Sunday, October 25, 2009

French Macarons


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.

Yes, I had heard of Macarons but I hadn't tasted them or much less even seen them. What I had heard was not promising for a mere home cook trying to recreate this French speciality. But that's what I love about The Daring Kitchen - we are cajoled (shoved, prodded and pushed) out of our comfort zone. Macarons are an almond and meringue cookie with a thin, egg shell like crust and a chewy, melting interior which is sandwiched with a filling - traditionally ganache but there are a myriad of choices. A macaron requisite is that they acquire "feet" - a frilly edge at the bottom of the cookie.

The recipe we were given, which you will find on the Daring Bakers website, was slightly different to previous macaron recipes I had looked at because the piped macarons were prebaked at a low temperate for 5 minutes before being removed then replaced to finish cooking at a higher temperature. Most recipes instead require macarons to dry for an hour or so prior to baking this creates a skin on the surface of the macaron. However our host gave us lots of free reign in this area. Thanks Ami S.

So I chose to dry my macarons for an hour prior to baking. Egg whites for macarons are aged for 3 or 4 days which helps stabilise the meringue. I used leftover eggwhites I had frozen. I defrosted them in the refrigerator then aged them cover with a paper towel for 3 days on the kitchen bench.



Drying the piped macarons on an insulated oven tray. Two or three oven trays can be stacked if you don't have insulated oven trays.



Whoohoo, I have "feet"


Alas, they all stuck!


I sandwiched my cinnamon flavoured macarons with nutella. I found them too sweet and really couldn't see what the fuss was about but my kids loved them.

So I back to the drawing board... ahem... computer to discover the secrets of macarons!

This time I tried a recipe by delectable deliciousness and began to whisk and fold in my dry ingredients

and pipe

And, oh my, after a few brushstrokes with a bit of food colour I felt like a professional!


By this time I was being helped by fellow DB, Audax, and reading hints by Tartlette. So I followed Helen of Tartlette's recipe for macarons to go on to create my own flavours.

Mint - using the contents of a herbal pure mint teabag


Then my thoughts moved to my freshly made Mulberry jam and the Mulberry tree which was still heavy with fruit. Could I dry the fruit and successfully grind it to a powder to flavour the macarons? And the big question would the powder still taste of true mulberry or would the flavour change? There is only one way to find out so after a bit of research on on drying fruits I decided to wing it and just have a go. I first blasted the mulberries in the microwave until the juice was starting to evaporate then moved them to a very low oven to dry, checking them regularly. To my surprise they dried beautifully and I could grind them quite fine as the pic below shows.


I mixed a heaped tablespoon into a the macaron mixture along with a little food colour.

These were definitely my favourite with tart mulberry jam in the middle surrounded by white chocolate ganache all sandwiched between two sublime mulberry macarons.


Espresso Hazelnut with milk chocolate ganache, Mint with dark chocolate ganche and Mulberry with Mulberry jam and white chocolate ganache.

Many thanks to our host Ami S. because without this challenge I wouldn't have had the guidance required to produce gorgeous macarons! Also thanks to Audax and Helen of Tarlette ( I love saying "Helen of Tartlette" it sounds so regal!) for sharing their incredible knowlegde. If you liked this, check out some other DB's sites here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Croissants!


Recently my son attended School Camp.I reminded him that the food would not be like home but to be polite and eat what he could.Well, School Camps are not what the used to be. When he returned he was in raptures over what was served for breakfast. "Mum, they had these things called croissants. Do you know croissants? They are sooo yum! Can you buy some?" Buy some? I can make some, was my claim! And, no I had never attempted to make croissants but as I had already conquered puff pastry I felt ready to move forward. After all, croissants are simply another type of laminated pastry. The beauty of recipes like this is that you take very basic ingredients and with technique and patience create something deliciously ethereal.

So, the challenge was on and set for the weekend. Armed with a recipe by Emmanuel Mollois from his book"Et Voila!", I confidently assembled my ingredients and set to work to create mouthwatering croissants.

What I learnt by making puff pastry in September Daring Baker's Challenge was that keeping everything cold was essential, especially when you live in the tropics. When baking with yeast warmth is essential to allow the yeast to do its work. So here you have the issue - to keep it cold enough to correctly layer the butter between layers of dough and allowing enough warmth for the yeast to raise the dough. I returned to my idea that worked with the puff pastry and that is to keep everything that comes into contact with the dough in the freezer and that includes the rolling pin and a board on which to roll. The dough remained in the freezer in between "turns" then I formed the croissants and left them to rise slowly overnight in the refrigerator. Yeast dough risen slowly create more flavour. In the morning I let them come back to room temperature for an hour then placed them in a cold oven with a bowl of hot water for another 40 to 50 minutes. Within less than 2 hours they were ready to be baked. Oh, the delicious smells of baking croissants! We enjoyed them that morning with coffee. What a treat! And my son, I hear you ask? Was he satisfied? As he slathered vegemite ( yes, he's is an Aussie, after all!) on his second croissant he announced that these were even better than the ones on School Camp! Thank goodness!

This is an excellent recipe that I will use time and time again. I made 15 croissants but only baked seven and have the rest frozen for next weekend. The flavour balance was a perfect.


Croissants

Recipe by Emmanuel Mollois ( adapted by me)

Ingredients

500g bread flour, sifted
7 g dried yeast
20ml lukewarm milk
260ml cold water ( I needed 40ml more)
25g salted butter, melted
1 teaspoons salt55g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter
egg wash ( 1 egg plus 40ml milk)
Place the flour in bowl of electric mixer. make a well in the centre and add the yeast and milk. Sprinkle over a little flour and wait a few minutes for bubbles to appear. This means you yeast is active. Start the mixer with the dough hook attached and slowly add the water and melted butter and combine. Add the salt and sugar. Keep mixing until the dough becomes very sticky. In dry weather you may need to add more water. Continue until the dough is very elastic. This could be up to 10 minutes of mixing. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. It will double in size.

Roll the dough to an oblong shape three times longer and it is wide. Spread 1/2 the softened butter over the centre third part. Fold the top third over the butter then spread remaining butter over the folded section. Fold the bottom third over the top. At this point I covered it in plastic and placed it in the freezer for 1/2 hour.

Take the dough and place it so that the folded seams are at the sides. Roll out the pastry again to form a large oblong sheet and fold it in three. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes in winter and 45 minutes in summer. This is one "turn". Repeat this procedure 3 times - a total of 4 "turns". Remember to keep everything very cold. If butter oozes through sprinkle with flour to seal and refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 220C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.Roll the dough into a large 3-4mm thick rectangle. Trim the edges, then cut out 10cm wide by 20cm deep triangles. Make a small slit in the base of each triangle which will allow the dough to stretch when rolled. So starting at the base roll the croissants and shape into a crescent.

You can now let them rise for at room temperature until doubled. This could take 30 minutes to a little over and hour. Or refrigerate them overnight as I did. At this point they can also be frozen to be baked at a later date. When risen brush with egg wash and bake for 10 minutes then lower the temperate to 180C and bake for a further 8 minutes. Do not open the door while baking. Cool on a wire rack. Et Voila! You have made croissants! ENJOY!