Tag Archives: dessert

French Macarons with Chocolate Ganache

Amy and I had our second round with French macarons last week before my mountain climbing trip (more on that later). These turned out even better than the first batch. We used the same Martha Stewart recipe as last time. This recipe has worked well for us so far and I highly recommend it.

This time around we decided to use chocolate ganache as the filling instead of jam. Neither of us liked the flavor of the game with the macarons. Also, we used red food coloring to make bright reddish-pink macarons as opposed to the yellow ones we made before. The deep pink color was nicely set off by the dark chocolate ganache. For the chocolate ganache we used Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to Cook Everything. This is one of the most successful recipes I’ve had from one of his cookbooks, especially in the dessert section.

Recipe from Martha Stewart’s website:


1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup almond flour
2 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup superfine sugar

1. Pulse confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a food processor until combined. Sift mixture 2 times. Note: We did not use a food processor for this. We simply mixed the two together with a rubber spatula in a bowl and then sifted. I prefer to dirty as few dishes/utensils as possible when tackling a large project late at night.

2.Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add superfine sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny.

3. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip, and pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, dragging pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks. Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes. After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees. Note: We did not use a pastry bag. Amy forgot it at her house and we didn’t want to waste time going over to her house to get it. Instead we used a Ziploc bag with the a corner cut. This actually worked much better than the pastry bag that we had purchased at Beverly’s Fabrics and Crafts.

4.Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. (If macarons stick, spray water underneath parchment on hot sheet. The steam will help release macarons.)

5.Sandwich 2 same-size macarons with 1 teaspoon filling. Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months

Chocolate Ganache Recipe
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Time: 15 minutes

1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, roughly chopped

1. Put the cream in a pot and heat it until it’s steaming. Put the chocolate in a bowl, pour on the hot cream, and stir until the chocolate is melted and fully incorporated.
2. Refrigerate for about twenty minutes until thickened. This will make it easier to spread on the macarons.


Macarons Attempt #1

Today Amy and I attempted our first batch of macarons. I have been waiting to attempt this allusive French cookie for a while now and finally took the plunge. The rumors floating around the internet are that this is incredibly difficult and there are many ways to fuck it up. There are also rumors floating around that Elvis is still alive and Madonna is a woman, but you can’t believe everything, now can you?

Whipping the egg whites to soft peaks.

Now macarons are difficult to make. They are not straightforward, simple, or quick. They are time consuming, require multiple steps, and you need to pay attention to what you are doing. They are more complicated than souffle, but I think a lot of things are more complicated than souffle, such as unlocking my front door after I’ve had a couple of beers. They are definitely worth the time and really it’s quite fun to make these little guys. Having a partner in crime definitely made the whole process more enjoyable.

My partner in debasing French food: Amy

We started with a journey to Safeway where they did not sell almond flour. They sell three million different brands of peanut butter and a package with three thousand boneless, skinless chicken breasts but they do not sell almond flour. Bummer. This meant we had to take an extra trip to Whole Foods on 41st Avenue to get almond flour. Before going to Whole Foods we bought a pastry bag (it was actually called a cake decorating bag) and an assortment of tips, which we ended up using none of. At Whole Foods we bought our almond flour which was ridiculously expensive. Seriously. They’re almonds. Ground up. Why do they cost twelve dollars for a pound? Sigh.

Our stiff peaks could have been stiffer.

When we got back to Amy’s apartment, we started the macaron making process. And yes it is definitely a process. We used Martha Stewart’s macaron recipe because we both find Martha to be an anal retentive, attention to detail kind of gal which is perfect for this sort of endeavor. We started with two egg whites in the stand up mixer on medium and mixed them until they were foamy. When they are foamy add a pinch of cream of tartar. Then beat some more until you achieve soft peaks. Soft peaks will fall over. Your eggs will look like marshmallow fluff. When your egg whites look like marshmallow fluff, then add a 1/4 of superfine sugar and beat on high until you achieve stiff peaks. To tell whether or not your peaks are stiff enough hold the bowl over your head for ten seconds upside down. If they do not come out then they are stiff enough. If they come out then well you need to start over again.

The mixture after the flour/sugar was added as well as food coloring. 

*In the real world, stiff peaks will not fall over at all. They will look like stiff, puffy clouds. You do not need to hold a bowl upside down over your head. *

Now while this is going on, the other person should have been sifting the cup of confectioner’s sugar and 3/4 cup of liquid gold (almond flour). We did not sift it enough. IT WAS FINE. NOTHING BLEW UP. In retrospect we could sift it more.

When your peaks are stiff (ours could have been stiffer and STILL NOTHING BLEW UP), then begin to fold your sifted flour and sugar mixture in. You want to fold it gently in a figure eight pattern just like you would with a souffle or any other sort of meringue. Make sure that you are only adding in about a 1/4 cup of your flour/sugar mixture at a time as to not overload your egg whites. Once you have mixed in all your flour then add your food coloring. We decided on yellow. I used five drops of yellow and it came out a nice, light buttercup yellow.

Now you get to do the messy part or what for us was the messy part because our twelve inch pastry bag was too small. Scoop your mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a crescent moon tip or be like us and just go bareback. It worked fine. We got mostly circle shapes. We had a kidney shape. It was cute. There were also Mickey Mouse ears but we’re not going to talk about those. Now squirt out your mixture in a circular shape on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Oh by the way you should have pre-heated your oven to 375 at this point.

Once you have made your circles let them sit for about ten to fifteen minutes to develop a skin. Yes, they start growing organs. They are magical. During this time also decrease the temperature in your oven from 375 to 325. Once your macarons have grown skin, put them in the oven for five minutes. Then rotate the cookie sheet and cook for another five minutes. Then take them out of the oven and let them cool before removing them from the cookie sheet. Fill with buttercream frosting, ganache, a mixture of marscapone and jam, or coagulated blood.

We got feet and our tops were smooth. We achieved a lot this first batch, but we still need to work on it.

If you would like more exact instructions check out Martha Stewart’s recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/318387/french-macaroons

Boeing 747 and Lemon Bars

What do Boeing 747 and Lemon Bars have in common? Not much really besides how I spent my Friday morning and afternoon.

I had the amazing opportunity this morning to go to the NASA-AMES Research Center in Mountain View, California. My boyfriend’s company contracts for NASA so he has an official NASA badge and we were able to go around in some of the restricted areas. We were mostly in the Crew Vehicle Systems Research Facility. The most important and awesome part of the day was when I piloted a Boeing 747 simulator in one of their labs. One of Andrew’s co-workers, Matt, helped me pilot the plane around the San Francisco Bay area. The map in the simulator has amazing fidelity; I could see both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Golden Gate Park, Half Moon Bay, Oakland, and the 280 Freeway in the Silicon Valley. I thought I did a pretty poor job and Matt had to take over the controls a couple times, plus he did all the work with the throttles, but both Matt and Andrew said I did a decent job for it being my first time piloting. It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had ever.

After piloting the simulator, Andrew and Matt took me to meet Wayne who demonstrated the virtual 360 degree control tower that they are building for an imaginary airport. They simulated planes landing, taxing, and departing along with changing the weather patterns, the location of the tower, and the path of the airplanes. The amount of thought and details that go into air traffic control is just incredible. I had no idea how complicated the flight patterns were or how much detail you have to pay attention to.

Finally, Andrew showed me the project that he has been working on. His project takes place across three different lab rooms in their section of NASA. One room is for the controllers, one room is for the pilots, and another room is for the computer engineers, which is what Andrew does. He showed me how his program works on the controller and pilot end of things. He showed me how to do a couple simple switchovers. I enjoyed seeing what he does with his life for most of the day, especially after being together for nearly two years.

I’m incredibly lucky to have someone so intelligent, innovative, and sweet to share my life with, plus I got to fly a freaking Boeing 747 simulator!

I even got a neat badge:

You’re not allowed to smile in these pictures. That’s why I look like I’m going to kill everyone.

After a lunch at Hunan Chili in downtown Mountain View, which I thought was rather mediocre Chinese food, but the boyfriend liked it and it was rather cheap for how much food you got, I came home and discussed with my friend Maddy our ideas about vending at the San Francisco Underground Market. Something we most definitely want to do are lemon bars since they’re a favorite of mine and most of the time I do a pretty job good making them.

This time around I used a recipe from Food Network since I was not that impressed by the recipe in the Mark Bittman book. I found his recipe made too much filling and it took too long to cook creating a weird, crispy brown layer around the filling which was rather gelatinous instead of creamy.

Ugh. My pan looks so dirty. 

Classic Lemon Bars Courtesy of Food Network

For the Crust:

  • Vegetable oil, for greasing
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Filling:

  • 4 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 8 lemons)

1. Mix the crust ingredients together in the food processor. This will give you a very loose crumb. You will be tempted to add more butter. Do not add more butter. It’s not necessary. All you need to do is pack it very well into the pan. If it cracks a little oh well, you can cry about that some other time. It shouldn’t crack. Mine didn’t crack and if it did I wouldn’t cry about it. Lemon bar babies.

2. You should have heated your oven to 350 degrees. I forgot to tell you that. You should do that while you’re mixing your ingredients together in the food processor. Now their recipe says something about a 9 by 13 inch pan. Now, that’s great and all if you have that size pan, but I don’t. I split my crust between two different sized spring form pans. My crust came out uneven. I had a terrible two’s sized meltdown about this later. There was crockery being thrown across my minute kitchen, people lost limbs due to this. You put the crust/s in the oven for twenty-five minutes or take it out when you smell burning, which is what I did. You want to let these cool before you add the lemon liquid mixture or there will be nuclear fall out.

3. Mix together your filling ingredients. You need to use a whisk for this. If this were a Martha Stewart recipe she would probably tell you to use a wooden spoon, but it’s not so use a whisk. Your filling will be very liquid-y (that’s not a word by the way), but don’t worry about it. Unless you’re me and you’re using a spring form pan that doesn’t close all the way and the filling starts leaking all over your pristine stove-top and you have to transfer the pans to cookie sheets and the pans end up sticking to the cookie sheets. Yeah, I messed up all over the place with this recipe, but it still turned out good. Bake for about thirty minutes or until the filling is set (meaning it doesn’t jiggle like your thighs will).

The filling for these was delicious. I only used about a 1 cup and a 1/4 of sugar and not the two cups and it came out wonderfully tart. I wasn’t overly impressed by the crust on this and I think I will use the crust from the Mark Bittman recipe next time and the filling from this one. The filling was tart, creamy, and just oh-so good.

Lemon Bars

The sunshine has turned to rain and we are finally back to winter here in the San Francisco Bay Area after two weeks of weather in the low seventies. I made these lemon bars last weekend when the sun was shining and I actually wanted to venture into my backyard to get a lemon. I wasn’t sure if I was going to post these because the end result photos ended up turning out bad, but I liked the recipe so much and they tasted delicious I figured I should share the goodness with everyone.

I love lemon flavored desserts. I used to make them quite often when I worked for a family that had a lemon orchard. Now,  I don’t make desserts too often because I don’t live in a house with five other people to eat them. I do, however, have a bunch of lemon trees in my backyard that are filled with fruit. We were having guests over and I thought that lemon bars would be a nice addition to the buffalo chili and cornbread that we would be serving for dinner. I’m sorry I didn’t get any pictures on the buffalo chili because it turned out amazing.

These lemon bars were pretty easy to make, but mine did not turn out that super electric yellow like the ones you get at the store, or like the last time I made them. I’m not sure if it is because of the recipe or because I used raw sugar instead of granulated white sugar, which I never use anymore. I was eating them for days afterward, trying to limit myself to one a day.

Sweet Butternut Squash Potstickers and Butternut Squash Ravioli

Today I decided to make butternut squash ravioli and sweet butternut squash potstickers. I bought potsticker wrappers and a butternut squash from Scotts Valley Market. I peeled and chopped the squash (next time I would buy the prepared kind from Whole Foods) into small pieces. I put one half on a baking sheet and mixed it with spray oil and salt. The other half I put on another baking sheet and mixed it with spray oil, salt, pumpkin pie spices, and brown sugar. Iput these in a 400 degree oven for fifteen minutes. I took them out and stirred the squash then put them into the oven for another ten minutes.

I made the ravioli first by putting the squash into the food processor with a little bit of almond milk, black pepper (too much accidently), and Italian seasoning (I’m not sure what it all amounted to but it was what was in the cupboard). I blended these until it was mostly smooth but there was still some texture. I put about a tablespoon onto a wrapper, spread egg wash around the edges and then placed another wrapper on top of that one. Once all the ravioli were made they went into boiling water four at a time until they were done. I ended up with about fourteen of them.

For the sweet potstickers, I put the butternut squash that was made with brown sugar into the food processor with some almond milk and brown sugar. I processed it until it was completely smooth. I put small spoonfuls onto each wrapper. Then I put egg wash around the edges and folded the wrapper over the filling and smooshed it down to make half-moons.

I heated up some spray oil in a non-stick skillet and added the potstickers six at a time. They cooked up in less than five minutes for each batch. They tasted alright but I think they would be better with a butter and brown sugar sauce or some powdered sugar on top. The ravioli tasted better but they aren’t as pretty.

Linguine “Alfredo” and Fruit Grunt

Today I decided to try out some recipes from the Vegan Yum Yum blog. I love her photos and I’ve looked through the cookbook as well. I hadn’t tried any of her recipes yet, but today I changed that. I decided to make rice linguine with “alfredo” sauce and a blueberry/raspberry grunt.

First, what in the world is a grunt and why would my fruit be grunting? What would I have to be on for my fruit to be grunting? Okay, enough with the lameness. A grunt is a kind of cobbler:

Grunts, Pandowdy, and Slumps are a New England variety of cobbler, typically cooked on the stove-top or cooker in an iron skillet or pan with the dough on top in the shape of dumplings—they reportedly take their name from the grunting sound they make while cooking. -Wikipedia Article on Cobble

In other words, delicious! Berries were luckily on sale today at Scotts Valley Market. I got raspberries and blueberries. I wanted a mixture of berries as opposed to just doing blueberries. The raspberries were absolutely perfect and delicious. The blueberries were also very good. I did not make my grunt on the stove-top, instead I cooked in a soup crock in the oven.

How do you make something heavily based on dairy vegan? Well, there are many recipes for vegan cheese sauces out there. These mostly rely upon nutritional yeast powder and cashews. This is one of those recipes and I have to say, I did not dig the consistency, but the flavor was good. The alfredo was runny and not creamy as I would expect an alfredo sauce to be.  The taste was a little heavy on the soy sauce, so next time I would reduce the soy sauce. I think I would also to pureed white beans instead of cashews.

Linguine  with “Hurry Up Alfredo” Sauce and Asparagus

Recipe adapted from VeganYumYum

Hurry Up Alfredo
Makes 2-3 Servings

  • 1 Cup Almond Milk
  • 1/3 Cup Raw, Unsalted Cashews
  • 1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 3 Tbs Low-Sodium Tamari or Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbs Vegan Margarine
  • 1 Tbs Tahini
  • 1 Tbs Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 2 oz. brown rice linguine
  • 3 spears of asparagus

1. Add all sauce ingredients to a food processor and blend until creamy. It never actually gets creamy, but until it is processed.

2. Cut two large and one small spears of asparagus. Remember to snap off the woody stems. I’m saving mine for a vegetable stock later this week. Boil a pot of water. Once boiling add rice linguine and boil until cooked. Add the cut asparagus now. Drain and rinse pasta and asparagus in the sink. Add the sauce and enjoy.

Blueberry and Raspberry Grunt

Adapted from VeganYumYum

I have to say this was an amazingly easy dessert. It does take some time, but its relatively simple. I adapted this recipe to make two portions of grunt filling and one portion of biscuit. I’m goint to use the leftover filling in my oatmeal tomorrow morning, yum! At first, I thought the biscuit was going to overwhelm the filling, but it was well proportioned.

Blueberry Filling

  • 2 Cups Fresh Blueberries (or frozen)
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tbs Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Cup Water

Simple Biscuits

  • 1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1Tbs vegan margarine
  • 1/4 cup almond milk

1. In a large, heavy bottomed silk, add filling ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmmer for fifteen minutes until raspberries come apart and the liquid has turned a dark purple.

2. Mix together biscuit ingredients, working the margarine into the flour before adding the almond milk.

3. Add half the filling to an individual grautin dish or individual soup crock. Then spoon biscuit dough on top of the filling. Bake in 400º oven for twenty minutes.