Tuesday, October 27, 2009

French Macaroons

The October 2009 Daring Bakers' Challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Taverns as the challenge recipe. To be honest, I had no clue what a French macaroon was. I thought macaroons were those little mounds of coconut. I felt sad when I first started reading the write up on the website, since I hate coconut, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the macarons that they were writing about were little cookies made with almond flour and filled with ganache or icing. Yummy!

I thought the macarons might be tricky to make, as things that require fluffy egg whites can be temperamental, but I was happy to find that it wasn't so difficult. The longest part of the recipe was waiting for the eggs to come to room temperature. That took about an hour. I must confess that my eggs were still a little cold when I whipped them, but I didn't want to wait any longer to start the cookies. The hardest part of the recipe was getting the eggs to stiff peaks. I always worry that I'm going to over whip them and ruin the recipe. Luckily this time they came out right. I tried adding pink food colouring to the egg whites to make my macarons a soft pink colour like I had seen in other examples, but I was scared to add too much liquid to the eggs and they ended up not being pink at all. Oh well, next time I'll up the food colouring. Once the eggs are whipped and the granulated sugar is incorporated you fold in the almond flour and icing sugar mixture and that's it!

I filled my piping bag and fitted it with just the coupler. The Daring Bakers's website says that you can trace circles on parchment and use them to make perfect circles, but I eye balled it. After I had piped the cookies, I baked them as per the recipe and they worked well! I think I left them in the oven too long though, some of them turned a little too brown. After testing them (many times) the brown ones were still yummy! I let the cookies cool really well and then I filled them with a dark chocolate ganache.

I don't have a recipe for the ganache, I kind of made it up as I went. I poured a splash of soy milk into a pot and warmed it on the stove. When it was steaming I added a Lindt chocolate bunny and some dark chocolate I had kicking around in my baking cupboard and voila! A ganache was made. I spread some ganache on one side of a cookie and topped it with a cookie of a similar size.

No dairy free substitutions were needed for this recipe other than the soy milk in the ganache. I'm not sure if I would make these cookies again, even though they were easy to make and well received by those who ate them!

-2 1/4 cup confectioners (icing) sugar
-2 cups almond flour
-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
-5 room temperature egg whites

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Combine icing sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl.
2. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl of a mixture until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of a flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently until combined. Sift the almond flour mixture into the mixture in two batches and fold until just combined. Don't over fold.
4. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag.
5. Pipe into 1 inch mounds.
6. Bake macaroons for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375 degrees. Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven for 7-8 minutes or until lightly covered. ( I would bake it a little less, but it depends on your oven.)
7. Cool before filling.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Butter Free Butter Tarts

For Paul's father's birthday I was given the task of making his favourite dessert, butter tarts. Instead of a birthday cake, we were going to have a variety of his favourite treats, and I was nervous! I'm not very good at pastry and I didn't want to arrive empty handed at a birthday party. I also wanted to make a butter tart that I could eat as well, so a dairy free butter tart was what I set out to do.

The tarts ended up being a combination of two recipes, the pastry shell from one site and the filling from the other. The pastry was really easy to make. Probably the easiest pastry I've attempted so far. I ended up making two batches of the pastry. The first one I refrigerated for 30 minutes, and the second I used right away since I was pressed for time. The second batch I rolled between two sheets of waxed paper so it wouldn't stick. I used a circle cutter and then placed the pastry rounds into a regular sized muffin tin. The recipe for the pastry can be found here, on About.com.
The filling was super simple to make. You just throw all of the ingredients into a bowl, stir it around and fill the pastry shells. Easy peasy! I was surprised to find that a treat called butter tarts had very little butter in them. I substituted margarine for the butter in the filling recipe. The filling recipe can be found on the website called Canadian Home and Country. I made three versions of tarts, walnut, raisin and plain. I filled all of the shells and sprinkled raisins or walnuts on top. My favourite were the plain ones.

When I was looking up recipes, I found that butter tarts are a uniquely Canadian treat! Pretty cool! The tarts went over really well. I'm going to have to make them again sometime because not everyone at the party got to try them because some people were going back for seconds and thirds!