February 2015

It has been a long while since I last posted. It’s been a couple of years getting over a heart problem and getting back to a reasonable facsimile of health. With that out of the way I am going to try and get back to posting.In 2015 I was fortunate enough to travel to Las Vegas and take a European holiday. We travelled to Barcelona on a cruise that departed Ft. Lauderdale and made its way to Funchal, Portugal and then along the Southern Spanish coast to Barcelona. An excellent 2 week journey. After a few days in Barcelona we headed to Amsterdam for the tulip fields. Then it was off to the Mannheim area to visit friends and then to Munich to spend some time with family before returning home to Vancouver.

But I digress….

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Sandwiches

Now that I had experimented a couple of times and had a good batch of Swiss Buttercream I needed to do something with it!I decided I would make it into a peanut butter filling for chocolate chip cookies. For the cookie recipe I used Martha Stewart’s – Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies

For this recipe I used:

Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 Cups of All Purpose Flour
1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
8 Oz Unsalted Butter – softened (hint here)
1/2 Cup of Sugar
1 Cup of Light Brown Sugar – packed
1 Teaspoon of Salt
2 Teaspoons of Vanilla
2 Large Eggs – room temperature
12 Oz Chocolate Chips

Peanut Butter Filling
1 Swiss Buttercream Recipe
1/2 Cup of Smooth Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies -The Ingredients

I started by sifting the flour, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl and setting it aside.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies – Sifted Flour mixture

In a large glass bowl I used my hand mixer to beat the softened butter until light and fluffy. This took about 5 minutes on high.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies – Creaming the Butter

Once the butter was mixed, I added both sugars and beat again for another 5 minutes until the mixture was nice and creamy. I stopped a couple of times to scrape down the bowl to ensure everything mixed well.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies – Adding the Sugars

I then added the eggs and vanilla and beat everything together.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies – Adding the Eggs & Vanilla

I added the flour and slowly mixed it in.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies – Adding the Flour

Then it was time to add the chocolate chips. Since the mixture was quite stiff I mixed the chocolate chips in by hand.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies – Hand Mixing in the Chocolate Chips

I used a #20-1/4 cup Ice Cream Scoop to divide out the dough. 6 on each lined cookie sheet. I baked them in a 350˚ oven for about 15 minutes until lightly browned.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies – Ready for the Oven

As the cookies were cooling, I took the butter cream and peanut butter and beat them together well. I added a generous amount of filling to one cookie and topped it with another. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies – Ready to Eat!

Baker’s Notes:

  • I chose a cookie recipe that was a finished soft cookie
  • This cookie will cure most sweet tooths!

Macarons – Part 5 – Eureka!

Yet another trial in my quest for a perfect macaron. If you have been following, this is trial number 5.

Building on my progress in part 4 I decided to try the Italian meringue again. This time I would use a mixing bowl and my hand blender rather than my mixer. The bowl on my mixer was too big for one batch of macarons and left at least 1/4 of the syrup on the side of the bowl.

I am using the book “i ♥ macarons” by Hisako Ogita.

Macarons Part 5

For this recipe I used:
30 ml of Water
65 Grams of Sugar
85 Grams of Almond Meal
150 Grams of Icing Sugar
3 Large Egg Whites – at room temperature
5 ml of Vanilla

Macarons Part 5 – The Ingredients

Following the recipe I use my food processor to grind the almond meal and icing sugar together and then double sifted the mixture.

Macarons Part 5 – Double Sifted Almond Mixture

In a medium bowl, using my hand mixer, I started whipping the egg whites until slightly frothy.

Macarons Part 5 – Slightly Whipped Egg Whites

Over on the stove, in a small pot, I combined the water and sugar and heated the mixture.

Macarons Part 5 – Water & Sugar

I boiled the syrup until it reached 235˚ F.

Macarons Part 5 – Bringing the Syrup to Temp

Once the sugar was at temperature I slowly drizzled the syrup into the egg whites while beating them on high.

Macarons Part 5 – Finishing the Egg Whites

After about 10 minutes of beating the meringue was cool enough to add the vanilla.

Macarons Part 5 – Adding the Vanilla

When the vanilla was mixed in I switched to a large spatula and folded in 1/2 of the almond mixture.

Macarons Part 5 – The first 1/2 of the Almond Mixture

Then I added the second half of the almonds and gently folded them in.

Macarons Part 5 – The second 1/2 of the Almond Mixture

Then it was time for macaronage – the final 10 folds.

Macarons Part 5 – Macaronage

And it was off to the pastry bag.

Macarons Part 5 – Filled Pastry Bag
Macarons Part 5 – Ready to Pipe

I piped a round of macaron batter in each of the marked circles, then gave the pan a hard rap on the counter to disperse any air bubbles.

While the oven heated to 400˚F,  I let the macarons rest on the counter to form a slight skin. Then it was off to the oven for 11 minutes.

This time everything came together.  No excessive spreading and perfect feet!

Macarons Part 5 – Perfect Pied

I filled this batch with Meyer Lemon Curd. For a more traditional macaron use a filling like Swiss Buttercream.

Macarons Part 5 – Eureka!!

Macarons – Part 4 – i ♥ macarons

Still working towards an elusive perfect macaron I decided to put my 3 previous unsuccessful experiences (found here, here, and here) behind me an start again.

By the time I got to this point I had watched the Great British Bake Off Season 1 and had seen success with the Italian meringue method of macarons.

Using my book “i ♥ macarons” by Hsiako Ogita, I used the section on the Italian meringue method.

Macarons Part 4 – i ♥ macarons

For this recipe I used:
30 ml of Water
65 Grams of Sugar
85 Grams of Almond Meal
150 Grams of Icing Sugar
3 Large Egg Whites – at room temperature
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla

I gathered all of the ingredients together.

Macarons Part 4 – i ♥ macarons – The Ingredients

I used the marked parchment paper I used on the last batch of macarons for the new batch.

Macarons Part 4 – i ♥ macarons – Marking the Parchment

I once again ground the almond meal and the icing sugar together in my food processor

Macarons Part 4 – i ♥ macarons – Processing the Almonds and Icing Sugar

Next I double sifted the almond mixture twice to ensure the finest possible flour consistency.

Macarons Part 4 – i ♥ macarons – Double Sifted Almond Mixture

Next I placed the water and sugar in a saucepan with a candy thermometer and heated it until 235˚F – hardball stage.

Macarons Part 4 – i ♥ macarons – Bringing the Syrup to Temperature
Macarons Part 4 – i ♥ macarons – Just about there

While the syrup came to temperature on the stove, I placed the egg whites in the bowl of my mixer and whipped them for a minute or so until foamy. As soon as the syrup was at 235˚F I turned the mixer on medium high and added the syrup in a thin stream into the egg whites. I continued to beat on medium high until thick glossy peaks had formed.

Sadly my attention was on the mixing of the hot sugar and not on documenting the next bit.

As in my Macaron’s Part 3 post I added 1/2 of the almond mixture, then the vanilla, then the second 1/2 of the almond mixture. Folding after each addition.

Then it was time for the 10 folds with a big spatula called Macaronage.

I then transferred the macaron mixture to a pastry bag and piped the batter onto the circles on the lined baking sheets. I then gave the baking sheets a firm rap on the counter to release any air bubbles. I let the pans set for 15 minutes while the oven heated to 400˚F.

Macarons Part 4 – i ♥ macarons – Piped Macaron Batter

This version of macarons produced a batter that stood up! A great  start. Then I noticed that there was a lot of hard ball sugar syrup residue in the bottom of the mixer bowl.

Macarons Part 4 – i ♥ macarons – Syrup Residue in the Mixer Bowl

I baked the macarons for 11 minutes until they were showing a little bit of colour. As you can see the macarons held their shape, mostly. You can also see that the macarons cracked. The best part was… they had a foot. This was the best version of macarons so far.

Macarons Part 4 – i ♥ macarons – Baked

I was close but I needed to master this cookie!

Baker’s notes:

  • I used a mixing bowl that was much too big for this recipe causing a bunch of the sugar syrup not to be incorporated in to the macaron batter

Macarons – Part 3 – i ♥ macarons

So now I have tried the MS recipe twice (here and here), and the recipe did not turn out. I am thinking it might be my proximity to water, but I am not sure.

 

In my travels in the past year I picked up a small book called “i ♥ macarons” by Hisako Ogita. This book has really detailed descriptions on how to make macarons and fillings.

Hisako describes 2 methods for making macarons: The meringue method and the second is the Italian meringue method.

The two recipes have a lot more steps that one I had tried before. I set out this time to try the meringue method.

Macarons Part 3 – i ♥ macarons

For this recipe I used:
85 Grams of Ground Almonds
150 Grams of Icing Sugar
3 Large Egg Whites
65 Grams of Sugar
5 ml of Vanilla

I started by marking circles on a sheet of parchment paper using a 2″ cookie cutter and a marking pen. Be sure to turn the parchment over!

Macarons Part 3 – i ♥ macarons – Drawing Circles

In the small bowl of my food processor I further ground the almonds and the icing sugar together.

Macarons Part 3 – i ♥ macarons – Further Processing the Almonds and Icing Sugar

After processing I sifted the almond mixture twice. Ensuring the resulting flour was as fine as possible.

Macarons Part 3 – i ♥ macarons – Double Sifting the Amonds

In the bowl of my mixer I beat the egg whites while slowly adding the sugar.

Macarons Part 3 – i ♥ macarons – Egg Whites and Sugar

I continued beating until stiff peaks had formed.

Macarons Part 3 – i ♥ macarons – Stiff Peaks

I scraped the edges of the egg whites with a large spatula and mixed in the vanilla at the same time. Next I added 1/2 of the almond mixture and gently folded it in.

Macarons Part 3 – i ♥ macarons – Adding the Almonds
Macarons Part 3 – i ♥ macarons – First Almond addition just mixed

I then added the rest of the almond mixture and folded again. And here is where I learned a new term: macaronage. This is where you fold the batter 10 times after the almonds have been incorporated. No more than 10 though!!

Macarons Part 3 – i ♥ macarons – Final Almond addition and Macaronage

Once fully combined I added the macaron batter to a pastry bag.

Macarons Part 3 – i ♥ macarons – Getting the Pastry Bag Ready

This mixture was a little runny and a little easier to control while piping. I gave each pan a couple of solid raps on the counter to release any air bubbles. Then I let the macarons rest for 15 minutes while the oven heated to 375˚ F.

Macarons Part 3 – i ♥ macarons – Pans Resting for 15 Minutes

I baked the macarons for 11 minutes and they were pretty dark. The recipe stated 15 to 18 minutes. The recipe time was probably right for macarons where the batter was thicker.

Macarons Part 3 – i ♥ macarons – Just out of the Oven

This recipe for macarons did not work for me either! The results were none the less tasty!

Time to try something new.

Baker’s Notes:

  • as mentioned in a previous post, it is really difficult to over beat sugar and egg whites – this was undoubtedly a factor in my experience
  • I still think being close to water plays a role in the making of macarons
Macarons Part 3 – i ♥ macarons – The Book

Macarons – Part 2

Just after I moved to the new place last year, I committed myself to successfully making a macaron. Since then I made one attempt. I failed – tasted OK but still failed. It wasn’t until this year that I got the time to try again.So, again, I try the Martha Stewart Recipe for Macaron’s from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. I must have done something wrong last time to it was worth trying again. I usually have great success with Martha’s recipes!

Macarons Part 2

For this recipe I used:

1 1/4 Cups of Sifted Icing Sugar
4 Ounces of Ground Almonds
3 Large Egg Whites – Room Temperature
1 Pinch of Salt
1/2 Cup of Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon of Vanilla

I started by gathering all of the ingredients together. I lined 2 baking sheets with parchment and marked 12 circles on each sheet with icing sugar and a 2″ cookie cutter.

Macarons Part 2 -Marked Baking Sheets

In a large bowl I whisked together the ground almonds and sifted icing sugar.

Macarons Part 2 – Almonds & Icing Sugar

Next in my mixer, I added the egg whites and started whipping them I added the salt, then  I slowly added the sugar and continued to whip until the mixture had what I thought were medium stiff peaks.

Macarons Part 2- Whipping the Eggs Whites and Sugar

After the egg whites had been whipped, I added the 1/2 of  the almond mixture and folded it in.

Macarons Part 2 -The first Almond Addition

After the almond flour had been just mixed in I added the vanilla.

Macarons Part 2 -Adding the Vanilla

Then it was time to add the rest of the almond mixture and fold it in. Once folded in I firmly tapped the bowl on the counter to release any air.

Macarons Part 2 -Final Almond Addition

At this point I noticed the mixture was much too liquid. There was nothing else to do but continue!

Macarons Part 2 -Ready for the Pastry Bag?

I loaded up the pastry bag. The clip at the end held the liquid mixture back.

Macarons Part 2 -Ready to be Piped

As carefully as I could, I piped the mixture on the sheets.

Macarons Part 2 -Trying to keep in the Lines

I baked the macaron’s in a 300˚ F oven for 20 minutes, turning the pans in the oven to ensure an even bake.

As you can see these macaron’s did not turn out, but I did get the “Pied” or foot! This in itself was a success.

Macarons Part 2 -Baked with Feet!

I was the proud recipient of cracks too! Time to try another recipe.

Macarons Part 2 -Wrong but Tasty!

Baker’s Notes:

  • with this recipe I think the egg whites should have been beaten into very stiff peaks
  • I have since found out that it is very hard to over beat egg whites and sugar
  • it’s possible that humidity is a big factor in making macaron’s – I have no proof, but I do live within 200 meters of the water

Butter Pecan Cookies

It was a morning when we heard from an old friend that was in town and I need to makes something quickly for afternoon coffee.A search came up with Butter Pecan Cookies from Martha Stewart. I wasn’t worried about the recipe turning out…. because it was from Martha!

It was an easy recipe that made 12 cookies with only 6 ingredients! Perfect…. quick!

Butter Pecan Cookies

For this recipe I used:


3/4 Cup of Pecans
1/2 cup of Unsalted Butter
1/3 Cup of Sugar
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
1/8 Teaspoon of Salt
1 Cup of All Purpose Flour

Butter Pecan Cookies – Ingredients

I  started by toasting the pecans in a 350˚ oven for 7 or 8 minutes. You know when they have been toasted enough when you can smell the toasted pecans without opening the oven. To be sure you don’t forget about the oven be sure to set a timer all the same. After cooling the pecans, I lightly chopped them.

Butter Pecan Cookies – Toasting the Pecans

Next I creamed the butter and sugar until it was light and fluffy. Here is where my large mixer (6 quart) challenged me a little. It was bit too big for the small amount of mix.

Butter Pecan Cookies – Creaming the Butter and Sugar

I added the vanilla and salt and mixed some more.

Butter Pecan Cookies – Adding the Vanilla & Salt

I added the flour and mixed it until just combined.

Butter Pecan Cookies – Adding the Flour
Butter Pecan Cookies – Mixed in Flour

Once the flour was mixed in I added the pecans and mixed them into the dough by hand.

Butter Pecan Cookies – Mixing in the Pecans by Hand

Without chilling or anything else I divided the dough into 12 portions on a lined cookie sheet and baked them for 15 minutes at 350˚.

Butter Pecan Cookies – Ready for the Oven

It was time to have these little babies with some coffee!

Butter Pecan Cookies – Ready for Coffee

Bakers Notes:

  • not my favorite cookie – too buttery? I am not sure.
  • for a firmer cookie really chop the pecans into small pieces. This will give the cookie a more dense texture.
  • This is a really great small batch cookie recipe.

Madeleines

When ever I am looking for something new to make I do check with the cookbooks on hand. Having recently purchased 2 Madeleine pans  it was time to finally try them out.The recipe I used was from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook – Lemon Madeleines.

Madeleines

For this recipe I used:


1 Stick (4 Oz) Unsalted Butter
3/4 Cup of All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup of Almond Flour – or finely ground almonds
1/2 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons of Sugar
2 Tablespoons of finely grated Lemon Zest
1/4 Teaspoon of Lemon Extract
1/2 Teaspoon of Salt

Starting off, I melted the butter and set it aside to cool. While the butter was cooling I zested the lemon. As a Madeleine is a very delicate cookie I used a rasp for the finest zest. The added bonus was the great lemon aroma in the kitchen.

Madeleines – Lemon Zest
I gathered all of the rest of the ingredients together.
Madeleines – The rest of the ingredients

In a bowl I mixed together the flour, almonds, and sugar.

Madeleines – Flour, Almond and Sugar mixture

I added the lemon zest and the lemon extract to the cooled butter.

Madeleines – Add Lemon Zest, Lemon Extract and Butter

In another bowl I cracked the 3 eggs ans was surprised to see all 3 had double yolks!

Madeleines – Eggs (with double yolks)

I whisked the eggs with the salt until the mix was foamy.

Madeleines – Eggs and Salt

I added the almond/flour mixture into the egg mixture and gently folded everything together.

Madeleines – Addling the Almond/Flour Mixture

Then it was time to add the butter/lemon mixture and fold it in as well.

Madeleines – Adding the Butter

Then the batter was ready for the pans and the oven.

Madeleines – fully mixed

I spooned a couple of tablespoons into the buttered and floured cavities of the Madeleine pan.

Madeleines – Ready for the Oven

Then off to a 350˚ oven for about 12 minutes.

Madeleines – Baking

Perfect humps! If I do say so myself.

Madeleines – Just out of the Oven

Turned out and cooling.

Madeleines – Out of the Pan and Cooling

Served plain or with a sprinkle of icing sugar.

Madeleines

Cooks Notes:

  • to be eaten the same day… but that’s not hard
  • change up the nut and flavour combos

French Almond Nougat

For two Christmas’s in a row I made this candy to give away in Christmas boxes to friends and family. It is definitely a huge success. Thanks again Martha Stewart!

If you have made butter cream icing before then nougat will be a snap. The timing can be slightly, and only slightly, tricky but the results are worth any effort.

French Almond Nougat – Wrapped nougat in the Christmas Boxes

I generally make 4 recipes filling 2 – 1/4 baking sheets.

For 1 Baking sheet I used:
4 Large Egg White – room temperature
1 1/2 Cups Light Corn Syrup
1 Cup of Sugar
1/2 Cup Water

then:

3 Cups of Light Corn Syrup
3 Cup of Sugar
8 Tablespoons of Melted Butter
2 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract – (1 TBS if you want more vanilla flavour)
1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
7 Cups of Whole Raw Almonds with the skin on

More after the jump…….
Start by lining your sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper. The paper should slightly extend over the edges. Set the an aside for later.

French Almond Nougat – Everything is ready to go

This is a two step process.

Step 1: Mazetta

In the mixer with the whip attachment, whip egg whites until stiff and set aside.

French Almond Nougat – Egg Whites

In a sauce pan mix 1 1/2 cups of corn syrup, 1/2 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar together. Cook over medium heat until a candy thermometer reaches 242 degrees (soft-ball). This may take up to 20 minutes.

French Almond Nougat – Both boiling steps going at once.
French Almond Nougat – Coming to temperature

Once temperature has been achieved, slowly pour the mixture into the egg whites beating continuously until all of the syrup had been mixed in. This should take you a few minutes. Set aside for the next step.

French Almond Nougat – The syrup has been added
French Almond Nougat – The complete Mazetta

Step 2: The rest

In another pan mix 3 cups of corn syrup, 3 cups of sugar and bring to a boil. You will want to reach 280 degrees (soft-crack). This can take up to 25 minutes.  Be sure not to leave the mixture until you have finished.

Remove the pan from the heat and let sit for 2 minutes.

French Almond Nougat – Next Syrup

Now you have to work really quickly!

Pour the slightly cooled mixture over the previously mixed Mazetta and stir until smooth.

French Almond Nougat – Adding the second syrup

Next add the butter, vanilla, and salt and mix again until the butter is incorporated fully. Now stir in the nuts. The mixture will be heavy so use a strong spoon or spatula.

French Almond Nougat – Butter and vanilla
French Almond Nougat – Add the almonds
French Almond Nougat – Mixed in almonds

Once thoroughly mixed empty the mixture onto your parchment lined pan.

Smooth the mixture out to ensure it fills the pan from corner to corner.

Let stand for 1 day. You can let it stand for less time but 1 Day was the right amount of time for me.

French Almond Nougat – Sitting to cure for a day

Packaging is up to you from here.

I used:80 – 3 1/2″ x 5 ” pieces of parchment.

I cut the completed nougat along the short side of the pan in 3/4″ slices then each of the strips in to 7 or 8 pieces. I wrapped each piece of nougat in the parchment twisting the loose ends to contain the nougat.

French Almond Nougat – Cut & Wrap

Now you are done! Enjoy!

Baker’s Notes:

  • I have had 2 pots of mixtures on the go at once – it reduced the amount of waiting time between step 1 & 2. Since the mixtures have to be at 2 different final temperatures this has worked well.
  • don’t stack the finished pans on top of each other while you are waiting for the nougat to cool. When I did this, somehow the nougat leap up off the one pan and sealed itself to the other pan. It was difficult to separate the two
  • you will need to twist the end of each piece of candy in its parchment cover. If you don’t the nougat will ooze out and you will have a pile of nougat with paper innards.
  • this might be the place for Tahitian vanilla extract since you are not cooking the vanilla
  • you may be able to use glacè fruit in the mixture for a more festive look

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