another daring challenege… mais en français!

I have something to confess… whenever I used to hear the word macaroons I always thought of those stiff meringue nests that people seem to really enjoy eating (I’m not one of those people). So when I saw that I was being asked to bake several dozen macaroons for the October DB Challenge my heart sorta sank… and then I realized how erroneous I had been.

These cookies aren’t hard and ridiculously sweet… they resemble more of a cookie sandwich – two light cookies bound together with a buttery filling. The best part of this challenge was that we were all encouraged to use whatever flavour profile we wanted.

I was divided… lemon cookies with a lemon cream cheese filling OR chocolate with a peanut butter filling. Oh what to do! Such a dilemma…

Since I had baked my 3 layered lemon cake over the weekend I decided to opt for the peanut butter. I don’t regret that choice at all. I ended up with some beautiful cookies and the creamest, buttery filling. Delish!

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macaroons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Chocolate Macaroons
2 1/4 c. icing sugar
2 c. almond flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp white sugar
5 egg whites, they must be at room temperature

Preheat your oven to 200 F. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. If you don’t have any, do not grease your pan… the cookies need to be quite dry.

In a large bowl, combine the icing sugar, cocoa powder and the almond flour. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer start whisking the egg whites (with the whisk attachment). Start at a lower speed, increasing until about speed 8. At that point your egg whites should have formed soft peaks. Add the 2 tbsp of sugar and increase the speed to level 10. Continue whisking until you get to the stiff peak stage.

Take the mixer bowl off the stand-mixer and gently fold in 1/3 of the almond-icing sugar combo. Sift in the remaining almond flour in 2 batches. Be gentle and don’t overfold – just fully incorporate the ingrendients.

Place the batter into an icing bag (or ziplock bag). Use either a large tip or cut off the corner of the bag in order to pipe the batter onto the cookie sheet. You want to pipe them into one-inch mounds so that they form little circles.

Bake the macaroons for 5 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and raise the temperature to 375 F.

Once the oven has reached that temperature, return the pans to the oven and continue to bake for another 7 minutes. Cool the cookies on a wire rack before filling them with the icing.

*I was able to get about 3 dozen cookies out of this batch – but I also didn’t have a proper piping bag (or ziplock bag) – so I ended up with some bigger macaroons that I would have otherwise.

A Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter Filling
125 g natural peanut butter
70 g icing sugar
25 g softened butter
25 g milk
5 g vanilla extract
3 g fine sea salt

In your mixing bowl (use a paddle attachment for the kitchenaid) cream together the butter and peanut putter at a medium speed. Add the icing sugar and salt and incorporate into the batter. Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla; finishing with the milk being incorporated, about a tbsp at a time.

Pipe the peanut butter onto the base of one of the macaroons and top with another. Store in an airtight container… if they even last that long!

live yeast…oh what a difference it makes!

Bread attempt number 1 has come and gone. Although it was tasty when it first came out of the oven (what isn’t ?), it just didn’t survive well the following day. Was I discouraged? No way! It just made me even more determined to bake a really good loaf of bread. Not just a decent one, but a loaf that was tasty, moist in the middle and with a nice crust. I started googling bread recipes: especially ones that included molasses in them.

When I think of good bread I think of the brown molasses bread at Stone Faced Dolly’s on Preston Street. Not only is it my favourite part of going there for brunch; but accompany it with some really good strawberry jam and you are good to go (I also personally enjoy to add some hot sauce to that combo, but that’s just me…)

With that in mind I came upon a bread recipe that fit the bill…a New England classic, Anadama bread. Dark and moist, with a hint of cornmeal – this loaf turned out pretty awesome if I do say so myself.

Another reason I’m so pleased with myself is that I used LIVE YEAST!!! None of that powdered stuff… no sir, not for me! I will admit that I was nervous though; it always makes me laugh that I can get myself so worked up about a recipe… I mean, the worst that can happen is that I bake something inedible (which does happen – case in point, my first loaf of bread) and I get to try again… all that to say, you should give this recipe a try. Seriously. Try.

Anadama Bread
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. cornmeal
1 tbsp butter
1/2 c. molasses (next time I’m going to add 3/4 c. molasses)
1 ounce live yeast OR 1(.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/2 c. warm water (110 degrees F)
all-purpose flour, divided in half cups – as much as you’ll need
1 teaspoon salt

Mix 1/2 c. of water and the cornmeal in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook until the mixture thickens; about 5 minutes – at this point you should be stirring continuously so that the cornmeal doesn’t stick to your pan.

Remove from heat and stir in the molasses and butter. Let cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, in your stand-mixer bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 c. of warm water – don’t use HOT water since it will kill the yeast. Stir it well and then allow it to sit for 10 minutes; it’ll get really creamy.

Combine the cooled cornmeal molasses mixture with the yeast mixture; stir until well blended.

Add about 2 c. of flour and and the salt. Grab your bread hook paddle and start to mix your dough. With the mixer running, continue to add flour, a half cup at a time until the dough starts to pull together (it’ll form a nice ball: smooth and elastic – about 8 minutes of kneading in the machine).

Place the dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl and turn it to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and put it in a warm place to rise; it should double in volume (about 1 hour).

*I take a 1/2 c. of water in a small bowl heat it in the microwave for 2 minutes; then move the bowl to the back of the microwave and place my covered dough into the microwave. It speeds up the rising period – and I find that the bread rises even more than if I leave it in my oven.

After you’ve waited that hour; take the dough out of the bowl, punch it to deflate it and turn it out on a lightly floured surface. Divide it in half. Shape it (or put it in a loaf pan), cover it again with the damp cloth and let it sit another 40 minutes.

Then glaze it with some milk or an egg wash. It’ll add a nice crust to the top of the bread.

Preheat your oven to 400 F.

Bake the loafs @ 400 F for about 30 minutes – careful, the bottoms can burn easily… so keep watch. You know that it is ready if the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

You can now do like me… cut off a piece and enjoy immediately; or if you have patience, allow it to cool a bit before you take a nice big bite!

the trio of pies

See that picture? Those are the 3 pies I served at Thanksgiving dinner… lemon meringue (which you’ve all read about numerous time before), apple cheddar (last night’s post) and finally the classic pumpkin pie.

I’ve made this version of pumpkin pie several times now – it’s Julie’s mom’s favourite dessert (as she says, “it’s always pumpkin pie season”) and my recipe is S-I-M-P-L-E. Really and truly simple.

You don’t need to worry about spending your evening in the kitchen slaving over your oven. All you need is 5 minutes with either your blender or stand-mixer and a working oven. That’s it. I promise.

I had doubled up the recipe since I wanted to make 2 pies… I actually ended up with: 3 x 9-inch pies and 1 x 8-inch pie – just by doubling it. You could also use the leftover filling to bake some custards… or just make lots of pie and spread the love in the office the next day :0)

Pumpkin Pie
2 eggs
1 1/3 c (400 ml) pumpkin puree
3/4 c. honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp pumpkin spice mix
1/2 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 c (250 ml) evaporated milk
1/2 c. regular milk
1 unbaked pastry shell

You’ll need to preheat your oven to 425F.

Now, place all the ingredients in a blender or in your stand-mixer and blend until smooth.

Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell.

Bake for 15 minutes @ 425F, then lower temp to 350F and continue baking another 45 min (your knife will come out clean).

Remove from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.

That was it. I promised you a simple recipe – and I am confident this delivers.

*I know that thanksgiving has come and gone for us in Canada – BUT pumpkin puree and evaporated milk are still on sale in your grocery stores… just a suggestion…*