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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Fussy French Macarons

Seasonal Recipe of the Week
I have always heard that making French macarons is very difficult. Four simple ingredients, how complex can it be? Well it turns out to be true! I assumed the reason people failed was that they did not follow the instructions carefully enough. Being a pretty experienced baker who is very good at reading and following a recipe, I decided to give it a go last night. I prepared myself by watching 6 different videos on the "fool proof methods" people use to achieve the proper texture, surface, feet, and flavor we all know and love. Six recipes, six different methods, six times I was annoyed and confused. I decided to try 2 different recipes, one from the Tasty website and one from the ex-con herself, Martha Stewart. One took 2 hours to make (including the resting and drying time) one took 15 minutes to make, same ingredients, different results. In the end I have combined methods from all the recipes I read and created my own method using basically Martha's recipe but not her technique. One of the most important thing is to weigh out the ingredients in grams as it is much more accurate. I had just okay results (as you can see by the photos) but I learned so much each time I failed. I always say to master a new recipe you need to make it at least 3 times so I am going to do it again today and will post an update if it is noticeably better. One factor I need to mention is humidity, which greatly impacts the cooking of meringue which is what these cookies essentially are. Today it is 97% humidity and pouring, so I am factoring that into my potentially crappy results. All the recipe instructions agreed on one thing, after you fill them you have to refrigerate them for at least 24 hours before serving so it's too soon to say if all this fuss was worth it. I will keep you posted.

71 grams Almond flour (I used Trader Joe's)
117 grams confectioners sugar
1 pinch salt
2 large egg whites, room temperature (I used organic)
53 grams granulated sugar

2 drops gel food coloring of your choice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla or other extract or flavoring

Preheat oven to 300 degrees with rack in lower third of oven. Take a piece of parchment the same size as your sheet pan and draw 3/4-inch circles in sharpie 1 inch apart. Turn it over so ink is on bottom and place on sheet pan.

Place almond flour and confectioners sugar in a food processor and pulse around 14 times to make a super fine texture. Pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to get out any big pieces. Whisk egg whites in electric mixer with a pinch of salt. Once foamy slowly sprinkle in the granulated sugar and whip till glossy and stiff peaks form. Add flavoring (extracts or flavored oils) and food coloring, if desired, and beat on highest for speed 30 seconds.

Add dry ingredients in three additions carefully folding from bottom over the top then turning the bowl. This will probably take about 40-45 folds. Then you need to press some of the air out of the batter by pushing it against the side of the bowl and turning. You know the batter is correctly mixed when you can let it fall off the spatula and it ribbons enough so you can make a figure eight with the batter which dissapears after 30 seconds. The batter should look like shiny flowing lava.

Transfer batter to pastry bag, remember it's pretty runny so it might come out of the bottom of the bag. My new trick is I fold up the bottom of the bag up and hold it with a bag clip until I am ready to start. Dab some batter (remaining in bowl) onto bottom corners of parchment so it does not lift when piping cookies.

Pipe batter onto rounds from the side so you don't end up with a nipple on the top (one of my mistakes). Tap sheets firmly against counter 2 or 3 times to release air bubbles. Then let sit for 60 minutes till a dull film forms over macaroons and when you touch them your finger does not stick.

Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until risen and just set, 13 minutes. Let cool on rack. Pipe or spread filling on flat sides of half of cookies; sandwich with remaining half. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. I don't know why but will know tomorrow! Below are some photos of my mistakes!

Left to right: rookie mistake, they are too close together; macarons are much too tall and they were piped incorrectly.

Some closing notes: It's very confusing figuring out which recipe and which techniques to trust. I always look for a recipe which comes from a well-known source and one which has been tested and the notes are added to the recipe. Remember weather will always be a factor, if it's crazy hot or crazy dry that affects time of cooking and possibly temperature. And finally I always give myself at least 3 tries to get it right. After that I just go to the movies!

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Thanksgiving Tips 2018

My people! Rula is here for you! I know, I know, for some of you, cooking for Thanksgiving can be very stressful. That's why you should go check out my surefire hints to improve the evening's meal:

❯❯❯ Rula Gives Good Bird ❮❮❮

Yes, fellow Pilgrims, these are the same tips I post every year, but — like me — they never go out of style!

So, since Stacy's all set up at her new digs on Long Island, and Mary-Charlotte has retired from radio, there will be no more day-before-Thanksgiving Radio Café appearances. What can I say? Time marches on. But don't despair! There are still! eight years of Radio Café podcast archives that feature Stacy's Thanksgiving tips. I guess the internet is good for something besides swiping right on the hunky guys on Tinder!

Also! You can check out all the other Thanksgiving posts here at Mouth of Wonder by clicking on "Thanksgiving" in that big word jumble down there on the left. I know, it says "Browse by Ingredient" and Thanksgiving isn't an ingredient! Just roll with it, sweetie!

Well, my little Green Beans, it's back to Brooklyn for me — you know I'm all about the baste! Ciao!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Holiday Honey Cake

Seasonal Recipe of the Week
Last week, Bernice enjoyed a lecture and tasting at her senior center about the amazing healing powers of eating local honey. When I heard this, I said get me some please! Today my mother brought me a beautiful little jar of this golden goodness which I immediately turned into a Jewish holiday classic — honey cake. I love this recipe! My baking mentor Susan Purdy included it in her high altitude classic Pie in the Sky, which I helped her test. This recipe, with very little modification, works at every altitude and you don't even need to use an electric mixer. What makes it so great is the inclusion of espresso powder, which gives it real depth and also adds a slight twist on the spices. I leave out the ginger (I'm allergic) and use cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and cardamom. Feel free to alter it to make it your own. Shanah Tovah! (Happy New Year!)

3/4 cup very hot water
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1 cup honey
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
2 1/2 cups AP flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon cardamom

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with oil spray, line with parchment and spray again. In a large bowl, dissolve the espresso powder in the hot water and then stir in the honey until it is smooth. Next mix in the sugar, oil, and eggs using a whisk. In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, salt and spices. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the liquids. Using your whisk, stir until smooth. The batter will be thin. Pour into prepared pan and set in the middle of the oven. Bake for 60-70 minutes until the top springs back and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on rack 30 minutes then remove pan and let cool all the way. If you want to dress it up, you can cut it into layers and fill it with apricot jam or glaze it and top it with toasted almond slices!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Best Blueberry Muffin of All Time (IMHO)

Seasonal Recipe of the Week
Hello my peeps, yes it's been a while, but I'm back! Work has been taking up my entire life and basically killed me but now it's me time. Getting my juju back and starting to bake again, which I love! This is a recipe I recently developed (which I have been told is the best muffin ever) and of course can be used with a variety of fruit. The secret to the moistness and great texture is in the full fat Greek yogurt (so don't skimp). I promise to post more often, any requests?


2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup blueberries
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 room temp eggs
2/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup melted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (like Sugar in the Raw brand)

Preheat oven at 350. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. Mix the berries and lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon from the total sugar amount and let sit in small bowl. Combine sugar, water, yogurt, butter, vanilla and eggs. In separate bowl combine flour, powder, and salt. Mix everything together with a spoon and put in muffin cups and sprinkle turbinado sugar on top. Bake 25 minutes until top is golden and it springs back when touched. Remember, less is more when it comes to making muffin batter, don't over mix as it creates tough and rubbery muffins.