Sunday, September 28, 2008

Parisian Macarons




They say there are certain qualities one must look for in a good Parisian macaron. It must have a satiny finish, must have a distinctive 'foot' and must be dry on the outside but have a chewy center when you bite into it.

These delicate creations are a joy to eat as they are to make. Truth be told, that's just a bit of a masochist in me talking. You see, I must have tried at least half a dozen recipe variations to come up with a fairly decent batch. Some were too wet, too flat, cracked up, or grainy. It somehow turned into quite a challenge to finally be able to make good Parisian macarons.

And just when I was about to give up, a happy accident occurred. I had leftover Italian meringue icing from a birthday cake order to which I decided to add powdered sugar and ground almonds. Piped them out and baked them at a very low temperature oven and what do you know...they turned out almost identical to store-bought macarons.

I think I'm done with macarons for now. So here's the recipe:

Meringue:
1 1/2 cups refined sugar
1/2 cup water
3 large eggwhites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
gel food color, as desired
1/2 cup confectioner's powdered sugar, sifted with
1/2 cup ground almonds

1. In a heavy saucepan, boil together sugar and water (without stirring) until thread stage.
2. Just before syrup reaches thread stage, in a mixer with whisk attachment, beat eggwhites with cream of tartar at highest mixer speed until you get very fine bubbles.
3. While the mixer is running, carefully pour boiling syrup into eggwhite foam. Beat until you get a glossy meringue with stiff peaks.
4. You can add food color and almond extract at this stage.
5. Carefully fold in sugar-almond mixture.
6. Transfer meringue into pastry bag fitted a 1/2 inch round tip. Pipe one-inch disks of meringue two inches apart onto Silpat-lined baking sheets. Let dry at least 20 minutes on counter.
7. Bake at 275°F for about 20 minutes or until dry. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Vanilla Buttercream Filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sifted confectioner's powdered sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Cream butter till light and fluffy.
2. Add sifted powdered sugar.
3. Add milk and vanilla a teaspoon at a time.
4. Beat icing till fluffy and smooth.
5. Transfer to pastry bag with a round tip.
6. Pipe in center of half the cooled macarons.
7. Top with the other half.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

I know what you must be thinking. "There she goes again with her cheesecake obsession". I just can't help it. I'm hooked. And from all my recipe stacks I'm still a long way away from baking my last. So just indulge me please.

But just imagine this: put together two of my all-time favorite treats of cheesecake and dulce de leche. And oh boy, do we have a party! Goodbye dieting. Let's meet again in a few weeks.

You can easily make dulce de leche at home. Just boil unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk (label removed). Let simmer for 4 hours. Make sure the cans are submerged in water the whole time. Cool the cans for at least 8 hours (preferably overnight) before using. And remember: never, never open a hot can. I cannot stress this enough. Unless you want a trip to the ER.

Here's the recipe:

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons refined sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/3 cup melted butter

Mix all ingredients and press onto bottom of a 9" springform pan. Chill until ready to use.

Filling:
2 bars (225 grams each) cream cheese
3/4 cup refined sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dulce de leche


To decorate:

2 tablespoons dulce de leche
8 pieces white chocolate buttons


Mix together cream cheese and refined sugar till smooth. Add eggs. Stir in sour cream, flour and vanilla extract. Set aside one cup of filling. Pour the rest into the prepared crust.

Blend together the remaining filling and dulce de leche. Randomly spoon this mixture on top of filling. With a spatula, make swirls to make marble designs.

Bake cheesecake at 325 F baine-marie style for about one hour. Cool completely. Chill at least 6 hours or overnight before serving. Before serving decorate the top with dulce de leche and white chocolate buttons.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mocha Java Chip Cupcakes...for Grown-ups only



Just like the next person, I really enjoy a cup of good java. Whether hot or cold, it is the perfect pick-me-up.

One flavor I personally enjoy is a frosty tumbler of mocha java chip. So why not make cupcakes as a tribute to this favorite. A word of warning though: keep these goodies away from the kids. The double effect of caffein from the chocolate and coffee would have them bouncing off the walls in no time. Better safe than sorry.

Mocha Cupcakes


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups refined sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules

1. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Mix together milk, water cocoa powder and coffee granules. Set aside.
3. Cream butter and sugar for 5 minutes.
4. Add eggs one at a time.
5. At low mixer speed, add flour mixture alternately with the liquid mix.
6. Spoon into paper-lined muffin pans.
7. Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes.
8. Cool cupcakes completely on racks.

Mocha Java Chip Buttercream


2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
1 tablespoon hot water
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh milk
2 cups sifted confectioner's powdered sugar
1/4 cup grated dark chocolate

Decoration

chocolate coffee beans

1. Dissolve coffee granules in hot water. Cool to room temperature. Add to milk.
2. Cream butter at medium speed till light and fluffy.
3. At low mixer speed, add powdered sugar in two batches.
4. Slowly add in coffee/milk mixture until fully incorporated.
5. Stir in grated chocolate.
5. Pipe rosettes on top of cupcakes.
6. Decorate with chocolate coffee beans.

Makes 24 pieces regular-sized cupcakes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Chunky Monkey Bundtlettes



I have to admit, I love banana cake. There is something so comforting about it (in my case I think anything with sugar IS comforting). But just like anything, one looks for variety in the familiar. So here's my take on shaking things up a bit when it comes to an old favorite.

I got this idea from the world-famous Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor. Baking it in a bundtlette pan makes it a little bit fancier and certainly not lowly like a plain old banana loaf.

Make sure you grease and flour the pan well as this tends to stick to the pan because of its high sugar content. If you're not too fond of a very dark banana cake then mix the mashed bananas with the sour milk to prevent browning.

You can dress this up with a shake of powdered sugar on top or if you're really in the mood, a drizzle of warm dark chocolate ganache. Ooh...

Chunky Monkey® Bundtlettes

2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup refined sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
1/2 cup sour milk (milk+ 1 tsp lemon juice)
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate
1/2 cup chopped walnuts


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour pan(s). Set aside.
2. Sift together flour and baking soda. Set aside.
3. Cream the butter and brown sugar in a mixer at medium speed for about 5 minutes.
4. Add eggs one at a time mixing until blended.
5. Stir in mashed bananas.
6. At low mixer speed add the dry ingredients alternately with the sour milk beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
7. Stir in chocolate and nuts.
8. Spoon into prepared pans.
9. Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes.
10. Cool in pan 5 minutes then transfer to rack to cool.

Makes 12 bundtlettes.