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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Vanilla macarons

When I baked my mom's birthday cake last week, the recipe called for an egg and an egg yolk (I doubled the recipe, so 2 yolks).  That left me with 2 egg whites.  Great for a breakfast omelette - which, I admit, was the first thought that popped into my mind - or macarons (they call for 3 egg whites, usually).  Of course I tossed the egg whites this morning (I had added a third one to the mug), and then looked at the recipe and found out that it actually calls for 3-5 day old egg whites (mine were 7 days, so in retrospect, tossing them this morning was a good idea).  I had read once, years ago, that room temperature egg whites were best, so I left them sitting out on the counter during the day while I did other things (school work, cleaned, ran errands).

I surprisingly had all the ingredients in the apartment.  That's because there are 5 ingredients in this recipe.  And  because I had leftover almond meal from the last time I made macarons.  You can use blanched almonds -- or you can buy almond meal (mine is from Trader Joe's).  The difference is mostly in appearance -- mine are "flecked" with pieces of almond skin.  If I were making them for an event or if I were to color them (with powdered food coloring only), I'd probably go through the task of grinding my own blanched almonds.  But since I was making macarons just for the sake of making macarons, I went with what I had (and the easy option).

I've made macarons before.  Three times to be exact.  The first time I made Snickers macarons (making delicate French cookies into an American candy bar is kinda sacreligious), then I made pink lemonade macarons (which used pink lemonade mix....sacreligious again, I know), and then chocolate macarons for Passover (less sacreligious).  This time I opted to go with good old fashioned plain macarons.  Although the recipe I used called for the seeds of half a vanilla bean, which I hadn't seen in other recipes.  By the way, these would be great for Passover (which is next month!).

French Macarons
From Tartelette


100 grams egg whites
25 grams granulated sugar
200 grams confectioners sugar
110 grams ground almonds (or whole almonds)
seeds of half a vanilla bean


In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue.
Combine the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor (I used a whisk) and give them a quick pulse if you use already ground almonds.  If using whole almonds, pulse thoroughly for a minute or so.
Add them to the meringue, along with seeds from the vanilla bean, and start to give quick strokes at first to break up the mass, and then slow down.  Should be no more than 50 strokes.
Mixture is ready when tops of drops flatten out on their own.  If theres still a small beak, fold a few more times.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchement paper lined sheets.
Preheat the even to 280-300F.
Let the macarons sit out for an hour to allow their shells to harden a bit (this is what gives them the little "foot" at the bottom when they bake).
Bake for 15-18 minutes, depending on their size.
Let them cool completely before filling. 

Pipe or spoon some of the filling on one shell and sandwich with another.

White Chocolate Ganache
(Stolen from one of my all time favorite brownie recipes, and quite possibly my mom's favorite brownie ever)


6 ounces high-quality white chocolate, chopped
5 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon  (optional - I opted for it on some of them)
Place white chocolate in medium microwave-safe bowl.
Bring cream to simmer in small saucepan.
Pour cream over chocolate in bowl.
Let stand 30 seconds, then stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.
If necessary, microwave on low power in 10-second intervals until white chocolate is melted completely.
Chill until ganache is thick but not hard.
Fill the macarons.  Let them sit a little while so the ganache is not too soft or runny.  Serve.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Food finds of Thailand

If you view my JulieBakes Facebook page, I've apologized profusely for having been MIA and not posting any recipes recently.  But when I got back from Thailand today, and signed in to write this post, I saw that my last post was December 31st!  I'm appalled!  But don't worry, that will change very soon.

I just got back from almost two weeks in Thailand.  I took a few notes of new food finds and I wanted to share them with you:

1.  Fruit smoothies.  I have a general rule: I don't drink my calories unless they are in the form of coffee (often) or alcohol (less so).  However in northern Thailand, fruit smoothies were EVERYWHERE.  Sometimes they had milk added, sometimes yogurt (a la an Indian lassi), and sometimes just blended juice and (filtered) ice.  The latter being my favorite.  I got watermelon ones, passion fruit, and pineapple-mango-coconut...however, when I got to the Islands, they were harder to find.  But that didn't stop me...I kept searching.  My favorite was the watermelon one.  I can't wait to make them.  Now all I need is a blender...

2.  Watermelon juice.  During my 9.5 hour layover in the Hong Kong airport, I found a Starbucks (!!), and they had Starbucks-brand bottled juices including orange, grapefruit, guava, and watermelon.  Unsure of which to get - guava or watermelon - I chose watermelon and was unsure if it would be good.  It was delicious!  I wonder if I could recreate it with a juicer at home.  Now I just need a juicer, too.

3.  Thai iced coffee.  My sister introduced me to this delicacy.  As above, I usually don't drink my calories unless they are in the form of coffee or alcohol, but my "usual" coffee calories in the US are skim milk and a Splenda added to espresso.  Thai iced coffee is the antithesis of what I drink in the US.  It's a rich coffee (probably better than US coffee, although I've seen it made with instant coffee, too) mixed with condensed milk.  It's rich and sweet and tastes like the best coffee ice cream...melted.  After my first one, I wanted at least one a day, but held back...

4. Mango sticky rice.  We took a cooking class just outside of Chiang Mai and for dessert I made sticky rice with mango.  I usually don't eat dessert in Thai restaurants, or restaurants in general, but for some reason I never order dessert in Thai restaurants.  But seeing as a dessert course was part of the cooking class, I went with it.  Sugar and coconut milk, mixed with rice, topped with fresh mango and a little more coconut milk, and sprinkled with dried mung beans for crunch.  Delish!

5.  Green papaya salad.  This is not technically a food find of Thailand, since I've been eating it for years, but it's so good that its worth mentioning here.  There are apparently a few kind of green papaya salad, the biggest difference I've been able to find is the inclusion or exclusion of dried baby shrimp.  I'm used to the Thai-American green papaya salad, which is the one sans dried shrimp, and after having been served both in Thailand, I can say hands down that I prefer it without the dried shrimp.  However, in a pinch, it's easy to pick them out.