Blood Orange Poppy Seed Loaf

Lets face it-there are certain fruits or foods which given their name do not exactly evoke a tasty image. Case in point, the blood orange. I mean….how could one get excited over something with the word blood in it if you’re going to be shoving it in your mouth? Well, these little beauties lend the most amazing ruby red color when juiced. You’ll find them used in everything from cocktail recipes to baking. Mix the juice with a little confectioners sugar and you have the most beautiful AND flavorful princess pink icing.

It’s always a surprise when you slice one in half to find how deep in color your prized beauty really is. When picking one out you want to find one that has a good patch of crimson red mixed with deep orange.

 

 

Blood Orange Poppy Seed Loaf

1  1/2 C all purpose flour

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

 

1/2 Cup unsalted butter, room temp

1  1/4 Cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temp

1 tsp. vanilla

zest of 2 large blood oranges

2 Tbsp. blood orange juice

1/3 Cup milk

1 tsp. white vinegar

2-4 Tbsp. poppy seeds

 

Combine milk with vinegar and set aside for about 10-15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a standard loaf pan with non stick baking spray and line with parchment paper so the ends are extended over the long side of the pan. Leave at least 2 inches of overhang.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix until combined. Add the vanilla and combine. Zest the oranges over the mixer bowl and also add the blood orange juice. With mixer on stir setting, stir to combine. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Add in half the flour mixture and beat gently to combine. Add in milk mixture with mixer running on slow speed and mix gently to combine. Add in last half of flour mixture and beat gently to combine. Stir in the poppy seeds (Note* this is a matter of preference on how much poppy seeds you like-I add in only 2 Tbsp. but you can much more to your liking).

Pour the batter into the pan and smooth out the top. Bake in preheated oven for about 55 minutes to an hour or until a wooden skewer inserted shows a few moist crumbs.

Make the Blood Orange Syrup by placing ingredients into a liquid glass measuring cup and microwaving until mixture comes to a boil.

Let the cake cool for 30 minutes then gently pour the Blood Orange Syrup over the cake until cake absorbs all of syrup. Let cake cool completely, then apply glaze with a large spoon until top of cake is covered.

For glaze– in a medium bowl place sifted confectioners sugar and blood orange juice and whisk to combine.

 

Blood Orange Syrup

1/2 Cup water

2  1/2 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. blood orange juice

 

Glaze

1  1/2 Cup confectioners sugar, sifted

3-4 Tbsp. fresh blood orange juice

 


Butterfinger Macarons

I confess-I still had leftover Halloween candy, I was going to wait and save it for next year but decided to crumble them and put them to use in a buttercream to try a new macaron flavor. Have you ever wondered why the  Butterfinger candy bar has that weird orange color? or is it just me.

I have been recently tweaking my macaron recipe as well to try and combat hollow macaron shells and I was so overjoyed that this batch came out perfect. Nice feet with no hollows. I know you all are probably tired of another macaron recipe, but bear with me as I recently purchased some macaron Silpat mats and I had to try them out. For the record, I did not age my egg whites either-I have to admit, I’ve tried it several times with and without and for me personally I don’t see a difference in aging. I even baked my first batch with only resting them 10 minutes and they still came out perfect.

 

 

Butterfinger Macarons 

yield: ~ 30 or more assembled macarons (depending on piped size of shells)

 

140 gm Almond flour (I like Wellbee’s super fine blanched brand)*

124 gm confectioners sugar

107 gm egg whites, room temperature

110 gm granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

orange gel/paste food color

brown gel/paste food color

unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

 

(*try to find the best almond flour that is fine or superfine and blanched, or pale in color). I use “Wellbee’s superfine blanched almond flour” which I buy in 5 pound bags from Amazon. It’s cheaper as you go up in quantity.

 

 


 

  1. 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.
  2. 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 recently purchased new macaron mats by Velesco from Amazon and I love them! You get 2 mats for 15 dollars.
  3. 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.
  4. Increase mixer then to power level 6 and run for 3 minutes.
  5. Increase mixer to power level 8 and run for 3 minutes.
  6. Stop mixer and with a bamboo skewer or toothpick add in your gel colors. About 3-4 parts orange to one part brown.
  7. Increase mixer to power level high (10) and run for 1 minute 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 7 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 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. See pictures.

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 Butterfinger 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. 

Butterfinger Buttercream

3 egg whites

3/4 Cup granulated sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter

1/2 tsp. vanilla

3 “fun size” Butterfinger bars, crushed

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 crushed pieces of the Butterfinger. Note: you can make the buttercream a day or two ahead and keep chilled in the fridge-through the steps minus the crushed candy. When ready, let the filling come to room temperature and re whisk in the mixer until smooth and then fold in the crushed candy.


Pistachio~Rose Cake: Pistachio Cake with Pistachio and Rose Buttercream

 

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

Pistachio Cake 

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.

Pistachio Paste

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.

Buttercream

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.

 


Rose Macarons

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!

 

 

Rose Macarons

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.

 


Cranberry Orange Scones

 

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.

 

Orange Glaze:

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.

 


Stump de Noel

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.

Merry Christmas!

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)

 

Step 1

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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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.

Step 4

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.

Step 5

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.

Meringue Mushrooms

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.


Earl Grey Macarons and Troubleshooting tips for Macs

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.

Happy macaron-ing

 

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.