Merry Christmas & Macarons !!!

Merry Christmas!!

Finally that time of the year came again. Despite being busy, rushing around to do so many things like this is the end of the world and not only the end of the year, I like Christmas time so much. It is the time to be together with the family, to enjoy a bit of peace and quietness and eat a lot of food. Well, that last part is great, I can get to cook whatever, without looking like I am insane. And for this special time, I wanted to try something a bit more challenging and different – THE MACARONS.

A while ago, I mentioned the fabulous macarons that I tried in Paris and since then  I’ve been gathering some courage to try reproduce them at home. Meanwhile, I read gazillion recipes, learned all kind of secrets about the perfect way of making the fearful macarons. The macarons are supposed to be very, very finicky little beasts :-) .  I read that you can get disastrous results if you breathe around them, if the day is too humid, if the chicken was stress or tired when it made those eggs that you are going to use, if the almonds did not get enough sun, if your kitchen is not following the feng shui concepts and so on.

Well, they are not as difficult to make as the rumor has it. I made them once, I danced and sung in my kitchen like a fool for an hour, guess my neighbours still think I am insane. Hallelujah, I made it!!

I thought it was just a coincidence, a little mistake, beginners luck. Well, second time they worked again, third time I though…oh well, these things are not that difficult to tame. I am not sure this is a good thing or a bad thing, cause since I then I can’t stop making them, just to make sure various flavours work together  :).

And here is the recipe that I followed each time and worked like a charm…each time.

macarons

yields 12  macarons

60 g almond meal

100 g powdered sugar

50 g egg whites

15 g granulated sugar

food coloring gel

Start by lining the baking trays with baking paper. Make sure the paper is properly attached to baking tray so it doesn’t move around when you start piping the macarons. Meanwhile prepare a piping bag with a round tip or simply a plastic sandwich bag by cutting off one of the corners.

To prepare the macaron batter: weigh the almond meal and the powdered sugar. I usually place them in the food processor and blend them for a bit, to make sure they are very fine. Stiff the almond/sugar mixture in a dry bowl.

Weigh the egg whites in a dry mixing bowl (glass or copper work fine for me) . Beat the eggs on low-speed until form soft peaks. Sprinkle the granulated sugar and beat until the meringue forms stiff peaks and the sugar is dissolved.

Add the food colouring (if using any) and mix. Fold 1/4 of the egg white into the almond/sugar mixture until well combined. Add 1/2 of the remaining egg white and fold in gently. Add the remaining egg whites and fold again gently until the batter has a lava-like consistency (well, it means it is not very runny but rather viscous).  First time I tried making the macarons I started counting the strokes – the rule says you should not fold for more than 50 times. I think I had to stop counting around 40, when the batter gained a consistency that seemed right to me. No clue if that was the right time, however the macarons turned out fine :-).

Pour the batter into the piping bag and pipe circles of batter on the baking paper, leaving a bit of space in between them, to make sure they won’t stick to each other during drying and baking.

Let them dry out for 30 minutes – 1 hour.

Bake at 140 C for about 20-30 minutes or until the shells are dry and baked.

pistachio -white chocolate ganache

150 ml whipping cream

70 gr white chocolate

70 gr pistachio finely grounded

Boil the heavy cream and add the grounded pistachios and let them infuse for 30 minutes or so. Re-heat the mixture and add it over the chopped chocolate. When the chocolate melted, mix to make sure the mixture is homogenous. Let cool down. Whisk the mixture until it reaches a solid consistency.

Happy macaroning :-) !!

Brownies return

Few days ago a friend of mine left for US for few months. We usually have breakfast/coffee/ chats together and he was always complaining about the brownies he was buying at the store.

And since he discovered my blog, every morning I heard the same question – when are you going to bake brownies and bring some for breakfast?????

Well, finally before he left, I managed to cook some of my favourite brownies. Now the new question is – when are you going to make a deal with the store, so we can buy the brownies everyday?

For this I used Thomas Keller’s recipe featured in Ad-hoc at Home which always works like a charm, the only downside to it is that you become addicted to them. Just side story about this book – I LOVE IT. Besides the fact that is a special book for me, as I got it as a gift from my friends at my PhD defense, the recipes presented in this book are simply amazing. The food is so good, somehow it has a home feel to it, there are so many wonderful flavours married in these dishes that you can’t stop cooking :-)

brownies

makes 12 pieces

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
6 oz 61 to 64% chocolate, chopped into chip-sized pieces ( about 1 1/2 cups)
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350F. We use a 9-inch square silicone mold, because it keeps the edges from overcooking; if you use a metal or glass baking pan, butter and flour it. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside

Melt half the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Put the remaining butter in a medium bowl. Pour the melted butter and stir to melt the butter. The butter should look creamy, with small bits of unmelted butter, and be at room temperature.

In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together the eggs and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until thick and very pale. Mix in the vanilla. On low speed, add about one-third of the dry ingredients, then add one-third of the butter, and continue alternating the remaining flour and butter. Add the chocolate and mix to combine. (The batter can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)

Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester or wooden skewer poked into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it. If the pick comes out wet, test a second time, because you may have hit a piece of chocolate chip; then bake for a few more minutes longer if necessary. Cool in the pan until the brownie is just a bit warmer than room temperature.

Run a knife around the edges if not using a silicone mold, and invert the brownie onto a cutting board. Cut into 12 rectangles. Dust the tops with powdered sugar just before serving.

Cupcake Mania – Pistachio cupcakes a la Martha Stewart


Few weeks ago I made Magnolia Bakery’s cupcakes. It was one of the first times I made cupcakes, and before this I never got the cupcake frenzy…but boy was I wrong. Once you pop, you can not stop just like Mr. Pringle.This is my second cupcake episode and if this madness will continue much longer, you will get a large variety of cupcakes recipes and my blog will be flooded by little delicious cupcakes, while my hips will grow larger and larger :-). As I love pistachios, I looked for a good pistachio cupcake recipe and I came across Martha Stewart’s recipe for Pistachio cupcakes with raspberries. Since I am not a huge fan of bakes raspberries I replaced them for chocolate, which was in my opinion a good option. Pistachios and chocolate go together really well, so well, than only few of the 18 cupcakes are left after only a day since the baking event. pistachio cupcakes with chocolate chips

Yields 15 – 18 cupcakes

1 cup whole unsalted pistachios, plus 1/4 cup slivered or chopped

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 pinch of salt

4 ounces butter

vanilla

4 large eggs

1 cup flour

100 grams chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Process whole pistachios, sugar, and salt in a food processor until finely ground. Add butter, vanilla, and eggs, and process until smooth. Add flour, and pulse until just combined. Mix the chocolate chips into the batter.

Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each halfway. Sprinkle with slivered or chopped pistachios. Bake until firm and pulling away from liners, about 30 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks. When the cupcakes cooled down frost them with your favourite buttercream or mousse (vanilla and chocolate in my case).