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Archive for October, 2009

Macarons………..

Posted by vivnidhi on October 27, 2009

Daring Bakers finally…..made MACARONS .

measure_w180x180 presents…..

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PLAIN but nevertheless ;-)…..Roasted almond macarons with chocolate ganache

If you have been reading even one food blog these days, you cannot escape macarons ( A good history lesson here 😉 ) I  can speak for the food blogosphere , Macarons are a rage these days. I had been dreaming of eating these and dreading baking these myself. I kept reminding the husband what is a must eat…..whenever we visit Paris 🙂 . Mon Paree is a soft spot with me (as anyone who knows me is aware 😉 ). It’s one place I never want to visit on a budget 🙂 . David Lebovitz’s 10 Insanely Delicious things you shouldn’t miss in Paris will be a starting point 🙂 .

Anyway , moving on, Ami finally chose macarons for this month’s daring Bakers challenge, finally giving the weak hearted like me an incentive to try it out. The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

In Ami’s words “French macaroons are notorious for being difficult to master. Type in “macaroon,” “French macaroon” or “macaron” in your search engine of choice, and you will be inundated not only with bakeries offering these tasty little cookies, but scores and even hundreds of blogs all attempting to find the perfect recipe, the perfect technique. Which one is right? Which captures the perfect essence of macaroons? The answer is all of them and none of them. Macaroons are highly subjective, the subject of passionate, almost Talmudic study and debate. Chewy? Crisp? Age your egg whites? Ground the nuts or use nut meal or nut flour? Cooked sugar syrup, or confectioners’ sugar? In the words of a therapist, what do you think is the ideal macaroon? The answer lies within you.

Will French macaroon supplant the cupcake as the next sweet trend? There’s no way to know. I couldn’t have predicted the resurgence of leggings, yet here they are.”

I am sorry Ami , I did not use the recipe given. I read each and every post on the daring bakers forum and everybody seemed to be getting more success with Helen‘s recipe and so…….I decided to tread carefully on my first experiment.

Oh..I have come to know that these are often called macaroons in United States though they also refer to another coconut cookie as well.

Ok ….now to my “Hurrah” moment. I got it right the first time. Reason: I have made it a 100 times in my head. It was completely different when I actually made it yet I knew what I was doing. What I should be doing and what can lead to what. Two people require special mention and thanks as without them, I would not have been able to complete the challenge: 1. Helen of Tartelette and 2. Audax Artifex of Audax Artifex.  The recipe and instructions I used to make my first macarons are Helen‘s. The explanations, clarifications, warnings and encouragement……..even conversions are from Audax. He provided so much information that I did not have to even use my brains for menial conversions.

Roasted Almond macarons: (Makes approx. 11 macarons and hence around 22 shells)

  • Egg White 1 (approx. 32 g …aged 4 days in the refrigerator) brought to room temperature before whipping
  • Icing Sugar 64 g
  • Granulated Sugar 16 g (3 1/2 tsp. )
  • Roasted almond meal 35 g

1. I measured these with my tipsy weighing scale (which my kids have fiddled with well) and the least count of which is 25 g …….so do not get deterred by the weighing scale (oh…only if you are like me ) and take the plunge. It was fun :-).

2. First I toasted the almonds under the broiler and kept checking every two minutes. When the almonds were browned uniformly, removed them for the oven and let them cool. Once the almonds were cool, I used my blender to grind them along with the icing sugar. This helps the almonds not clump up. Audax also mentions that the grinder should not get  hot. Well! mine did…..I was scared but after sifting, the mix seemed fine to me.

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Sifted Ground almonds and icing sugar

3. I whipped the egg white to a firm foam. Then added the granulated sugar till the egg whites were firm and glossy. I had heard that if the egg whites are whipped right, the bowl can be turned upside down and it won’t fall off. Well! I took  the plunge with confidence and here we are:

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Whipped Egg Whites…..without sugar and after addition of sugar

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There is whipped egg in there….really……

4. I then used this video to learn how to fold the almond mixture in the egg whites. I may have required 10-12 strokes to get it to magma like consistency. The key is that when the mix is dropped back in itself. It should mix with the mix soon and no trace should remain.

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My final macaron batter

5. Then I piped it on marked parchment paper. Here was the problem. I did not have a big enough tip with my piping bag. Next time, I will just use a ziploc cut in a corner. 

6. Left the piped macaron shells to dry out for half an hour. Up to an hour is fine I believe. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 300 F . When the shells have formed a skin on top, I used another baking tray under the piped one (another Audax tip…..to ensure even heating) and slid them in the oven. In spite of the fact that I had all kinds of sizes, baking for 10 minutes was good.

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Please do not look at their amoebic shapes, they will be better next time……oh, this is after the skins have formed on top……….30 minutes after piping

7. When warm, the macarons like to stick well to the parchment paper. I used Helen’s tip and sprinkled/sprayed a few droplets of water under the parchment on the tray while still warm. Then I used a plastic knife to slide the macaron shells off the parchment. Worked very well for me.

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Out of the oven… oh… what joy,

I was almost expecting flat grainy biscuits…..but I got this……..

and because I can do it………….U can too

Chocolate Ganache Recipe:

I used unsweetened chocolate cause I knew that the macaron shells are very sweet (yes I love licking all my cake batters 🙂 and by now know before hand , how the baked product will taste based on the batter)

  • Unsweetened chocolate 2 oz. grated or chopped fine
  • Sugar 1/4 cup
  • Butter 1 Tbsp.
  • Whipping Cream 1/4 cup
  • Vanilla extract 1/4 tsp.

1. Add chocolate , butter and whipping cream in a bowl.

2. Heat the whipping cream and sugar in a heavy bottomed pan on low heat. Do not let it boil or form a skin. Keep whisking to dissolve the sugar.

3. Add hot cream in the bowl with the chocolate and mix well. Whisk to achieve a smooth texture.

4. As it cools, the mixture thickens. Pipe it on top of half the shells. Cover the piped chocolate ones with plain shells and you are ready to munch.

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Please do try one …………(These are all that were left by the time I could take pictures)

Bottom line is : Macarons are quite do-able. As Helen says…..” if you find a recipe that works for you, stick to it, no matter whose it is, especially if you are new to macarons and don’t make them that often.” I will stick with hers…….. 🙂 . My opinion is that one must not get intimidated by macarons and do try them at home unless you can afford Laduree‘s all the time :-).  Some may find it too sweet but kids love it. Here we are in the sniffles season so kids taste buds are very difficult to please……macarons made my work easier as there were smiles all around. My son couldn’t say enough of “Thank you Mama” AND ‘I just want half more” . Well! if you have kids ….do make these………until we visit Paris ….that is……..I like to dream 🙂 .

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Bad light……..but great taste

Before I close, I really must thank Ami for the challenge, Helen for  such a foolproof recipe and Audax for the tremendous support. This has been a great challenge and I loved learning a great skill. I have 5 days aged 3 egg whites in he refrigerator. This time I will be playing as I am not that scared. Looking forward to the adventure. If I find the time, I will certainly update with better pictures.

Update Nov. 1 : I did forget the expenses; didn’t I ?

Expenditure :

Confectioner’s Sugar ……..$2.74 ……from Kroger (I am absolutely done with this store….too rude for me to handle)

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Posted in - Confectioner's Sugar, -Almonds, -Butter, -Cream, -Egg Whites, -Unsweetened Chocolate, -Vanilla, Eggs, Sugar | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Chinese Flower Steam Buns (Xiang Cong Hya Juan Bao)

Posted by vivnidhi on October 5, 2009

Trust me, I do not know what half the title says but these are delicious!

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Bad picture …….once again, but these are good!!

Bread Baking Babes have been steaming this month. Trying to produce the best flower buns and each one’s a looker. Mine’s not a looker but was so good. Karen of Bake My Day steamed up a recipe from Global Baker by Dean Brettschneider.

I read all the bread baking babes blogs before I went ahead with the recipe. This recipe calls for Chinese Flour which should be low gluten. I made a trip to our Chinese Store , got all the ingredients and that’s the best thing I did ;-). These came out perfect ……absolutely bread like……no chewiness……perfect soft breads. I was absolutely surprised….how could steaming create such fabulous buns……it was a transformation. Unfortunately, I do not have a cut shot, that would have said more than I can write. We were all so hungry, we just ate it up and forgot all about pictures :-). Anyway, bottom line, if you want to make these……get Chinese Flour :-).

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Low Gluten Chinese Flour……called “Weak Flour”

The Recipe:

makes 10 buns

Everywhere you go in China you see people eating steam buns, also known as mantong Typically Chinese, a sweet bread is combined with a savoury filling, such as red bean paste and barbecued pork, but take care and avoid using too much filling or the bun will fall apart during the rising and steaming stage. The baking powder helps to open up the texture and gives a little tenderness to the eating quality of the buns. If you can, use imported Chinese flour from a specialist Asian food market or store”.

Dough

300 g chinese flour (use low gluten flour such as cake flour)

15 g sugar

15 g butter

good pinch of salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp active dry yeast

150 ml chilled water, placed in the refrigerator overnight ( I just put mine in  the freezer for 15 minutes )


Filling

rice bran oil, for brushing on dough (I used good old extra virgin olive oil 🙂 )

40 g finely chopped spring onions or chives

25 g finely chopped red chillies

salt to taste


To make the dough, place all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and, using your hands, combine to form a very, very firm dough mass. Don’t be tempted to add any water or the steam buns will be flat after steaming.

Place the dough on a work surface and, using your rolling pin, roll out to a thin strip, fold this in half and roll again. Repeat this 10-15 times with a 30 second rest in between each time. This is a way of mixing a very firm dough, the dough will start to become smooth and elastic as a result of the rolling process.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warmish place (23-25C) for 15 minutes. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece to a 25cm square. {{this is strange…he never states that you divide the dough in this stage, so use and roll the one ball of dough you have}}

Brush the dough surface lightly with oil and sprinkle the chopped chives and chillies evenly over the dough. Season with salt.

Fold the dough in half and then cut into 2.5cm strips so that you end up with 10 folded strips. Stretch each strip and, starting at the folding edge, twist the two pieces of each strip over each other to form a rope.

Take the twisted rope and tie into a double knot, tucking the loose ends underneath. Place each bun with ends facing down on a 5cm square of non-stick baking paper** and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Prove for approximately 30-45 minutes in a warm place.

Bring a wok or saucepan of water to the boil with a bamboo steamer sitting on top. Remove the bamboo steamer lid and place the buns on the paper in the steamer 3-4 cm apart to allow for expansion during steaming. Replace the steamer lid and steam for 20 minutes. Repeat until all the buns have been steamed and are firm to the touch.

Karen‘s Notes: you might want to adjust the steaming time from 10-20 minutes, keeping the water at a low blub.

the paper: the pics in the book show him using paper circles, sort of perforated. (as in: paper circles with rather large holes in them). I’m using a regular steam pan with a metal insert and I preferred oiling the base of the metal insert not using any paper, re-oiling when needed. Another thing: I used a tea towel between the lid and the pan to catch any condensation.

I forgot all about the paper and just plain steamed mine. No problems ;-).

I am absolutely in love with garlic chives from Chinese store and so of course I got the authentic stuff.

I also made a couple for the kids with turbinado sugar and they were gone in no time.

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Chinese Flower Buns with Turbinado Sugar

I will certainly be making  these again. Thanks a lot Karen.  All I wish is that the recipe would at least not have butter and sugar in grams. It’s painful to measure such small quantities in my manual scale which has been even suffered in the hands of my kids 🙂 .

Expenditure:

Chinese Flour…….500 g……….. Chinese Store (Hua Xing)………….$ 2.39

Chives…………….1.03 lb……….Chinese Store (Hua Xing)………….$ 2.21

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Total……………………………………………………………………..$ 4.60

Posted in --Extra virgin olive oil, -Chinese Flour (low gluten), -Garlic chives, -Olive Oil, -Red Chillies, -Turbinado Sugar, Baking Powder, Sugar, Yeast | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »