Sunday, November 1, 2009

MACAROONS: Not the coconut ones :)

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

I have always wanted to make these little treats. There are so many ways they could be flavored or colored. Of course since this was my first attempt I opted to go with a green (Very unnoticeable). I'm not sure what happened with that since I have seen macaroons with very vibrant colors. The filling is a simple ganache. One tip I could give that wasn't provided in the recipe is that it is best to use aged egg whites, which means let it sit either uncovered in the fridge or countertop (if it's not too hot). This allows the excess water to evaporate. Apparently moisture and macaroons don't go too well together.

Here is the recipe. I think it worked great.

Note: Macaroon making is somewhat labor intensive, yet simultaneously less difficult than you think it will be. One thing you must do is have your egg whites at room temperature. This ensures they beat up properly, as texture is an integral component to macaroons. You will be piping the batter onto parchment paper or nonstick liners, and some home bakers use stencils to make sure their macaroons are uniform in size. It’s your choice.
Be aware that you are beating your egg whites first to soft peaks. Soft peaks means that the peaks of the meringue curl over when you lift up the beaters. After you add the granulated sugar to the soft peak meringue, you will beat the mixture to stiff peaks, which, true to their name, stand straight up. Be careful not to overbeat your eggs.
You will also be folding the nut flour into the meringue. As with most recipes when you combine something with beaten egg whites, be gentle in your mixing to keep the egg whites light.
Some recipes call for drying the piped macaroons on the counter prior to baking for 30 minutes to an hour. This recipe stipulates that you bake the macaroons at a low temperature for 5 minutes, then take them out of the oven, raising the temperature, and baking them for an additional 7 to 8 minutes. Drying is necessary to get the trademark “feet” on your macaroons. Experiment to find the best technique for you.
If you plan on using parchment paper rather than nonstick pan liners, be careful when removing the macaroons from the paper, as they can stick and are very delicate. Some recipes suggest lifting up a corner of the paper and letting a drop of water fall onto the hot baking sheet, thus producing steam, which helps the macaroons release.
Variations allowed: Fleming’s recipe calls for almond flour, but you can grind the nuts yourself if you are feeling ambitious or can’t get a hold of almond flour. (It is available at many online sources, however.) If you do grind the nuts yourself, be sure to add at least a cup of the powdered sugar with the nuts before grinding. This keeps them from turning into almond butter. Grind the nuts as fine as possible in your food processor. Maida Heatter suggests grinding nuts for at least 60 seconds, or longer than you think you need. They need to be extremely fine—powdery, in fact, like flour. If using almonds, try and hunt down blanched or skinned almonds. This helps with the texture and color. You might also consider toasting your nuts ahead of time and rubbing off the skins in some clean toweling.
If you’d like to use a different nut besides almonds, you are welcome to substitute them. Hazelnuts or pecans are good substitutes, but feel free to experiment with others. Our own Helen, of Tartlette fame, suggests that if you do want to use a different nut other than almonds, to have half almond, half other nut, as almonds are drier than other nuts and help again with that all-important texture. If you have a nut allergy, you can make nutless meringue cookies sandwiched with a filling, but it would be great if you could attempt to obtain the size and shape of standard macaroons.
Flavor variations are, as I said, infinite. In Fleming’s original recipe, she calls for adding vanilla bean seeds to the granulated sugar, and folds in the zest of a lemon to make lemon macaroons. You can add cocoa powder, instant coffee or espresso powder, green tea powder, fruit zests. You can tint the batter (Helen again suggests using powdered food coloring to keep from adding too much moisture to the batter). The same goes for fillings—anything goes. Ganache, buttercream, jam, caramel, custard. Here in L.A., there is place called Milk ( that bakes extra large macaroons and makes them into delicious ice cream sandwiches. You must make at least one filling, preferably from scratch, but what that filling will be is entirely up to you.
An important note about coloring and flavoring: liquid food coloring can be used, but be cautious! Use 1-3 drops maximum, otherwise, according to Helen, it increases the moisture in the batter, and that can ruin the macaroons. She suggests one trick: mix the liquid color with the almonds and powdered sugar and to let that air dry for a couple of hours. This reduced the moisture a little bit. If you use more than 3 drops of food coloring, you’re going to have a disaster. That means using fruit puree is out. One way to flavor the macaroons is to use 1-2 teaspoons of citrus zest, 1-2 teaspoons of matcha (green tea powder), or 1-2 teaspoons of herbs or freeze-dried fruit powders. If you want savory macaroons, you can try 1 teaspoon of saffron or other savory dry flavorings. If you want to use powdered color, Helen says that up to 1 tablespoon is a safe amount.
To summarize:
Mandatory:-Make Claudia Fleming’s recipe for macaroons-Fill and sandwich the macaroons
Optional:-Flavor variations and decoration-If you have a nut allergy, find a good nutless meringue cookie recipe but you must make them into cookie sandwiches with some kind of filling
If you are vegan, I don’t know what you can use as an egg substitute. Suggestions are welcome.
Preparation time: Not taking into account the amount of time it takes for you to bring your egg whites to room temperature, the whole baking process, including making the batter, piping and baking will probably take you about an hour to an hour and a half. How long it takes to make your filling is dependent on what you choose to make.
Actual baking time: 12 minutes total, plus a few minutes to get your oven from 200°F to 375°F.
Equipment required:• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment• Rubber spatula• Baking sheets• Parchment paper or nonstick liners• Pastry bag (can be disposable)• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip• Sifter or sieve• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off• Oven• Cooling rack• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)

Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.
Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hawaii Bridal Shower Cake

A Hawaiian themed cake for a bridal shower. The lucky couple was honeymooning n Hawaii, hence the luau laid back theme. This was a very simple cake however the bride loved the details added especially the heart with the couples initials on it.
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challeng #1

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Today I had my first attempt at a wonderful pastry. Vols-au-Vent is a puff pastry very similar to a croissant or danish. I think the difference here is that the Vols-au-vent does not use any yeast. I could be wrong since the only croissants I have dished out from my oven are the ones that come in metal cylinders :)

This was absolutely delicious and heavenly. I don't think I can buy the frozen stuff again from the supermarket after tasting this. There is no turning back at this point. Due to the versatility of the "Puff" I also incorporated a savory dish because I'm not all about sweets all the time.

My first puff was a classic lightly sweetened fresh whipped cream with strawberry's. I added some powdered sugar over the puff to give sweetness to it. The puff alone is not sweet.

For my savory Vols-au-vent I have a braised lamb roast sliced thinly with a Moroccan inspired sauce consisting of dried apricots and prunes that were slow cooked with the lamb.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Baby Showers

This cake was many celebrations and memories combined into one. Everything in this cake is edible. I was surprised that I did not have to support the crib with skewers. I made some modeling paste to use for the crib. My turnaround time was tight for this cake but the modeling paste dried fast so I could start assembling the crib pieces. Frogs and ladybugs were the theme for this cake. The cake is a moist yellow cake with a delicious merengue icing. I think the frog looking up at me is just to cute...I just want to say awww.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mini Cooper Cake Old School

I had the opportunity recently to do a classic mini cooper cake for a customer. The cake is chocolaty chocolate goodness. The filling was an Italian Merengue, which I think is the most stable, best tasting buttercream ever. The model she gave me did not have the mini cooper emblem we are all familiar with. The emblem on the hood was more of a square of some sorts. I had to add the wings for some type of mini cooper recognition. To get the silver color all I did was color my vanilla fondant gray and paint over it with nu silver dust with lemon extract.
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oh Fishy

It has been a while since I posted some of my work. It's hard to find the time to post sometimes when you are busy with actual orders. My website has yet to be updated with my most recent photos and I'm still trying to find a way to make my gallery great without hiring some web designer person.
This order was great. It was for a 4 year old boy who requested a fish theme for his party. For the kids go the cupcakes and for the adults the cake. The cupcakes were Vanilla. Looking for a great vanilla cupcake recipe was just a massive endeavor. There are some recipes by some famous shops ie. Magnolia in NYC and Billy's Bakery that were kind enough to share there true and tested recipes. Most reviews were positive (Thanks to Martha Stewart's website), some not. I tried them both as well as a recipe from Confetti cakes also in NYC. Let me tell you not all vanilla cakes are created equal. Either the cupcakes are too dry as I noticed with the Confetti cakes recipe or way to buttery as I experienced with both the Magnolia and Billy's recipes. One thing that really turned me off as well was the egginess of some of the recipes. You could just smell the yolk, for me that is a turn off. Ultimately I think I liked Magnolias recipe the most. But as far as flavor they were definitely better the next day and did not loose there moistness. As for confetti cakes, it did not taste bad but it was much drier probably because it is made with egg whites as opposed to the whole egg. Ultimately what I decided to do for this order is make my own recipe sort of an adaptation of Billy's Bakery recipe and a Yellow cupcake recipe from Bakers illustrated. I think it turned out well and I want to try it again to perfect my idea of what a vanilla cupcake should be. Unfortunately due to all my baking and taste testing I'm sort of vanilla cupcaked out.
For the cake, I made a chocolate cake with actual chocolate chips baked in ( A mixture of dark and semisweet). This is great for chocoholics.
The fish were a concept that I came up with and ran with it. I thought they turned out adorable. I painted them very simply. I was tempted to use luser dust on them, but I had to control myself. (I always am tempted to use glitter on everything). Fish were made from modeling paste so the kiddies could eat them up.
Ultimately the customer was very happy not only with the design but also with the taste which makes it more worthwhile.

Next..a few days ago I made a classic mini cooper. I will post the one later:)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Graduation

This book although daunting at first really turned out so beautiful due to the school colors and details requested by the client. Inside is a red velvet cake filled with Swiss merengue buttercream with a hint of cream cheese. The cream cheese was a bit difficult to work with so before I started laying the fondant on I had to make a batch of Italian merengue which is much more stable then Swiss. They both taste the same pretty much. The difference between them is with Italian merengue has a boiling sugar water mixture added to the egg whites vs. Swiss in which egg whites and sugar are heated over a water bath. Other then those differences merengue is the way to go for buttercreams due to its awesome light not to sweet taste.

The cake board was made with fondant pieces and painted to resemble a wooden floor. Making something look inedible at of something edible is so much fun. My cake carpentry was pretty good there.

All details are made of either fondant or gumpaste. The tulips were not as hard to make as I imagined. They were hand painted deep purple.
On one funny note, as I was ready to deliver the cake I noticed that the word "Congratulations" looked odd, but of course I spelled in "Congradulations". How dumb was that!! Well at least I caught it, I will need a proof reader for all my future orders I suppose.
The family was so gracious and I was so happy to provide them with the cake for there daughters great accomplishment.
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Spiderman Cupcakes, Cupcakes in action

Happy Birthday!!
Can you tell where the cupcakes are, this arrangement is so neat but purely accidental. As I was taking my regular photos of this order I realized that the cupcakes fit perfectly on the images, very cool. I had a small order for two dozen Spiderman cupcakes. I had full "artistic freedom" which was really a challenge with spider man because I ended up spending a lot of time trying to decide what to do. The birthday boy just like every small boy between the ages of 2 and 10 loves spider man. I did not want to frighten the kids with spiders and webs. But I did underestimate the kids and they weren't at all frightened by the weird eyes popping out of the cupcakes. At the request of a friend I was talking to about designing this I did not make pink spidys for the girls attending the party..I guess that's best since we don't want to confuse the kids :)
The cupcakes were a variety of white and yellow cakes filled with Italian merengue buttercream (It tasted almost like vanilla ice cream to me). I think all fondant topped cupcakes should be filled with something. Although the cakes I make are moist, cupcakes need some sort of cream. Overall I was very please with this and most importantly the kids :)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Luau Party...This was a fabulous order. It was for a young women's graduation party. After I completed the cupcakes with the flip flops and hibiscus flowers I just felt so relaxed and I had this desire to be somewhere on the beach. It's funny how food can evoke such feelings :) I think to date this is probably the most adorable topper I have made.

Currently I'm in the process of trying to perfect this Dulche de Leche buttercream so I can start offering it to my customers. It has taken me over three hours to caramelize the condensed milk...I think I need to find
a quicker way.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cake Swag

If a cake could swagger this would be it. Yes these are "swags" on the cake made from fondant. There is some hand painted effects on the fondant so I could make it look like fabric.
On the top are some daisy's that are just absolutely gorgeous:)

Inside is a 4 layer yellow cake with a simple delicate vanilla buttercream filling. Now people of all ages can get their "cake swagger" on.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Arabesque Birthday

This is a Moroccan inspired Birthday Cake. I was so excited when I received the request from an out of state client. The client requested pink. I added a light green gumpaste tag which says Happy Birthday in Arabic. I also put Happy Birthday in English, just so the cake doesn't get lost in translation.
I love the whole arabesque look. Making this cake I learned so much about middle eastern design and how much geometry plays a role in the design.
Here is a tip for you fellow cake decorators out there, to imitate the design on the side of the cake use a calla Lilly cutter:)
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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Finally Figured out where this cake came from

A client wanting a purse cake gave me a thumbnail size picture to go from. I wasn't quite sure where it was from but I finally found out!

This is a cake purse from Neiman Marcus.
Exclusively ours. At first, you won't want to cut into this edible masterpiece, but when you taste each layer, you'll be glad you did.
Chocolate decadance cake.• Layered with caramel toffee buttercream and chocolate buttercream.• 10"H x 8"W x 4 1/2"D; serves 10-12.

Zebra-Striped Handbag Cake
Delivery & Processing Only:

THAT IS $23.50 per better be good!!!!!!!!!!!

My rendering of the Cake purse is not that bad. I sort of freestyled the clasp because I wasn't quite sure what was going on there since again I had only about a 1" thumbail to go by.
If I sold this cake like Neiman Marcus my ad would go somthing like this.

Exclusively yours by Bonn Boni. Devil's food cake.

• Layered with swiss merengue buttercream.

• Serves many. • Tastes yummy.