Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: French Macarons

It's time for the Daring Bakers to show off the October challenge - French Macarons!

These scrumptious little French bakery cookies are easy to make but difficult to master. They should be airy and smooth, and should have the ever -elusive "feet", that puffy layer around the bottom.

Sadly, mine were foot-less. And not smooth. (But they tasted fantastic.)

The ingredient list for making the cookie portion is short; egg whites, granulated and powdered sugar, ground almonds, flavoring and that's it.

I ground blanched almonds in my food processor and strained them through a mesh strainer. That worked pretty well and I think I'm now going to make my own almond flour from now on... it's much cheaper than pre-ground (cha-ching!).

I mixed a touch of pink and red food coloring in with my ground almonds and powdered sugar.

And ended up with a lovely Pepto-Bismal color? (Oops.)

I made two batches, the first was lumpy and bumpy.

For the second batch, I ground the almond flour with the powdered sugar in the food processor. They ended up somewhat smoother, but still not that glossy smooth that the *real* French macarons are famous for. Here they are before baking.

And after. They stuck to the parchment somewhat, but were still usable.

I filled mine with some cream cheese icing I had on hand.

Well, I won't be quitting my day job any time soon to start up a French macaron-making business. But overall, this was a fun challenge and I can see how people get addicted to trying to perfect them. I'd love to try, but my thighs can't take it, LOL.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

French Macarons


Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)


1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.

4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.

5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).

6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.

7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.

TWD: Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte

For the final Tuesday's with Dorie recipe for October, April of Short + Rose chose the Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte.

I gather from Dorie's write-up that this is a brownie-ized version of Black Forest cake, complete with dried cherries and cherry preserves in the brownie itself (with a little Kirsch thrown in here and there). The brownie was to be topped with a cream cheese-slash-mascarpone cheese-slash-whipped cream layer.

I simplified the recipe because I thought it might be a little too "fancy" for my family's tastes. I made half of a batch and divided the batter evenly in 11 cups of a muffin pan. Next time I'll stretch it to 12 cups because a little goes a long way with this rich little treat

For the topping, I forgot to get mascarpone at the store and I didn't feel like making another grocery store run so I improvised. I used the cream cheese called for (1/2 of it anyway), I added a few table spoons of sugar, a little glug of vanilla, a couple of serving spoons of honey Greek yogurt, and finally a couple of dollops of Cool Whip (I admit it, Cool Whip is my Achilles heel). It was darned tasty and just the right amount of tang to balance the sweet brownies.

I'll definitely make these again... maybe even the way they're supposed to be, LOL. OK, if you want the recipe, please check out April's blog or go straight to the source and find Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, from My Home to Yours".

Friday, October 23, 2009

Saturday's with Dorie: Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes

It's been a year exactly (well, 360 days if you want to get technical) since Clara at i heart food 4 thought chose Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes for the weekly Tuesday's with Dorie recipe. I seem to remember being in some sort of snit at the time and didn't make these.

Bad call on my part!

These were really good... and this from someone who's not a huge cupcake fan. They were moist and light, perfect for a big dollop of vanilla icing (and sprinkles, of course!). I thought they could have been a big more chocolaty. But really, let's face it, cupcakes are all about the icing anyway, right? So it wasn't a big deal.

Dorie mentions that these cuppies are more suited to adults, being less sweet and made with dark chocolate. However, I needed these for a kid-friendly event, so I used semi-sweet melted chocolate and increased the sugar by a few tablespoons.

(I couldn't pass up these Halloween themed cupcake liners, by Martha of course. No one but me will probably notice them, LOL. They've got spiders on the bottom too.)

Anyway, kudos to Clara for a great pick and (as *always*) to Dorie Greenspan for another fabulous recipe from her book "Baking, from My Home to Yours". For the recipe, check out Clara's site or better yet, Dorie's book.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TWD: Sweet Potato Biscuits & a Bunch 'O Catch-Up

(Not to be confused with ketchup, LOL.)

I have a handful of Tuesday's with Dorie recipes to catch up on (baked over the last few months), so I figured I'd try a slightly different format today so as not to bore everyone to tears. In the spirit of third-grade homework assignments (which I get a lot of practice supervising these days (groan)), I thought I'd give a two-sentence summary of each recipe.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Chosen by Erin of Prudence Pennywise
Recipe is HERE

(Since this is today's recipe, I'll splurge and give a five-sentence review...) I sat down to watch "The Secret Life of Bees" Saturday night and thought it ironic that some of the first words out of the saint-like character August Boatwright's mouth, upon meeting run-away Lily Owens, were something along the lines of "feel free to help yourself to the sweet potato biscuits". Ironic, considering I'd never heard of sweet potato biscuits before this week. I'm guessing the folks Down South have not only heard of them but have probably perfected them. Mine weren't exactly perfect... a bit dense and none too fluffy. But they tasted pretty darn good slathered with butter and I was even able to convince one of the kids to have one (after fibbing and tell him they were pumpkin biscuits... D'oh!)

Split Level Pudding

Chosen by: Garrett of Flavor of Vanilla
Recipe is HERE

I like the idea but didn't actually try this as I gave the one serving I made to my husband (he is really picky and thought this was just OK). I simplified the recipe and used my immersion blender rather than the food processor.

Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte

Chosen by: April of Abby Sweets
Recipe is HERE

Every time I took a bite my first thought was "this would taste great as a savory tart". The ingredients were surprisingly similar to the ill-fated Cottage Cheese Pufflets.

(Does this processed cottage cheese remind you of anything, TWD-ers?)

Bill's Big Carrot Cake

Chosen by: Amanda at Slow Like Honey
Recipe is HERE.

Seems like most of the TWD crowd loved this cake, but I still prefer my long-time carrot cake recipe. I'm guessing it would have been better as a full-size cake... I reduced it to one 4-inch cake layer and it almost seemed like there were too many mix-ins and not enough cake holding them together.

Okey, dokey! All caught up for now. As always, if you'd like to find these recipes at their source, please check out Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours".

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TWD: Allspice Crumb Muffins

It's time for another edition of Tuesday's with Dorie, folks. This week Kayte of Grandma’s Kitchen Table chose Allspice Crumb Muffins.

They were a light and fluffy muffin with allspice in both the muffin base and the struesel topping.

I'll cut to the chase... they weren't too pretty, but they tasted *really* good. And I'll take tasty over looks any day.

I have no idea what happened to the struesel topping. My guess is that the butter in the struesel topping wasn't cold enough or maybe there was just too much of it. After baking, the muffin cups were quite greasy... no doubt from all of that butter.

They were enjoyed by all, though, and that's what counts. Thanks Kayte, for a great pick!

If you'd like to see the recipe, check out Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours", or visit Kayte's site.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

TWD: How about Peppermint Bark Instead?

Hey folks, I haven't gotten to this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe yet, but hopefully that will happen by the end of the week. In the meantime, please stop by Flavor of Vanilla and check out Garrett's pick for this week's TWD recipe.

Rather than offer up nothing, though, I'll post a quick little recipe for Peppermint Bark.

It may be quick, but that doesn't mean it's not fantastic. The addition of Rice Krispies kicks this standard Christmas treat up a notch.

It goes from standard to completely addictive.

The recipe comes from the December 2005 edition of Everyday Food magazine, which you can find HERE (if that link doesn't work, please let me know. I've been having trouble getting to Martha Stewart recipes lately.)

OK, folks, here's to another week of TWD and happy baking!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls with Marzipan Filling

It's a random day of the week, we've got time on our hands and some homemade marzipan from a cake recipe we never finished making.

Maybe we could whizz the marzipan in the food processor with some cinnamon and sugar?

Why not?

Yeah, that looks good. Tastes darn good too. Maybe we should just stop here, call it a day, turn on the TV...


Hmmm... what to do, what to do?

Hmmm... some simple flour and water, transformed by yeast and butter, gentle kneading, and time.

Maybe cinnamon rolls?

Yes, cinnamon rolls.

Finally. Someone who understands how much cinnamon one needs to make perfect cinnamon rolls. Thank you, Peter Reinhardt, and your magnificent book, "The Break Baker's Apprentice".

But wait! Don't forget the marzipan.

Wonder what that would taste like swirled up with cinnamon sugar and bread.

Yea, we'll only cover half (just in case it isn't as awesome as it sounds).

And we'll cut them about twice as thick as we think we should. There we go.

I'm convinced that we make bread just to marvel at the wonder of rising dough. It's a miracle, I tell 'ya!

Oh, you gotta be kiddin' me. We made those?

The only logical thing to do at this point is to make some cream cheese icing (I'm quite certain that cream cheese icing could play a vital role in achieving world peace).

A little bitta this ...

and a little bitta that.


Nom, nom, nom.. mmmm, time well spent, I'd say.


You totally gotta try some marzipan in your cinnamon rolls. Just trust me on this one.

I roughly followed step 2 of the instructions from the Odense site for the marzipan HERE. Except that I only mixed it with the sugar and the cinnamon.

I exactly followed the instructions from Peter Reinhardt's Cinnamon Rolls (or maybe it was Buns, can't remember) in "The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Google it. Better yet... go buy it, or borrow it. It's a keeper.

The cream cheese frosting recipe is HERE.