Archive for May, 2009

Almond Macaroons a la Martha Stewart

The second type of almond macaroon that I made was considerably simpler and had a finer texture. Definitely a good cookie to sip some tea with…light, crisp and chewy.

The almond paste I purchased for this recipe came in a can. I bought this type because it was an 8 oz can, and the recipe called for 4 oz. I simply used half the can. Now, if I had a digital food scale, I wouldn’t have to guesstimate this stuff!

Add the powdered sugar and salt. Blend until crumbly.

Please use your stand mixer if you have one. I had to cut this in with a pastry cutter and then finish it off with my electric hand mixer…

Add the egg white and vanilla. Blend until smooth.

Drop tablespoons of the batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, topping each one with two slivered almonds. This batter will make EXACTLY 12 cookies. No more, no less.

Bake for 20 minutes at 300 degrees, until the cookies are slightly golden.

Let them cool completely. You can just slide the entire parchment onto a wire rack.

You can dust them with powdered sugar for serving, but I didn’t. Also, if you’re going to store these, make sure you put parchment paper between the layers of cookies or they will stick to eachother!

Almond Macaroons
Recipe from Martha Stewart Living

4 ounces almond paste (about 5 1/2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
Pinch of coarse salt
1 large egg white
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Put almond paste, sugar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until crumbly, about 3 minutes. Add egg white and vanilla. Mix until smooth and thickened, about 3 minutes.

Drop batter by tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Place 2 almond slices on each mound of dough. Bake until cookies are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Just before serving, lightly dust cookies with sugar. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days

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Almond Macaroons

Our dear co-worker, John, was leaving us to pursue a graduate degree up north. For his farewell, a potluck lunch was organized. I asked him what baked good I could whip up for him and he replied with Almond Macaroons.

I didn’t know what those were, and I was desperately hoping he wasn’t referring to French macarons. I hadn’t quite mastered that art just yet.

I found two recipes: one from Martha Stewart and another from Cook’s Illustrated. The latter being the MUCH more popular one…I thought I’d document it first.

Place 6 oz of blanched slivered almonds in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse until roughly chopped.

Add 1-1/4 cups of granulated sugar.

Pulse until finely ground.

Almond paste can be found in the baking aisle of some grocery stores (I got mine from Kroger’s). It looks like this and comes in a 7 oz package. Coincidentally, that’s exactly how much you’ll need for this recipe.

Crumble it into the food processor.

Again, pulse until you have a uniform mixture.

I transferred this into a large mixing bowl for the next steps because my food processor is impossibly tiny, but if you’ve got a full-sized one, please continue in there.

Add the egg whites, Amaretto, & extract. If you’re not using Amaretto, you don’t need to add anything to substitute for it!

I mixed this with an electric hand mixer (Yes, I know. I am ill-equipped for someone who loves to bake.) Mix until it forms a ball.

The recipe tells you to let this sit for 20 minutes, but my oven is hot and my apartment is small, so I’d wait for maybe 5 minutes and proceed. 🙂

I used my small disher to scoop out level tablespoons of dough onto my parchment-lined baking sheets. Of course, you can just use spoons.

Bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees. At the 10-minute mark, rotate your pans 180 degrees and then swap racks if you’re baking two sheets at a time to ensure an even golden color.

Promptly remove them from the oven once golden and let them cool on the parchment. I slid the entire parchment onto the counter to make sure they didn’t continue to cook on the hot baking sheet.

They’ll be crisp on the outside and chewy in the center.

Farewell John!

Almond Macaroons

6 oz blanched almond, silvered
1-¼ cups sugar, granulated
7 oz almond paste (NOT Marzipan!)
3 egg whites from 3 large eggs
1 tablespoons Amaretto (optional)
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. You can also use silicone baking mats.

Place almonds into the bowl of a food processor and process until roughly chopped. Add the sugar and continue to process until the almonds are finely ground. Crumble in the almond paste and continue to process until the paste is pulverized and you have a fairly uniform mixture.

Add the egg whites, extract, and Amaretto and continue to process until the dough is smooth and begins to form into a ball at the edge of the processor blades.

Remove from the food processor and allow mixture to stand for 20 minutes.

Drop level tablespoons of the mixture onto your prepared parchment paper leaving about 1-½ inches of space between each cookie. You can also use a disher, ice cream scooper, or roll them a bit with your hands.

Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets top to bottom and 180 degrees during the baking process. The cookies should be golden all over, but not too dark.

Remove cookies from the oven and allow to cool completely on the parchment paper. Makes 3 dozen cookies.

TIPS:

1.You must have a food processor to make thise recipe. It’s blades are sharp enough to cut through those almonds. A blender would just make almond butter.

2. You could buy whole blanched almonds, but slivered is better so your food processor doesn’t have to do so much work.

3. DO NOT skip on the parchment paper or silicone baking mats. You will regret it if you do. The cookies will spread and/or stick and that would very very, very sad.

4. To make them extra fancy-schmancy, a drizzle of dark chocolate would be sublime! (Because I can’t leave well enough alone!)

Necklace Board

I have been on an organization kick lately…cleaning out unwanted/needed clothing and accessories.

I realized that I didn’t wear many of my accessories because I just couldn’t see any of them!!

I had all my necklaces hanging on a belt hanger. Each hook had several necklaces on it and they always got tangled. Not only that, but it was hanging in between all my clothes in the poor closet lighting.

I had an old French memo board I was about to bring to Goodwill.

But instead, I bought a box of T-pins and cubicle hooks and hung all my necklaces on it!

I am soo happy with it!

After that, I got really crazy and bought this from the Container Store to organize my earrings and bracelets!

Ooh and guess what!! It’s two-sided!

LOVE!!

Stuffed Mushrooms

This past weekend at the grocery store, I was restocking my pantry and picked up some whole wheat plain breadcrumbs. The front of the container had a picture of some delicious-looking stuffed mushrooms…which made me want to make some for dinner, so I did!

Wash a package of mushrooms (about 10 big ones). I don’t care what everyone says about not washing mushrooms and to just wipe them with a damp dishtowel. They even have mushroom cleaning brushes, and you know how I feel about uni-taskers! They say if you get them wet, they’ll get tough and rubbery and change colors. Well, we’re not talking about Mogwai (Gremlins) here, we’re talking about mushrooms. Just use them immediately after washing and you’ll be just fine. Nuff said.

Pop out the stems and chop ’em up

Get a bowl and add the chopped mushroom stems and 1/2 lb of bulk Italian sausage. I used mild turkey sausage to be on the healthy side, but you can use whatever you’ve got. You can use breakfast sausage or just plain ground meat, but, if you do, please season it up with Italian seasoning, fennel seeds, garlic and some S&P.

Even though I used Italian sausage, I added some garlic salt and pepper to make sure the mushrooms were well-seasoned.

Grab up a little ball of meat and pack it into each mushroom cap, forming a little mound. Put some breadcrumbs into a shallow dish. I seasoned my plain breadcrumbs with Italian seasoning and garlic salt.

Before you get your hands covered in meat, put a pan on the stove with some olive oil in it and get it to medium-high. If you’ve used regular Italian sausage or breakfast sausage, skip the oil. There will already be enough fat in the meat filling!

Turn the mushrooms upside down and press them into the breadcrumbs. Then place them, meat side down, into the heated skillet.

Once they’re nice and golden brown, turn them over and cook for about 5 minutes.

Transfer them into a 350 degree oven and bake for 20-30 minutes until the meat is cooked through.

Serve this with a simple pasta with butter and herbs..maybe a salad…YUMMY!!

These would also make a great appetizer, but maybe use some smaller mushrooms. To go the vegetarian route, you could substitute prepared stuffing for the meat.

Blackberry Cobbler (for two)

May is the start of blackberry season and they were definitely on sale this past week at the grocery store. I somehow managed to get home with 3 pints of berries!

Here’s a recipe that just makes dessert for two…or for one very greedy person.

Start with two tablespoons of butter and melt it in the microwave (about 45 seconds). Don’t be like me and put melamine in the microwave. It gets HOT!!

Add 1/3 cup of sugar

1/3 cup of flour

1/3 cup of milk

Whisk until smooth (a few lumps are okay!). Spray two 8 0z ramekins with nonstick cooking spray. Pour batter evenly into ramekins. Toss a handful of [washed] blackberries into each one. I put 7 in each.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar on each one

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (Maybe put the ramekins in a baking pan just in case they decide to bubble over)

Let them stand for about 10 minutes before serving

Feel free to serve with whipped cream or ice cream!

Bon appetite!

Blackberry Cobbler (for two)

2 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup of sugar + 2 teaspoons
1/3 cup of flour
1/3 cup of milk
Handful of blackberries

Melt two tablespoons of butter in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Add the sugar, flour and milk and whisk until smooth. Pour evenly into prepared (sprayed with nonstick cooking spray) ramekins. Drop the blackberries on top. Sprinkle one teaspoon of sugar on each ramekin. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

You may have noticed the proportion of ingredients…its 1 part flour, 1 part sugar, one part milk, and half part melted butter. You can easily multiply or divide this recipe!! You can also sub in other fruits and berries or even add spices to the filling and/or batter. Have fun!

Mocha Icebox Dessert

I know, I know…I need to stop with all this icebox stuff. Don’t worry, I’ll start using my oven again very soon (maybe even tomorrow)!

Here’s my last icebox creation for a while…

Start with some coffee in a shallow dish. Dissolve a heaping teaspoon of instant coffee in about a cup of warm water. I added a splash of cold milk for a quicker cool down. I did not sweeten the coffee because the cookies and the pudding mixture are already sweet!

I happened to have a box of Anna’s Cappuccino Flavored Thins on hand. I was glad to have found a use for these because they are very unexciting on their own. You can buy these at most grocery stores and even in Ikea because they’re Swedish!

I would like to stress how flexible icebox desserts are. You can just use whatever you’ve got on hand as long as the flavors go well together. You can even use graham crackers!

Quickly dunk them in the coffee mixture and place them down in your dish. And I mean super quick because these are called THINS. They will soak up enough coffee in a millisecond! If some break, that’s okay. No one will know.

Drizzle some ganache or chocolate syrup on there too.

Top with dollops of your pudding mixture* and then spread it out evenly.

Again, anything goes. You could have used chocolate pudding mix, or chocolate-flavored whipped topping. You can sprinkle in some instant coffee for an extra mocha boost. Whatever you want!

Also, this was the other half of the pudding mixture from when I made the Boston Cream Pie parfaits for two. You can make dessert for one, or two, or a crowd. It’s up to you!

Repeat those three layers (soaked cookies, ganache, pudding) and end with another layer of soaked cookies and ganache.

Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Enjoy!

*”pudding mixture” means a 1.34 oz pkg of sugar & fat-free instant vanilla pudding made with 2 cups of skim milk and then lightened with half a tub of sugar & fat-free whipped topping…but if you’ve been reading the last few icebox posts, you’d know that! 🙂

Diaper Cake, Baby Boy

A co-worker asked me to make a diaper cake for a baby shower last weekend. Her specs: Classic & clean, for a boy, NO theme…

Here’s what I came up with. Kinda boring, I guess my creativity has been waning…but she liked it!