Monday, October 31, 2011

french macarons and a happy halloween!!!

I made MACARONS!!!!
I want to cheer like the biggest cheerleader right now because for the second time in my pastry career, I have (somewhat) perfected the famous macaron!!!! The first time I ever made these was in pastry school eons ago and I blame the perfection and execution on the commercial ovens we used and the guidance of our outstanding instructors. I have tried a few times to make these French confections and have failed....sadly. But this time I was inspired by my friend Julie who posted about wanting to know how to make macarons on facebook and since it was snowing on Saturday I did a little research and found this one. I chose this recipe mainly because I had the ingredients in my pantry but I absolutely adore the macarons found on these two blogs, Tartelette and Cannelle et Vanille. These two ladies are amazing food bloggers and photographers. I love!!!

Let's get back to really what is important here.....macarons!!! I followed this recipe to a tee as far as the cookie ingredients. But when it came to a filling I made orange tinted, vanilla Swiss-meringue buttercream in honor of Halloween. If you're still frightened to try and make these, here is an incredible story on how-to make macarons and a step-by-step tutorial.

French Chocolate Macarons
borrowed from David Lebovitz
makes about 15 

Macaron Batter
1 cup (100 gr) powdered sugar
½ cup powdered almonds (about 2 ounces, 50 gr, sliced almonds, pulverized) ***I used Trader Joe's Almond Flour***
3 tablespoons (25 gr) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder ***My go to cocoa powder is Valrhona cocoa powder for it's dark color and deep chocolatey flavor***
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
5 tablespoons (65 gr) granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350º F (180º C).
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready.
Grind together the powdered sugar with the almond powder and cocoa so there are no lumps; use a blender or food processor since almond meal that you buy isn’t quite fine enough.
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm, about 2 minutes.
Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag (standing the bag in a tall glass helps if you’re alone).
Pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1-inch (3 cm) circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch (3 cm) apart.
Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons, then bake them for 15-18 minutes. Let cool completely then remove from baking sheet.

Buttercream Filling ***Makes enough for two batches of macarons***

1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1 - tablespoon pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
orange food coloring
***For chocolate buttercream  - add 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled*** 
***For peanut butter buttercream - add 2/3 cup peanut butter and increase salt to 1/8 teaspoon***

Combine sugar, egg whites and salt in a bowl of a stand mixer. Place bowl over simmering water. whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until slightly thickened, foamy and registers 150 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 2 - 3 minutes. 

Place bowl in stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat mixture on medium speed until consistency of shaving cream and slightly cooled, 1 - 2 minutes. Add butter 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy. (Frosting may look curdled after half of the butter has been added; it will smooth with additional butter.) Once all of the butter is added, add vanilla, food coloring and/or melted chocolate or other flavorings. Mix until combined. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, and thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds, scraping beater and sides of bowl with rubber spatula.

Pastry I - raspberry macarons - 2006
I mean seriously, check these babies out.....I don't even need to give you a side profile of these because you can just see it's "footing" from above. And yes, I was slightly penalized for the fluorescent pink don't judge.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

chunky monkey bread

Yesterday the weather in the North East took a serious winter dive and it snowed in October. SNOWED IN OCTOBER!!!!! We've been living in NY for over 10 years and this is the EARLIEST that I/we have ever experienced snow before Halloween. C'mon??? Are you kidding me??? 

For most cold, rainy & snowy days go hand in hand with baking.....For me??? I could bake in the middle of summer and 100 degrees outside. I bake when I want to and that's usually ALL THE TIME!!! Yesterday's weather called for bread baking and I was in a hurry so I mixed up my version of "chunky monkey bread". This quick bread's flavor profile is similar to Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey Ice Cream - banana, chocolate, walnuts.....Need I say more???

Chunky Monkey Bread
adapted from

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups banana, mashed (about 3 bananas)
2 large eggs @ room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup plain/banana/vanilla flavored yogurt or sour cream or buttermilk
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate - chips or finely chopped 
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray or butter a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan or comparable size. Spread walnuts onto a baking sheet and toast until fragrant or approximately 10 minutes. Set aside to cool and roughly chop.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a small microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate in 20-30 second increments until completely melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl and with a hand held mixer or with a wooden spoon, cream butter and sugar (this will appear grainy and not completely creamed). Add eggs one at a time until thoroughly combined. Add yogurt/sour cream/buttermilk, mashed banana and vanilla. Mix to combine. Add in flour mixture and fold with wooden spoon or mix on low until moist. Do not over mix. Gently combine 1 cup of banana batter with the melted chocolate. Fold in the toasted walnuts with the banana batter.

Alternate spooning batter into prepared pan. With a paring knife or skewer swirl together. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until cake tester/skewer comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan. Cool bread completely on wire rack.

***Don't be afraid to toast this up in the morning and smear it with a little peanut butter, butter, cream cheese or my new favorite yogurt butter by Brummel & Brown. The bread baking doesn't end here.....more to come!!!***

Saturday, October 22, 2011

chocolate truffles

I don't know how to begin this post because these chocolate truffles are SO EASY to make and will bring a smile to any chocolate lover's face!!! Don't be intimated with tempering chocolate to enrobe these nuggets in because you don't have to. That's why these are so easy!!!

It is no secret that I watch A LOT of food tv.....Again, great for all that surround me because they get to sample most of my creations. Tonight is no exception and I will be bringing these chocolatey gems to our friend Megan tonight in celebration of her birthday.
Along with all of the food tv I watch, about six years ago, I graduated from culinary school specializing in Classic Pastry Arts. During my nine month intensive study at The French Culinary Institute we made chocolates. Tempering chocolate is just that.....tempermental. I'm not gonna lie, I very much enjoyed eating them but tempering chocolate? Not so much. But seriously, throw your anxiety aside about making chocolate truffles and grab a few ingredients because really, these truffles are that easy.....

Chocolate Truffles
courtesy of Alton Brown, 2004

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup ***I didn't have any so I substituted it with honey***
1/4 cup brandy ***I didn't have this either and I really don't think it matters. I instead added 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon of espresso powder***
toasted almond truffles
1/2 cup each Dutch processed cocoa powder, powdered sugar, finely chopped nuts, toasted coconut, and/or your favorite sprinkles ***I used a little less than 1/3 cup each***
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine ***This is for enrobing your truffles. If you want your truffles to last longer and not melt away on your fingertips, by all means do this step. If not, ignore it and just do what I did***

Place the 10 ounces of chocolate and butter in a medium glass mixing bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir, repeat this process 1 more time. Set aside.
toasted coconut truffles
Heat the cream and corn syrup/honey in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the melted chocolate mixture; let stand for 2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, stir gently, starting in the middle of the bowl and working in concentric circles until all the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth and creamy. Gently stir in the brandy and/or vanilla extract and espresso powder. Pour the mixture into an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour. ***I simply left mine in the bowl, covered it with plastic wrap and placed in the frig overnight*** 

***If you placed your truffle mix in the frig overnight, it will be incredibly hard. Leave out at room temp until you can do the following step*** Using a melon baller or a very small cookie scoop, scoop chocolate onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Place cocoa powder, powdered sugar, nuts, coconut and/or sprinkles each in it's own small bowl and set aside.
cocoa truffles

***Ignore this step if you DON'T plan on enrobing your truffles*** In the meantime, place the 8 ounces of chocolate into a medium mixing bowl which is sitting on top of a heating pad lined bowl, with the heating pad set to medium. Depending on the heating pad, you may need to adjust the heat up or down. Stirring the chocolate occasionally, test the temperature of the chocolate and continue heating until it reaches 90 to 92 degrees F; do not allow the chocolate to go above 94 degrees F. If you do, the coating will not have a nice snap to it when you bite into the chocolate. Once you have reached the optimal temperature, adjust the heat to maintain it.

Remove the truffles from the refrigerator and shape into balls by rolling between the palms of your hands. Use powder-free vinyl or latex gloves, if desired. ***If not enrobing, roll your "naked" truffles into cocoa, powdered sugar, nuts, coconut and/or sprinkles*** Finished truffles can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and can be eaten anytime.
chocolate sprinkled truffles
***Ignore this step if you DON'T plan on enrobing your truffles*** Dip an ice cream scoop into the chocolate and turn upside down to remove excess chocolate. Place truffles 1 at time into the scoop and roll around until coated. Then place the truffle into the dish with either the cocoa powder, nuts or coconut. Move the truffle around to coat; leave truffle in the coating for 10 to 15 seconds before removing. In the meantime, continue placing the chocolate-coated truffles in the cocoa or other secondary coating. After 10 to 15 seconds, remove the truffle to a parchment lined sheet pan. Repeat until all truffles are coated. Allow to set in a cool dry place for at least 1 hour; or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Truffles are best when served at room temperature.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

faux dough & batter

It's my 50th post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Almost nine months ago I started this blog mainly because everyone always asked me what I was baking lately in my kitchen. I'm not afraid to share my recipes and I hope other bloggers and chefs that I have borrowed from don't mind either...... :)

Today's post is super special to me because I have been "baking" (or should I say "making") my treats with non-edible ingredients. You know, less on the lips and easy on the hips.....I secretly always knew I wanted to be a baker at a very young age. Growing up my sister and I used to play "bake shop" with my miniatures and we used to make mini treats out of dough or clay. I also grew up in a family who loved to bake and my Mom always baked or even sometimes bought me and my sisters special cakes for our birthdays. 

Yesterday I was part of a celebration for someone that is super special to me and I "maked" these.....


Thursday, October 13, 2011


Not stroopwafels, but alfajores.....My friend Dave is on a European tour with Sondre Lerche and he just happens to be in one of my most favorite places on earth, Amsterdam. At the Albert Cuypmarkt in the Pijp, you can find a vendor selling fresh stroopwafels oozing with the most delicious caramel filling. I know alfajores are not stroopwafels, but the dulce de leche filling in alfajores have similar oozing qualities...

makes 2 dozen
1 ½ cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter – @ room temp

1 ¼ cup powdered sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups cornstarch
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

FILLING: Dulce de Leche
either store bought or homemade ***I'm a totally freaked out by boiling a whole can of sweetened condensed milk in a pot of water on your stovetop, so I prefer David Lebovitz's
technique for making it from scratch and I add rum to taste or vanilla extract to mine***

1 c. dried unsweetened, toasted coconut
Powdered sugar or melted chocolate

Combine cornstarch, flour, and a pinch of salt in a bowl.

Cream butter, sugar, and zest.  Add eggs 1 @ a time. Add vanilla and lemon juice. Add dry ingredients until it forms a ball.  ***Dough will be very sticky***

If possible half dough and place onto plastic wrap. Using plastic wrap, shape into a disk and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven 350˚. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

On a floured surface, roll out dough approximately 3/16 inch thick.  Cut out with 2-inch cookie cutter.  Place onto parchment lined cookie sheets.***They do not loose their shape so you can space them ½ - 1 in apart***

Bake for 9 – 12 minutes. The cookies will look quite pale.  Cool on rack.  Dust cookies with powdered sugar.  Spread one side of cookie with Dulce de Leche and sandwich together.  ***Be a little generous with the filling so that it oozes out a little when sandwiched together*** Roll sides in toasted coconut or dip in melted chocolate.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

brioche & bostock

It's October and it's finally feeling like Fall here on the East Coast. Aaahhhhh.....64 degrees.....I've been longing for the weather to be in the sixties. I absolutely love Fall because the weather calls for hot tea drinking and pastry eating and today was no exception. 

I've been also longing for almond brioche toast and chai tea. Not the most classic combination of flavors or cultures, but sounding all good in my book and soon to be in our tummies. 

Ta da!!! 
My brioche!!! 
I have to admit, I have only made a loaf of brioche bread - once. 
In pastry school. 
Over five years ago. 
When you think of baking bread, especially a loaf of brioche, your head starts to hurt. Well at least mine did, but I sucked it up and broke out my enormous Pasty 1 Cookbook from my days at The French Culinary Institute and had at it. As I was making the brioche dough, I was wondering what and why I was so stressed out about making it. The mixer did all of the work!!! I just had to measure out the ingredients and dump them in the bowl at certain times. No. Big. Deal. So here's the recipe I used with some modifications because I didn't have on hand fresh yeast. Who does, really?

makes one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf or 20-25 individual brioches à tête

500 grams bread flour
70 grams granulated sugar
30 grams fresh yeast or 10 grams dry yeast
50 milliliters water (warm-ish)
5 eggs (preferably large eggs)
2 teaspoons salt (I used kosher salt) 
250 grams unsalted butter, cold and cubed

1 egg
1 tablespoon of heavy cream

1. Put the flour and sugar in a bowl of your tabletop mixer and dry mix using the paddle attachment.
2. Dissolve the yeast in the water. ***If you're using dry yeast, proof in the water for 3-5 minutes until foamy*** Add to dry ingredients.
3. Add eggs to the mixture one @ a time and combine. 
4. Switch to a dough hook.
5. At a low to medium speed, work the dough until it's smooth and satiny. You will need to scrape off the dough hook several times during mixing/kneading. The final dough should completely come away from the sides of the bowl and have a smooth texture.
6. Add the cold butter and incorporate each piece thoroughly, or the pieces of butter will melt during baking, creating a void in the dough. If the butter begins to melt out of the dough while mixing, add a small amount of additional cold butter to bring it back together.
7. Add salt and mix in thoroughly.
8. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap it well in plastic wrap and chill it for a minimum of 4 hours. ***I chilled mine overnight*** 
9. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
10. Prepare individual molds or loaf pan by coating the sides and bottom with a fair amount of butter.
11. Shape dough by gently flattening it out and rolling it up like a jelly roll, pinching the end onto itself. Tuck in the sides and place into your prepared pan/s.
12. Proof dough by placing it into your cold oven with a pot of water that has come to a boil or in a warm area. Proof for at least 1 hour.
13. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and heavy cream. Gently brush over proofed dough.
14. Bake until bread is medium to dark brown or until internal temperature reads 160-200 with an instant thermometer.
15. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes and then remove from pan/s and cool completely.

Bostock? Yes, I have never heard of almond brioche toast being called bostock either.....But in my quest to find the ultimate recipe for brioche topped with almond cream and toasted almonds I found many recipes on the web as well as on my shelf from my TARTINE BREAD cookbook.

Their recipe called for brushing the bread with an orange simple syrup, but I didn't have any oranges and I felt that since my bread was baked fresh that I didn't need to. But I did have vanilla syrup in my frig and I used that instead. I was also intrigued by their version because they smeared their brioche with jam before covering it up with almond cream. Shall I go on???

Almond Cream
1 1/4 cups sliced almonds
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of brandy 
***I didn't have any brandy on hand, so I added 1/2 teaspoon of pure almond extract***

Orange Syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1/4 cup orange juice
grated zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons of orange liqueur
***If you are attempting this and you don't have orange blossom water or orange liqueur (not your usual pantry staples), simply omit it***

6 slices of brioche, each about 1/2 inch thick and toasted
3/4 cup orange marmalade, apricot jam, or berry jam
powdered sugar for dusting

To make the orange syrup, in a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, orange blossom water, orange juice and zest. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. When the sugar has dissolved, after about 5 minutes, remove from heat. Stir in the orange liqueur. Let cool to room temperature.

To make the almond cream, combine 1 cup of the sliced almonds, sugar and salt in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add eggs and butter and process to form a paste. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the brandy. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.

Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Arrange the brioche toasts on a baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, thoroughly soak the toasts with the syrup until they are very moist. Spread with a layer of jam about 1/8 inch thick and follow with a layer of almond cream about 1/4 inch thick. Top with remaining 1/4 cup sliced almonds. Bake until deep golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. The almond cream will caramelize, and the almond slices will toast. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.  

***I went a little light on the jam and almond cream and didn't really soak my bread in a lot of syrup. My bostock still tasted great!!!***