Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Assorted and Colorful Macarons for Christmas


It seems like Christmas has been long gone, and with the New Year when everybody is busy trying to make resolutions or goals, or anything at all, who would remember anything about Christmas? Well, at least I do, especially when you had to make 5 batches of macarons with 6 different fillings in a half a day right before Christmas eve. It might sound "ah, that's nothing", but this is the first time for me making so many different kinds in such a short time.


Everytime I see a blog post when people are baking such pretty and oh-so-colorful macarons, it always left me wondered how can they make so many different ones and how would they find the time to do it, especially if you have to rest your macaron batter for some time and bake it one tray at a time? And what do they do with so many of macarons if they make one batch for one color? I tried to think and see if maybe they color the same batter a few different ones, but I don't think that's possible as the batter would be overmixed. In the end, I just thought that they made each color as different batch, which was what I did.


I made lots of macarons before, the last one being 200++, but they're different, they're for a wedding and the same flavor. I don't have to worry about making different batch of fillings, and what different flavors I want to make, but I've always wanted to make pretty colorful macarons too so that I can put them side by side and arranged them like little colorful soldiers just like those in a patisserie.

One of my friends asked me a month before Christmas (or maybe a bit before), if I would be willing to make some macarons for him to give as a Christmas and thank you gift for another person. That person happens to be a macaron fanatic (so I've heard) and she's been getting different macarons from different places every Christmas time. I couldn't commit at first since my December baking schedule is pretty full, leaving me no time left for just my personal baking. Besides, the thought of me making different batches of macarons scared me, and what would I do with so many leftovers? He persisted and tried to convince me every single day until I said yes (and it's not that hard really :D).



I decided to make four different flavors for him, and one more the next day just for me using the un-filled macarons:
1. Pink macarons - rose buttercream, lychee, and raspberry gelee cube
2. Yellow macarons - cream cheese frosting with tropical fruit puree added
3. White macarons - dark chocolate and gianduja ganache with hazelnut praline
4. Orange macarons 1 - salted caramel buttercream with vanilla bean fleur de sel
5. Orange macarons 2 - milk chocolate passion fruit ganache

If you notice, I tried to make each one to have different characteristic, sweet and floral, a little tart note, bittersweet, salty, sweet and sour. I was so tempted to make another one with green color, but I had no more time and had to stop. It was hard to decide which one I like the most as each of them is so different and I love them all!


This is my first time making salted caramel buttercream and I had no idea how it should taste, or how salty and sweet it should be. I was using salted butter and whipped it until light, then added the caramel I made. I think the sweetness is there, but it was a tad too salty, so I need to add more caramel next time. The tahitian vanillie fleur de sel on the top of the macaron added more saltiness to it, so I guess I really should add more caramel. I'm loving this combination and you bet I will make this flavor more in the future, maybe in the cake form.


I made the passion fruit milk chocolate ganache before, but ended up throwing it away because I thought it tasted weird. The passion fruit puree was so tart and that even the sweetness of milk chocolate couldn't compromise for it. I really want to try it again ever since, especially knowing that this flavor combo is so popular, even in Pierre Herme's shop! I added some sugar to the ganache this time and I think it was perfect! Love it!


I ended up with lots of leftover of course but my friends and family were at least more than happy to gobble them up during our Christmas Eve dinner. I recall one of them at least had ten in one sitting and wouldn't stop if we didn't stop him. We brought the leftover macarons (that we specifically reserved on purpose) on our road trip a few days after.

After this, I'm more excited to see what other flavor pair I can come up with and the possibilities are endless! So stay tuned to see what's next. How exciting!

Basic macaron recipe:

150 g almond powder
150 g confectioners' sugar
56 g fresh egg whites, room temperature
150 g granulated sugar
40 ml water
55 g old egg whites, room temperature

Sift the almond powder and confectioners' sugar together. Set aside.

Combine the granulated sugar and the water in a saucepan and cook until it reaches 245F. Don't stir the syrup as you will end up with crystallized mass.

Meanwhile, while the sugar is cooking, start whipping the aged egg white on medium speed until it forms a soft peak. When the sugar is ready, pour the cooked syrup in a steady stream over the meringue with the mixer running on slow. It will splatter, but don't try to scrape them into the meringue as you would get lumps. Increase the speed to high and continue beating until you have a stiff glossy meringue.

Mix the fresh egg white with the almond-sugar mixture and blend together. Fold in the meringue into this almond mixture in addition. Add about a third of the meringue and fold progressively, then proceed with another third of the meringue and fold it in. Don't overfold the batter as you would have a gloppy mess. Consistency is really important at this point, some people say that it should flow like a lava (I don't know how lava flows though). If you're not sure, try piping a little dollop and see if it leaves a peak that will not spread or if it spreads too fast. You should still see a little peak after you pipe, but the peak should disappear or almost disappear after you pipe a row of them.

Put the batter in a piping bag with round tip (I used a tip with approximately 9mm in diameter) and pipe the macaron batter on top of silpat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake at 325F for about 14-15 minutes. Once baked, slide the silpat or parchment paper onto a wire rack to cool slightly. Peel each macaron shell carefully.

You can fill them with ganache or flavored buttercream. Keep it in an airtight container in the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften up before consuming.

Milk Chocolate Passion Fruit Ganache
adapted from here

100 grams milk chocolate
40 grams passion fruit puree
20 grams heavy cream
sugar to sweetened it slightly
15 grams butter

Chop the milk chocolate into small pieces. Boil the passion fruit, heavy cream, and sugar together and pour over chocolate. Stir until incorporated and the ganache forms. Wait a couple of minutes for the ganache to cool a bit and add the softened butter. Stir to create and emulsion. Let it harden a bit until it is pipeable and fill the macarons.


Rose Italian Meringue Buttercream:

1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. sugar (115 g)
1/4 cup water (60 ml)
4 egg whites, at room temperature
4 sticks unsalted butter, cut in cubes and at room temperature
rose water, to taste
  • Combine the water and the sugar in a small saucepan and boil on medium heat until the temperature reaches 235 F (softball stage)
  • When the temperature reaches around 230 F, starts whipping the egg whites until it has somewhat a soft peak in a stand mixer
  • When the sugar syrup has reached the desired temperature, turn off the heat and poor into the egg whites with the mixer still running on a medium-high speed (don't pour the syrup on the beater as it will splatter)
  • Keep on whipping until the bowl has cooled down to about room temperature
  • Add the cubes of butter a little at a time, waiting until the previous one is fully incorporated before adding another
  • Whip until the buttercream is soft and creamy
  • Add rose water to the taste and mix well.

Gianduja Ganache with Hazelnut Praline
no measurement was used when making this

dark chocolate
heavy cream
sugar
gianduja paste
hazelnut praline

Salted Caramel Buttercream
100 g sugar
115 g heavy cream
15 g + 70 g salted butter
  • Add some sugar in a saucepan, let this melt and add more sugar until you've used all of it
  • Let it caramelized until it has a dark amber color
  • Add 15 g of unsalted butter
  • Add the heavy cream. Be careful when doing this as the mixture will bubble and splatter
  • Continue cooking until it reaches 108 C
  • Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature (putting it in an ice bath helps the process to be faster)
  • Beat the remaining 70g of salted butter until creamy, then add the cooled caramel. Note: I didn't add all of them because I was afraid it's gonna be too sweet, but in the end, I should have added a little bit more because the end result was a bit on the salty side
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Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Birthday and A Farewell for J


I'm so grateful to be surrounded by loving family and friends and to see one of them leaves is a sad experience. Some people say that you'll get used to it to see people leave to the point that you won't feel sad anymore. Well, it doesn't happen to me, maybe not yet. I still remember crying like a baby at the airport everytime I say goodbye to the person I cared the most a long time ago, and even though we met and said goodbye again a few times a year, I still couldn't get used to it, it was rather embarrassing to not be able to control the tears and having one of the airport person trying to cheer me up sometimes, but hey I was still a kid a few years ago and it happens to everyone, right? :). It gets a lot better now, I'm not a crying baby anymore, but I still can't get over the feeling of loss everytime I say goodbye, which is why I always try to avoid going to the airport to see them for the last time. I'd rather take it as "they just leave temporarily and I'm still going to see them soon".


My friend, J, who I've known for several years now was going back to Indonesia for good. To describe him, he is such a kind-hearted person, for real. I don't think I've ever seen him mad and I think everyone would agree with me. He's really tall and is a basketball snob and really good at it too. He's willing to help anyone in need anytime you need it, and to lose such a friend is a great loss for us. Well, I guess I should revise that, we're not losing him as a friend, but losing him in our community. I hope we'd still see each other when he visits or when I go back to Indonesia for vacation.


He left just one day after his birthday and we had a small gathering with close friends to celebrate it and to say goodbye. The gathering turned out to bring a really good news with his engagement announcement with his years-long girlfriend (one of our friends too)! I re-made this exotic cake for the birthday occasion since the first one was for different group of people. I had to make some sacrifices to the cake being different than the one I made before due to time limitation, but at least it came together as a cake :). The pineapple wasn't as ripe as I wanted to be before I used it, but I had too anyway, making the cake a bit sour in my opinion, but nothing major.


So, instead of being all sad and all, we celebrated the friendship we've had and the time we've had together. We are so blessed to know him and we wish him the best for his future in Indonesia or wherever he might be. I'll see you next time J and Happy Birthday! :)


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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Another Mascarpone Cheesecake with Chocolate Sauce and Happy New Year!


I would start off this post by wishing everyone a Happy New Year! I'm so grateful for 2010 that I'm still doing work that I enjoy and doing my hobby (baking that is) at the same time. Although I must say that compared to 2009, I baked A LOT more in 2010 and I'm glad that at least I think I'm growing in terms of knowledge. I also get to see and spend time with my mom, twin sis, and my other brother that I haven't met for years.

We just got back from a 5-day road trip this morning at 4am. I must say that the trip was very tiring, lots of driving (it is a road-trip) and coldness, but we got to see and experience quite a bit of stuff. We started the trip by driving down to Death Valley, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere I think. The weather was quite warm in there too, about 60 F while the rest of the country is blistering cold. We also went to Utah and saw Bryce Canyon, the trip wasn't quite as we anticipated as there was a snow storm on the two days we were in the area. It was literally hurting when the freezing wind of snow hits your skin, we had to cover our entire skin including the eyes (by wearing glasses) to protect it from the harshness of the wind. Because of that, we didn't get to see much of Bryce Canyon and most of the area are covered with strong winds carrying snow that looked like a thick fog. This whole experience reminded me when I was staying at Michigan for a short period of time. Snow can be real pretty like in Lake Tahoe when it's calm and white, but not so pleasant this time :). I think we got back at the right time because my body almost gave up on me on the last day, I started to feel the sign of sickness all over and I can feel it's crying for a rest. I was so ecstatic to finally being able to sleep in my own bed, back to civilization where I can have internet access and my favorite coffee back, oh the joy.

Okay, after that long talk about my trip, it's time to dig in to the real meat of this post, the cheesecake. I was trying to clear up my back log of posts before the New Year, but I can't seem to keep up with time, this is one of the desserts I made in December, more to come. When I started this blog, actually my friend Kiki made it for me because I wouldn't made one, it was purely for my own journal. Little did I know it would grow up to this point, this blog is also one of the reasons I want to push myself in every dessert or cake I make "just so that I can have a really nice pictures and cakes for the post". One of the great things I've never imagined when I first started is how I can meet new people, complete stranger from this blog.

I received an email from a blog reader that lives fairly close to my area and asked if I would be willing to make mascarpone cheesecake for his family Thanksgiving dinner. I had to say no that time due to many reasons, one being time constraint. He persisted and send another email if I could do it for his daughter graduation party, where she will be back from LA. Even though my schedule was pretty crazy and hectic, I tried and squeezed in some time to bake this, he specifically asked for this Mascarpone Cheesecake with Chocolate Sauce. When he came and picked up the cake, I was so delighted to meet a really nice and down-to-earth person. He sent me another email afterward to say how everyone enjoyed the cake and even sent me pictures. Nothing is more rewarding to me than to be able to be a part of such joy in other people's live and I hope that I can continue to at least make a difference one cake at a time in the future.


To close this post and to start off the new year with a great start, here's a recipe for the mascarpone cheesecake. I don't have the recipe for the chocolate sauce as I didn't measure how much cream and chocolate I used, but I can say that it is just a simple sauce made from a thinner ganache. You can add liquor, nutella, or anything to the sauce.

Mascarpone Cheesecake
Yield: one 9" round springform pan (or equal size)

Crust:
125 g slivered almonds, toasted
75 g graham cracker crumbs
35 g sugar
4 Tbs. melted butter

Cheesecake Filling:2 (8-oz) packages of cream cheese, room temperature
2 (8-oz) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
200 g sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice (you can add some zest to it too)
1/2 vanilla bean seeds or 1 tsp of vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
  • Preheat oven to 350 F
  • Wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil (you can triple-wrap this to make sure that the water doesn't seep in)
  • To make the crust, grind finely the almonds, sugar and graham cracker in a food processor.
  • Add the melted butter and process until moist crumbs form.
  • To save time, I usually use ready-use almond powder (the one I used to make macarons), this way, I don't have to use my big food processor to do the job
  • Press the mixture onto the bottom of 9" springform pan
  • Bake until it is set and beginning to brown about 12-15 minutes. Let cool
  • Decrease the oven temperature to 325 F
  • To make the filling, beat the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, and sugar with a paddle attachment until smooth and creamy, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl
  • Add lemon juice, zest (if using, or you can also rub the zest with the sugar in the beginning), and vanilla bean
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition
  • Pour cheese mixture onto the cooled crust
  • Prepare a waterbath (classic method for cheesecake and custard preparation)
  • Place the springform pan in a waterbath and bake until the center of the cheesecake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour and 10 minutes (the cheesecake will firm up after cooled)
  • Transfer the cake on a rack and cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, overnight and up to two days.
  • Serve it plain or with any condiments you like.

Looking forward to what 2011 will bring and I have nothing to worry about as I know that my God has planned everything well for me :)
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