I love love food. Especially dessert. And for the past couple years, I’ve been learning my way around a kitchen. My personal pipe dream is to open that charming café with brick walls and dark wood, an enormous fireplace, lots of poufs and couches, walls of books, and of course, delicious pastries and beverages, made fresh. I’ve added a detail to this little dream of mine, which is another of New Zealand’s brilliant ideas: café during the day, wine bar at night. The perfect gathering place for friends and coworkers, or to be alone amongst people. The kind of spot I find incredibly inspirational.
Well, if it ever happens, you can bet that some of these recipes will be a starting point. Until then, I’ll just enjoy some scrumptious meals and fabulous desserts… and share them here!
I take no credit for many of these recipes; all borrowed recipes include links to where I originally found them. If I have made changes to them, I will clearly note the differences, but as I get better, I’ll experiment more, coming up with some recipes of my own!
A Little Extra
Worth the Challenge
A Few Necessary Basics
The Simple Stuff
I’ll begin with a twist on a Levy family classic Thanksgiving tradition: Crapple Pie! One of these was once hand-carried from Boston to Long Island… and made it intact.
Preheat the oven to 400℉. Line a 9″ pastry dish with a pie crust. Peel, core, quarter, and thinly slice 2 C apples (a combination of tart green and sweet red works well here), and combine in a large bowl with 2 C fresh cranberries. Add 2/3 C sugar, 1 Tbs. lemon juice, and 1 1/2 Tbs. flour to the fruit, mixing well. Pour into pie shell, bake for 30 minutes.
While the filling is baking, mix 1/2 C flour, 1/2 C sugar, and 1/4 C cinnamon in a large bowl. Add 4 Tbs. cold butter, rubbing mixture together between your fingers until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Remove pie from the oven, reduce temperature to 375℉. Spread the topping evenly over the pie and bake another 25-30 minutes until the top of the pie is golden. Allow 2 hours to cool.
A nifty little Poppy Seed dressing with some tang – perfect over a spinach salad, with almond slivers and strawberries.
In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, put: 1/4 C honey (it helps to warm it a little in the microwave, so it mixes better), 3 Tbs. cider or other vinegar (the recipe recommends raspberry vinegar), 2 Tbs. olive oil, 1 small shallot, minced, 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard, 1 Tbs. poppy seeds, salt and pepper to taste. Shake all ingredients until well blended, and serve!
Easy and delightful Strawberry Orange Muffins! The recipe online is a little unclear, and I upped the ante a little by swapping out a few things.
Preheat the oven to 400 ℉. Combine 2 large eggs and 3 Tbs. melted butter until just mixed. Add 1 1/2 C flour (lightly packed), 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 1/4 C sugar, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Slice 1/2 C small strawberries into halves (larger strawberries into smaller pieces), and zest half an orange. Peel and finely slice the half orange, and add fruit and zest to flour mixture, with 1/2 C strawberry jam or preserves, stirring until evenly combined. Spoon into 12 muffin cups coated generously with cooking spray (the fruit tends to stick) and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a fork inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Remove from pan as soon as possible.
Paula Deen’s yummy Peach Tart is a perfect end-of summer treat.
Preheat the oven to 375 ℉. Place 1 1/4 C flour, 1/2 C butter (room temperature), and 2 Tbs. sour cream in a food processor and pulse to combine. When the dough has formed a ball, pat into the bottom and sides of an ungreased, 10″ tart pan with a removable bottom. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Remove from oven, and lower the oven temperature to 350 ℉.
Thickly slice 6 medium peaches (peeled) and arranged the slices in overlapping circles on top of the crust, until completely covered (overfill the crust, as the peaches will shrink while in the oven). Combine 3 large egg yolks, 3/4 C sour cream, 3/4 C sugar, and 1/4 C flour in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Pour the mixture over the peaches, then place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for about an hour, until the custard sets and is pale golden in color. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Warm 1/2 C peach preserves in the microwave to thin, and add a splash of orange juice. Spread with a pastry brush over the top of the warm tart. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
Adapted from a key lime pie recipe, but in a pie crust rather than on a graham cracker crust, this Lime Custard Pie is light and sweet, but not overpowering.
Start with the Basic Butter Pie Crust, adding honey, cinnamon, and brown sugar to taste, to imitate a graham cracker crust taste (I made this recipe in New Zealand, where graham crackers aren’t readily available. Hence, the adaptation.) Roll out the dough on a floured counter, and press into a 9″ pie pan, cutting away extra about 1 inch off the edges of the pan, folding the edges under and fluting.
Preheat the oven to 350 ℉. Bake the pie pastry for 8 minutes or until set.
Combine 3 egg yolks and 1 tsp grated lime zest into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until mixture is glossy. Add 1 2/3 cup condensed milk and beat until thickened, 3 or 4 minutes. Reduce speed, and add 2/3 cup fresh lime juice, beating until combined. Pour the lime custard into the prepared crust. Bake about 10 minutes until filling has barely set. Remove from oven and let slowly cool until room temperature. Refrigerate.
Place pie in freezer 15-20 minutes before serving. Garnish with freshly whipped cream (with vanilla and sugar, to taste) and cinnamon.
These simple but versatile Crepes came from another food blog I’ve taken to reading lately, Not Without Salt. The batter took about two minutes, and then an hour in the refrigerator. And practice your flipping technique – these are thin enough that you’ve got to flip them like a pro!
Combine 2 large eggs, 3/4 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of water, 1 cup of flour, 1 Tbs. brown sugar, 3 Tbs. melted butter, and 1/4 tsp. salt in a bowl, using either a whisk or a blender until completely incorporated. Refrigerate for one hour, to ensure there aren’t any bubbles in the batter an it is completely smooth.
Heat a skillet, and coat with butter. Pour between 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup batter (depending on how confident you are in your flipping skills!) and swirl around to spread it out. Cook for 45 seconds on one side, then flip and cook for another 20 seconds. Keep on a plate in a warm oven until the whole stack is done, then serve!
(Try jam, grilled chicken and spinach, lemon curd and strawberries, peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, caramelized onions and goat cheese… the possibilities are endless!)
Or, turn them into blintzes!
While the batter is settling, stir together (all measures approximate) a cup of ricotta cheese, a teaspoon of sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Once all the crepes are done, put about a tablespoon of the ricotta mixture in the center of each crépe and folded like a little burrito… you could bake or put them on the griddle for a minute, but they are delicious just with some cranberry preserves.
These Ricotta “Anything” Muffins from Une-Deux Senses are as seriously delicious as the pictures make them look. I ended up making them mini muffins because I figured bite-size would be better in a crowd, and if the quickly-emptied plate was any indication, I must have done something right.
(The recipe says this makes 10 regular-size muffins, I was able to squeeze 36 minis out of the yield.)
Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Line muffin tin(s) with liners and set aside.
Mix together 1 C flour, a pinch of salt, 3/4 tsp. baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. baking soda. In a large bowl, cream together 1/2 C sugar and 1/2 stick of butter. Add 1 egg, 1/2 C ricotta cheese, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, and 1/2 tsp. almond extract and mix well.
Mix the dry ingredients into the wet until just moistened, then carefully fold in 1 C fresh rasperries. Spoon the batter into the prepared tins (I found it very thick and sticky, but not too difficult).
Sprinkle each with a little sugar and then top with slivered almonds.
For regular sized muffins, bake for 25-28 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. For minis, back for 18-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Share and enjoy!
A Little Extra
Galatoire’s famous Bread Pudding with Banana Praline Sauce is a taste of NOLA in a muffin cup. Made for individual servings, this dessert with its rich sauce isn’t meant for the meek… but it is delicious.
Preheat the oven to 375 ℉. In a large mixing bowl, combine 11 large eggs, 1 1/3 C granulated sugar, 1 qt. whole milk, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and whisk until well blended. Slice an entire baguette into 1/4″ pieces (vertically works better than an angle), and press two slices into the bottom of 12 large muffin cups. Slowly pour the egg and milk mixture into each cup, allowing the bread to saturate and adding more of the mixture until each cup is full – it will take several repetitions, but you will be able to use nearly all of the mixture. Bake the pudding bor 35 minutes, or until golden and set.
While baking, melt 1 lb. salted butter in a 2 qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 lb. light brown sugar, whisking until smooth. Slice 4 bananas, and stir into the sauce, then add 1/2 C praline liqueur (I use Disaronno Amaretto). Reduce the heat to low to keep sauce warm.
When the pudding is baked, remove from oven and allow to sit for 15 minutes to cool. Run a knife around the edges of the custards, and then invert the pan to remove the puddings. Place each on a plate, and ladle the sauce on top. Serve immediately.
Another Thanksgiving choice was this Apple-Pecan tart from the New York Times. This one traveled from Boston to Philadelphia!
Preheat the oven to 400 ℉. Place 1 1/3 C flour, 1 Tbs. granulated sugar, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a food processor, pulsing to blend. Dice 8 Tbs. cold, unsalted butter and add to the mixture in the processor, pulsing until the butter is in tiny lumps. In a small bowl, beat a large egg yolk with 4 Tbs. ice water, then sprinkle into processor and pulse briefly, until ingredients begin to clump to form a dough – but do not allow a ball of dough to form. Transfer dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and gather to form a flat, smooth disc. Roll into a circle approximately 13″ in diameter and fit into a 10″fluted tart pan. Cover with foil, weight the pastry and bake for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and weights, prick the bottom of the pastry and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven.
While the pastry is in the oven, peel, core and slice 2 medium tart apples. Melt 2 Tbs. unsalted butter in a skillet, then add apples and sauté over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Stir in 2 Tbs. light brown sugar, add 1 1/2 C coarsely chopped pecans, sauté another minute and then pour into prepared pastry. In a bowl, beat 3 large eggs, 1 C maple syrup (warmed), and 1 tsp. vanilla extract, and then pour over apples and pecans.
Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 ℉ and bake until set and browned on top, about 25 minutes. Serve with freshly whipped heavy cream.
This Cranberry Orange tart was a perfect dessert to follow a hefty Christmas dinner. Sweet, but with enough tang to not be overwhelming, it has a light, fruity quality to it.
Preheat the oven to 425 ℉. Combine lightly packed 1 1/2 C flour, 2 Tbs. sugar, and 1/8 tsp. salt in a bowl, then cut in 6 Tbs. chilled butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle the surface with 1/3 C ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork until moist and crumbly (do not form a ball). Gently press mixture into a 4″ circle on plastic wrap; cover and chill for 15 minutes.
Roll dough, between two pieces of plastic wrap, on a slightly damp surface, into a 14″ circle. Remove plastic wrap (you may need to stick it in the freezer for a few minutes so it can be easily removed), and fit dough into a 10″ tart pan with removable bottom, coated with cooking spray. Fold or flute edges.
Combine 1/3 C orange juice, 2 1/2 Tbs. cornstarch in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add 1 C sugar, 1/4 C orange marmalade, 2 Tbs toasted chopped walnuts, 1 Tbs grated orange rind, 10 oz fresh cranberries, and 1/2 an orange, peeled and chopped. Stir well, then pour mixture into prepared pan.
Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 ℉ and bake an additional 35 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack.
A Baked Brie makes a perfect appetiser or side dish. This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite tapas at Cuchi Cuchi, their Brie en Croûte. They serve it with slices of apple – I went ahead and put the apple inside.
Sieve 2 cups flour and 1/2 tsp salt into a bowl. Add 3 drops of lemon juice and 1/2 cup butter, frozen, and broken into walnut size pieces. Add sufficient cold water to bind ingredients together. Keep cold!
Turn dough on a floured surface into a long strip, fold into thirds, and repeat three more times. If the dough has begun to warm up, put it into the refrigerator to ensure that the butter stays cold. (This allows it to melt rapidly as it bakes, creating pockets of air and a flaky crust).
Preheat oven to 350 ℉. Slice 2 tart apples vertically, so that your slices are thin cross sections of the whole fruit. Lightly grease a 9″ pie pan and lay the rolled out pastry over the pan. Sprinkle brown sugar across the pastry, pressing lightly so it sticks. Stack several slices of apple at the center of the pastry. Cut the rind off of one side of an 8 oz. wheel of brie, and place it, rind side down, onto the apples. Press pine nuts into the cheese, and sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the top. Stack several more slices of apple over the pine nuts. Cut the rind off of one side of the other 8oz. wheel of brie. Stack several more slices of apple on the brie. Bundle the pastry around the brie, using a little water if it won’t stick. Then, press more pine nuts into the top of the pastry, and sprinkle brown sugar to taste.
Bake 15-2o minutes. Let cool slightly before serving, with crackers and more apple.
What better for a Fourth of July party than apple pie? Well, it wasn’t really the Fourth of July, and it was a Dutch Apple Pie but it was delicious nonetheless. We ended up eating this more like an apple crumble than a pie, and that worked out just fine!
Start with the Basic Butter Pie Crust. Preheat the oven to 425 ℉.
Thinly slice 5 large apples – I like to combine some tart and some sweet – and arrange in the pie crust. Then combine 1/2 cup sugar, 2 Tbs. flour, and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon. Pour over apples in the crust. Sprinkle 2 Tbs. lemon juice on top. Cut 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/2 cup butter together, and top the pie with the mixture.
Take two long pieces of parchment paper and enclose the pie, tucking the edges of the paper under the pie tin. Place on a baking sheet.
Bake for 1 hour, then remove from oven, open parchment paper, and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.
My housemates and I put our heads and hands together to whip up this easy and flavourful Pizza for dinner this week! The recipe for this dough was adapted from several on Dishing Up Delights, which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite blogs!
Stir together 4 1/2 cups white or whole wheat flour, 1 3/4 tsp salt, and 1 tsp instant yeast in a bowl, then add 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 3/4 cups ice-cold water, mixing until the flour is absorbed. Add 2 Tbs. chopped rosemary(fresh or dried), and 2 Tbs. honey, stirring vigorously until the dough is smooth and sticky. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl, but stick to the bottom. Add water or flour if necessary.
Transfer the dough to a floured countertop and knead for several moment. Gather into a ball, and rub with olive oil, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 450℉. Remove dough from the refrigerator and stretch carefully over a floured pizza pan. Ladle about 2/3 cup tomato sauce into the center of the dough, and spread, using the back of the ladle in circular motions. Top with grated mozzarella and sliced meats and vegetables to taste.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is slightly golden. Slice and serve!
(Caramelized Onions: Sauté one small white onion, sliced thinly, and the cloves from one bulb of garlic, husked and unpeeled, in olive oil and brown sugar, until the onions are golden and translucent and the garlic is soft.)
These Carrot Cupcakes are from the Joy of Baking. I’m not a huge fan of vegetable cakes, but even so, these turned out pretty well!
Preheat the oven to 350℉. Line 20 muffin cups with paper liners.
Grate 2 cups of carrots and 1 cups of apple and set aside.
Whisk together 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, and 2 tsp ground cinnamon in a bowl. In a larger bowl, whisk 4 large eggs, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup canola oil until slightly thickened. Fold in the flour mixture until incorporated. Fold in carrots and apples (and chopped nuts and raisins, if desired). Evenly divide batter between the muffin cups, and back for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Spread frosting on top of each cupcake and refrigerate until serving.
From Better Homes and Gardens.
Beat 1 cup unsalted butter with electric beaters until light and creamy. Gradually add 2/3 cup icing sugar, sifted, alternated with 1 tsp vanilla essence and 2 tsps milk (add liqueur flavoring if desired). Beat until smooth and fluffy.
Nothing in this recipe for Eggs Benedict is that difficult, but it requires jugglins several things at once. The recipe I followed had things in a strange order – the English muffin and bacon were cold by the time the hollandaise was done, so I’m reordering things a bit here below.
Begin by putting a large-r, deep pot on the stove to simmer with approximately three inches of water. Also put another pot on to simmer, choosing crockery that will support a large, glass bowl (think a double boiler).
Melt about 1/4 stick of unsalted butter slowly on the stove. Set aside so that the fat separates.
Put the whites from one egg into the glass bowl, with a splash of water, and whisk to break up the yolks and incorporate the water. The put the bowl onto the pre-prepared simmering pot, continuing to whisk the eggs so that they become frothy. Spoon the frothy fat from the top of the butter – you want it to be clear. After a few minutes of whisking, add the butter, salt, and pepper, continuing to whisk so that the sauce thickens to a velvety texture.
While the preparing the sauce, add 1 Tbsp. white vinegar to the other, deeper pot of (simmering) water. Stir the water to create a whirlpool, then crack an egg into it, careful not to let it stick to the bottom. Keep the egg moving as it cooks, for about five minutes, or to your desired tenderness.
While the egg and sauce are cooking, pop the half of an English muffin into the toaster. Put two slices of Canadian bacon on a skillet on the stove, cooking over medium heat until the eggs and sauce are prepared. When the egg is perfect to your taste, remove it from the water with a slotted spoon an place on a paper towel to drain off excess water.
Plate the English muffin half, top with a slice of tomato (and avocado if you’ve got it!), the bacon, the egg, and spoon the hollandaise sauce over the whole thing. Sprinkle green onions to garnish.
Worth the Challenge
Bobby Flay’s Caramel Apple Cheesecake is as labor intensive as any dessert I’ve made, but this one more than pays off. It’s not terribly difficult, but the cheesecake does need to be made ahead of time, and it’s a long process with a lot of steps. The caramel sauce is heavenly – if the whole cheesecake is more than you’d like to do, I recommend using it for other things too!
Preheat the oven to 350 ℉. Place 8 whole graham crackers, 1/2 C walnuts and 2 Tbs. light brown sugar into a food processor and process until finely ground. Keep the motor running, and add 5 Tbs. unsalted butter, processing until the mixture just comes together. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9″ springform pan with cooking spray, and pat the mixture evenly into the bottom. Place on a baking sheet and bake until lightly golden brown and set, about 8 minutes. Let cool completely.
Combine 1/4 granulated sugar and 1 Tbs orange zest in a food processor and process until even. Beat 24 oz. cream cheese (room temperature, Philadelphia recommended) until light and fluffy, then add the orange sugar, 1/3 C granulated sugar, and 1/2 C plus 2 Tbs. packed light muscovado sugar (if you can’t get this, golden brown sugar will also work just fine) and beat until light and fluffy. Add 4 large eggs, at room temperature, one at a time to the mixture until just incorporated, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the seeds scraped from one large vanilla bean and 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract, and beat until combined. Add 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 C heavy cream and mix until just combined.
Pour mixture onto crust, and set the pan onto a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil, folding the sides up around it. Place the pan into a large roasting pan, pour hot tap water into the sides of the roasting pan until halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan – make sure that the foil is higher than the water level so it will not seep into the cheesecake! – and bake approximately 55 minutes, until the edges are slightly puffed and the center still jiggles. Turn off the heat and prop the oven door, allow the cake to cook in the water bath for an hour. Remove to a baking rack and cool at room temperature for 2 hours. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours (up to 24) until chilled.
Within an hour+ of serving, prepare the apple mixture and the caramel sauce.
Peel, seed, and thinly slice 3 Granny Smith apples and 3 Fuji apples. Bring 2 C apple juice, 1/4 C granulated sugar, and the remaining vanilla bean to boil in a large saute pan over high heat and cook until slightly thickened and reduced to approx. 1/2 cup. Stir in 1 Tbs. cold butter, until melted. Add the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized and soft. Add 1/4 C apple brandy (Calvados recommended, Apple Jack works too) until reduced by half. Transfer mixture to a plate and let cool slightly.
Place 1 1/2 C granulated sugar and 1/4 C water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat (do not stir), swirling the pot occasionally to even, until amber in color (10-12 minutes). Place 3/4 C heavy cream in a small pan and bring to simmer over a medium heat, then remove from heat but keep warm. When the caramel is ready, slowly stir in the heavy cream, a pinch of salt and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat, and add 3 Tbs. apple brandy and 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Once all three components are prepared, slice the cheesecake, then top with the apple mixture and the apple caramel sauce. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!!
After a fantastic Easter meal, what better way to top everything off with this rich, delicious Cadbury Créme Egg Chocolate Ice Cream. The ice cream recipe was taken from the Williams Sonoma Cookbook. I made this ice cream without a machine, which took a lot more preparation that it would with a machine, but it was absolutely worth it!
Freeze 16 regular Cadbury Créme Eggs, unwrapped, two days before you plan on making the ice cream. After one day, remove the eggs from the freezer and chop them, using a chef’s knife, into small pieces. Put them back into the freezer for another day, as the créme centers will melt a little from the friction of the knife.
Combine 8 egg yolks, 1 cup of sugar, 4 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, a pinch of salt and 1 cup heavy cream into a bowl. Whisk until the mixture is smooth, with no clumps of cocoa powder or sugar granuals remaining.
Combine 3 cups of milk and 2 cups heavy cream in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until bubbles form around the edges, stirring frequently. Remove the milk/cream mixture from heat. Slowly whisk 1 cup of the hot mixture into the bowl with the egg mixture. Whisk consistently until smooth, then pour the entire egg mixture into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon (5 or 6 minutes).
Chop 6 oz of bittersweet chocolate, using a serrated or chef’s knife. Put the chocolate pieces into a heatproof (pyrex) bowl and pour the hot custard on top. Stir until the chocolate has melted evenly. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the custard into another bowl. Push what you can through with a wooden spoon and forget the rest. Add 4 tsp vanilla extract and stir well.
Place the bowl in a larger bowl (a deep glass baking dish or sink will do as well) partially filled with ice cubes and cold water. Stir occasionally until cool. Cover the custard with plastic wrap (pressed tightly onto the surface of the custard. (If you have an ice cream maker, refrigerate for at least three hours, up to one day, and add the Créme egg pieces about 3/4 of the way through the freezing process. Non-ice cream machine directions follow).
Freeze for about an hour, before checking the custard. As it starts to freeze near the edges, remove from freezer and stir vigorously with a spatula or whisk. Continue to check every hour, stirring as it freezes. When it starts to get thick, mix in the Créme egg pieces.
Garnish with a mini créme egg or marshmallow peep.
These lovely little confections are maddeningly and torturously elusive, and oh-so-worth the effort. This year, in lieu of traditional Christmas cookie recipes, I opted to gift these lovely macarons instead.
Devilishly difficult, macarons are made by folding finely ground almond meal and powdered sugar and then baking piped rounds so that they stand up off the baking sheet on beautiful, frilly little feet. The trouble is, one stroke too many and the meringue will loose its air and the shells (these aren’t cookies mind you!) will spread thin. No feet, no macaron. It’s as simple as that.
But once I got them right, I could have cried from happiness. Sitting there on the tray, their perfect feet like little skirts and the shells themselves so lovely and smooth… especially after four failed batches! felt like a miracle.
Paired and sandwiched with a filling of choice, the French petit four secs crumble into airy bliss when bitten. Despite the headache, I’ve now made three successful batches… and with literally a world’s worth of flavors and colors to try, you can bet I’ll be back for more.
For the Espresso Macaron shells (adapted from recipes found all over the internet, lots of trial and error):
In advance, separate the whites of three eggs, preferably eggs that are three or four days old, and leave the whites out to age, until near room temperature.
Process 1 cup finely-ground blanched almond meal and 2 cups icing or confectioner’s sugar in a food processor with 2 Tbsp. ground dark roast espresso*. Set aside.
*Substitute zest of one lemon and a few drops of yellow food coloring for the espresso for the Lemon Macarons.
With a hand mixer, vigorously beat the egg whites in a medium or large metal or glass mixing bowl, until soft peaks form (Helen of Tartlette suggests that it “look like bath foam”). Slowly add 3 Tbsp. superfine granulated sugar as you continue to beat the eggs on high, until all the sugar is in and the meringue forms hard peaks (Helen says “like shaving cream”).
Add the almond mixture to the meringue and carefully fold it in, continuing to mix with a light hand until there are no streaks of meringue. On a small plate, drop a small amount of the batter with a spoon. If it flattens (does not peak), it is ready for piping, otherwise give the batter a few more quick turns – it should “flow like lava”. Spoon the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a round (Ateco #806, #807, #809) tip and pipe the batter carefully onto baking sheets prepared with parchment paper or silicon mats. As you pipe, move the tip of the bag in a spiral, keeping the shells as flat as possible – they should be about an inch in diameter and a quarter-a third of an inch thick. Leave the prepared shells out to dry for at least 45 minutes so that they form a thin skin – this will help them pop right up when put in the oven and form the feet. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
After the shells form a skin, pop them into the ovens and immediately turn the heat down to 300° F. After 10 minutes rotate the baking sheets and leave the shells in for another 5-10 more minutes, or until the tops are firm to the touch. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Once the shells have cooled, remove them from the baking sheet. This should be easy, and if it isn’t, the shells are underbaked and you will struggle to get them off the sheet. If necessary, add a drop of water under parchment paper to “steam” the shells off, but do not leave them too long or they will become soggy.
Finally, match shells into pairs by size and fill with Bailey’s buttercream (adapted from Helen’s violet buttercream recipe):
Put 1/2 cup sugar and 2 large egg whites in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk constantly, for about 3 minutes, until the mixture feels hot to the touch and begins to resemble marshmallow cream. Using either a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the mixture into a shiny, thick meringue, about 5 minutes. Add 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature, a tablespoon at a time, continuing to beat the meringue until smooth. After the butter has been added, add 2 Tbsp. Bailey’s Irish Cream Liqueur and continue to beat until very thick and smooth. Spoon into a pastry bag and pipe onto shells.
Or, to make a Chocolate Mascarpone filling, melt 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate over a double boiler, then beat into 8 oz. mascarpone cheese until very smooth. Spoon into a pastry bag and pie onto shells.
A Few Necessary Basics
A simple, effective, Pie Crust. I like to use butter for mine: when the butter is cold as it goes into the oven, the crust will come out extra flaky and delicious! It’s easy to adapt this by adding fruit juice (like apple) or honey to sweeten it, if the pastry needs a little something more.
Combine 1 1/4 C flour and 1/4 tsp. salt into a large bowl. Cut in 1/2 C butter, chilled and diced, until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Stir in 1/4 C ice water, a little at a time, until mixture forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate. (For 9″ pan)
The best desserts are the ones that are familiar, simple, and dependable. Like the time honored Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie. Always delicious.
Preheat the oven to 350 ℉. In a large bowl cream 1 C shortening (or butter), 3/4 C packed brown sugar and 3/4 white sugar. Thoroughly mix in 2 eggs, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 1/2 C flour. Add 2 C of rolled oats (oatmeal) and 2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips (I’m always a little generous on the chocolate!). Drop teaspoonfuls onto a well-greased cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes.
Easy and tasty Sugar Cookies are a perfect treat with no real effort.
Preheat oven to 375 ℉. In a small bowl, stir together 2 3/4 C flour, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsb baking powder. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together 1 1/2 C sugar and 1 C butter, very soft, until smooth. Beat in one egg and 2 tsp vanilla extract, then slowly blend in the dry ingredients. Roll teaspoon-size balls of dough in your hands, flattening them slightly on an ungreased cookie sheet, then scoring them with a fork. Sprinkle a little sugar or the tops for taste. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden. Allow to sit for two minutes on the cookie sheet before removing and allowing to cool on a cooling rack.
Yummy, yummy Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies. Party friendly, perfect dipped in milk (or milk and Bailey’s!)… these guys disappeared fast!
Preheat the oven to 375 ℉. Line two baking sheets with parchement paper and set aside. In a large bowl, cream 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, then beat in 3/4 cup white sugar and 3/4 cup light brown sugar, then 2 large eggs, one at a time, then 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, beating until incorporated. In a separate bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Slowly beat the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, then add 1 1/2 – 2 cups chocolate chips (the recipe calls for the smaller amount, but I like to add the extra chocolate). Spoon onto the prepared pans and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and slightly firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!
I’ve been following this nifty little blog called Dishing Up Delights (its actually where I found out about SugarBomber), reading about some incredible homemade food and checking out her lovely pictures of it. Clearly a cook after my own heart! She made some Homemade Flour Tortillas that I just had to try… and they were delicious with some Chicken Fajitas… delicious, simple dinner that made the flatties super jealous!
Mix 2 cups all purpose flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, 2 Tbs. canola oil, and about 3 oz. warm water in a bowl. Mix together with your hands and continue adding water until it forms a solid ball, but not too sticky. Knead for five minutes on a floured board. The recipe calls to cut this dough into four – three would be better for nice thick, doughy tortillas. Roll each piece into a ball, place on a floured surface and cover with a clean, damp cloth. Heat a grill to medium heat, then roll out the dough, one at a time, to about 1/4 thickness. Once the fajitas are done, place one round on the grill, and cook for about 30 seconds on each side.
(Note: none of the measurements are exact)
Put one chicken breast, sliced into strips, in a bowl with 4 Tbs. olive oil, 1 tsp. soy sauce, chili powder, salt, pepper, dried oregano, cumin, and any other spices, to taste. Let soak for about a half hour, turning the chicken periodically if it is not completely covered by the marinade.
In a skillet, combine 1 small onion, sliced in thin rings, 1/3 of a jalepeño pepper, diced, and 3 Tbs olive oil and saute on medium heat until the onions begin to look golden. Lay the chicken pieces into the skillet, covering them with the onions and 1 small tomato, diced, then pour the remainder of the marinade over it. Turn the chicken after about a minute, then again, checking the center of the thicker pieces with the tip of a knife.
Wrap several pieces of chicken and some onions and tomatoes to taste in one of your delicious warm tortillas and enjoy!