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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Art of Macarons

Before March 8 of this year I had never tasted a macaron.  I actually had to research the difference between the French macaron and the very different American macaroon.   Back at Christmas I made macaroons for the first time but found that they were too heavy and coconutty for my taste. Maybe that is one reason why I find myself drawn to French macarons.  They are by far the superior cookie.  Made from almond flour, egg whites, and sugar it has a crispy meringue shell and chewy center.   In between the two halves of meringue is usually a filling of some sort of fruit jam, chocolate ganache, or buttercream.  

Meringue + raspberry jam?   Meringue + chocolate?  Meringue + buttercream?  How lovely is that?

Plus when you see them...the colors!!! 
Having only made the raspberry ones, I can't wait to make them all at once and arrange them in some lovely arrangement.  Raspberry, Orange, Lemon, Key Lime, Blueberry, Lavender...that nearly covers my ROY G. BIV order.  I've been trying to research different recipes and techniques  and from what I have read I'm really impressed with how my last batch turned out based on what the horror stories I have read about macaron first timers.  Some have devoted their entire careers to perfecting the macaron.  Entire batches are thrown out if it is too humid and the cookies do not set right.  

The mecca of macarons is Paris of course and a certain store named Lauderée.  

It was originally founded in 1862 by Louis Ernest Lauderée on the Rue Royal where it still exists today.  His grandon Pierre Desfontaine is credited with inventing the modern macaron in 1931.  Over 15,000 macarons are sold here each day with visitors waiting up to 30 minutes in line.   

I've never seen a macaron sold anywhere in my life.  

So maybe one day I'll get to experience a true French macaron but for now it looks like I'm going to have to keep experimenting on my own.

My Rasberry Chocolate Macarons

Lauderée Rasberry Macarons

Minus the rose petal, fancy label, and whole raspberry center they don't look tooooo far off!!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Marshmallow Fondant

What really is the point of having a lovely cake if it tastes horrible?

Last summer I took a fondant course but have only made one cake with fondant since then.   Most fondant makes people gag.  Really, it's bad-especially the pre-made versions.  Having experienced bad fondant before when I took my class I made my own marshmallow fondant and took pity on everyone else with their cute but horrible tasting cakes.  Sure, you can have buttercream underneath the fondant so cake eaters can just peal the fondant off and still have the frosting but what a waste of time.  There are a few other DIY fondant recipes I've been wanting to try out (especially the buttercream fondant) but haven't gotten around to yet.  

Making fondant seems like somewhat of a daunting task but having done it several times now it gets easier and easier.  It's very sticky, but once you get over the mess of that it's not so intimidating.

I used a recipe found on Cake Central.  The steps are helpful but slightly misleading.  Don't use all of sugar!  It takes more like 1 and 1/2 lbs.  Just add it until it's thick enough basically.  

So for this cake for no occasion I wanted it to be white on white and had this cake for inspiration that I saw a few days ago.  I used some left over chocolate ganache from the cupcakes I made on Thursday for the filling along with vanilla buttercream.  I'm planning on taking it to work tomorrow so that we can have some sort of reward for making it through the first day of EOG testing.    Marshmallow, buttercream, chocolate ganache????   Usually once I get done with a cake project I'm kinda over it but I really can't wait to try this combination.   I have to wait to show it off before I can cut it though!!!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Frozen Key Lime Pie

I'm so in love with lemon meringue pie that I often quickly dismiss its closely related key lime cousin.  A few weeks ago I stopped by my mom's house and she broke out a store bought key lime pie that was actually decent.  So this weekend for mother's day I broke out one of my Barefoot Contessas and got to baking her Frozen Key Lime Pie.  Having actually seen the episode where she makes this pie and seeing how tasty it looks I don't know why I waited so long.  Plus, I really love making whipped cream.

Frozen Key Lime Pie
~Barefoot Contessa Family Style

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10 crackers)
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
6 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons grated lime zest (or zest from about 3 limes)
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 6 limes)

For the decoration:
1 cup (1/2 pint) cold heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Thin lime wedges

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

For the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter in a bowl.  Press into a 9-inch pie pan, making sure the sides and the bottom are an even thickness.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.  

For the filling, beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 5 minutes, until thick.  With the mixer on medium, add the lime zest, lime juice, and sweetened condensed milk.  Pour into baked pie shell and freeze.  

For the decoration, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar and vanilla until firm.  Spoon or pipe decoratively onto the pie and decorate with limes.  Freeze several hours or overnight.  

A few helpful tips (I've figured these out from making 334 lemon meringue pies):
1.  Make the pie crust!  Sure buying the pre-made crust seems easier but a handmade crust is so much prettier and tastier.

2.  When you make that crust, if you have a food processor-use it!

3.  If you don't have extra large eggs on hand, use 7 large egg yolks.  Usually I buy extra large but the store happened to be out the last time I went.  Adding one more large egg yolk evens it out.  

4.  Don't skimp on the zest!  It makes it more tart so don't leave it out.  In fact, I added a little more.  If you  haven't invested in a rasper (or zester), Williams-Sonoma makes one that you won't be able to live without.

***And I'm in love with these cards with the vintage photos on the front.  This one looks like it was taken right out of my grandmother's photo album with a few more kids thrown in.  I'm not one for sappy Mother's Day cards and knew my mom would appreciate this one.  "On the rocks, no salt."

Friday, May 8, 2009

Taylor Bakes

Also, I'm so slack that I have failed to introduce the very cute logo my dear friend and graphic designer Amy Henty created months ago.  

Future project:  try to actually create a cake as adorable as this one.

You can see more of her lovely work here:


I have a new cinnamon bun recipe that is beyond impressive.  It made me live out my lifelong dream of working at Cinnabon.  Well, maybe not my highest career aspirations  but I used to try to memorize their dough rolling steps through the glass of the Hanes Mall Cinnabon at age 7.  I'm really set on doing a lot of baking this weekend (really, this time) and won't stay outside planting flowers as much and discovering new streets to run on (the downhill ones).  

I've even let a few friends/co-workers birthdays slip up on me without baking something.  They were a little sad I think...

Here is a little cinnamon roll magic preview...