Friday, May 28, 2010

The elusive macaron

Hazelnut filled with Nutella

Espresso filled with bittersweet ganache

I've had varying degrees of success with making Parisian macaroons over the years, but have never really figured out what was working and what wasn't. For a cookie with so few ingredients, there are a myriad of things that can (and in my case) usually do go wrong - too flat, too tall, cracky, bumpy, sticky, lumpy (hey, that sounds like Old Hat, New Hat ). Soooo, with a top secret - soon to be divulged - project in the works, the time has come for macaroon domination! My problem is I like things to come out perfectly the first time and I'm not up for a lot of experimentation and failure. I had to come up with a plan to conquer the finicky macaroon without wasting a lot of time or expensive ingredients. My first move involved buying this adorable book. It's a lovely book with great inspiration, but after reading reviews on Amazon I was scared away from using the recipes. Next, I scoured the Internet for other recipes and tricks of the trade. Luckily, we can all benefit from the people out there whom seem to relish in trial and error and have mastered the quirks of the macaroon. I started at David Lebovitz's blog and discovered Veronica and her extensive research. If you are interested in making them for yourself, I highly recommend her thorough instructions. I'm won't bore you with all of the details here, but I will share the recipe that was successful for me and a few tips.

Basic Macaron recipe
125 grams almond powder (ground blanched almonds)
225 grams powdered sugar
100 grams egg whites
25 grams of sugar
pinch of cream of tartar
- For the the espresso variety, I added 1 teaspoon of instant espresso powder, for the hazelnut, I substituted half of the almond powder with ground hazelnuts.
- Most recipes instruct to sift the powdered sugar & almond powder together twice. I omitted that step and instead pulsed them together in my food processor.
- The egg whites must be aged. I separated mine the night before and then let them come up to room temperature before using. When whipping the egg whites, make sure they are firm, but not overly stiff and dry.
- After piping out the macarons, give the baking sheet a whack on the counter and let them sit for about 30 minutes before baking. I baked mine at 325 for about 14 minutes.
- Only bake one sheet at a time. I tried to bake 2 and the all of the macarons on the bottom sheet cracked.

After one soggy batch (my egg whites weren't whipped enough), I was very happy with the way these cuties came out. Next up - some brightly colored raspberry & lemon varieties.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sophia's monkey cake

Sophia's mom told me that this spunky 10 year old is no shrinking violet. She prefers bright colors to pastels and is a bit of a monkey herself. This was such a fun cake to make and I hope it was great surprise for the birthday girl.

Do you like my new (well, new to me) cake stand? It was a little Mother's Day gift to myself that I picked up at the Paris Flea Market in Livermore. For 4 days a month this amazing shop is open for business and stocked with fabulous vintage finds including furniture, home goods, jewelry and collectibles. They have a sister store, A Room With a Past , in Walnut Creek as well that will be open May 21st - 23rd.

I just realized they have a blog too! Check it out:
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