February 18, 2011

i love macarons

It's been a while since I've made macarons, mostly due to the fact that the last few batches had really inconsistent results and I've been discouraged from trying again. One batch had shells that wouldn't even lift off the baking paper, another batch completely deflated after being taken out of the oven, and some cracked beyond recognition. But, I so much enjoy the challenge of baking these delightful sandwich cookies and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with an edible product that I decided to attempt them yet again. Waiting patiently for the feet to appear generates a suspense I've yet to experience from anything else. I know, I'm lame. I decided to go beyond chocolate and experiment with some different flavours this time. I used the French meringue method described here.

Mocha macarons (coffee shells with dark chocolate ganache)

You can't go wrong with coffee and chocolate, and macarons are no different. Yum.

Strawberry macarons (almond shells with strawberry buttercream)

While the shells weren't as smooth as I would have liked, the texture on their insides was great and the flavour was really bold. I could probably ease up on the vanilla in the buttercream and just focus on the berry next time.

Tangerine macarons (tangerine shells with vanilla-tangerine buttercream)

This might be the best looking batch I've made so far. The shells are as smooth as I've ever seen them and there are no air pockets between the outer shell and inner feet. It takes a lot of playing around with oven temperatures and timing to get these cookies right. 

Pistachio macarons with chocolate ganache

These were hands down the trickiest macarons I've ever attempted. I used a food processor to grind the pistachios into powder, but I was left with small chunks; I then thought to use a coffee grinder to make the mixture finer... and ended up with pistachio paste. I didn't even think about the oil content. So my pistachio powder ended up like guacamole and had to be chucked. I used what little powder was created and mixed it into the dry ingredients, then sprinkled the coarse bits on top of the shells after piping.

Pina colada macarons (coconut shells with pineapple-coconut buttercream)

I love cocktail-inspired desserts (see: daiquiri cookies and margarita cupcakes) and macarons are no exception. I ground up some dessicated sweetened coconut (30g) and added it to the dry ingredients. I also sprinkled some coconut on top of the shells after they were piped so that it'd toast in the oven. And because of love coconut so much, I added it to some pineapple-flavoured buttercream. Om nom nom.

Salted caramel macarons (almond shells with salted caramel buttercream)

Macarons can be intensely sweet, so I found a recipe that would cut through the sweetness by adding sea salt, and it was gooood. These macarons reminded me of caramel corn. I added some gold luster dust to the shells shortly after they were piped and before the batter had hardened to create a nice finish.

Pink almond macarons (with chocolate ganache)

I went back to an easy favourite with just plain almond shells and a rich dark chocolate ganache filling, but I dolled them up with hot pink food gel.

With the sense of encouragement that comes from a job well done, I can't wait to experiment with some more ingredients (matcha, lavender, lemon-mascarpone). What flavour combinations are you curious to try?


February 8, 2011

cupcake couture

A sweet and splendid (and simple!) way to dress up your cupcakes.