, I was intrigued. It’s a very striking dessert that has that “wow factor” when you’re called to bring the dessert for the Christmas party or family gathering. It requires quite a bit of work, but you can scatter the work over a few days time so on the day of assembly you can just focus on pulling it together. It’s best to read through the recipe a few times so you understand all that is required. You can make the buttercreams 2-3 days ahead and keep chilled; when it comes time to assemble you’ll have to let the buttercream come to room temperature and rewhip with the stand mixer. The meringue mushrooms and the sugared decorations can be made a couple days before. The assembled cake requires chilling so plan to assemble it the day before service, and assemble on the platter that you’ll be serving it on-I used a large square platter that I found with room on the sides for the pretty garnishes.
Stump de Nöel
recipe: Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, pages 144-145
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 pound bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
- 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1/4 cup of hot water
- 1 dozen large eggs, at room temperature, separated
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Malted Buttercream and Dark Chocolate Buttercream
- Meringue mushrooms, candied cranberries and candied rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional; see Note)
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheets and line them with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on all of the short sides. Butter the paper and dust with flour.
In a small bowl, whisk the 1 cup of flour with the cocoa and salt. In another small bowl, combine the chocolate and espresso. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the egg yolks with 2/3 cup of the sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk and beat at high speed until the yolks are pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate mixture along with the vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl.
Thoroughly wash and dry the mixer bowl and the whisk. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on moderately high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2/3 cup of sugar and continue beating at high speed until the whites are glossy, about 2 minutes longer. Whisk one-fourth of the egg whites into the cake batter, then fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain.
In a small bowl, whisk the melted butter with 1/2 cup of the batter; fold this mixture into the batter. Working in 2 batches, sift the cocoa powder mixture over the batter and gently fold it in. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, spreading it out to fill the pans. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the cake feels springy and dry; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer the pans to racks to cool completely. Run the tip of a knife around the edges, cover with parchment paper and a baking sheet and invert; peel off the parchment on top.
Spread the Malted Buttercream over the cakes. Using a ruler, cut each cake precisely in half lengthwise, cutting through the paper; you should have four 6-by-17-inch strips of cake. Roll one strip into a tight coil, leaving the paper behind. Roll the 3 remaining cake strips around the coil in the same way to form a very wide, short jelly roll. Set the cake on a large plate, spiraled end up. Frost the outside of the cake with the Dark Chocolate Buttercream. Refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours. Decorate the cake with meringue mushrooms, cranberries and rosemary sprigs and serve, cutting the cake into wedges or horizontal slices.
FOR THE DARK CHOCOLATE AND MALTED BUTTERCREAMS
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60-72%), melted and cooled
1/4 cup malt powder
12 malted milk balls candies, crushed
MAKE THE DARK CHOCOLATE AND MALTED BUTTERCREAMS
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are just warm to the touch. Return the bowl to the mixer and fit it with the whisk attachment. Add the vanilla and beat the egg whites at high speed until firm and glossy, about 5 minutes. With the machine running, whisk in the butter a few tablespoons at a time. If the mixture begins to look curdled, continue to beat until smooth before adding more butter.
Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream to a bowl and whisk in the melted chocolate. Cover the chocolate buttercream and refrigerate.
Dissolve the malt powder in 2 tablespoons hot water, then beat it into the buttercream remaining in the mixer. Beat in the crushed milk balls. Cover the malt buttercream and refrigerate.
Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, pages 194-195
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 ounce good-quality white chocolate, melted and cooled (I actually used semisweet)
2 ounces dark unsweetened cocoa powder, (like Valrhona) for sifting over assembled mushrooms
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the heat proof bowl of a standing mixer. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (double boiler method). Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture registers 140 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes.
Transfer the bowl to a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat it on high speed until stiff peaks form. Add the cream of tartar when the mixture begins to thicken, or after 3 minutes. Keep beating for another minute or so until stiff peaks hold.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip with the meringue. To make the caps, hold the pastry bag close to the parchment paper-lined pan and pipe out a small dome (about a tablespoon) of meringue, pulling up at the very end of piping to give your cap some height.
To form mushrooms stems, hold the bag close to the parchment paper and pipe the meringue, pulling up as you go, into small cone shapes. Make the same number of stems as caps.
Place the pans in the oven and bake the meringue pieces for 90 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway thought the baking time. Turn off the oven, prop the door slightly open and leave the meringues in place for at least 2 hours longer, or overnight.
ASSEMBLE THE MERINGUE MUSHROOMS
Turn the caps over and use a toothpick to make a tiny hole large enough to fit the tip of the stem into. Fill the hole with a tiny bit of white chocolate (or semi sweet-which is what I used). Gently press the stem into place and allow the chocolate to set. Sift cocoa powder over the assembled mushrooms.
Sugared cranberries and sugared rosemary
¼ cup superfine sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick
¾ cup fresh cranberries
10 rosemary sprigs
Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Place the superfine sugar in a small bowl.
In a medium saucepan, stir together 1 cup of water with the sugar, then add the cinnamon stick. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof, wide-mouthed bowl. Let the liquid cool for a few minutes, then remove the cinnamon stick.
Drop the cranberries in the syrup and stir to coat the cranberries completely. Remove the cranberries, a few at a time, with a slotted spoon (tap the spoon to release excess syrup) and drop them in the superfine sugar. Toss the cranberries in the sugar to coat completely, and place on the parchment paper to dry. Repeat the above procedure with the rosemary. Decorate the stump as you wish.
I love earl grey. Anything. I get a kick out of finding ways to incorporate tea into my baking. I also have an obsession (as you probably figured out by now) with making macarons. A simple way to add flavor to anything is to infuse the cream you use when making ganache, and this technique is used often by bakeries to flavor their macarons. Matter of fact, a lot of bakeries specializing in macarons use white ganache flavored different ways as part of their fillings exclusively. You can add flavor on the “back end” of the ganache as well using flavor compounds. The possibilities are endless when it comes to flavoring a ganache. Sometimes the trick is being able to incorporate ENOUGH flavor and this is why I love the double bergamot earl grey tea. You don’t have to use a ton of tea to get the flavor you want. I particularly love the Stash brand of double bergamot earl grey if you can find it.
Earl Grey Macarons
(This recipe is the Italian method)
200 g almond flour, sifted (I like Wellbee’s brand-see below under tips)
200 g confectioners sugar, sifted
2 teabags of loose earl grey (tear bags open and remove tea)*
*I like Stash brand of “double bergamot” earl grey
75 g egg whites
200 g granulated sugar
50 g water
75 g egg whites (room temp)
pinch of cream of tartar
2-4 drops gel food color of choice (such as lavender or violet) I used a combo of each
1. In a large bowl combine the almond flour, and confectioners sugar, and the loose tea. Add the 75 gms of egg whites, and stir to combine to form a paste. Set aside.
2. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment combine 75 gms of egg whites and the cream of tartar and begin whipping them on medium-high speed.
At the same time combine the 200 gms of granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan on high heat; bring to 240° without stirring while whipping the egg whites on your mixer simultaneously. You want the cooking sugar syrup to reach 240 degrees at the same time your whites reach stiff peaks. To time this; keep the stand mixer next to the stove so you can peek at the whites while still watching your cooking syrup. If you notice the whites starting to get too stiff before the sugar is done; slow down the mixer to low-speed.
3. Once the syrup is at 240 degrees, stop/take off the heat and start pouring the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl slowly with the mixer running on slow-medium at the same time; careful not to let the syrup hit the whisk to prevent hard syrup forming. Once all the syrup is in, crank up the mixer and whip the whites until very glossy and stiff. Add the gel color to the meringue when it is about 90 % done.
4. Take the whipped meringue and place on top of the almond mixture and start to fold gently until all of the meringue is incorporated; careful not to deflate the mixture. You are looking for a thick consistency like lava but one that allows you to have the batter fall in ribbons when you hold the spatula above the bowl. A good measure of consistency is to let the batter fall off the spatula until you can make a figure 8 without the batter breaking. If the batter breaks while doing this, fold it a few more times. Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip and pipe the cookies on parchment lined sheet trays; leaving at least an inch space between cookies. Take the trays and rap them hard on the counter to release any air bubbles. Let the trays sit out anywhere from 30-60 minutes; as long as it takes until when you touch the top of the cookies they are dry and no longer tacky to the touch.
5. Bake the cookies one tray at a time in a 325° F oven (300° F if convection oven) for about 15-18 minutes until the cookies are no longer wet on the bottom and appear dry. Please note: Every oven is different and you may need to play around with your temperature or time to achieve the perfect macaron. Sacrifice one if you have to test. Let the cookies cool on the tray. Sandwich with the filling. Store the cookies in the fridge to “mature” in an airtight container 8 hours or overnight; this helps the cookies become even more chewy as the moisture from the filling helps the texture of the cookie as well as enhancing the overall flavor.
Earl Grey White Chocolate Ganache
9 oz. white chocolate chopped fine (Do NOT use white chocolate chips!)
4.5 oz. heavy cream
2 earl grey tea bags
Make the ganache: heat the heavy cream in the microwave on high for 1 minute. Steep the tea bags in the heavy cream for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes; squeeze the tea bags into the cream until dry and discard. Place the white chocolate in a medium size heat proof bowl. Using the microwave, heat the heavy cream again on high until very hot and pour over the chocolate; let sit one minute then gently whisk until emulsified. If there are chocolate pieces remaining; reheat the mixture on high at 20 second intervals until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set the ganache in the refrigerator until firm while you make the macarons. You can prepare the ganache the day before.
Tips/trouble shooting for successful macarons:
• Know your oven. Buy an oven thermometer and keep it in your oven and calibrate your baking based on the oven temp. Rotate the pan if necessary. Even the most expensive ovens can have hot spots or uneven areas. If your oven has a convection function- use it! Convection is best for macarons (plan to drop the temperature 25 degrees less if using convection for baking). Quite a few of my earlier recipes I did not have a convection oven so that’s why those recipes did not post an oven temp for convection.
• Try different recipes. I’m not claiming mine is perfect by any means. I have even tried different recipes/ techniques myself by adding in dried egg whites etc. The point is find one base recipe you like best and practice with that same recipe over and over- tweak the temperature, tweak the timing, tweak your mixing etc. This will help you find your rhythm and determine what is wrong by eliminating/changing each component. When I want a more shiny mac, I swear by the Italian method- but I use both French and Italian. I find the Italian method yields macs that are more shiny because the sugar is fully melted into the batter.
• There is no ‘perfect’ recipe for a successful macaron. Early on I would scour the web trying to find the perfect recipe thinking it was the recipe. The truth is it’s about the technique and mastering the trouble shooting factors that yield the perfect macaron. Practice as much as possible. Try not to get mad- you will have bad macaron days. It happens. Don’t give up. #beenthere #Ifeelyou
• Use only flat sheet pans. THIS IS KEY!! You cannot use a warped sheet pan- your batter will run and you will end up with weird shaped cookies. Side note: you can buy 1/4 sheet pans-they can be tricky to find but they resist warping more since they are smaller. I find mine in restaurant supply stores. You can even find 1/4 size silpat mats for them as well. Sometimes when I’m testing a new recipe I will pipe out a batch on this size pan so I don’t have to pipe as much.
• Use a scale to measure ingredients. People have asked me why I don’t post the measurements in just cups etc. Macarons are very fussy- if you want to increase your chance of getting the perfect cookie plan to measure by using a scale. That’s what professional bakeries do. There are many inexpensive scales out there. To be a serious baker (no shade) you should have a scale- and buy one that does both grams, ounces. #sorrynotsorry
• To get smooth bump free macarons you should always sift. I admit- sometimes I’m lazy and even I don’t always sift- case in point on my matcha tea macarons; when I made that batch I was being lazy and I did not sift (look at the pics of them and you will see bumpy macarons).
• Don’t crowd the pan with as many macarons as you think can fit. If you pipe too many it can create excess moisture and lead to cracked shells. Also, they need room to spread after piping. FYI- there are silpat (copycat like mats) out there that have an excess of circles on them with little spacing- I shoot for the ones that have 20 circles per 1/2 sheet pan on them. I made the mistake of buying a mat that had the circles way too close- I won’t name the brand but it is a dark brown mat.
• Parchment paper vs. Silpat. The choice is up to you. I personally do both. I tend to prefer parchment paper-I find that the foot of the cookie is better, but some people swear by a silicone mat. If you do use paper- make sure it is flat and fits the size perfectly on the sheet pan. Any excess wrinkling or curled or wavy flaps will affect how the cookies rise and affect the ‘feet’ of the cookie. FYI- you can find boxes of parchment paper that fits 1/2 sheet pans at places like Smart and Final for cheap. The box will last you forever and its superior than the roll type you find in the grocery store because you don’t have to fight with the roll factor.
• Almond flour: consider drying out your almond flour (it may be too moist and contributing to your shells cracking). To dry out almond meal/flour place on a sheet pan in single layer and set in the oven at your lowest temperature (ideally 170-175 F) and bake for around 10 minutes. If you place a handful of almond flour in your hand and squeeze it and it sticks together than chances are it needs to be dried out first. BTW, I recently found this “very fine” almond flour online called Wellbee’s and it is NOW my favorite. It is very fine and light in color which I love!
• Don’t use liquid food coloring or add excess liquid flavorings. Only use gel food color or powdered food coloring. Too much liquid added to the batter can adversely affect the shells.
• Consider aging the egg whites. I’ll be honest- I typically don’t do this-again, I’m inherently lazy. I’ve tried it, I even did my own study once over a weeks time when I aged whites and made several batches with and without and I’m not completely convinced. Some people swear by it and say it makes a difference. Eh, I’m not sold. I heard a rumor though that Laudure ages theirs like a week. But do try it. To age: separate your whites out the day or 2 before and place in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and then poke holes in the plastic and place back in the fridge. Remove from the fridge when ready to bake and let sit out until room temperature.
• Speaking of egg whites; make sure they are separately cleanly. Wash your hands before you start. #Captainobvious. Not a tiny speck of egg yolk can invade your whites or your meringue will not come out right. Clean our your mixer bowl each and every time before starting your recipe. You can even wipe out the bowl with a paper towel that has been moistened with vinegar to remove any trace of dirt or grease. Also- when separating your whites use 3 separate bowls. Crack one egg at a time and then place that egg white into a separate CLEAN bowl so that if you get a speck of yolk you don’t destroy the whole batch. Even though I’m lazy I ALWAYS use this method.
• Watch as many videos you can find about how to mix/fold correctly. Under mixing or over mixing is typically the main reason why macarons don’t come out right. Hint- err on the side of undermixing as you can always squeeze out the batter and redo. Youtube is great for this-type in the search area macaron and a plethora of videos will come up. To visually see how the batter is supposed to look will make a huge difference. I tried to make a video using my camera once but it was a disaster, otherwise I would post a video for you.
I hope this helps. Just know that we’ve all had times when our macs did not come out. I used to work in a commercial kitchen where we made thousands of macs in one day, and even the head pastry chef would have times where she would have to do over a recipe because she over mixed or whatever reason they did not come out right, so don’t beat yourself up if they don’t look perfect. They are very finicky.
I just love this time of year with all the various type of apples. Is it just me, or are you also surprised each year on how many kind of apple varieties seem to pop up into the super market? I had heard about this particular variety last year so I went on a hunt this year. And by a hunt, I’m not kidding… Unfortunately I found out by some weird cruel joke that this little rouge gem has a short harvest life. Life can be so mean sometimes! None the less, my hauty tauty shi shi (high end super market) here in the Phoenix Valley (AJ’s) carried them. I finally got smart and called the produce department first to check. Yatzee! I snagged them and quickly wrapped them in a Debbie Meyer green bag to preserve their precious life!!!
Side note: If you don’t know about Debbie Meyer green bags– you need to buy them- they extend any produce for DAYsssssss. Anyway, I digress…back to the apples. The “pink pearl” is the apple that I swear has been kissed by God. It’s beauty is so unique. Some are light pink inside and some are down right fuchsia color. Are they not the coolest thing?! Can you tell I’m totally geeked out about them? They taste amazing too; they are kind of a cross between a Granny Smith and a Gala; tart but a little sweet at the same time. They are crisp and hold their texture when used in baking. The outside of the skin is thin and has a yellowy green color.
Pink Pearl Apple Tart with Frangipane
You will need a sheet a puff pastry. *Try to find the type that is all butter. I like Dufour brand.
Note: The typical brand you find in the grocer that is Pepperidg***** is NOT all butter. I sadly found this out when I was in pastry school years ago. I never knew. Just an FYI.
4-5 Sweet-tart apples, peeled, and sliced thin
1/4 C unsalted butter (room temp)
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 egg (room temp)
1/2 Cup blanched almond flour
1/4 tsp. pure almond extract
*Egg wash for baking (one egg whisked with a fork)
*powdered sugar for serving
In a medium bowl: cream the butter, sugar, and salt together until smooth. Note: [A hand mixer is best]. Add the egg and beat until combined. Stir in the almond flour and extract and then beat just until combined. Note: If you over beat the mixture can separate. If you like your frangipane a little more smooth you can use the food processor just make sure to not over process or it can separate.
Thaw the puff pastry. Unfold and pinch any folds together with your fingers or gently roll with a rolling pin to smooth out creases. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the puff pastry onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Score a 1 inch border around the perimeter of the puff, but don’t go all the way through the pastry. Spread the frangipane filling evenly onto the pastry but stay within the border. Shingle the apples tightly nestled on top of the filling and then sprinkle generously with granulated sugar. Brush the border with egg wash. Place the entire assembled tart on the sheet pan in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill prior to baking. (Puff pastry always needs to be very cold when it goes into the oven to ensure you get that great rise). Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until border is golden brown. Allow to cool slightly. Serve with a sprinkling of confectioners sugar. Note: the tart is best served the day it is made as the filling tends to soften the pastry.
I must admit- I’ve never really been into whoopie pies until last year when I made my first batch. I suddenly occurred to me that you know that trick everybody does where they take their cupcake and tear off the bottom and place it on top of the frosting to create a sandwich? well…it’s kind of like creating your own whoopie. Besides, whoopies are a whole lot cuter-especially when you make them mini size they are perfect party fair.
Come on, you know you want an excuse to call up your neighbor and ask “Do you want to come over for some whoopie?” Ha Ha Ha. Sorry, I had to slip that in there. But kidding aside, it’s fun to have the girls over to catch up on the neighborhood gossip (not kidding- kinda, sorta) while you scoot the boys outside to the deck while they drink their beer so you can nibble on a few of these cuties drinking your seasonal drink of choice.
I made two mini sizes. I was playing around with the recipe during my recipe development phase; including even how to scoop them. At first I tried using the ice cream scoop method using a mini scoop, and they just did not come out uniform or smooth enough on top, (esp. since the batter is a bit sticky), so I switched to using the tried and true piping bag method. Not only was the piping bag method the winner but each and every cookie came out uniform in size (but full disclosure I used a template*See note below). I piped two different sizes (1.5 inch and 2 1/4 inch size). I know this is rather small, so you can obviously go bigger since we are talking really small here. I would not go bigger than 3 inch size though since they are a rich in flavor. I actually think the 2 1/4 inch size is perfect to be quite honest which is about 3 bites worth.
Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies
yield: 2-3 dozen depending on the # of size you make
3 Cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 Cups canned pumpkin puree
1 C vegetable oil
2 Cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
In a large bowl place the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, and egg and whisk to combine. Then add in the brown sugar and vanilla and whisk again to combine until smooth. Using a metal type strainer, hold it over the bowl and sift through the dry ingredients, then whisk until combined. (Alternatively you can whisk the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add to the wet). Regardless, mix gently until the mixture is comes together but do not over mix. Fit a piping bag with a large round tip (I like to use an 806). Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350° F with rack in center position. Pipe batter spaced about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake one tray at a time 10-12 minutes until just set and when touched they spring back. Let cool on tray for a few minutes then remove to cool completely on wire rack. When cool sandwich with cream cheese frosting recipe. Note: for the 2 1/4 inch cookie size I felt that 1 tablespoon scoop frosting worked perfectly, and the smaller size, just use a little less.
* A long winded word about templates….I have a heavy paper type macaron template I use for my piping that I slide under the parchment paper and right before the cookies are ready to bake simply remove the template and reuse for the next tray when piping. I have various sizes that I’ve made over the years by copying circles with a sharpie around biscuit cutters. For a useful tip- Fold down the two opposite corners of your parchment sheets and then fold them back up so the corners are standing back up to use as a “Tab” so you can to grab the piping template a bit easier. If you don’t have the patience to make a template here are two recourses of two different sizes. For the 1.5 size the Southern Fatty blog has a template here. For a 2 1/4 inch size, here is a link for a 2 inch template here, and you can quickly trace with a 2 1/4 biscuit cutter using a pen to mark the outline so you have the right size and print out another sheet tape the two sides together so you can slide it under to fill a half sheet pan under your parchment. If this seems like a lot of work, you’re right, but you will be amazed that you will not waste any unmatched sized cookies when it comes to assembling your whoopies. Also, if you like to make macarons like I do- save your templates and you can use them over and over again multiple times. So, it’s up to you how OCD you want to be. Me, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to stuff like this, so hey, I can’t help myself.
Cream Cheese Filling
1 stick (1/2 C) unsalted butter (cold), cut into 1/4 inch size cubed pieces
8 oz. cream cheese (cold) and cut into 12 equal pieces
3 Cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the cold cubed butter and beat until pliable and the butter is sitting along the sides of the bowl. Scrape down the bowl, and beat a few more times on low. Add in the cold cream cheese and beat on low speed for a few minutes, stopping to scrape down, and in between the beater to loosen the cream cheese so that it falls to the bottom of the work bowl. Continue to beat on low to medium speed for a few minutes until the two come together. Add in about half the confectioners sugar and stir speed slowly at first so that the sugar does not cause a mess, then increase speed and beat on slow to medium speed, increase speed in bursts, but do not beat at high speed-you want the mixture to remain cold so it does not turn runny. Add in the other half of the sugar and continue to stop and start and scrape down sides a needed and beat on low speed just it has come together. When it looks like it has come together, increase on high speed just for a few seconds to get rid of any lumps, but no longer than a few seconds. Cream cheese frosting is funny-if you beat it to death-it looses its structure and turns too runny. I have been making my cream cheese frosting this way rather than starting from room temperature and it always maintains it’s structure. It helps to have the cream cheese cut into small pieces when you start. You might have to practice a few times, so don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get it perfect the first time. I hope you like this way!! I always start from cold now and it’s not failed me.