Tag Archives: Chocolate Ganache

Third Times a Charm!

1 Sep

Chocolate Macarons
Salted Caramel & Chocolate Ganache Filling 

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See Updated Macaron Post HERE

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

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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!

Birthday Cake!

26 Jul

As you saw from my last post, this past weekend was my friend’s birthday. One thing you should know about me is that I love birthdays! Whether it’s my birthday, my friend’s birthday or anyone’s birthday, it is a wonderful time to celebrate and bring everyone close to you together.

For her birthday, I decided to whip together a 4 layer vanilla cake with homemade chocolate ganache and strawberries. To any of you on the East coast, you know how hot and humid it was last Friday. We reached triple digit temperatures in NYC and as I was getting out of a cab at Grand Central Station, the ratio reported that it was 102 degrees F, but felt like 112 degrees F. This was definitely not the best conditions to travel with a cake, but I did my best. I rushed through Grand Central at 5:30pm on a Friday (which is a task within itself without a cake!), made it onto a Metro North train, walked through several cars to find a seat and sat for 2 hours in a non-air conditioned car hoping the cake wouldn’t melt! There was some reconstruction when I finally arrived, but I made it. Cake intact and it was delicious!

What You’ll Need:

Cake:

  • 2 Cups of Sugar
  • 3 1/4 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 1/2 Tsp of Salt
  • 3/4 Cup of Unsalted Butter, Softened – See Baking Tips – Softening Butter
  • 1 1/4 Cups of Milk – Room Temperature
  • 2 Tsp of Vanilla Extract
  • 4 Large Eggs

Ganache:

  • 12 Oz of Bittersweet Chocolate
  • 8 Tsp sugar (Optional)
  • 4 Cups of Heavy Cream

To Prepare:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Lightly grease and flour two 9″ round cake pans

** To Note ** The Ganache will need to chill in the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight.  It can be made 4 days                                    in advanced

Directions:

Ganache:

Let’s start with the ganache. Per the not above, the ganache can be made up to 4 days in advance, but must be made at least 6 hours before you are ready to frost the cake.

Chop up 12 ounces of chocolate into small pieces, place in a large bowl and set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the heavy cream and sugar (if using) until it simmers gently. Be sure to stir occasionally so that the heavy cream does not begin to curdle. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir gently until the chocolate is mostly melted.

Let the mixture stand for 15 minutes to be sure that all of the chocolate has melted. Once melted, stir the ganache gently until it is perfectly smooth, let cool.

Once the ganache has cooled, cover and chill for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. A trick to covering a liquid like this is to place the Saran wrap directly on the surface of the mixture. This prevents a film from forming over the top of the mixture.

Cake:

In the meantime, while the ganache is almost done chilling, let’s focus on the cake.

In a large mixing bowl fitted with an electric mixer, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.

Cut the butter into Tbs sized pieces, place into the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer at low-speed until it begins to resemble a sandy consistency.

In a small bowl, combine the milk and vanilla separately and then add to the mixture all at once. Mix in at low-speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for another 30 seconds. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure the mixture is fully combine.

With the mixture running on low-speed, add 1 of the eggs. Increase the speed to medium and beat the egg into the mixture for 30 seconds. Place the mixer back to low-speed and repeat this process, one egg at a time, with the remaining 3 eggs. You’ll notice that after each egg is added the mixture will begin to look thicker and more fluffy.

Once the last egg is added, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl one last time, then beat at medium-high speed for 30 seconds to make sure the mixture is fully combine. The mixture should be very heavy, but fluffy. Pour the batter evenly between the two prepared panes and level with an offset spatula.

Bake for 30 minutes, rotating half way through, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and place on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Once cooled, insert a knife between the cake and the edge of the pan to make sure the cake comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the pans and place on a cooling rack until completely cooled, a minimum of 1 hour.

Once the cakes are completely cooled and its coming time to remove the ganache from the fridge, slice each cake horizontally so that you are left with 4 layers of cake. This is and optional step. I chose to make a 4 layer cake, but it is up to you as to many layer you chose to have. If you plan to only use 2 layers, skip down to ***.

As a note for later, when it comes time to assemble the cake, you will use the bottom of one of the sliced cakes as the bottom of the final cake and the bottom of the other sliced cake as the top of the final cake. The bottom piece that is used at the top of the cake will be flipped over so that the final cake has a flat smooth top surface.

*** In preparation for assembling the cake, wash and cut the strawberries into halves or quarters depending on their size, place in a bowl and set aside.

Ganache:

Now, back to the ganache. Once the ganache has fully chilled for a minimum of 6 hour and you are ready to start assembling the cake, take it out of the fridge and remove the Saran wrap.

The ganache will still be creamy. Slowly, with a rubber spatula, begin to whip until it is stiff enough to hold a nice shape and seems spreadable.  Be sure not to over-whip the ganache or it will begin to look granular.

You are now ready to assemble the cake!

I’ve found that the easiest and cleanest way to assemble a cake is to place 2 pieces of parchment paper on the cake stand so that they meet in the middle and place the middle of the bottom layer of the cake right where the pieces meet. This way, once the cake is frosted, you can pull the sheets out from under the cake and the stand will remain clean.

Scoop up a portion of the ganache and place it in the center of the bottom layer. Smooth it out evenly and add more if need be. Make sure there is a good layer so that when you place the next layer on top, it is raised a bit.

Once the ganache is spread evenly:

  1. For the 2 layer cake: Place the cut up strawberries on the layer of ganache. Take more of the ganache and spread it evenly over the top of the strawberries. Then, carefully place the top layer of the cake directly on top. Skip down to ***.
  2. For the 4 later cake: I only put strawberries in the center of the cake, so after the bottom layer is frosted, place the second layer directly on top (per the note above, make sure that it is not one of the bottom pieces! That will be used as the top layer). Frost this layer as you did with the bottom layer. Then, place the cut up strawberries on the layer of ganache. Take more of the ganache and spread it evenly over the top of the strawberries. Place the 3rd layer directly over the top and frost as you did the previous layers. Then, the top layer should be the bottom of one of the sliced cakes. Flip it over and place directly over the layer of ganache as you did with the previous layers.

*** Now that the cake is fully assembled it is time for frost the sides and top.

Starting with the sides, with an offset spatula, scoop up the ganache and spread evenly around the sides of the cake. Make sure not to be shy. You want to cover and get into all the creases of the cake. Once the sides are fully frosted, scoop the remainder of the ganache onto the top of the cake. Spread evenly. Now, go around the cake and smooth out any bumps, lumps or uneven edges to give the cake a crisp clean look.

For the finishing touches, I took a semi-sweet chocolate bar and shaved the edges over the top of the cake and placed 3 strawberries at the center.

Carefully, remove the parchment from below the cake and you are ready to serve!

Enjoy!

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