Thursday, February 25, 2010

French Chocolate Macaron

     I cannot tell you how long I have wanted to make macarons.  I was in Paris over the summer and fell in love with the ones at Laudree (thank you Adrien for the wonderful suggestion)!  My family and I sat in the Luxembourg Gardens on a gorgeous sunny day, people watched, and ate our macarons… that is until the police kindly told us we were sitting on grass that was not to be sat on.  Oops.  But no matter, I had already savored every last one of my macarons.  Yet I was not completely fulfilled – I wanted more!  Sadly, Laudree is not cheap and I was leaving for Luxembourg in two days.

     When I was back in America, I instantly began scouring the Internet for information on the magical macaron.  Oh, they’re hard to make?  What’s a ‘foot’?  There is an Italian and a French method to making them?  You had to try how many times before you successfully made just one macaron?  Mon Dieu!  I decided to improve my culinary skills a little more before attempting such a daunting gastronomic feat!

     Slowly over the course of the school year, my interest in macarons began to fade… but every time I saw them on Tastespotting or Foodgawker, I just had to read the blog post behind the beautiful picture.  I began bookmaking recipes that sounded good nor exceedingly difficult to make.
Then I came across David Lebovitz and he made my dream of making a macaron come true.  His recipe is utterly fail-proof.  Every single one of my macrons produced feet and tasted delicious.  I believe the most important factor in my success was that I weighed all of my ingredients (aside from the eggs).  It really makes a huge difference – when I weighed five tablespoons of granulated sugar, it was 10 oz too much!  But I did make a few alterations based on other information I had read (they are noted in the recipe).

     Next time I make this I will use a better piping technique (which I had only figured out on the third to last macaron I piped) and rap the baking sheets on the counter a little more (as mine were a little too ‘fluffy’).  Now go!  Impress your friends and make some of macarons!!

French Chocolate Macaron with Chocolate Ganache Filling
Adapted from David Lebovitz's The Sweet Life In Paris

Macaron Batter Ingredients:
  • 1 cup (100 gr) powdered sugar
  • ½ cup powdered almonds (about 2 ounces, 50 gr, sliced almonds, pulverized in yo)
  • 3 tablespoons (25 gr) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature and ‘proofed’ in the refrigerator for 24 hours
  • 5 tablespoons (65 gr) granulated sugar

Chocolate Filling Ingredients:
  • ½ cup (125 ml) heavy cream
  • 4 ounces (120 gr) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Macaron Batter Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 340º F (170º C).
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready.
  3. Grind together the powdered sugar with the almond powder and cocoa so there are no lumps; use a blender or food processor since almond meal that you buy isn't quite fine enough.
  4. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm, about 2 minutes.
  5. Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag (standing the bag in a tall glass helps if you're alone).
  6. Pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in one-inch circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch apart.
  7. Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons, let sit for 20 minutes, then bake them for 15-18 minutes. Let cool completely then remove from baking sheet.

To make the chocolate filling:

Heat the cream in a small saucepan.  Pour over chopped chocolate, let sit for one minute, then whisk until smooth.  Place in refrigerator to cool, stirring every 10 minutes to ensure even cooling.  When are desired consistency for piping,  fill pastry bag fitted with ¾ inch tip and pipe onto macaron shell.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mint Chocolate Chip Cake

Happy 86th Birthday, Grandpa!  Today we celebrated my grandpa's birthday (even though his birthday is a little later in the week) and it was my duty to make the cake.  Of course, I didn't complain; it's more experience in the kitchen, more material for my blog and another chance to make my Grandpa smile!  His favorite ice cream flavor is mint chocolate chip.  As long as I can remember, every single time we have ever gotten ice cream, he always orders mint chocolate chip if they have it.  May summers in Frankfort were spent walking down to the Cool Spot and order ice cream with Grandpa.  I couldn't think of what kind of cake to make him until I was thinking about how much I wanted some ice cream (even if I can't eat it).  Then I remember my Grandpa's LOVE of mint chocolate ice cream and the cake was born!

I looked all over the internet and there were no recipes that I really liked.  Some required only mixing together the wet and dry ingredients - I know that wouldn't produce cake results I'd like (it'd most likely come out too dense).  Instead I turned my attention to King Arthur.  I based my recipe off their Chocolate Cake recipe.  I didn't want anything too chocolatey, as it would overpower the mint flavor I was going for.  But at the same time, I didn't want it to fall flat and taste boring like milk chocolate.  So, I had to improvise.  I also used my own recipe for mint buttercream - I just followed the rule of ratios.

  • 2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 cup milk, warmed in microwave for 1 minutes
  • 1/2 water, boiling
  • 4 large eggs, separated & whites beaten until stiff peaks form
  • ½ bag of creme de menthe chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour three 8" round pans.
  2. Place a strainer over a large mixing bowl. Measure in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa, and sugar. Sift/shake the dry ingredients through the strainer into a mixing bowl, to eliminate any lumps.
  3. Add the butter and mix at low speed for 1 minutes. With the mixer running, add the oil and continue mixing until the mixture looks like sand.
  4. Combine the vanilla with the milk and coffee or water, and add all at once. Mix for 1 minute at low speed, stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then mix for 30 seconds more.
  5. Separate the eggs.  Beat the whites until stiff peaks form, set aside.  Beat in egg yokes one at a time.  Stir in creme de menthe chips.  Then gently fold in egg whites.
  6. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake for 24 to 26 minutes.
  7. The cake is done when the top springs back when very lightly touched in the center, and the edges just begin to pull away from the edge of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a rack to cool before removing it from the pan.
  9. Once cooled, put the cakes in the freezer for about a half an hour.  When 'frozen' remove and cut layers in half (you will now have 6 'layers').

Mint Buttercream Frosting
  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 5 ⅓ cups powdered sugar
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • gel icing, until desired color is achieved

  1. In a medium bowl, beat the butter at a low speed with an electric mixer or tabletop mixer.
  2. Add powdered sugar, alternating with the milk, and beat to smooth, but thick consistency (you may need to add more milk or sugar)
  3. Stir in vanilla and peppermint. If you want a less minty flavor, decrease the peppermint extract or leave out altogether.

Grandpa blowing out his candles!

Look at those six (slightly demolished) layers!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Chocolate Caramel Cookies (aka Milk Dud Cookies)

Sorry I haven't been on-top of my blogging!  What's even even worse is that I have been cooking at lot of very healthy things and haven't documented them!  I made some roasted chickpeas (a wonderful snack), some vegetable soup (complete with purple potatoes), browned butter chocolate chip cookies with toasted coconut (for Jessi's farewell snack fest), and a simple pasta dish (for a quick dinner).  Sadly, school has been getting in the way of cooking and more importantly not taking photographs!  I think the biggest reason I've been falling behind is… THE OLYMPICS!  I can't even being to describe how much I LOVE the Winter Olympics.  I can honestly say I love it  more than the Summer Olympics… the snow, the skiing, the figuring skating… and seeing  Russia dominate everyone in hockey (don't worry, I'm still cheering for the USA).  Mainly, the Winter Olympics really make me miss ski racing… it makes me want to run a GS course again.

I have made a lot of desserts in my day (obviously) but all my housemates said that these were the BEST that I have ever made.  The flavor also reminded me of Milk Duds (hence the name).  They are amazing straight out of the oven because the caramel is so gooey, but you can also zap them in the microwave for 5 seconds to get the caramel all gooey again.

Chocolate Cookie Recipe Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 bag of caramels, unwrap

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk dry flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside.
  3. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa in mixer. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix until smooth.
  4. Wrap dough ball in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
  5. Roll out cookie dough on floured counter. Cut into roughly 1 1/2 – 2 inch diameter circles or squares (the shape and precision of the cut section doesn’t really matter since you will be wrapping it around the caramel anyway), brushing extra deposits of flour off the top.
  6. Roll the dough around an unwrapped caramel.  Roll the dough back and forth in your hands until it forms a smooth ball.
  7. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet (or silpat) for 10-12 minutes until the cookies are firm.
  8. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thin Mints

Don't you hate it when you go to the store to get one or two ingredients that you need for a recipe (but you didn't write it down because you SWORE you knew exactly what you needed)…and then come home to realize that you are missing something?  Cut to yesterday evening.  I was all ready to try making 101 Cookbook's All Natural Dark Chocolate Thin Mints.  I had wanted to try making these forever.  Then after I already softened two sticks of butter, I realized that (uh oh!) I didn't have any powdered sugar!  Alas, my creative culinary skills to the rescue!  I have made chocolate cookies before and didn't use powdered sugar.  And by knowing the basics of recipe ratios, I had to make due with the ingredients I had… and I must say, my results weren't too shabby (I think delicious is the right word).  The wafers weren't as thin as I would have liked because I left the dough in the freezer for a half an hour too long, but as a result the "inside" of the thin mint was so soft and fluffy.  And as I always do with my regular Girl Scout Thin Mints, I might stick a few in the freezer to see how they taste too!

I would also like to note that I successfully tempered chocolate for the first time… AND it was even on accident!  WOW, I never knew tempered chocolate could be so much better; everything dipped smoothly, it dried so much faster and the chocolate was SO shiny!

And in the spirit of Single's Awareness Day, I made the thin mints heart shaped and topped some off with a little bit of red decorating sugar.  Now, to all the hungry boys out there… While I have only once had a true Valentine (not counting all my guy friends that will be my 'valentine' for a day and eat chocolate and watch TV with me), if I DID have a Valentine, he would be on such a sugar high of homemade treats and love… it would be the best Valentine's Day ever.  Just a hint for next year.

Heart Shaped Thin Mints

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cup white sugar
  • 2 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon mint extract
  • 1 pound of dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp (or more) peppermint extract

  1. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add the sugar, and beat until mixed well. Beat in eggs one at a time, then the mint extract.
  2. Sift flour, cocoa, and salt together into a small bowl. Add flour mixture by halves into creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.
  3. Divide dough in half. Place into ziplock bags, flatten out, and freeze for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 
  5. Allow to thaw for a few minutes and roll out dough.  Cut into desired shapes and place on cookie sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes.
  6. Melt ¾ of the chocolate in a double boiler (aka a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water).  When melted, remove from heat, add peppermint extract and stir some.  Then stir in remaining chocolate until melted.  Dip in cookies, making sure to evenly coat both sides, and tap off excess.  Allow to dry on a silpat, parchment paper, or any other non-stick surface.
  7. Share with friends and Enjoy!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Parmesan Crackers with Garlic & Rosemary

Ironically, last night I made crackers from scratch because I was craving something crunchy but was too lazy to go out to the store to buy crackers.  And boy, am I glad I didn't!  I can't stop munching on these crackers - the flavor is so amazing and elegant!  It sure kicks any other cheesy-ish cracker I've consumed to the curb!  Another added bonus is that these aren't hard to make at all - while I did use my blessed food processor, this wouldn't be difficult to put together with a pastry masher or even a fork (...but it would take longer).  I don't think I'll ever buy crackers again because the batch I made yielded what would be in a normal sized box of cheese crackers!  Even after offering my housemates one, they kept on asking (and just going back) for more.  The greatest part about this recipe?  It's TOTALLY customizable with whatever spices you have in your pantry or whatever your craving... I'm still thinking about what combination I want to do next!

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • about ½ cups water, plus more as needed (I used about of a cup more)
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan
  • ~4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • a few turns of fresh cracked pepper

(these are the herbs/flavors I used, but feel free to substitute with whatever you like!)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Place the flour, salt, and butter together in a large bowl or in the container of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Blend with a fork or pulse, until the flour and butter are combined. Add about 1/4 cup of water and blend, then continue to add water until the mixture holds together but is not sticky (see ingredient list above)
  3. Add in parmesan, rosemary, garlic, and pepper (or any other herbs/cheese/flavorings) at this point and give a final stir or pulse.
  4. Roll out on a lightly floured surface until 1/4 in. thick, or even less (thinner = crunchier).  Score lightly with a pizza cutter if you want to break these into nice squares or rectangles later on & poke holes with a fork in the top. Bake on a lightly floured baking sheet, or directly on baking stones, until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Cool on a rack & store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

As you can tell from the picture above… these should probably be called Irish-American Car Bomb Cupcakes.  This past Monday was JP’s 21st birthday!  He has one sole passion in life: John Deere.  While JP knew he was getting cupcakes brought to his Ultimate Frisbee game on Sunday, Sam bought some cupcake toppers to surprise him with.  As opposed to when I made the Irish Car Bomb Cake, I used a mixture of cake and all-purpose flour, which actually seemed to make the cupcakes a little fluffier (the cake was very dense).  Everyone on the team loved the cupcakes and it was (hopefully) a little bit of a morale booster after their close, and sad, loss to Purdue’s team.

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes
Adapted from Une-Deux Senses

For the Guinness chocolate cupcakes:
  • 1 cup stout beer/ Guinness
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs (make sure they're at room temperature)
  • 2/3 cup sour cream

For the Bailey's ganache filling:
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsn. butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp. Bailey's Irish cream

For the Bailey's buttercream frosting:
  • 8 tbsn. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 4 - 8 tbsn. Bailey's Irish cream (I used just a little more than this)

  1. To make the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350 F. Line a cupcake tin with liners and set aside.
  2. Combine stout and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together the eggs and sour cream to blend.
  5. Add stout mixture and beat to combine. Mix in dry ingredients on low until incorporated.
  6. Divide batter among cupcake liner about 2/3 full and bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.
  7. To make the ganache, place chocolate in heatproof bowl.
  8. Heat cream in saucepan until simmering, then pour over chocolate, let sit for 1 minute, then stir until smooth.
  9. Add butter and Bailey's and stir until combined. Set aside until cool and thick enough to be piped (you can use the refrigerator to speed the process but stir every 10 minutes to ensure even cooling). Meanwhile, cut a portion from the center of the cupcake using the cone method and once the ganache is of the right consistency, pipe the ganache into the centers.
  10. To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium high until light and fluffy.
  11. Gradually add powdered sugar until incorporated. Mix in Bailey's until smooth. Add more if necessary until frosting has reached a good consistency for piping or spreading. Frost the cupcakes as desired and enjoy!

** Decorate with excess chocolate ganache


I love falafel, but I usually have to shell out $4 to Pita Kabobs when I want some.  Now, I know there are “falafel making devices” out there for making sure every falafel is the same size and perfectly flattened… but I used my medium sized cookie scoop and my hands.  It seemed to turn out really well.  This is a relatively quick side (or main...) dish to put together and is quite impressive.  While I did really like the flavor and texture of these, next time I make them I think I will chill the ‘batter’ before cooking them in the oil; they were a little soft when I pan fried them.  I brought these to a LV potluck – but sadly once I got to the cabin the falafel had cooled significantly.

Adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook

  • 2 15-oz. cans of chickpeas
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 6 scallions, minced
  • ¼ cup (packed) minced parsley
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • A few dashes of cayenne
  • ⅓ cup flour
  • Oil for frying

  1. Rinse the chickpeas, and drain them well.
  2. Combine all ingredients except flour in a food processor until you have a uniform batter.
  3. Add flour, and stir until thoroughly combined. You can cook the falafel right away, or store the batter in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for several days.
  4. Heat a heavy skillet and add about 3 Tbsp. oil. When it is hot enough to sizzle a bread crumb on contact, drop tablespoonfuls of batter into the pan, flattening each slightly, like a small thick pancake. Sauté for about 10 minutes on each side, until golden and crisp. Add small amounts of extra oil to the pan as needed throughout the cooking.
  5. Place the cooked falafel on a plate lined with paper towels and, if necessary, keep warm in a 300-degree oven until serving time.


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