September 25, 2010

new! edible image treats

Edible images - your favourite picture or photo on a yummy treat. Here I tried out my new edible printer/paper apparatus with some sugar cookies: above are paintings of different fruits, below are photos of some beautiful butterflies!

September 13, 2010

meringue mushrooms

These small treats are most commonly found on yule logs around the holiday season, but I think they're so cute they should be available all year long. Which explains why I made them three months early. Meringue stems are attached to meringue mushroom caps, the undersides coated in dark and white chocolates, and the tops dusted with cocoa powder or dipped in coloured chocolate. Perfect as cake toppers or snacks on their own!


September 1, 2010

macarons 101

Now, I'm not a French pastry chef by any standards (and I've certainly produced an ugly batch or two), but I've had luck on my side the last few times I've made macarons so I'm sharing my tips for success with you. First off, make sure you have all the necessary ingredients and tools prepared beforehand. The last thing you want is overbeaten meringue because you're too busy pouring almond powder or fiddling with piping bags. This recipe is for chocolate macarons, but if you are looking for plain almond macarons then simply omit the cocoa powder and make up the difference in powdered sugar. A stand mixer is ideal although you can use a hand mixer or *gasp* elbow grease and a whisk. 

A food scale is also quite helpful. Many macaron recipes measure ingredients with standard cup sizes, but I find the accuracy of a scale makes a huge difference in getting the proportions just right.

90g egg whites
25g granulated sugar
190g powdered sugar

110g ground almonds
10g cocoa powder

In a stand mixer with whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a light foam and begin gradually adding the granulated sugar until a meringue forms. You don't want to beat the meringue into stiff peaks, but rather until it reaches the consistency of shaving cream. If you want to add colouring or extract to your macarons, do it at this stage.

This is what your meringue should look like
before you fold in the dry ingredients!

While meringue is mixing, add powdered sugar (icing sugar is a decent substitute), ground almonds, and cocoa powder in separate bowl. Sift your ingredients to remove any lumps. Grind the almonds and powdered sugar together in a food processor until coarse clumps of almond are removed.  Add the dry ingredients to the meringue and fold the mixture using a spatula until everything is incorporated. *This is the tricky part!* You don't want to over-mix the batter or your macarons won't rise, won't have feet, will crack, and will generally be maca-wrong. Fold the mixture carefully until the batter falls back on itself or forms a thick flowing ribbon when dripped from the spatula.. A good rule of thumb is not to exceed 50 strokes (thanks, Tartelette!). Fill a pastry bag fitted with a coupler and plain circular tip with the batter and pipe small discs about 1 inch in diameter and 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I've cheated with wax paper and it sometimes works, but parchment is a better bet). The batter should just barely drip out the pastry bag tip, but not be so runny as to cause a mess. If it's not mixed enough then fold it some more. If you get perfect macarons your first try, then you have found your calling in life.

Once piped onto the baking sheet let the macarons sit for about 15 minutes before popping them in the oven. This allows the shells to form a skin that keeps them from cracking in the oven or sinking into themselves when they come out. It also helps the formation of feet. While the macarons rest, preheat the oven to 300F. Once oven is at temperature bake macarons for 14-18mins. 

Let the macarons cool completely before attempting to remove them from the baking sheet. Most of this batch came out well, and some of my macaron shells came out near perfect, like this one above.

A couple of them, however, came out as cracked almond discs. Which is fine with me because I get to eat the rejects. I suspect this happened because my oven burns hotter towards one side. Alternatively, this may be the result of a portion of batter being overmixed. No clue. You can also use the less-than-perfect shells as bottoms to the macaron sandwiches.

Macarons were at one point in history fused together while warm without any filling... but that's no fun. I filled this batch with some leftover Bailey's swiss meringue buttercream. Pipe about 1 tablespoon of buttercream onto a macaron cookie. Then find the other half that's about the same size (which they all should be but never are). Smoosh them together. Then eat them all.

*macarons can be stored in an air tight container in the refridgerator for up to a week or in the freezer up to a month; however, I am unable to resist eating mine and have thus never had any for storage, so I can't guarantee this is true.

Good luck, I wish smooth shells and beautiful feet for your macarons!