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If at First You Don’t Succeed…

28 Feb

  …Take A Class and Try Again!
Macarons with Espresso Chocolate Ganache Filling

For those of you who recall my previous post: Third Times A Charm I’ve been on what I like to call, a Macaron Mission. With really only 4 ingredients (Almond Flour, Granulated Sugar, Powdered Sugar and Egg Whites) you would think that Macarons are strait forward, quick and easy. Well, you’d be wrong. The hardest part really is finding out which method works best for you. The method that works for me may not work for you. You may have luck with the Italian meringue, but not the French meringue and there are SO many varieties of making this “simple” cookie. 

With that said, I did have some luck a couple of months ago, but looking back at the process, it was definitely a little bit of luck. So, I started really getting into understanding how the ingredients work on their own, what happens when you put them together and why it is so specific. On my Instagram I posted a picture of a new book I bought Les Petits Macaron written by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E. McBride. I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in truly learning the inner workings of Macarons.  


Just after reading through this book, a couple of times, I was browsing the Institute of Culinary Education website for their night class onions (GREAT classes at ICE that can be found HERE) and came across a Macaron class being taught by Kathryn Gordon. Needless to say, I was SO excited!! So, like a little kid in Disney World at the Disney Pricess breakfast (yes, that’s how I felt) I brought my book with me to take notes and have Chef sign it.

The best part about the class, other than feeling confident in my Macaron skills was that Chef Kathryn confirmed a lot of what I came to learn that there really is no “Holy Grail” of Macaron recipes. I had such a great time at the class and I learned so much that I couldn’t wait to put it to action and update/refresh my older blog post. Here’s a picture of the Macarons we all made in class:

   

I hope that you enjoy this “refreshed” version of my Macarons and if anything I hope you take away the confidence to give these amazing cookies a shot! They are totally worth it and once you get a standard base recipe for yourself, you’re truly limitless in what you can create!

Macarons

Prep Time       Cook Time       Total Time
30 Min             9 Min                 1 Hour

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Yields: 40 1-inch Macarons (80 halves)

Ingredients

  • 165 Grams (1 1/4 Cups Packed) of Almond Flour
  • 165 Grams (3/4 Cups Packed) of Confectioners’ Sugar
  • 1 Gram (A Pinch) of fine Sea Salt
  • 150 Grams (3/4 Cup) of Granulated Sugar
  • 5 Grams (1 Tbs) of Powdered Eggs Whites or Mirangue Powder
  • 115 Grams (1/2 Cup, ~4 Large Eggs)of Whisked Egg Whites — Ideally “aged”
  • Food Coloring (Optional) – 4 drops of Gel or up to 6 drops of liquid
  • Before we jump right into the instructions, there are some key things you should know about Macarons that can help with troubleshooting and understanding how theses tricky little cookies react:

    1. Most importantly — Macarons HATE water. That’s why the old saying of “don’t make Macarons in the rain” really is true! The moisture in the air will ruin the structure that the Macarons have. With that said, of course people make macarons when its raining outside, but don’t do it on your first try. Wait for a sunny and dry day.
    2. To follow up on the water issue — Egg Whites. Egg whites consist of protein and water and what the Macarons really want from the egg whites are the protein. This is why it’s important to “age” your egg whites. When you separate your whites from your yolks and let the whites sit separately, the water will start to evaporate and you’re left with the the protein; “the good stuff”! For my Macarons, I separated the eggs 2 days in advanced and left them in a bowl in the fridge. When I was ready to make the Macarons, I took them out of the fridge and let the whites come to room temperature on their own. About an hour. People do leave their whites out of the fridge and age them for days, weeks, even months, but to be safe, I like the fridge and just let them come to room temp on their own. Worked great for the Macarons I made in this post!
    3. All about the Flour:  Flour is the most important of the dry ingredient. What’s so interesting about these cookies is that you can use any type of nut flour to accomplish the flavor/color/theme you’re after. If you want that really white color, use coconut flour; green, use pistachio. You can also mix flours to save money! The most basic is the almond flour. You want the flour very fine, but if it feels like corn starch it’s too thin and won’t work. 
    4. Sift, Sift Sift! This is so important. To get that smooth top of the macaron cookie it is so important to mix the dry ingredients well, make it fine and get all the clumps out. To do this, use a food processor to thin out the flour and the sifter to blend the confection sugar with the flour and ensure no clumps.
    5. Food Coloring: Be careful! The gel food coloring is water based, and remember Macarons HATE water. Only add up to 5 or so drops. This will be enough to get you the pastel colors. You see some of the vibrant colors of macarons and those can be accomplished with powdered food coloring. The only downside to the powder is if you use too much of it, it can change the whole flavor of the macaron and can actually give it a very acidic aftertaste that most people really don’t like. Be aware and conscious of it.
    6. The Meringue: This is the “tricky” part and the part that has a huge variety of methods. Italian, French, Swis, and variations on each. The key here really is just not to over whip. If you over whip you’ll end up with an explosion at the top of the cookie. Just whip until it gets glossy and you can hold the bowl upside down over your head without anything falling out on top of you! Quite a test, right!?
    7. The Macaronner: This is were you are right before you’re about to pipe. You made the meringue, you’ve added your dry ingredients and stirred to combined. I call this the “lava” stage. You know you’re here when you lift and drop some of the mixture back in the bowl and the “pattern” dissapears back into the mixture. When this happens, you’re ready to pipe!

    Phew… OK, with that, we’re ready! It sounds like a lot, but once you understand what makes Macarons tick, you can start to pinpoint where the successes are and what parts need improvement. Don’t be scared, dive in and have fun with them!

    Instructions

    1. You will be baking your Macarons on 2 stacked sheet pans. This will help disperse the oven is heat during baking. So go ahead and stack two baking sheets and line with parchment or a Selpat. As you can see from the picture below, I place sheets of paper with the Macaron size I want underneath so that I am sure to pipe out the same size so they cook evenly.
       
    2. Place the almond flour, confectoners’ sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 4 times for 4 seconds to combined. After each pulse, make sure to scrape down the sides of the food processor. This is preventing the flour  from overheating in the processor. Once you’re done processing, sift the ingredients together   
       
    3. Stir together the meringue powder and granulated sugar together
    4. Place the egg whites and sugar together in a standing mixer set with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium-high speed until glossy medium peaks form (roughly 11 minutes, but everyone’s mixer is different)
       
    5.  Using a rubber spatula, fold the almond flour mixture into the meringue until they are well incorporated. At this point add any of the flavoring and color you’re using and fold again, but like I said above, be careful not to add too much! It is important to fold the different components just enough, but not too much or the macaron tops will crack when they’re in the oven. Be sure to follow #7 from the tips above. You can see from the pictures below the progression of the batter.
    6.  Spoon the batter into a half full pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 round inch tip. To achieve the tie-died colorful look that I achieved, before you fill the pastry bag, paint stripes from the tip to about halfway up the bag with the colors you want. As you pipe, the batter will pull the colors with it.
        
       
    7. To pipe the Macarons hold your piping bag just above the tip with your dominant had and clos the top so no filling comes out with your other hand. Position the bag at 90 degrees, strait above where you are piping, about inch away from the baking sheet. Squeeze out the batter  without moving the piping bag at all! That is very important so that you get a perfectly round macaron. Once you have the size you want, let the pressure on the bag go and without lifting the bag, simply move over to the next area and repeate the process until the batter is gone 
    8.  Once all of the Macarons are piped, slam baking sheet onto the counter about 11 times. Don’t be shy, really slam it!! Then, let the Macarons sit on the counter for roughly 15 minutes, until a skin forms. While these are forming the skin, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    9. Bake the Macarons for 9 minutes, until they just come off the parchment paper when you lift them. If you find that the first batch comes out a little short with minimal feet, try taking the temperatre down 25 degrees and add 1 minute to the cooking time, and visa versa if the feet are too big.
       
       
    10. Cool the Macarons completely before removing. If possible, place in the freezer for 10 minutes for easy removal.

    Now, for the filling! There are SO many variations of filling. Truly, the options are endless, just use your imagination! I kept it simple this time around with a Cappuccino Ganache Filling. The strong rich flavoring was a perfect compliment for the simple flavoring of the almond cookie. Also, I LOVE chocolate and coffee, so when they’re combined, I just can’t say no!

    Cappuccino Ganache Filling

    Prep Time      Cook Time      Total Time
    5 Min             10 Min                20 Min
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    Yields ~3.5 Cups

    Ingredients

    • 3 Grams (1 Large Tbs) of Espresso Powder
    • 1/4 Tsp of Ground Cinnamon
    • 240 Grams (~ 1 Cup) of Heavy Cream
    • 320 Grams (~2 Cups) of Semisweet Chocolate, chopped into small pieces

    Instructions

    1. Steep the espresso and cinnamon in the cream as it comes to a boil in a small pot
    2. Once it boils, turn off the heat and immediately pour over the chocolate in a shallow pan
    3. Let sit for 1 minute and then whisk from the center out to the edges until smooth and shiny
    4. Cool in the pan until thick/spreadable as a filling. You can place in the fridge as well to help the process along
        
       

    It’s that simple!!

    Now to combine the Macarons. Once they are cooled, pair each with another of the same size. Line them up with one facing up and once facing down  

     
    Fill a piping bag half way with your filling and begin to pipe the filling onto each macaron half facing up. Use the same technique you used to pipe the macaron out for practice!  

     
    Take the top half of the marathon cookie place on top of the filling, press lightly an twist a little so that the filling comes just short of the edge.  


    Now, finally, after all that work, ENJOY!!! Take a bite of these fabulous little cookies you worked so hard on! 

      
     

    – Kristin

    Best Day (Weekend) of My Life

    17 Nov

    A month ago today I married my best friend! It’s still a bit strange to call myself Mrs. Pfeifer, let alone someone’s wife! It’s been such a wonderful ride and while I’m thrilled that the planning was done, I’m loving reliving the weekend though all the photos

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    Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I thought: “oh wouldn’t it be fun to bake a cake for the rehearsal dinner!!” Thankfully I didn’t decide to make my own wedding cake, someone would’ve had to pick me up off the floor, but I did bake for the rehearsal dinner. Truthfully, it was probably the best thing for me. It kept me pre-occupied and calm, so it didn’t hit me that I was getting married and walking down with isle with 135 people staring at me until roughly mid-morning on the day of. That’s when the water works started and I realized just how important pockets in your wedding dress really are! 

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    Leading up to it, no one knew I was baking, but my Instagram (@KristinsCravings) should definitely have been a give away! I was making gum paste flowers, funfetti and chocolate cakes, and learning how to paint cakes. Needless to say, I’m sure people had an idea, but no one except Rob (my now husband, who probably thinks I’m a little crazy, but is now stuck with me!!) knew for sure.

    I had SO much fun making this cake and I learned so much from it! It was my first time painting a cake and making gum paste flowers. There were many long nights within the week of the wedding, but I wouldn’t change it for a thing!

      

    ALSO, Madison Lee’s CAKES did an absolutely fantastic job on our wedding cake! It came out more beautiful than I could have imagined. Thank you!!!

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    Kristin

     

    Reese’s Peanut Butter Tart

    15 Aug

    Two of my favorite foods are chocolate and peanut butter, and when you combine them… it’s like heaven!

    My team had a training at work a week or so ago, and to keep us up and energized the coordinators put bowls of candies and mints on the tables. I usually try to stay away from those deadly mini candies, but by the end of the day I had about 5-10 little Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. It was unfortunate, and forced me back to the gym, but it did get me thinking about a creative way to create one big Reece’s Cups. When I got home that night I started googling all sorts of different recipes and came across Leite’s Culinaria’s: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart. With a peanut butter cookie crust, peanut butter mousse and a thick layer of chocolate ganache it sounded like the perfect combination of all of my favorite things!

    What You’ll Need:

    Tart Crust:

    • 1/2 Cup of All-Purpose Flour
    • 1/2 Tsp baking soda
    • Pinch of Salt (1/16 Tsp)
    • 1/4 Cup of packed Light Brown Sugar
    • 2 Tbs of Sugar
    • 4 Tbs of Unsalted Butter, cold and cut into 1″ cubes
    • 1/2 Cup of Smooth Peanut Butter (I use Jiff)
    • 1/2 of a Large Egg (beat the egg lightly before measuring out half – 0.8 ounces)
    • 1/4 Tsp of Vanilla Extract

    Peanut Butter Mousse:

    • 7 Tbs of Cream Cheese
    • 1/2 Cup of Peanut Butter
    • 1/4 Cup of Sugar
    • 1 Tsp of Vanilla Extract
    • 3/4 Cup of Heavy Cream, softly whipped

    Chocolate Ganache:

    • 3 Ounces of Milk Chocolate
    • 2 Ounces of Bittersweet Chocolate
    • 1/3 Cup of Heavy Cream
    • 1/8 Tsp of Vanilla Extract

    Directions:

    Let’s start with the tart crust because that’s the most time-consuming.

    First, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

    The next part you can do using a food processor or an electric mixer and I’ll go through both methods:

    • If using a food processor: Attach the metal blade and process the sugars for several minutes until very fine. Keeping the motor running and add in the butter cubes through the top shoot. Then, add the peanut butter and process until smooth and creamy (about 10 seconds). Keep the motor running again to add in the egg and vanilla and process until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add in the flour mixture and pulse until incorporated.
    • If using an electic mixer: In a mixing bowl, beat together the sugars until they are well mixed. Add in the butter, which will have to be slightly softened, and the peanut butter and beat for several minutes on medium high-speed until very smooth and creamy. Add in the egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to low and gradually beat in the flour mixture until just incorporated.

    The dough should be pretty greasy and smooth. Transfer the ball to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

    Once refrigerated, take the ball of dough out of the fridge and place it in the middle of a 9″ tart pan. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and begin to gently and evenly press the dough into the pan, pressing it against and up the sides. If the dough softens and sticks to the plastic, refrigerate it again until it doesn’t stick anymore and if the dough tears, simply press it together again.

    Once the dough is evenly spread across the tart pan and up the sides, cover in plastic wrap and once again place it in the fridge for at least 1 hour or even up to 1 week. (You can also wrap the unbaked crust well and freeze it for up to 3 months.)

    After the tart has been refrigerated again, take it out and bake the shell in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 10-12 minutes, or until golden. It will puff up at first, but then settle toward the end of baking. The sides will be soft, but spring back when touched gently. Let the tart cool on a wire rack

     

    Finally we are ready to create the Peanut Butter Mousse filling.

    In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar on medium speed until it becomes uniform in color. Reduce the speed to low and add in the vanilla. Beat in 1/4 cup of the whipped cream just until it is incorporated. With a large rubber spatula, fold in the rest of the whipped cream, mixing until the mixture is well blended but still airy.

    Once the tart crust is completely cooled, scrape the peanut butter mousse into the tart and smooth so that it’s level. refrigerate the tart for about an hour.

     

    While the tart is chilling in the fridge, let’s make the Chocolate Ganache topping.

    We are going to follow the same method we used for the Birthday Cake recipe.

    Break the milk  and bittersweet chocolate into several pieces and place them in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until the chocolate is finely ground.

    In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream to a boil. With the food processor running, pour the hot cream through the feed tube into the chocolate mixture. Continue to process until smooth. Add in the vanilla and pulse a few times to fully incorporate. Transfer the ganache to a bowl and cool to room temperature.

    Once the tart is finished cooling in the fridge, pour the ganache over the peanut butter mousse in a circular motion, being careful so that it does not land too heavily in any one spot and cause a depression in the mousse. Using a small metal spatula, start to spread the ganache to the edges of the tart. Then spread evenly to cover the entire surface of the tart. Refrigerate the tart for at least 2 hours to set or up to 5 days.

    Enjoy!

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