Monthly Archives: February 2010

Espresso Macarons

I’m not sure if my expectations have suddently become increasingly higher… or I am getting worse and worse at making macarons :( I’m sad to say that it’s probably the latter, but I have no idea why!

My batches this week have only yielded a handful of decent shells; the others I chuck in the garbage out of frustration. If the shells don’t crack, then they are hollow, or they won’t peel away from the parchment paper. I think the last two are correlated… because all the ones I have trouble peeling away are hollow inside. And now I’m beginning to wonder is it because I bake them for too long or not enough? Because actually I have up-ed the baking time from 10 minutes to about 13 minutes… but 13 minutes doesn’t seem too long because the cookie is still a little damp inside (yaknow, the ones that fall apart on me!).

Another big problem I am having is that the cookies are producing beautiful feet in the oven. But the second I take them out of the oven, they are collapsing! I literally watch them fall down. This is super frustrating :(

BUT at least I am getting this flavor down. Espresso was a little tricky because I wanted to use it in liquid form, but was scared to mess up the properties of the batter. I used a trick that I learned from Jen’s Use Real Butter, in which you whisk the liquid to the sugar first, then let it dry. I didn’t want to push my limits so I only used about 1t of espresso. The end result was quite nice! The espresso flavor wasn’t very strong in the shell itself, but just enough there to make you think, Hmm, what is that? When I couple it with my mocha almond ganache, I’ll be honest and say it was glorious.

Since I was disappointed I couldn’t get more espresso flavor in the shell, the next day I tried espresso grinds and incorporated it like I would with matcha or black sesame powder. While the end product was bursting with espresso flavor, it was super grainy from the espresso beans. It was actually pretty gross, so I won’t be trying that again!

You can see the espresso grinds here

Oh well. Next week’s flavor… I think I’ll give Green Tea another shot.

Lemon Meringue Tartlets

“Tartlets… tartlets… tartlets… word has lost all meaning.” :D

I’ve never had meringue up until I made these little things… which isn’t really a good thing considering I’m not certain how meringue is SUPPOSED to taste; but according to my mother – who has failed multiple times making it, can you believe it! – she says it’s pretty good.

First things first! Bake your tart shells. Really you could make these in any size, but I wanted mine bite-size so I opted for the smallest tart shells I could find. If you don’t have any, Bed Bath & Beyond sells them for pretty cheap.

Depending on the shells, bake them until crisp. Be careful not to overbake them though because you’ll have to stick them back in the oven later.

Once the shells are cooled, fill with your favorite lemon custard/curd recipe. Flatten the top with a spatula.

The first time I made these, the meringue was way too sweet. I also found that it was hard to make the meringue stiff too when it contained that much sugar. So here’s the recipe that I use now:

Meringue for Lemon Tartlets:
3 egg whites (room temperature is best)
3oz granulated sugar
pinch of salt

In a stand mixer, whisk egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add sugar and salt until meringue becomes glossy. Turn to medium-high until meringue forms peaks and starts to slightly pull away from your whisk and bowl, about 5-7 minutes.

Using a decorators tip, pipe meringue onto the lemon tartlets. I was quite generous and too ambitious with mine because I wanted a really tall tart — but the meringue doesn’t like to defy gravity; it tilts and starts to weep :(

Then I like to bake the tarts. It seems like people only bake their lemon meringue tarts when a torch isn’t available, but I like to do both. Letting them sit in the oven for a little bit creates a slightly crunchier outer layer of the meringue, which I really like. When you only torch them, it looks nice, but the meringue is still soft inside. So I throw the tartlets back into the oven at 300 degrees for about 8 minutes, then TORCH! If you don’t have one, they are supppper fun and handy too. Bed Bath & Beyond to the rescue again.

Let the tarts cool a little bit because the contents will be HOT, but then consume immediately afterwards :)

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Dark Almond Ganache, Black Sesame Buttercream

My pairings turned out pretty well yesterday so I wanted to share with you :) For my chocolate macarons, I filled them with Dark Almond Ganache. Here’s the recipe I used:

Dark Almond Ganache, adapted from Use Real Butter:

6.5oz dark chocolate
1.5oz milk chocolate
3/4 C manufacturing cream
2 T unsalted butter
1.5t almond extract

First heat the cream to a boil, then pour over chocolate. Leave it alone until the chocolate becomes soft, then whisk in butter until smooth. Stir almond extract in until incorporated.

I wanted more of a almond flavor so I up-ed the almond extract from 1t in the original recipe to 1.5t in mine. The almond flavor was then quite strong, which I personally liked, but also slightly bitter. Next time I’ll decrease it to 1.25t and probably use more milk chocolate.

Now for the Black Sesame shells… I still had left over buttercream so I decided why not? I added 1.5T of black sesame powder to my buttercream and viola, it was amazing! The black sesame powder does WONDERS (I bought mine at Marina, $2.99 a bag!). I especially like that it already comes slightly salty, so it didn’t make the buttercream overwelming at all. YUMMSSS

I also love my new Nikon. The photos turned out beautifully.  YAyyyys :)

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Chocolate and Sesame Macaron

Head’s kinda spinning from my experiments today… Let’s see if I can just type through it. Hopefully I will start making sense somewhere before the end of this post.

I made two batches of Chocolate Macarons a couple days ago. I made them seperately to see if I could get consistent results, and in that regard, I did pretty well since they BOTH failed. Cracks in every single shell and I can’t tell you why.

Well, after today’s experiments, I have a hunch. Two days ago I used four-days old egg whites. I read online that actually the older the better, and that some people find five-days old ones to the best. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. Either way I apparently don’t know how to use them to their fullest potential and thus, those two batches were garbage to me.

At the end of that day, I seperated 6 egg whites to use this afternoon for a chocolate replacement batch. This morning, though, I was eager to use my newly purchased black sesame powder. I knew I was taking a gamble because I didn’t have any more aged egg whites, but what the hell. I seperated 3 more eggs and left them uncovered at room temperature.

 

For egg whites that were only aged about 5 hours, the sesame ones turned out very well, much better than I expected. The feet on them aren’t as distinct as I’d like them to be, but there’s some of it. They did get FILLED too, which I love! Sometimes I have hallowness in my cookies and it makes me sad :( But these are filled and yummy. The only complaint I have with this batch was that they too also browned! Seems like this is a big problem for me… Next time I’ll have to remember to decrease the baking time.

The chocolate batch looked great in the oven (my favorite part is watching them rise in the oven). They began to rise more than I have ever seen, and I thought to myself, YAY I did something right today! Quite sadly though they collapsed immediately after taking them out of the oven. What’s that about, I don’t know. I’ll have to do some googling tonight.

While my sesame ones were slightly over-baked, the chocolate ones were slightly under-baked. From what I’ve seen so far too, some of them are hollow. But maybe the baking time correlates with the hallow shells? Gotta look into that too.

So they might not be perfect, they might not even be sellable, but at least my stomach is happy! Black sesame is already going to be one of my all time favorites. Although I’m not sure how to fill them… I’d love to have the tang yuan filling but that would run right out of the sandwich. Oh well, I bet I will spend the rest of my (sleepless) night wondering about this exact predictament.

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Strawberry Macarons (from fattyChat)

So scratch what I said about my last batch being pretty successful. I think my eyes were just glossed over because of all the hard work I put into a poopy batch. Call them macaron-goggles if you will. Because on second look (the next day), I almost chucked all of them into the garbage. Not because they weren’t edible (because they were and still are), just not sell-able. It looks like my friends will be helping me eat this weekend :)

Since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, and we all will be sick of everything red or pink after Sunday, I decided to bake two batches of just strawberry to compensate for the bad batches. Since I still couldn’t get the coloring right, I up-ed the strawberry powder another 1/2 T to 1.5 T and trimmed the baking time. I usually bake them for 12-15 minutes at 300F. This time I only baked them for about 10 min at 290F, which I think really helped, although it did leave my cookies a little more under-baked the usual. But that doesn’t really bother me. I prefer my cookies to be a little under-baked, much more so than over-baked.

The color turned out much better, though not great. I wish they were a deeper red, like Helen’s Red Berry Macarons, but the problem is I hate to use artificial colors. Well, no that’s not it: I’ve never used artificial colors and I don’t intend on ever doing so. Makes making macrons pretty freakin’ difficult. Thus, I think this is the best I will ever achieve, color-wise.
 
Another tip that I realized is helpful: Get a rubber SPOON spatula. The straight spatulas don’t offer much help when you are folding the meringue into the almond powder, which means you have to stir more, which means you will most likely over-stir, which means you won’t get any feet on your cookies!

To be honest, I’m having a lot of difficulty pairing the macarons with good fillings :( Half of it is laziness but the other half is pure lack of creativity. Today I just opted to fill them with vanilla buttercream because it was easy. My main problem is I don’t want to have to worry about keeping the filling cold. I’d like to have something that can withstand room temperature. So far I have only come across buttercream and ganaches as options. Buttercreams tend to be too sweet for me (maybe I just don’t have a sweet tooth? Nah, that doesn’t seem probable), and ganaches are too overpowering in flavor that it takes away from the almond taste! Ah, problems, problems, problems.
An interesting though though… For my tester cookie I decided to mimic something I found on Jen’s website, Use Real Butter. I put a fresh raspberry in the filling, so when you bite into it you find a surprise!

I decided not to do it with the other cookies because they are strawberry shells, and I thought strawberry and raspberry would be soo much. BUT when I bite into the fruit, it brought out a great tartness that contrasted with the sugar of the buttercream. It was quite yums! But better save this idea for raspberry shells.
 
At least I’m having fun for the time being. I know that once I HAVE to make these macarons (for the store) instead of just seeing if I feel up to it or not, it will no longer have a great appeal. Well, I hope this isn’t the case but it certainly was with my Cheesecake-filled Pumpkin Cupcakes that I made for Thanksgiving. I guess I’ll worry about that when the time comes. Next challenge: Black Sesame Macarons! They look/sound amazing.
 
I hate flash, but proof that they are pink! :)
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Macaron – new flavors! (from fattyChat)

Didn’t get to bake yesterday but I made up for it today! Made three batches of macarons today, all with their own flavors, and had time to squeeze in a huge batch of vanilla buttercream and trial two of the lemon meringue tarlets.

Pretty happy with the results but they could’ve been better. Actually I initially thought today was going to be a complete disaster because my batter was a little more runnier than usual. That, and I couldn’t find my tools! In the end, I still couldn’t find the proper piping tips, which resulted in my cookies being all kinds of shapes and sizes :(
I recently purchased a huge (and suuuper expenisve) jar of strawberry powder so I started with that today. As I previously mentioned, the raspberry color didn’t turn out so well last time so I up-ed it to 1Tb. today, which resulted in a very nice pink color. Unfortunately, the same thing ended up happening! They began to brown in the oven, despite me lowering the temperature a tad. I even tried blanching the raw almonds last time thinking it was the brown casing but to no avail. At least I was on the money with the batters being more runny today. It results in little to no feet at all on my strawberry batch :( I stirred/whipped it one too many times. But they smell good? I’m not too worried since I have friends coming home this weekend that will most likely eat these anyway.

Some browning occured on my green tea batch but it’s still green to some extent. Looks more muddy green in thepicture, but you get the idea. I first only put in 2t. of green tea powder but I wanted a richer color so I added another t. I’m not so sure it was a good choice. Next time I’ll stick with just 2t. But the flavor is great! Really tastes like green tea.

Because I still had a good amount of egg whites left, I decided at last minute to bake a batch of chocolate ones. To be honest, I’ve read a lot of disappointing stories regarding chocolate macarons so I expected failure, and therefore didn’t really care too much about this batch. It turns out NOT caring is the key! This batch turned out PERFECT. Look at the feet on these bad boys!

Couple tips that are working out for me:
– run the almonds and powdered sugar through a sieve
– combine the dry ingredients to the meringue in two installments
I’m thinking I’ll fill the green tea ones with a mango buttercream… weird combo but super asian, no?; the strawberries ones with a strawberry buttercream (to give more color); and the chocolate ones with NUTELLA! If I’m too lazy to get Nutella though I might settle with some left over mocha ganache I have.
Probably won’t have time this weekend to bake any more until Monday but leave comments with flavors I should try :)
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Macaron bug (from fattyChat)

I have caught the Macaron bug.

And now I will detail my adventure/illness at fattyChat, because you’re not fatty unless you love sweets. Read on if you do!

I was first introduced to these little treats by a friend, who was at the time obsessed with them. My first macarons were from Tom Keller’s Bouchon. Knowing fully well who Tom Keller was, I assumed I was in good hands. My first bite was pretty good but far from life-changing. No offense to Tom Keller himself but the cookie was simply too sugar-y and maybe even too fragile for me.

My second macaron was from Maison de Patisserie, and it was far from satisfying. The cookie crumbled in the bag before I even had a chance to taste it! This poor experience coupled with my mother raving about her new favorite cookies (from Cocola in Santana Row, not Maison) led me to my first macaron attempt.

Attempt No.1 was decent. Luckily, I found a link off the same friend’s blog to Helen at http://www.mytartelette.com/, who takes amazing pictures and even more amazingly, leaves recipes (which are hard to find now on some blogs/websites)! She also leaves wonderful tips and step-by-step pictures can be found in her article in Desserts mag. Thus I must credit much of my success of my first attempt to Helen.

Attempt No. 2 though was a disaster. I found an article and recipe in my newly subscribe Food & Wine mag and decided to try it, thinking I would be more successful with the Italian method. Previously, I had used the French method that requires a little more patience because of the 45 min to a hour “sitting” time after you pipe them. The Italian method allows you to bake the macarons immediately and also give the shells a “shinier” look. I wouldn’t know since my turned out to be flatter than floppy disks :( It was then that I read that once you find a recipe that works for you, stick with it!

So I went back to Helen’s recipe, and found myself much happier. I slightly cut the sugar content though because they were still too sweet for me and thankfully, there was no noticeable difference in the outcome. Attempts 3-5 were also good where I had fun experimenting with raspberry flavours and heart-drawing but somewhere around attempt 6 or 7, my macarons began to crack! Some were also feetless, or lacked that little rise/airy-ness between the bottom of the shell and the top. I quickly ran to my computer to research what in the world was going on, only to read that even the most experienced bakers have flops with these fickle things once in a while and nothing more. I literally tossed and turned all night last night, trying to figure out what I could do and counting down the hours until I could try again.

Attempt… 8? Feels like so much more. I have finally achieved perfection! Well, they aren’t perfect perfect but the feets are beautiful, I found no cracks! and they are pretty flat. My first couple of batches had peaks and were resembled mountains. These had a little bit of that but much less so I’m content. The only complaint I had with this batch is that they began to brown in the oven and thus you cannot tell from the outer shell that they are actually raspberry flavored! Tomorrow I will increase the amount of fruit powder and decrease the temperature of the oven a bit.

I’ll let you guys know if that seems to help. I’ll also post about fillings next time! Thanks for reading :)