Month: December 2011

French Macarons

Now that my semester has come to a conclusion, I’ve had ample time to bake to my heart’s desire. In the last week that I’ve been home, I’ve conquered triple chocolate biscotti, peppermint chocolate crinkle cookies, steamed mussels in spicy tomato sauce (a very proud accomplishment) and, alas, French macarons. I tried this recipe from Martha Stewart last year, and have been craving to make them again ever since. There is something so pleasant, so comforting, about a light and flaky yet succulent chocolate egg white cookie sandwiching rich, creamy decadent raspberry buttercream frosting. I literally can’t stop eating these little guys, but the indulgence and time spent making them is beyond worth it.

INGREDIENTS (makes 18 macarons)

for the macarons

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup almond flour, or finely ground almonds

3 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder

2 large egg whites, room temperature

pinch of cream of tarter

1/4 cup superfine sugar

for the raspberry buttercream

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup confectioners sugar

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup raspberry preserves

a few dots red food coloring

DIRECTIONS

Sift confectioners’ sugar, almond flour and cocoa powder into a bowl 2 times, to insure any larger almond pieces are removed. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk egg whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and whisk until soft peaks form. Add superfine sugar and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 5 to 8 minutes. Sift flour mixture of whites and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny.

Transfer batter carefully into a pastry or large plastic bag and snip a small hole at one corner. Pipe 3/4-inch round 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Be careful to pipe the batter into coils, rather than layering lines of batter of top of each other. You do not want the cookies to have much height at this point. Tap bottom of each sheet on a counter to release any trapped air. Let the cookies sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees but do not wait to put the cookies in. Bake cookies for about 10 minutes, until they are crisp and firm, rotating the pan halfway through.

Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.

To make the buttercream, cream butter with an electric mixture on medium speed until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar and combine with a spatula. Add vanilla and preserves and whisk on medium speed until the color is uniform. If you desire a deeper color, add food coloring and combine.

Sandwich 2 same-size macaroons with 1 teaspoon buttercream. Serve- and enjoy- immediately.

just like in Paris!

one with peanut butter, Nutella and banana

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I Yam What I Yam

My friend Chelsea and I have developed  recent affinity for sweet potatoes. We took it so far that we had an Iron Chef: Yam competition at our house before Thanksgiving. Sweet Potatoes are so versatile and really healthy; you can make them as sweet or as savory as you please. Here are two of my favorite most recent sweet potato concoctions:

Sweet Potato Pie with Candied Pecan Topping

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup and 1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp heavy cream
1 pre-baked pie crust
3 tbsp butter
1 cup lightly chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS

Cook the pie crust according to directions on the package. Make sure it is completely cooled before using.

In a large saucepan, cover the sweet potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are soft when poked with a fork. Drain the potatoes and puree in a food processor until smooth. Let cool completely before using.

Prepare the pie. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place rack at bottom of oven. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and maple syrup until smooth. Add the sweet potato purée, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 3/4 cup of cream. Mix until completely smooth. Pour into cooled crust.

Bake the pie on lowest rack for 50 minutes, until filling has set. Cool on rack for one hour. Then transfer to refrigerator and chill completely.

Make the pecan topping. Melt 3 Tbsp butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup of brown sugar and cook, stirring, until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp cream, and mix in. Add the pecans, mix to coat the pecans with the sugar mixture. Let cool for 1 minute. Pour mixture over cooled pie. Use a rubber spatula to spread topping over the top of the pie. Cool until topping has hardened, about 30 minutes.

Sweet Potato Cupcakes

INGREDIENTS (makes 24 cupcakes)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup sweet potato puree
Topping:
2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar, divided

3 cups mini marshmallows, or 18 large marshmallows cut in half

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners, set aside.

In a small mixing bowl whisk together, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together butter and brown sugar until lighter and slightly fluffy about 3 – 4 minutes.  Stir in egg and vanilla.  Slowly add in dry ingredients alternating with buttermilk.  Stir until well combine.  Mix in sweet potato puree.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full (about scant 1/4 cup in each).  Sprinkle 1/2 tsp brown sugar over each cupcake.  Bake 19 – 21 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 5 minutes in muffin tins before removing to wire rack to cool.  Cool cupcakes on wire rack at least 5 minutes.

Generously butter a cookie sheet.  Spread marshmallows in a single layer on cookie sheet, keeping the marshmallows close together.  Heat oven to broil.  Place marshmallows in oven under broiler (DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM THEM), cook about 1 minute until they start to brown slightly.  Remove from oven and using a buttered spatula scoop marshmallows over tops off cupcakes.