Sunday, October 19, 2008

French Almond Macarons 2

Success! Well, for the most part. I forgot to take pictures of the finished product, so I have no true proof other than happy friends, but let's just say I got as excited as Veronica when my macarons developed their "feet". Here's the only picture I have:

This time I used the same recipe that she used that can be found here.
- 1 ¼ cups icing sugar
- 4 oz (1 cup) almond flour or finely ground almonds
- ¼ cup plus 2 tbsps egg whites at room temperature
- pinch of salt
- ¼ cup granulated sugar

Interestingly, this recipe has less almond meal and maybe less egg. Hard to say: 1/4 c + 2 T v. 3 egg whites. I guess it depends on the eggs.

I quadrupled the recipe, using almond meal from Trader Joes ($3.99 for 16oz)! Who knew? Thanks to my friend/neighbor Diego for that hot tip. It was actually finer than the meal I bought at Whole Foods made by Bob's Redmill ($9.99 for 16oz). I called Rainbow to check if they had it and they do in bulk, so that's an option too.

I let the eggs sit out (covered since we have fruit flies, ewww) for over 48 hours. They were hard to scoop and measure, so I think I had a little less than the recipe called for.

I split the finished batter in half and put pink color in one and yellow in the other. I tested the letting them sit once piped trick and it worked. At first I thought it was the fact that I was using two different pans (one double insulated and the other just your basic cookie sheet). Once I let them both rest, both pans produced equally feet-y cookies.

I used Martha's Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe.
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, (3 sticks), softened, cut into tablespoons
Whisk whites until stiff, slowly adding sugar until forms stiff peaks.
Switch to paddle and slowly add the softened butter.
At this point I divided the frosting into two and added pink food coloring gel and rose water (about 3 tsp) to one and yellow food coloing gel and some safron honey from Italy to the other. I piped the pink into the pink cookies and the yellow into the yellow.

They were so cute and so delicious! I love anything rose or violet flavored, so this little trend will likely continue.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Scones for Keenan and Jeff

My friend Keenan and his brother Jeff decided to bike over for dinner... from Alberta. ha. just kidding. I mean, they really biked but not to see me or just for dinner. They're en route to Argentina on an epic trek down the West coast of the Americas. I am serving as their pit stop for a few days in San Francisco. They have a website and a blog and a facebook group you should check out.

Anyhow - being me, I had to bake them something. I had left over lemon curd and cream cheese frosting from Matthew's cake, so I made some scones.

Basic Scones

3 C Flour
1.2 C Sugar
1 T Baking Powder
1/2 t salt
3/4 C butter
1 Egg
3/4 C Milk

Mix dry ingredients together, cut in butter until pea sized.
Combine egg and milk and add to dry ingredients. Add a little more milk if necessary. It should be stickier than pie crust, but less sticky than cookie dough.

Form into a round shape on a floured surface and cut into equal sized scone shaped pieces. Roll in sugar for a pretty finish. Bake at 400F until golden brown about 20 mins. Use tooth pick or something to test. If any dough sticks to it, bake a little longer.

Add orange zest and cranberries
Add almond extract and sliced almonds
Add poppy seeds and top with lemon icing
Add blueberries and white chocolate chips

Friday, October 10, 2008

Veggie Soul Food!

My friend Noah and his girlfriend Leah came over for dinner last night. I'd discovered left over corn meal and wanted to make corn bread. Found "the best" recipe and thought I'd try it.

Now for the rest of the meal - gingered greens, fried tofu and butternut squash.

Corn Bread from Mark Bittman of the NY Times
  • 4 tablespoons butter, olive oil, lard or bacon drippings
  • 1 1/2 cups medium-grind cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, more if needed
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put fat in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or in an 8-inch square baking pan. Place pan in oven.

2. Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix eggs into milk, then stir this mixture into dry ingredients, combining with a few swift strokes. If mixture seems dry, add another tablespoon or two of milk.

3. When fat and oven are hot, remove skillet or pan from oven, pour batter into it and smooth out top. Return pan to oven. Bake about 30 minutes, until top is lightly browned and sides have pulled away from pan; a toothpick inserted into center will come out clean. Serve hot or warm.

I thought the amount of fat in the pan was a bit extreme and in the end it was a lot, but it sure made it tasty! I would say 3T would be enough. I also ended up with some eggy bits once baked, so I would say make sure you really mix the eggs before you mix it with the dry ingredients.

Gingered Greens
In a sautee pan, place roughly chopped, cleaned greens (chard, kale, collards, mustard greens) with a little water and butter. Once they cook down, add freshly grated ginger and serve hot!

Fried Tofu from the PPK
The recipes says to freeze the tofu for 2 days, but it doesn't say why. Being short on time and a skeptic, I froze it for about an hour. Worked fine. I also altered the recipe a little.

1 block of tofu defrosted and cut into triangles.
Organic White Flour
*Cayenne pepper
*Sea Salt
*Fresh ground pepper
1/4 C. Nutritional yeast
1 cup warm water
1 heaping tablespoon of miso
Olive and canola oil for frying

*All of these are according to taste*

In a separate bowl, mix the 1 cup of warm water with the miso until it dissolves.

In a larger shallow bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together.

It turns out better if you 'double dip' the tofu. Take a triangle and dip it into the flour mixture first. After that, dip in the miso mixture and then back into the flour until evenly covered. Set the battered tofu on a plate and prepare the rest of the pieces the same way. Get your oil good and hot.

Fry your battered tofu and turn regularly until brown on all sides.


Butternut Squash

Halve and bake at 400F until tender

Leah had the great idea to put cinnamon and butter on it. Delish!

Fall foods I love

My friend Geoff (sadly sans Steph, who's back in the GWN*) came for an impromptu dinner on Wednesday.

I missed the stop by the store, so I skipped it and worked with what I had:

yellow potatoes
a bit of jack cheese
a bit of parmesan cheese
cream cheese

I made a roux and mixed in about a 1/4 c. each of parmesan jack cheese and cream (could be milk or half and half too). Then I mixed in a few tablespoons of cream cheese into it and then about a cup of chicken stock.

We cut a garlic clove in half and rubbed in on the bottom of the pan (by we I mean Geoff) and then layered the potatoes and chard in the dish. I poured the sauce over it and baked it at 375 for about half an hour until the potatoes were cooked. Half way through I pushed the top potatoes down so they were in the sauce a bit more.

For an appy while we waited I popped about 1/2 c. yellow corn in a large soup pan with a bit of canola oil over low heat. Once done, I put melted butter, salt and nutritional yeast on top. YUM!

*GWN = Great White North = Canada

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Birthday Cake for Matthew

I wasn't able to attend my friend Matthew's birthday party so I promised I'd make him a cake.
These are the recipes I'm considering:

1. Blueberry Almond Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
It calls for almond paste (which I have from my sister's honeymoon in Italy)

2. Vanilla Saffron Cake with Rose Buttercream
This one calls for saffron (also from the Italian honeymoon) and rose water, which I have a bottle of in my cupboard.

He said not too sweet, so I'm thinking the first. It sounds so good, I'm just worried about getting blueberries since the season is kinda over. Maybe I'll use frozen. Egads!

I ended up making the Blueberry Almond Cake recipe above.
I didn't have enough of the almond paste, so I made some makeshift. I made 1/4 c. simple syrup, and mixed it with 1/2 c. almond meal and 1/2 c. sugar. It wasn't as sweet or smooth as the almond paste I had from Italy or as fragrant, but it did the job!

I ended up using frozen blueberries on the inside. I didn't get any shots of it cut. And I decided to put raspberries and lemon curd as decoration since the raspberries looked so good at the farmers market that morning.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Attempt 1 at French Macarons

I absolutely adore french macarons. They are so cute and delicious and girly. But also come in such a variety of flavors. How hard can they be? ha.

I did a little research and should have paid closer attention. I used Martha's recipe and for the first time was disappointed.

Next time I'll try this one and actually follow her advice.

Things I didn't do:
- beat the eggs enough. Martha's recipe said medium soft peaks. It sounds like they should be a bit more stiff.
- fold the almond/sugar in gently enough
- measure with precision (one of my weaknesses as a baker)
- let them sit for 30 minutes after piping before baking
- pay attention to what I was doing

I should know better than to bake when I'm feeling overwhelmed.

They turned out to be too flat and too dry. Probably due to over mixing and over baking. Shoot.
The good thing is that they still taste delicious but they are more like meringues in consistency.