Pumpkin Spice Macarons

 

Are you a lover or a hater? We’re talking pumpkin spice. Please don’t be a hater, I’ll be crushed.

You know who you are. Yeah, you cinnamon haters. You spice deserters. Spice is life! Spice is my jam.  I could spend all day in a spice store-and I’m sure I have. Opening jars and sniffing. Certain cultures embrace spice. Just spend an afternoon in an Indian grocery store and you’ll know what I’m talking about; you’ll find me snorting the packages like a junkie.

You’ll wonder why I don’t give specific measurements for the buttercream in this recipe. It’s because everyone has a different barometer when it comes to cinnamon and the other spices that dance together in pumpkin spice blend.

I was poking around in Homegoods store (oh yeah the Gourmet foods aisle) one afternoon and found a jar of pumpkin curd. Now, I’ll be the first to admit you can make ALL kinds of curds, but I had never heard of pumpkin curd, so that jar found it’s way into my cart. It was rather loose for a curd, and also contained a bit of orange flavor, so I stirred a little bit (~ 2 Tablespoons)  of it into a basic vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream and added little shakes of pps (pumpkin pie spice) until it tickled me just right.  You can substitute pumpkin butter in place of or even a spoonful at a time of pumpkin puree I think to achieve a flavorful buttercream.

 

Pumpkin Spice Macarons

107 grams egg whites

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

110 grams granulated sugar

124 grams confectioners sugar

140 grams blanched fine almond flour

1/8 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

orange gel food color

 

In a food processor place the almond flour and confectioners sugar and run for 30 seconds. Stop and scrape down the sides so the mixture settles into the processor bowl. Repeat this 2 more times, then sift mixture through a strainer (it doesn’t have to be fine) over a large bowl (I use a 5 quart size stainless steel bowl). Preheat the oven to 300° F convection, 325° F for non convection setting.

In the bowl of a stand mixer place the egg whites and cream of tartar and whisk by hand (using the mixer whisk) until foamy for about 30 seconds. Prepare two baking sheets with either parchment paper or Silpat liners. I use these macaron mats by Velesco

Set the mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment assembled to the mixer, and start the meringue by running mixer on power level 4 (Kitchen Aide) and start gradually adding in the granulated sugar- run/whisk for 2 minutes once all the sugar is in. Stop once to scrape the sides of the bowl to push down any sugar that appears on the sides.

Increase mixer then to power level 6 and run for 3 minutes.

Increase mixer to power level 8 and run for 3 minutes.

Stop mixer and with a bamboo skewer or toothpick add in your gel color.

Increase mixer to power level high (10) and run for 1 minute (Just to show it who’s boss!!) or until meringue is stiff peaks. A sign that meringue is ready is there will be a good amount collected within the whisk and if you turn the bowl upside down the meringue will not slip or move. If the color does not appear to be mixer to your liking at this point I add in any color and mix gently by hand; being careful not to overmix.

Add one half of the meringue to the almond flour/sugar mix and start folding with a rubber spatula until mixture starts to look cohesive. Add in the remaining half of meringue and continue to gently fold, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. The batter is perfect when you lift up the spatula and tip the pointed end of the spatula down and ribbons of batter fall smoothly back into the bowl. I like to gauge its ready when I can count ~ 4 ribbons falling without breaking and I can “draw” a figure 8 with the batter when lifting the spatula and letting it fall into the bowl.

Fill your pastry bag by using a heavy tall cup or mason jar to hold your pastry bag with the top folded over the glass. When preparing your bag after you drop in your round tip (I use an Ateco 804), twist the bag right above the larger end of the tip and push it down into tip. Fold the top 4 inches of the bag over the jar or glass.

 

Let the batter fall right into the bottom of the bag and continue filling to ensure you don’t get air bubbles. When ready to pipe and all of the batter is in the bag, twist the top of the bag and when ready to pipe, push down with your dominant hand to force the bottom of the tip to open.

Pipe the batter onto prepared baking sheet with 30 macarons per sheet. Six across the long side, and five rows perpendicular. Sift a light dusting of cocoa powder over each piped macaron round. Take the sheet pan and wrap against the counter for 13 times. Repeat x 2 more times of 13, then look for any visible air bubbles and pop with a toothpick or bamboo skewer. Allow the macarons to rest for 10-30 minutes, then bake in a preheated (convection oven if you have at 300° F , 325° F for NON convection oven*) for about 16-18 minutes or until the cookie does not wiggle when attempting to check by carefully grabbing both sides of a cookie and gently testing.

Let the tray rest on a wire rack and then bake the second tray.

Cool the cookies completely and pipe the buttercream between two cookies and sandwich together.

*A word about oven temperatures: EVERY one’s oven is different and after painstaking doing several batches of macarons I determined that in MY oven 300 F convection setting is best for me. Check your oven temperature against a thermometer placed in the middle of your oven. Some people bake there’s at 285, 290, 310 etc. unfortunately it’s something that you have to play around with and determine what is best for you and your oven.

 

Pumpkin Spice Buttercream

3 egg whites (large eggs)

3/4 Cup granulated sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter

pumpkin curd or pumpkin butter to taste

pumpkin pie spice to taste

 

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. Fold in the pumpkin curd/pumpkin butter or puree; whichever you are using and taste it as you go along, adding in little shakes of spice mixture to your liking.

Note: you can make the buttercream a day or two ahead and keep chilled in the fridge, just let it come to room temperature and stir vigorously with a spoon or re whip with the whisk attachment.

 


Salted Caramel Toffee Crunch Cake

 

Do you know how hard it is to decorate a cake with caramel and not lick your fingers? The bad thing about caramel is it’s sticky and gets all over everything. The good thing about caramel is it’s sticky and gets all over everything.

Okay, I might have had a lick or two…

This past weekend I was invited to a Friendsgiving party so I wanted to bring something different besides the typical pie.  I was planning on making my Pumpkin Orange Spice Cake, but the host said to please bring something without cinnamon or pumpkin, so that kind of killed that notion right there. Once I switched gears, it got me thinking of something everyone loves- salted caramel. If you decide to make the caramel you’ll most likely have some leftover, but that’s never a bad thing. You may also use purchased caramel sauce such one found by the ice cream isle, such as Smuckers brand.

Salted Caramel Toffee Crunch Cake 

Make the Caramel Filling  (salted version)  used to flavor the buttercream) before starting the cake and allow to set at room temperature, or alternatively make the day before and store in the refridgerator. Bring to room temperature when ready to make the buttercream.

 

Brown Sugar Cake

3/4 C + 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

2 Tbsp. sunflower or vegetable oil

1/4 Cup packed dark brown sugar

1 1/4 Cup granulated sugar

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/4 Cup whole milk, room temp

1/4 Cup sour cream, room temp

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste

3 1/2 Cups cake flour, sifted

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. kosher salt

 

In a medium skillet melt the butter and stir continuously with a heat proof spatula over medium heat until the butter smells nutty and the butter turns foamy and brown bits form on the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Place the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes to solidify while you prepare the pans and assemble your other ingredients.

Spray the cake pans with baking spray and place a parchment round in the bottom of each pan.

Preheat the oven to 325° F.

In a bowl sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.

Once the browned butter has solidified, remove it from the freezer and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip the butter until the browned bits in the butter are no longer visible and appear to have combined well. Add in the oil and stir. Turn off the mixer and place a sieve over the bowl and press the brown sugar through the sieve to remove and hard lumps. Mix the brown sugar and butter on medium speed until combined. Add in the granulated sugar slowly with the mixer running, stopping the mixer a few times to scrape down the sides and bowl of the mixer.

Add in the eggs one at a time until combined.

In a glass measuring cup whisk the milk, sour cream and vanilla bean paste.

With the mixer on low speed, add in a third of the flour mixture, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 increments, and ending with the flour mixture.

Pour the batter evenly between the four cake pans. Note: you may also divide the pans between two 9 inch pans instead.

Bake in a preheated oven for approx. 28 minutes or until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and when touched the cake springs back. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Fill with the toffee crunch buttercream, and frost with the salted caramel buttercream (recipes below).

Swiss Meringue Buttercream (to be divided for both flavors)

6 egg whites from large eggs

5 sticks unsalted butter

1 1/2 Cup granulated sugar

Kosher salt to taste

1 tsp. vanilla

a recipe of my salted caramel filling or purchased caramel sauce such as Smuckers

1 1/4 Cups Finely chopped chocolate toffee such as Heath brand (hint: if you can find “bits of brickle” by Heath its easier)

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the eggs whites and sugar and place over a pot with simmering water. Whisk the egg whites and sugar and heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is about 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer* (*alternatively- you can feel the mixture with your first two fingers and if you don’t feel any sugar granules then it is ok). Turn off the heat. Attach the mixer bowl onto the mixer with the whisk attachment and whisk the mixture on medium until the bottom of the bowl is almost cool to the touch and the mixture has turned into a nice stiff meringue.  This will take several minutes. With the mixer on medium high, add the softened butter one tablespoon at a time and continue to mix until all the butter is incorporated and the mixture is smooth. It will go through a curdled looking stage as it mixes; but don’t worry keep adding the butter and it will come together. Add in the vanilla and mix to combine.

Divide half of the buttercream evenly into a large bowl. Mix with the chopped toffee bits. This will be the filling.

Using the mixer, combine the remaining bowl of buttercream with salted caramel, stirring in 2 Tablespoons at a time and stopping and tasting until desired flavor is reached; adding in pinches of salt as necessary.

Assemble the cake with the toffee crunch buttercream as the filling and frost the outside of the cake with the salted caramel buttercream. Decorate as desired. Store the cake in the fridge until 1-2 hours prior to serving, remove the cake to come to room temperature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mexican Chocolate Chili Tarts

Everyone in our house is a spice head. The lazy Susan on our kitchen table has about 10 different bottles of hot sauce ranging from “hot” to nuclear. Guess which bottle is the most empty.  My son and I are on a secret mission to turn his girlfriend into a chili head. She does not like spicy food, so of course every time she tries something I make she first asks if it is spicy. We keep trying to up the spice in things we give her so we can get her to join our club. I know it’s just a matter of time. Enter the chocolate tart…dun dun dun.

You can tailor these tarts to suite your level of spice. When you get to the point where you add the spices, then keep adding in pinches of spice to you get the heat you prefer. This past weekend I was catering a Mexican fiesta for a friend and she asked me to do the desserts. I made 4 different mini treats and these chocolate tarts were one of them. They were the first to go empty on the platter! I was kind of shocked because I assumed they would be the treat people would shy away from. There were children at the party so I didn’t make them super spicy; just a hint. Well guess who ate several of them? Yup, my son’s girlfriend. She loved em! And I’m a big fan too! They are super easy to make. A great tool to have when making them is a tart tamper-it helps with getting the chocolate crumb nice and flat-the small end fits perfectly in the wells of a mini muffin tin. This is the one I use below found on Amazon.

 

 

Mexican Chocolate Chili Tarts

yield~ 34 tarts 

Chocolate Filling

4 oz. Milk Chocolate Chips (I like Guittard or Ghirardelli)

4 oz. Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

2/3 Cup heavy whipping cream

pinch of salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp chili powder

3-5 pinches of cayenne pepper

Prepare the mini muffin wells with the chocolate crumb layer below.

In a heat proof bowl place both the chocolate chips. Heat the cream to a scald, then pour over the chips and allow the mixture to sit for 3 minutes, then stir gently from the middle out until combined. If you see a few small bits of un melted chocolate, then place in the microwave and heat for 30 seconds at a time and stir to combine. Stir in salt and spices. Taste the filling, and add in extra pinches of cayenne as desired for heat level. Pour the filling into each well of the prepared crumb layer. Allow to cool to room temperature then place uncovered into the fridge to set. Decorate as desired with chocolate pearls or dist with chocolate powder. Serve tarts at room temperature.

Chocolate Crumb

1 1/2 Cups Chocolate graham crackers

2 Tbsp sugar

6 Tbsp unsalted butter

Mix the crumb ingredients together and line mini muffin wells with paper liners. Measure out 1 level measuring Tablespoon of crumb mixture and press into the liners. If you have a tart tamper this is ideal. Bake the crumb layer in a preheated 350° F oven for 6 minutes. Crumb crust will puff up and after removing from oven, use the tamper again to press back down; being careful not to burn yourself (wear an oven mitt when doing so). Allow the tray to cool over a wire rack then fill with the chocolate filling.

 

 

 


Moscow Mules

 

Do you like your drinks ice cold? Me too. I can’t drink a warm beer or even one that is somewhat cool-it has to be ice cold! Do you love to experiment with new cocktails? You KNOW I do by just perusing my blog. Quite often we see particular mugs or glasses associated with a certain drink. The Moscow mule drink is no different-there is actually a mug that pays homage to the drink; and it is a copper mug. They are beautiful mugs that keep your drink nice and cold as they are great conductors for cold AND heat. The traditional mule drink has fresh lime juice and a lot of people are not aware that if you drink your beverage from a mug that is lined with copper, that includes something acidic such as lime juice, the copper leaches into your drink and you are consuming copper.

When looking for copper mugs, make sure to buy one that is lined with Nickel. Check out these amazing and beautiful copper mugs that are shown here. They are  hand made and lined with Nickel.  I have been drinking EVERYTHING from them since I got them. I am obsessed!! I cannot describe how beautiful these mugs are. The color of the copper changes color when you add your beverage and they take on a gossimer glow. They would make a great gift for the Holidays or just to have for yourself when entertaining, they are very comfortable to hold and not heavy at all.  Head on over to there to check them out.  They come packaged very secure.

Fall is just a skip away so I’ve also included a recipe for an apple cider mule. The mugs are perfect for sipping spiced cider as well, as they will keep your beverage hot while you sit in front of the bonfire or fireplace. They are perfect for hot chocolate, mochas, pumpkin spice lattes or anything hot. They are truly a 4 season mug. Happy sipping!

 

Traditional Moscow Mule 

crushed ice

1 1/2 oz. premium vodka

1/2 oz. fresh lime juice

1/2 Cup ginger beer

garnish: lime wedge

 

Fill a Moscow mule mug with crushed ice. Add ingredients and gently stir. Garnish with lime wedge.

 

Apple Cider Moscow Mule

1 1/2 oz. premium vodka

1/2 oz. lime juice

1/3 Cup apple cider

Ginger beer

Garnish: (optional)  thinly sliced fresh apple and cinnamon stick

 

 

Fill a Moscow mule mug with crushed ice, then add first three ingredients. Top off with ginger beer, stir to combine. Garnish as desired.

 

Passionate Pear Moscow Mule

crushed ice

1 1/2 oz. Pear flavored Vodka (Such as Sky Bartlet pear)

1/2 oz. (1 Tbsp.) fresh lime juice

1/2 Cup cold ginger beer

1/2 oz. (1 Tbsp.) passion fruit syrup (Such as Monin brand or)

 

Fill a Moscow mule mug with crushed ice. Add ingredients and stir to combine.

 


Vanilla Pudding Parfaits with Salted Caramel, Cookie Crumbles & Peanuts

 

We are still in triple digits here in Arizona. I can feel the weather changing though as the days get shorter and the nights cooler.  l’m starting to welcome the idea of Fall and everything that comes with it. Fall is akin to comfort food. As Summer slips away, we start day dreaming of stews, hot dishes and firing up the oven again to bake. These parfaits are Snickers inspired in terms of flavor.

Pudding is the ultimate comfort food that you can still make when the weather is hot.  I have such a fond memory of my childhood and making homemade pudding. My Mother taught me how to stir the pudding gently in a figure 8 motion, being careful to get into the corners of the pot. When making pudding, I always succumb to a hypnotic dreamy state while I stir. I don’t know why, but it just happens organicly EVERY TIME. Pudding can be a great problem solving task for things that you have been pondering about or troubled over.  Stirring and zoning out, I can finally meditate over where the Husband left his keys that he’s lost for 3 days now. Oh yeah…stirring, meditating, day dreaming of Fall evenings sitting on the porch with creamy pudding parfaits.

These little jars have everything you need, creamy pudding with bits of crunchy chocolate cookie crumbles and smooth salted caramel topped with peanuts. Comfort food in any season. You’ll most likely have some salted caramel sauce leftover- store it in a glass jar in the fridge. Slip it into your morning coffee or sneak a spoonful now and then straight from the jar!

 

Salted Caramel Sauce

1 C sugar

1/4 C water

3/4 C heavy cream; nuke until slightly warm

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 tsp. fleur de sel or kosher salt

In a medium saucepan place the sugar and add the water and mix gently until the mixture resembles wet sand. Cook over medium high heat and let it come to a boil without stirring; until the caramel reaches a deep amber. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the heat. Carefully pour in the cream, it will bubble and spout a bit; whisk carefully until combined. Whisk in the butter and then the salt. Let cool, then refrigerate.

Vanilla Bean Pudding 

yield: 4 servings

2  1/2 Cups whole milk, divided

1/2 Cup sugar

pinch of salt

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 egg yolks

1 Vanilla Bean, scraped for seeds

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

For Parfait Assembly:

Purchased Famous brand chocolate cookies

Salted roasted peanuts 

1. In a small to medium bowl whisk the cornstarch along with 1/2 Cup of the milk. Add the yolks and whisk to combine; set aside.

2. Place the remaining 2 cups milk in a saucepan along with the sugar, salt, and vanilla bean seeds. Bring to a boil; then slowly pour about 1/3 of the hot milk into the bowl with the cornstarch mixture to temper the mixture. Pour that back into the saucepan and bring the pudding to a gentle boil over medium heat while stirring with a rubber spatula. Let the mixture boil for about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter. Pour the pudding into a container and place a piece of parchment circle directly onto the surface of the pudding. Let the pudding cool on counter for 30 minutes, then place in fridge.

Once the pudding is poured into the bowl, DO NOT STIR OR PUDDING CAN TURN WATERY!

Parfait assembly:

Layer a few tablespoons of vanilla pudding in the bottom of a 4 oz. glass container, then pour in a couple tablespoons of salted caramel, followed by sprinkling of coarse cookie crumbles and salted peanuts. Repeat with one more layer. Serve chilled.


Summer Cocktail Series: #3: Blueberry Mint Lemonade with Vodka

We had such a lovely Fourth of July yesterday. It was a beautiful day here in Arizona and we lazed around all day and I threw together a quick blueberry puree in my ninja blender. I had quite a bit of fresh mint left in the fridge and whipped together this refreshing sipper with some store bought lemonade. Normally I make fresh lemonade when our ginormous lemon tree is in season, but I think it is yummy even with store bought. I like the brand Simply Lemonade. The great thing about this quick cocktail is the little ones can enjoy it sans vodka, so it’s family friendly. Just whip up the puree earlier in the day and keep it in the fridge with the fresh mint.

We finished off the night swimming in the pool and sipping cocktails with our friends, while watching our neighbors’ fireworks. We are lucky to have neighbors a few blocks away who shoot off fireworks every year so we stay home and swim in the pool while taking in the bright display. Stay safe and enjoy Summer everyone!

Blueberry Mint Lemonade (with optional Vodka)

 

Blueberry Puree 

2 pints fresh blueberries, rinsed

1 Cup water

Place the blueberries and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cool, puree in a blender until smooth (some little bits of blueberry are fine).

How to make cocktail:

In a tall Collins glass place 1 1/2 Tbsp. of blueberry puree and mint leaves from one sprig. Smash lightly the mint with a spoon. Fill the glass with 1 oz. of vodka, one more sprig of mint, then top off with crushed ice and lemonade.

Tip for storing fresh mint: When you bring the mint home from the store, take it out of the package, rinse in cold water, and place in a glass of cold water (I use a mason jar). Make sure the sprigs are immersed in the water.


Summer Cocktail Series: #2: The Key Lime Pie Martini

 

I have a serious THING for key lime pie, so turning that into a martini? yeah…

Is there really anymore to say? Other than this is for my Summer Cocktail Series. Cocktail # 2

Commence with the sippin’ and the porch sittin’ !!

 

Key Lime Pie Martini

(serving: 1)

1.5 oz. vanilla vodka

1 oz. key lime juice

1 tsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. Coco Lopez

0.5 oz. (1 Tbsp.) pineapple juice

1 oz. heavy cream

One drop mint green (gel) food color

 

Fill a martini glass or coupe glass with crushed ice to chill.

On a small plate mix the graham cracker crumbs and sugar together.

Mix the martini per instructions* in the cocktail shaker.

Pour out the ice water from the martini glass and wipe dry.

Cut a small piece of lime and wipe around the rim of martini/coupe glass.

Dip the rim of the glass into the cracker mixture.

Strain the cocktail into the glass and serve immediately.

 

* Fill a cocktail shaker with all the ingredients then fill with ice. Shake vigourously.

Graham Cracker Rim:

1 full rectangular square graham cracker ground to crumbs in either a mortar/pestle or in a ziplock bag using rolling pin. Mix the crumbs with 2 tsp. of sugar. (You could also use cinnamon graham cracker if you prefer).