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lunes, 26 de octubre de 2009

The Daring Cooks October 2009 Challenge: MACARONS


The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

My first time at the Daring Bakers! I already read some awesome things about them and I thought it would be just great to join them. And by doing this having the opportunity to try some new recipes and at the same time learn a lot and have some fun! So finally, after the summer, I signed up and waited till they revealed the new challenge!

When I saw it was all about French Macaroons, I was just thrilled!! This is something I would never have tried myself, it looks quite difficult and I am also not much of a "cookie-baking" person. I DO love to eat cookies but baking them... mmmm, actually no. And before I am offfending anyone here with the cookie-reference, a macaroon is of course not a cookie, it is a MACAROON ;-)
I already read about the macaroons a few times in the foodie magazines I have a subscription for, and last month also in my favourite me-time magazine "Flow", they just looked gorgeous and very yummie but to make them myself? After seeing those very impressive pics of all these macaroons, I have to say that I felt quite intimidated and just buying them seemed a better (and safer ;-)  option. So, yes, a real challenge!

First of all I would like to say thank you to Audax Artifex , one of the members of the Daring Kitchen,  who seemed to pull everyone through all the obstacles and pitfalls of the macaroons you can possibly think of! I read all the advice, looked at all the photos of "how-they-are-NOT-supposed-to-be" macaroons (just like mines) and really learned a lot.

The challenge was making Claudia Fleming’s recipe for macaroons, and fill and sandwich the macaroons. The flavours and decoration were optional.
I started making this recipe (only half of it) twice, but after that decided to try another recipe.
In the challenging recipe you have to bake the macaroons twice, first only 5 minutes at very low temperature, which replaces the "normal" resting time of about half an hour, and then for another 7 to 8 minutes at a quite high temperature of 190ºC. As my oven behaves like a barbecue above temps of 180ºC I was a bit scared about that. And, yep, also this time it bbq-ed very well :S
It also takes my oven ages to reach the highest temperature and this didn't help as well. According to Tartelette (a real profesional, not only in macaroon baking), if it takes too long the macaroons won't rise anymore. And as I sat in front of my oven I did notice that; they didn't rise anymore and turned also quite brown (sausage-color ;-) ).
I tried it a second time with a lower temp of the oven but still no feet, no cripsy top, etc.

I became quite a bit envious of all those people who made beautiful macaroons with this recipe, I also figured out that my merengue was not stiff enough (afraid of overbeating them) and that this also did not help for all the things needed with the macaroons: nice feet, crispy and shiny on top and soft and chewy from the inside; and last but not least, not sticky on the bottom to the parchment paper.
So both the "soppy" merengue and the oven adventure resulted in the first two disappointing macaroon results, like you can check out on the photos. But the taste wasn't so bad :-)

This is the first batch after the 5 minutes on low temp. As you can see (or not see in this case ;-) ) they have no feet....

The result of the macaroons after the 7 minutes at high temperature in my bbq-oven. A bit brownish ;-), no feet, not risen and no crispy top... In summary: everything that is required is missing.

This is the second batch. I baked these at a lower temperature in the oven. Still no feet, no crispy top... After reading everything at the forum of the Daring Kitchen I figured out that my merengue wasn't stiff enough so that too could have caused the no-feet thing.

Not what they are supposed to look like, my macaroons. But well, this was the result of the macaroon challenge. They are filled with ganache by the way, and I gave them to the Spanish students of Julio (my husband). Maybe they didn't look that good but according to them, they tasted very nice :-) That's the good thing with an easy going audience ;-)

I decided to look for some other oven temperature to bake my macaroons in and also apply the other method of leaving them to rest for about 30 minutes before baking instead of baking them at a very low temp.
I read all the recipes of Tartelette and, wow, how delicious and beautiful they all look! So I decided to give her recipe a go :-)

It went pretty well! Well, maybe no perfect macaroons yet but I was really, really happy with the result. That's what happens after two big disasters, you get quite satisfied with everything that looks more like it ;-) This time my macaroons had feet (not really big ones but well...), they were shiny and crispy on the top and chewy (just right) on the inside. They were a bit too brownish but well... The taste was really nice by the way! I added some pink color paste to the recipe and made just plain ones. And I filled them with raspberry swiss merengue buttercream, really delicious combination!

Here comes Tartelette's recipe (I only took 2/3 of the quantity).

60 grams of egg whites
20 grams of granulated sugar
134 grams of icing sugar
74 grams of almond flower
Oven temperature: 140ºC (280F)
Large baking sheet covered with parchment paper

I left the egg whites to age for about 24 hours on the kitchen table. Grounded the almond flower (I also did this with the first attempts) with the icing sugar in the food processor to make it a really fine, powderlike, flour. Then I just followed Tartelette's recipe and instructions: whip the merengue to a foam, gruadually add the granulated sugar and beat until a stiff merengue (don't overbeat, she advices because then it becomes dry). Add the almond flour and the icing sugar (I already put them together in the food processor) and add the food coloring (just a tiny bit) and give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than about 35 strokes (with my quantity of ingredients).
If you want to test it: place a small amount of batter on the baking sheet and if the top flattens on its own, it's ready to go! If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple more turns (all good advice of Tartelette!).
Put the batter in a piping bag and pipe about 3,5 cm macaroons on the parchment paper. Leave them to rest for about 30 minutes and then bake them for about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size.
Let cool (out of the oven) and peel them off the parchment paper. You can keep them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or freeze them (they are thawed in about 30 minutes).

For the filling I used the Swiss Merengue Buttercream I had left over with raspberry flavour (sieved raspberry jam added to the merengue buttercream).

The other recipe I made was David Lebovitz's recipe for chocolate macaroons. Since chocolate is my first love it seemed the obvious choice :-)
I have to say that they were the most beautiful macaroons I've ever made (well, in my very, very short career of macaroon baker ;-)), they looked beautiful, with feet, nicely risen and crispy and shiny on the outside and really delicious on the inside! I was very happy with my chocolate macaroons. They still have a little peak at the top but well, that gives me a chance to make them again.
For the filling I made espresso ganache with instant espresso powder and a coffee liqueur (Tia Maria in my case), it tasted delicious!

His recipe is the following:
100 grams of icing sugar
50 grams of almond flower
25 grams of cacao powder
2 eggwhites (L)
65 grams of granulated sugar

Everything goes about the same in the recipe as above in Tartelette's, you only add the cacao powder to the icing sugar and almond flour mixture and grind it all together in the food processor. David Lebovitz uses the oven temp of about 180ºC and bakes the macaroons for about 15-18 minutes.
The only thing that I adapted was the oven temperature, since my oven is really hot with 180ºC (375 F). I put the oven on about 160-170ºC (about 325 F) and it went just fine. 

And just some lines on the filling: Espresso ganache
100 ml cream
90 grams of dark chocolate
25 grams of butter
1 teaspoon of instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon of Tia Maria
Heat the cream with the espresso powder and pour it over the chocolate (in pieces) and the butter. Let it set for about 5 minutes and stir gently (for the air bubbles), Add the Tia Maria and let it cool. Whip the ganache for about 5 minutes on high speed and let it cool in the fridge (so that it stiffens).

I wanted to try a lot more recipes but unfortunately it has been a very busy month with both of us having the flu here... so...
But I loved the first challenge and already wrote down a lot more variations I would like to try. So about the macaroons I can say... TO BE CONTINUED!

lunes, 5 de octubre de 2009

Tarta de Brownie, Queso y Frambuesas

Tarta de brownie, queso y frambuesas

Supongo que ya está claro, viendo mis recetas, que soy una apasionada del chocolate y de los brownies, ¿no? ;) Mis otros grandes amores culinarios, aparte del chocolate, son las frambuesas y la tarta de queso (cheesecake), y justamente acabo de encontrar una receta en la revista Delicious (edición holandesa) de la que me dije "¡ESTA tengo que probarla!" He modificado la receta ligeramente en cuanto a la preparación, pero por lo demás es igual al original. El resultado: exactamente lo que esperaba conseguir, una capa de brownie perefecta, y una capa deliciosa por encima de cheesecake y frambuesas, ¡¡refrescante y sorprendente!! Una receta genial, porque además de ser deliciosa, tiene un aspecto fantástico.

Tarta de Chocolate y Castaña

Tarta de chocolate y castaña

Hice esta receta por primera vez en un otoño en que Julio (mi maridín ;) ) estaba de lo más interesado en recetas con castañas, y como a mí también me encanta probar cosas nuevas... El resultado fue una tarta riquísima, sorprendentemente sabrosa :-) La tarta tiene un aspecto externo tirando a rústico pero por dentro es una masa de chocolate aterciopelada, ligeramente dulce y muy sabrosa, ¡un auténtico placer para el paladar! Yo la considero una tarta de postre, pero para el día siguiente con el café sirve de maravilla ;-) Puede servirla con una capa de nata por encima, espolvoreada con cacao, pero no es imprescindible.

Tarta de Trufa de Chocolate

Tarta de Trufa de Chocolate

Es un clásico esta tarta, deliciosa con el café sino también como postre. Esta receta es una con base de bizcocho un poco diferente, en vez de galletas en migas. La capa de trufa de chocolate es bastante potente y compacta, con los sorprendentes tropiezos de galleta. Mis galletas favoritas para esta receta son las Yayitas de Lu.
También voy a añadir la receta de trufa de chocolate con sólo nata montada y chocolate fundido, que es muy cremosa y ligera.