Tag Archives: Cooking

Salted Caramel Banana Macarons

Salted.

Caramel.

Banana.

Macarons.

Can you say “yum?”

In all seriousness, these are yum.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the beginning. The very beginning.

A little over a year ago, I had the pleasure of going on a trip to London and France (Paris and Arles in the south). And let me tell you…all those things you’ve heard about French pastries being the best things in the world…those aren’t lies. Those of you who have gone to France, am I right? *Insert everyone nodding their heads yes!*

(photo taken by me)

Breakfast every morning was divine (I even became a local at this one cafe!)…freshly baked bread and a croissant, with the choice of spreading on jellies and/or butter. There is literally no way to describe how good this was. And if you thought butter was good in America, you’d be wildly impressed with French butter – it’s that much better!

Besides indulging in breakfast (and lunch, and dinner), I also made many stops to little patisseries. Of course, I had to go to Ladurée, famous in particular for their macarons. Being the dessert-lover I am, I not only indulged in many macarons, but also a heavenly pastry with rose water and raspberries. Yep, be jealous. This was a food lover’s dream!

Yep, that's the rose water and raspberry dessert. (photo taken by me)

And on a complete side note, some of you may be wondering how much weight I gained after all of this eating. Well, prepare to get even more jealous: the answer? None. Yep, I gained no weight. I think it had to do with how walkable a city Paris is…I mean, you just want to walk everywhere.

But back to the main story: So, I guess you could say I became officially in love with macarons during this trip. But really…how could you not? Macarons are adorable and tasty, and I was in Paris – the place where undoubtedly you’ll get the world’s best macarons.

Ever since returning from that trip, I wanted to make my own macarons. But then I heard all those horror stories about them, which I’m sure you’ve heard:

“Macarons are impossible!”

“Macarons are so finicky!”

“Macarons never turn out!”

“Don’t try making macarons – you’ll never get them right!”

Naturally, I was scared away from the task, although the curiosity and obsession with macarons never left me.

And then, over a year later, one fateful day (dramatic!), there I was: watching Anne Thornton’s Dessert First on the Food Network. And what was she making?! Macarons!

I thought to myself, “If a TV show geared at the home baker is encouraging you to make macarons, you make macarons!” Right? Right!

That very next day I got the few ingredients I was missing that I needed to make them. And then, I made them.

And guess what?! They turned out perfectly!

They were not impossible.

They were not finicky.

They did turn out.

And, boy, did they turn out well!

I don’t know if it was a good recipe, luck, or what it was, but they turned out. And I loved them.

Moral of the story? Don’t let myths keep you from trying something you really want to make.

Or, maybe you just need to find a really good recipe.

Or, maybe you just need pure luck.

But try these for me.

You won’t regret it.

(I should note that the recipe does not make a ton….but that’s fine, as long as that’s what you expect.)

Salted Caramel Banana Macarons

adapted from Anne Thornton’s Dessert First

1 ¼ cup almond meal

1 ¾ cup powdered sugar

3 large older egg whites* (i.e. not freshly bought – preferably older than 4 days)

3 tablespoons meringue powder

fleur de sel, enough to sprinkle

½ cup granulated sugar

¾ tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 teaspoons heavy cream

¾ teaspoons fleur de sel

1 ripe (not overripe) banana

*Preparation: Separate the egg whites when the eggs are cold – just out of the refrigerator. However, before moving on, allow to come to room temperature.

Make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheets with parchment paper

Sift together the almond meal and powdered sugar. Set aside.

Using a mixer, beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy. Begin sprinkling in the meringue powder as you beat. Increase the speed to medium speed and beat until soft peaks form. From here, keep beating cautiously until you have firm glossy peaks – do not beat until you have stiff peaks (i.e. meringue should not stand up straight when a whisk is lifted from the mixture).

Gently fold in about 1/3 of the almond meal mixture. Once combined, add the remaining almond meal mixture in 2 more batches. Being gentle is key. Incorporate the ingredients fully, but do not over-fold.

Put a pastry bag with about a ½ inch tip (or plastic bag with a tip cut off) in a glass or cup. Fold the top of the bag over the lip of the glass/cup. Fill the pastry bag with the mixture.

Pipe 1-inch circular mounds of batter onto the prepared pans. If the mounds do not smooth out on their own, using a wet fingertip, tap the mounds gently to create a smooth top. Another option would be to tap the pan on the counter…but I’d recommend the finger-tip option. Let the cookies sit for about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle each cookie with fleur de sel. Allow the cookies to rest 30-60 minutes more, depending on the humidity.

Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, 1 sheet at a time. They should not be browned, but they shouldn’t look too underdone either. Let the cookies cool.

Make the filling:

In a saucepan set over medium-high heat, combine the granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Let the sugar melt and turn into a caramel – but do not stir the mixture, and do not rush this process. Carefully, as steam will be released, add the butter and heavy cream. Stir until incorporated, and then add the fleur de sel. Let cool.

In a small bowl, mash the ripe banana with a fork (don’t worry about the texture seeming strange…it’ll work in the end!). Add the cooled caramel to the mashed banana.

Spread the filling on the flat side of a cookie. Make a sandwich by sandwiching the flat side of another cookie against the filling. Continue this process for the rest of the sandwiches.

Place in the refrigerator and allow to mature for at least 24 hours…but honestly, you’ll want one before, and I found that there wasn’t a huge difference in taste between the more freshly finished and 24-hour matured versions. So, go ahead. Enjoy them now! (And think of Paris….*sigh*).

Woah. Time Flies.

My goodness how time has flown by without a post! But don’t you worry…I have been baking, and I have been taking pictures, so I do have quite a bit to share with you! In the meantime, here’s a little sneak peek to…shall we say…get your mouth-watering?! Get ready, ’cause your mouth is going to water (well, I am perhaps a bit biased, having tasted all of these creations and all!).

YES! I made macarons (first time!)!

 

German Chocolate Cake...need I say more?!

 

Now force that jaw up and keep the mouth-watering to a minimum until I can get back here with the recipes and more details!

Bumbleberry Fool Parfaits

Understandably, you’re probably quite confused by the name of this treat? Yes, it’s called a Bumbleberry Fool Parfait. Any guesses as to what it is? Honestly, I would love to hear (and I promise I won’t make fun of you!). Want a hint? Here ya go:

Mmmm…looks good, huh?! Well, a Bumbleberry Fool is just a fancy way to say what this is….essentially, it’s a berry infused whipped cream, mixed fresh berries, and berry puree layered as a parfait (“fool,” I’m told, is an English term in this context). And guess what that means? For those who are Jewish, this is Passover friendly! And for those of you who aren’t Jewish, this is an equally spring season worthy dessert to make!

Not too sweet, this was a great dessert on its own. After a seder though, the berry infused whipped cream itself was a lovely accompaniment to a slice of flourless chocolate cake….really, this was quite a nice pairing (if you want, try this flourless chocolate cake from this recipe!). Another serving idea would be to top off the parfaits with some shaved chocolate. Yum!

And wanna know the other great feature of this dessert? It’s super simple. But don’t let that deceive you….it’s also pretty darn impressive looking too. Yay…a win-win situation!

Bumbleberry Fool Parfaits

from Anne Thornton’s TV show Dessert First

2 cups mixed berries, plus more for serving

¾ cups sugar (you may add more or less, depending on how sweet you want it; with this amount, it’s not too, too sweet at all)

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

3 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place berries, sugar, and lemon juice in a blender, blending until smooth. Run through a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl to get rid of the seeds. You’ll probably need a spoon to help push the thick mixture through (not the seeds though!). Set aside about ½ cup of the puree in a small bowl.

Whip the cream and vanilla together in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Then, gently fold the berry puree into the whipped cream (not the reserved ½ cup though!). Fill a pastry bag – or, as I did – a large plastic bag with an approximately 1 ¼ in hole cut on an angle with the whipped cream. To easily do this, put the bag in a large pitcher/bowl, folding the tops of the bag over the edge. Then, you have both hands free to use a large spatula to fill the bag!

Squeeze a layer of whipped cream out of the pastry bag and into each parfait glass. Top with assorted fresh fruit, and spoon on some of the reserved berry puree. Squeeze another layer of whipped cream on, then put the fresh fruit, and finish with a spoonful of reserved berry puree (you may choose to do more layers if you wish). Enjoy!

Note: While originally this recipe, when doubled what it is now, claimed to serve six, I found that this more than served three! You should safely get at least four healthy (I mean in size, not nutritional value!) servings out of the recipe as is.

Sneak Peak: Nutella Scones

Wanna see something? Something delectably wonderful? Here ya go:

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. That’s a nutella scone, complete with hazelnuts and actual nutella (nutella baked in, and drizzled on top). Best part about it is that it’s not too sweet at all, like you might think. Rather, it’s pretty much perfection.

Keep drooling….and stay tuned for the recipe and more details coming soon!

Baked: Mississippi Mud Cake (i.e. a treat you MUST make)

Ever since I told you about my latest obsession, Baked, I haven’t been able to get either of the cookbooks off of my mind. Naturally, I’ve already made four recipes, and plan on making two more this weekend alone. And trust me, I really wish I could have documented what I’ve baked so far better, but the items have been just too good to not gobble up before getting a good photo. Luckily for you, I did manage to photograph one treat, and boy is it a good one. Actually, it probably just so happens to be the favorite thing I’ve made from the cookbooks so far…although, really, I truly have adored them all.

And what have I made so far? The very first day I bought the books, I made the Sweet & Salty Brownies (i.e. fudgy brownie, thin drizzle of decadent, scrumptious, heavenly caramel, then more fudgy brownie layered on, with fleur de sel sprinkled on top). Then, I made the Cowboy Cookies, which are a divine play on chocolate chip cookies: chocolate chunks and pieces of pretzels. These were gone. in. a. flash. And the dough? Don’t even get me started. Next, I made a vanilla cake with a white chocolate frosting. It was so airy and moist, and I kid you not: it can convert hard-core chocoholics to being white chocolate fans.

So while I’m going to share this next recipe with you, and I’ll probably share more with you in the future, I really want need you to get at least one of the two cookbooks, although I highly recommend both.

Okay, seriously, these pictures do not do justice to this masterpiece. Let me talk you through it: Oreo cookie crust, then flourless chocolate cake, then homemade chocolate pudding, and finally, a homemade whipped cream layer. Yes, it’s absolute heaven. And while it may seem like it would be a really heavy dessert, it’s actually really light and airy.

A few quick notes about the process:

  • This may seem like a daunting recipe with its many components. Truth be told, it does take a bit of time to prepare. If you want you can split up the work into different days. I did, however, make it in one day (a weekend, mind you). My suggestion for making it in one day: make the crust and while it’s cooling, mix up the cake; while cake is baking, make the pudding; then, refrigerate the baked cake and pudding (separately, not combined yet!) for at least 3 hours; after chilling, put the pudding on top of the cake, and while that’s chilling for 30 minutes, make the whipped cream. After you top it with whipped cream, you can serve it immediately, or chill it (you store the cake in the fridge).
  • If you taste the cake batter, you may find it has a strong coffee flavor. Don’t let this worry you though (if you’re not a coffee fan), because the flavor will mellow out a lot during baking, and as the cake sits in the fridge for a day or so.
  • The cake calls for espresso powder…if you get either of the Baked cookbooks, this is a worthy ingredient to invest in, as it’s used quite often. It may be a bit tricky to find, but trust me, it’s worth it. (Fleur de Sel is another investment ingredient if you buy the books, although it’s not used in this recipe).
  • If you wanted, the flourless chocolate cake and pudding would both be divine on their own. Seriously, I might make them separately sometime too!

And now, for the recipe:

Mississippi Mud Cake

from Baked: Explorations

Chocolate Cookie Crust:

16 ounces chocolate sandwich cookies (about 35-40 Oreos…just enough in one package to leave a few over for munching on!)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Flourless Chocolate Cake:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60-70%), chopped

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

¼ cup strong coffee, at room temperature

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

Chocolate Pudding:

¾ cup  sugar

½ cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (use the good stuff…something like Valrhona!)

¼ cup cornstarch

¼ teaspoon salt

4 large egg yolks

2 ½ cups whole milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60-70%), chopped

Whipped Cream:

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the crust:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray at 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with a cut out round piece of parchment paper and spray the parchment paper and sides of pan again (lightly spray, of course!).

Grind the cookies in a food processor. Put the crumbs in a bowl and pour in the melted butter. Mix, and then turn the crumb mixture into the prepared pan, pressing into the bottom and up the sides (leave about ½ inch between the top of the crust and the top of the pan). Make sure the crust is spread out evenly, and then put the pan in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Bake the crust until it is dry to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool.

For the cake:

Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate together. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the espresso powder, coffee, salt, and vanilla. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with ½ cup of the sugar until the mixture is light and has pretty much doubled in volume, about 5 minutes. Add the chocolate mixture and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides, and then beat for 5 seconds. Add the coffee mixture and eat until combined. Scrape down the sides and beat for 5 more seconds.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy. Increase the speed to high and add the remaining ½ cup sugar. Beat until soft peaks form.

Scoop 1 cup fo the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, and using a rubber spatula, fold gently in. After about 30 seconds, add the remaining egg white and continue folding until almost completely combined. Do not rush the process, and work gently. You don’t want to overmix.

Pour the batter into the cooled crust and bake for 38-42 minutes, un til the cake is set but jiggles slightly. It might not appear to be completely cooked, but that’s okay.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. The center will deflate, but don’t worry – that’s just the way it works, and in the end, you won’t be able to tell!

Tightly wrap the cake and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours, but possibly overnight.

For the pudding:

In a saucepan, whisk the sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt. Add the egg yolks, whisking until combined. The mixture will appear to be a thick paste. Slowly then pour in the milk, constantly whisking.

Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, constantly whisking. You don’t want any burning on the bottom. Boil for about 30 seconds, and then transfer to a medium bowl. You will think that the mixture isn’t thickening, but then, almost like magic, it will thicken!

Transfer the contents to a medium bowl and add the butter, vanilla, and chocolate. Whisk until combined, and whisk for a few more minutes to cool the mixture slightly. Let the pudding stand for 15 minutes at room temperature, and then press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a skin from forming as you chill it for at least 3 hours.

For the whipped cream:

Pour the cream into a chilled metal bowl and beat with chilled beaters  until soft peaks form. Sprinkle sugar on, and beat until stiff peaks form.

To assemble:

Pour the pudding on cake, but don’t let it go over the crust. Spread it evenly on. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Spread the whipped cream on, unmold the cake, and enjoy this delicacy!

My final advice: Make this cake! Buy the books (head on over to a Borders, where you can get a discount, or to Amazon, where you can buy both books for a discounted price as well!)

Grilled Nutella Sandwiches

Do you see the title of this post?! Grilled Nutella Sandwiches? Nutella Sandwiches?! Yep, you read correctly.

The best part about this recipe, besides the taste of course, is the fact that there are no rules! Want to load up on the Nutella? Go ahead! Want to load up on the brown sugar butter coating? Go ahead! Want a HUGE sandwich? Go ahead!

With four measly ingredients, these are an absolute snap to whip up. And you’ll want to.

Please excuse my images – or lack there of. As I’m sure you can relate to, I could barely photograph this puppy before I downed it!

Grilled Nutella Sandwiches

Adapted from Bon Appetit

 

For one serving:

2 slices challah (or another white bread)

1 tablespoon (or so) nutella

1 tablespoon (or so) butter

1/2-1 teaspoon (or so) light brown sugar

Spread the nutella on one slice of bread. Use as much or as little as you like! Put the other slice of bread on top to make a sandwich.

Melt the butter. Add the brown sugar and stir. Using a pastry brush, coat both sides of the sandwich in the brown sugar butter mixture. You may decide to increase (or decrease) the amount of butter and/or the brown sugar…it’s up to you!

Coat a skillet with non-stick spray (or more butter, if you’re feeling indulgant). When it’s hot, put the sandwich in. Press down with a spatula to compress the sandwich. Switch the sides and continue press every once in a while. Cook until both sides are golden brown…or darker, if you wish. After all, there are no rules!

Enjoy!

Super-Duper Yummy Conversion-Worthy Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know I’ve mentioned before how I’m just not a big chocolate person. I know, GASP! I guess I shouldn’t mention then how I’m also not a big frosting person (DOUBLE GASP!). But before you lose total faith in me, can I tell you something that will soothe your pain?

I think I’m being converted.

I mean, I’m still not a chocoholic, and I’m even less a frosting person (although cream cheese frosting is. the. best.), but baby steps, right?

And these cookies certainly are helping with the chocolate conversion. They’re not one bit light on the chocolate flavor, but man, I kind of love them.

Tell me they don’t look delicious. I dare you. Okay, admittedly maybe they aren’t going to win a prize for world’s most appealing cookie, but can you still admit they look superb?! And they taste divine. Bonus!

What was that? You want even more incentive to make these? How about the fact that they’re pretty darn easy. Don’t you love cookies because of that?!

Go! Make these for the people in your life who you’re trying to convert to chocoholics. And when you, yourself, gobble them up, I won’t tell anyone. ‘Cause really, they’re that good.

Super-Duper Yummy Conversion-Worthy Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

makes about 20 cookies…so you’ll probably want to double it!

(recipe highly altered from Picky Palette)

Cookies:

½ cup butter
½ cup white sugar
3/8 cup brown sugar
1 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla
5/8 cups all-purpose flour

2/8 cups bread flour*
5/8 cups cocoa powder (I had a special extra dark on hand, but any kind will do!)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups chocolate chips

sea salt for sprinkling

Drizzle Topping (optional, but highly encouraged):

¼ cup chocolate chips (doesn’t have to be exact)

about ¼-½ teaspoon vegetable oil

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Slowly add egg and vanilla and mix until well combined.

In another, small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Carefully add to the wet ingredients. Stir in chips.

Roll the dough into balls and place on cookie sheets. Sprinkle the tops with a bit of sea salt (don’t overdo it!). Bake in 350 degree (Fahrenheit) oven for about 10 minutes, until cookies look firm, but not overdone.

As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, put chocolate chips and oil in small, microwave-proof bowl. Melt in microwave until chocolate is just melted.

Using a fork, drizzle the chocolate over the cookies. Make it as artistic as you wish!

Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely, and then enjoy the chocolate bliss of these cookies!

*If you don’t have bread flour, don’t sweat it…just substitute by using entirely all-purpose (so 7/8 cup flour total).