Third Times a Charm!

1 Sep display

Chocolate Macarons
Salted Caramel & Chocolate Ganache Filling 

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These little suckers are definitely one of the hardest treats I’ve made in a while. 1st attempt ended with hollow shells, but they still tasted good! When I look back, I didn’t let them sit and I rushed through it a bit as I was baking and cooking dinner at the same time (never a good idea!). The 2nd attempt: I did a lot of research, found the “perfect” recipe, went through it step by step, following to a tee, piped out beautifully on the baking sheet, they’re lookin’ good… NOPE! They came out totally flat, chewy and not very tasty at all. There they go, in the garbage, slam the oven, grumble under my breath. Now, I’m determined. Poor Rob has now come to the realization, not only that I’m a little crazy and that the kitchen is a disaster, but we’re not eating dinner until closer to 8:30pm versus 7pm.

I took a deep breath, looked for the chocolate recipe that I found (because obviously if it’s chocolate it will work!) and started over. What I’ve learned when it comes to Macarons:

  • Be patient (need to work on this one)
  • Don’t get frustrated (guilty)
  • Don’t rush it (guilty)
  • Deep breath and a glass of wine can solve 1 – 3 above (guilty)
  • Everyone’s “perfect” recipe is different, it’s all trial and error to find your own technique

Now, with all that behind me, I successfully made Macarons! As I mentioned, everyone has their own technique for these. Some say, no need to let the Macarons sit before putting them in the oven, you can add the sugar to the eggs right away, or add the whole flour/sugar mixture to the meringue all at once rather than in batches. Others say: fold 60 times, 30 times, 45 times to get the correct consistency. Let me just say, counting your folds? Really? C’mon, let’s simplify this a bit. You have to use your eye and your judgement a bit and that really just comes with time, trial & error (hence, my 3 attempts!), and some guidance, which you’ll hopefully get from the recipe below. What I like about this recipe is that it followed a lot of the “rules” that apply in general baking which I’ll be sure to point out as we go.

French Chocolate Macarons

3 Stacked

What You Need:

  • 2 Cups of Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Cup of Almond Flour
  • 3 Tablespoons of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Fine Salt
  • 3 Large Egg Whites (Room Temperature*)
    *Rather than letting the eggs sit out, submerge them in warm water for 5 minutes

Prep:

  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F and arrange the rack in the middle of the oven
  3. Set up a large pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain tip **Trick: Cut the tip of the bag, place the baking tip in, twist just above the tip and place the bag in an empty liquid measuring cup (one that holds at ~2 cups), fold the edges of the pastry bag over the edges of the measuring cup to create a a “bowl” in the bag to make it easier when the time comes and you wont get frosting/ganache/caramel/etc. all over the top of the bag before you use it. Image from Brave Tart:

pastry bag

Instructions:

  1. Sift together the Powdered Sugar, Almond Flour, Cocoa Powder and Salt. Sift an additional 1 – 2 times. Yes, 2 – 3 total sifts! It seems like a lot, but you need to make sure there are no clumps and the Almond Flour can be pretty thick. Push through as much of the Almond Flour you can and throw out any big clumps left over.
  2. Make the Meringue:
    1. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until opaque and foamy. Increase the speed to medium high & beat until the egg whites hold the line of the whisk, about 1 minute 30 seconds (roughly) then add the Sugar** This is part of the recipe that you see variations on. Some people say that waiting that minute or so to add the sugar doesn’t matter at all, but this way seemed to work best for me.
    2. Continue to whip on high speed until stiff peaks form and there is a clump of meringue in the whisk. This may take a couple of minutes, but make sure the meringue is stiff because it will deflate as you add in the flower. To get the clump out of the whisk, just tap it on the side of the bowl a couple times.
  3. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry mixture into the egg whites in 4 batches folding each batch until just barely incorporated** Here’s the 2nd part of the recipe that you see variations. Typically when you’re combining ingredients, especially wet into dry it is done in batches or it will take forever to incorporate and the mix will end up over-mixed. While the meringue will deflate here, we want to make sure not to over-fold. My second attempt at Macarons I added all of the dry at once and I found that I over-folded the mix and the rounds came out flat with no feet. Only fold until there are no traces of egg whites. The mixture will look like slow-moving lava, similar to cake batter.
  4. Transfer the batter to the pastry bag. Pipe out rounds roughly 1-1/4 inch around about 1-inch apart onto the baking sheets. Here is a great video to show how to pipe the “perfect” Macaron.
    1. Place the piping tip on the tray at a 45 degree angle
    2. Keep the tip still and pipe into the mound of mixture, the mixture will spread a little, but form a circle
    3. Pull the tip up when you’ve reached your desired size and the peak will fall back into the mixture. It will take a couple tries (especially if it’s your first time) to pipe out consistent circles each time, but you’ll get the hang of it
  5. Once all the rounds are piped out, pick up the baking sheets and bang them against the work surface to create the Macaron “base” or “foot”. This will ensure that all of the air bubbles are out of the mixture.
  6. Let the rounds sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to dry the tops (when you touch the tops, they won’t be sticky anymore)** Here’s the 3rd spot that varies per recipe. The 1st and 2nd batch I made, I did not let the rounds sit, but popped them right in the oven. The 1st batch rose and had feet, but second batch was flat.  People say that it doesn’t matter, but letting them set worked for me, so I’m stickin’ to it! This is a good time to grab a glass of wine or maybe clean up your work surface a bit. I prefer the wine!

Uncooked Baking Sheet

  1. Once dried, or after your wine glass is empty, pop the macaroons in the oven. Bake for a total of 14 minutes, rotating the sheets half way through. If you’re using a convention bake, you may want to leave the Macarons alone for the full 14 minutes. Opening the oven is a tricky task as you don’t want to lose the oven temperature and cause your rounds to become hollow. With that said, I rotated mine half way though and they came out great! Rule of thumb: If you don’t have to open the oven, don’t!
  2. Take the rounds out of the oven and let them sit on the baking sheet for roughly 3 – 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Do not fill the Macarons until they are completely cooled.

Finished Baking sheet

Chocolate Ganache Filling:

What You Need:

  • 4 Ounces of Bittersweet Chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 Cup of Heavy Cream
  • 2 Tablespoons of Unsalted Butter (1/4 stick), at room temperature & cut into cubes

Instructions:

  1. Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just starts to boil
  2. Take the cream off the heat and slowly stir in the chocolate without creating any bubbles. Let sit for 1 minute
  3. Add the butter and stir until smooth
  4. Cover with saran wrap so that the wrap is touching the top of the ganache and let it chill in the refrigerator until thickened, about 30 minutes.

Salted Caramel Filling:

What You Need:

  • 2 Tablespoons of Thick Caramel – You can be ambitious and make your own through How to Cook That, but I just purchased jar of Caramel at the store
  • Additional 1/2 Cup of Thick Caramel
  • 1/2 Cup of Butter
  • Pinch of Sea Salt Flakes

Instructions:

  1. Keep the 2 tablespoons of Caramel off to the side for now.
  2. Combined the 1/2 Cup of Caramel with the 1/2 Cup of Butter and the Sea Salt and beat until smooth. Set aside in the refrigerator to thicken, about 30 minutes.

The Assembly 

  1. Pair Macarons of similar size
  2. Remove the Ganache from the refrigerator and transfer to a piping bag
  3. Remove the Salted Caramel from the refrigerator and transfer to a piping bag
  4. Warm the 2 tablespoons of thick caramel that was not used in the recipe and spoon a small amount into the center of one half of the shells ** You’re only going to place filling on the bottom round and leave the top bare for easy assembly
  5. I did half chocolate ganache and half salted caramel, so know in advance which ones you’re going to do as each flavor. Place about 1 teaspoon of the ganache OR salted caramel on top of the thick caramel you placed in the center of the Macaron half.
  6. Place the top on and press gently so that it looks like a mini hamburger.
  7. Refrigerate, covered, at lest 24 hours before serving to let the filling set.

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After several attempts, it was a wonderful success to finally get them right! I hope I didn’t scare you too much with my failed attempts. These are fun bite sized (or 2 bites depending on the person!) treats to share at parties or to keep all to yourself.

Enjoy!
Kristin

A Flashback for Friday

28 Aug

Lately I’ve been reminiscing about my time during baking classes at the French Culinary institute in Manhattan, NYC (Now known as International Culinary Center (ICC)). I took 1 semester long class over a 12 week period every Saturday from 8am to 3pm. I learned more in those 12 weeks about baking then I could have imagined from tricks like:

  • Lemon juice prohibits apples from turning brown when you chop them
  • Best way to have room temperature eggs is to submerge them in warm water for 5 minutes rather than leave them out for hours

To key facts such as:

  • Gluten: Flour in contact with water – The more you work the dough the more gluten is released. When you overwork pastry it becomes bread because you’re releasing too much gluten into the dough.
  • One of the biggest differences in the types of flour is the amount of protein. Bread Flour has the most protein, then All-Purpose and Cake Flour has the least amount.
  • Emulsify – Combining 2 liquids that don’t combine easily – When you add an egg 1 at a time into the recipe like we did in the New York Crumb Cake
  • The greater the fat content in butter, the better the butter is (Go figure!). In the class we use butter with 82% fat

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Over the past year I have been more into cooking than baking, especially in preparation for my wedding in October, but lately I have re-found my passion for pastries, cakes, cookies and the like. Looking back over some of the photos and recipes from my Pastry Techniques book made me nostalgic towards a kitchen covered in flour, sugar and fondant

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I’ve been ambitious lately in my thoughts for my next creation… Especially coming close to fall (I know, I know… I’m not ready for summer to be over yet either!) it is my favorite time to of year for pumpkin cupcakes and apple pies!

Get ready, Kristin’s Cravings is back at it!

Enjoy!

Everyone Needs a Little Fun!

25 Aug

Funfetti Cupcakes!

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What better excuse to bake than a BIRTHDAY! Somehow I think I missed the funfetti train growing up. Either that, or I was so consumed with eating all of the chocolate around me, that I shooed away anything “not chocolate”. Well, that was a fail on my part. I have recently discovered how fantastic this flavor really is as my wedding planning adventures have taken off this year. My fiance, Rob and I recently took part in our wedding cake tasting, which in my opinion, is the best part of the wedding planning! We are using Madison Lee’s Cakes as our baker and they have made the whole process very fun! We tasted 3 flavors:

  1. Almond sponge cake with mocha buttercream and chocolate ganache filling
  2. Rich chocolate cake with high quality chocolate ganache filling
  3. Funfetti: Sweet white cake with colorful bits throughout and buttercream filling

Being the chocolate lover I truly am at heart, Rob and I chose chocolate and funfetti for our flavors!

To make a long story short… I was talking with some coworkers about our picks and one in-particular professed his love for funfetti and it just so happened his birthday was the following week. Funfetti Birthday Cupcakes it is!!

For my first attempt, they turned out festive and fantastic! To quote my coworker, John: “that’s the best cupcake ever” and they were totally easy to make at home from scratch, no box necessary!

Cupcakes

One of my go-to blogs for anything “sweet, savory, sinful” is Brown Eyed Baker which is where I found this delicious recipe:

FUNFETTI CUPCAKES (FROM SCRATCH!)

  • Yield: 24 Cupcakes
  • Prep Time: 20 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 – 20 Minutes
  • Total Time: 1 Hour

A homemade version of funfetti cupcakes – buttery vanilla cupcakes loaded with sprinkles and topped with vanilla buttercream frosting

Ingredients
Vanilla Cupcakes
1 3/4 Cups of Cake Flour (2 Tbsp of Cornstarch for every 1 cup of All-Purpose Flour)
1 1/4 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
1 3/4 Cups of Granulated Sugar
2 1/2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon of Kosher Salt
1 Cup of Unsalted Butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 Eggs
1 Cup of Whole Milk
2 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup of Rainbow Sprinkles (or more depending on flavor preference)

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
2 Cups of Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
5 Cups of Powdered Sugar
2 Tablespoons of Vanilla Extract
Funfetti or Rainbow Sprinkles, for decorating

cupcakes1

Directions
Make The Cupcakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line two cupcake trays (each with 12 slots) with paper lines and set aside.

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, sift and add both flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix together on low speed for 1 minute. With the mixer on low, add the butter cubes, a few at a time, continue until all the butter has been added and the mixture resembles coarse sand.

3. Keeping the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions (make sure to get the bottom of the bowl as well!). Slowly pour in the milk and vanilla and mix until combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, until the batter is smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed to ensure all has bee incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the sprinkles.

4. Fill the liners two-thirds full (about 1/4 cup of batter) and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the centers are set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove them and place them on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Make The Frosting:
1.  Using the wire whisk attachment of your standing mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl once or twice.

2. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add in the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add in the vanilla, mixing until incorporated.

3. Whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.

4. Frost the cupcakes as desired and garnish with additional sprinkles. The cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

ENJOY!
Kristin

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