Tag Archives: Baking

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
    __________________________________________

    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

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    Most Important Meal of the Day

    21 Feb

    Buttermilk Pancakes

    Growing up, Sunday mornings were my dad’s time to shine in the kitchen! His specialties at the stove consist of: lasagna and pancakes. Lasagna was always saved for the times my mom was away or my dad was put in charge of dinner. Pancakes however, were made on the regular; our Sunday morning treat! He would always make a huge batch of pancakes Sunday morning that we would devour with butter and syrup. Whatever we couldn’t finish would be frozen and eaten for breakfast before school each morning. It was the perfect way to start the day!

    As an adult, I can’t say I make them every Sunday (I’d have to live at the gym!), but pancakes are definitely a welcomed surprise for my husband every once in a while. Over the past year when I’ve made pancakes, I’ve always changed and tweaked my recipes to find the best golden, fluffy pancakes and I’ve finally done it! These pancakes are fluffy, but not too dense, golden brown and melt in your mouth. It’s the perfect base to eat plain (as my husband likes them), chocolate chip (the way I like them), blueberry and whatever flavor suits you! Pair these pillows of heaven with a side of eggs and fruit and you have yourself a pretty fantastic Sunday if you ask me! img_2589

    Prep Time     Cook Time     Total Time
    10 Min            3.5 Min            13.5 Min

    __________________________________________

    Yields ~11 6-inch Pancakes

    Ingredients:

    • 1 and 1/4 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
    • 1 Tsp of Baking Powder
    • 1/2 Tsp of Baking Soda
    • 1/4 Tsp of Salt
    • 1/2 Tsp of Cinnamon
    • 1.5 Tbs of Granulated Sugar
    • 1 Large egg
    • 1.5 Cups of Buttermilk
    • 1 Tsp of Vanilla Extract
    • 2 Tbs of Unsalted Butter, melted
    • 1/2 Tbs of Unsalted butter, for the griddle
    • 1/2 Cup of Chocolate Chops (optional)img_2569

    Instructions:

    1. Whisk together baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
    2. Whisk in the egg, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla
    3. Add in the flour and whisk until just combined. The batter should have small to medium lumps.img_2574
    4. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Heat the griddle/pan on medium heat and add the extra 1/2 tbs of butter. Wipe off excess.img_2576-1
    5. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup (or a ladle) scoop out the batter and pour onto the griddle making sure each pancake is roughly 2 inches away from the other. Scatter with chocolate chips, if you’re using them.

       

    6. Once the pancakes start to bubble and pop on top and the edges are slightly dry, it’s time to flip! This will take roughly 2 minutes, but it’s all a matter of your pan temperature, so use your eye. If you think they’re ready but not sure, sneak the spatula under the side and peak under to see if it’s browned, if so, flip!
    7. Continue cooking until golden brown on the bottom and slightly firm when you lightly press the top of them with the spatula. It’s like testing a piece of steak: Rare, Medium Rare, Medium, Well Done. You want your pancakes “medium”, still squishy, but cooked through. This should take roughly 1 minute, but as mentioned before, it all depends on the heat of your pan. Low and slow is really the key here. If the heat is too high, the bottom will golden, but the pancake will not be cooked through.
    8. Once this set is cooked, transfer to an oven safe plate and place in the oven to keep warm. Continue with the next batch until the batter is gone.img_2587
    9. Serve with butter and your favorite syrup!img_2589

    If you’re anything like me, you always make too much, but these are great to freeze and save for another morning. Just wrap well in tinfoil (you can even put 2 or 3 together) and place in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat, unwrap and place on a microwave safe place. Microwave for 3o seconds and then 15 second intervals until steamy and ready to eat!

    Enjoy!
    Kristin

    Challah Bread

    29 Jan

    Giving It Another Shot!

    I started on my bread making adventure when I was in college. The outcome was great, but the process had some major flaws… One major flaw in particular: I blew a fuse in the apartment EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. The apartment was somewhat drafty and to let the bread rise in a dark, quiet, warm place I would need a space heater in the back of the apartment. Never fail, 20 minutes later, the apartment was dark and shut down.

    I decided to give it another go now when I moved to NYC… same problem. This apartment was much smaller and I decided it was probably a fire hazard and I should just quit the whole bread attempt. There are literally millions of other things to bake, stop with the bread Kristin!

    Well, I’m stubborn and in a new apartment, but this time, IT WORKED! And it was delicious!! I decided on Challah Bread and ended with some fabulous french toast for breakfast!

    IMG_2397

    Prep Time        Cook Time             Total Time
    3 – 3.5 hours          30 min               3.5 -4 hours
    ____________________________________________________
    Yields: 1 Loaf

    Ingredients:

    • 2 Tsp of Active Dry or Instant Yeast
    • 1 Cup of lukewarm Water
    • 4 – 4.5 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
    • 1/4 Cup of Granulated Sugar
    • 2 Tsp of Salt
    • 2 Large Eggs
    • 1 Large Egg Yolk (Keep the Egg White for the Egg Wash you’ll use later)
    • 1/4 Cup of Vegetable Oil

    Instructions:

    1. Sprinkle the yeast in the lukewarm water with a pinch of salt. Stir to dissolve the yeast and let stand until you see a thin frothy layer across the top of the mixture. When you see the froth, this means that the yeast is active and ready to use.
    2. Whisk together 4 cups of flour (save the last 1/2 cup to the side), sugar and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer (or large mixing bowl if you’re kneading by hand)
      IMG_2306
    3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the eggs, egg yolk and oil. Whisk these together to form a semi-liquid mixture pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.IMG_2309
    4. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg mixture and mix with a spoon until you form a shaggy dough that is difficult to mixIMG_2310
    5. With the dough hook attachment, knead the dough on low speed for 6 to 8 minutes (or, if by hand, turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes). If the dough seems sticky, like bubblegum, add the excess flour, a teaspoon at a time,  until it feels tacky, but no longer sticky. The dough is finished kneading when it is soft, smooth and holds a ball-shape.
      IMG_2314
    6. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place somewhere quiet, warm, and dark. I placed mine in my over (with the heat off!). Let the dough rise until doubled in size, roughly 1.5 to 2 hours.FullSizeRender
    7. Braiding the Dough: There are two routes you can go here: (1) Standard 3-stranded braid, or (2) 6-stranded braid.
      1. 3-Stranded Braid: Separate the dough into 3 equal pieces and roll into a long rope, 1 inch thickness and 16 inches long. Cinch at the top, fold under and braid down. Cinch at the bottom and fold under.
      2. 6-Stranded Braid: Separate the dough into 6 equal pieces and roll into a long rope, 1 inch thickness and 16 inches long. Cinch at the top and fold under. The game plan here is “over two, under one, over two” always starting from the far right rope. Carry the right-most rope over the two ropes beside it, go under the middle rope, then carry it over the last two ropes. Lay the rope down parallel to the other ropes. It is now the furthest-left strand. Continue using the right-most rope, follow the pattern and make the braid as tight as possible. Your braid will start to shift left as you go and it is OK to lift it up and recenter if you need to. Once you reach the end, squeeze and cinch the ends of the rope together and tuck them under the loaf. If the rope seems too long, it is OK to plump it together carefully.
    8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the loaf on the paper. Sprinkle with a little flour and drape a dishcloth over the top. Place the pan in a warm spot, away from drafts and let rise until puffed and pillowy, roughly an hour (Do NOT place in the oven this time because half way through you’ll need to turn the oven on to pre-heat). Try not to peek! 🙂
    9. About 20 minutes before baking, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush all over the Challah. Be sure to get into ALL the nooks and crannies as well as down the sides of the loaf.

       

    10. Place the Challah in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The challah will be done when it is deeply brown.

       

    11. Let the challah cool on a cooling rack until just barely warm.
    12. Finally — Slice & Eat!!

    No kidding, we ate this bread all weekend! It was a perfect addition to short-ribs, it made fantastic french toast and mid-day sandwiches. You name it, if we could make the bread fit, we did! I hope you enjoy it as much as my home did!

    Enjoy!
    Kristin

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