I’ve been making it, decorating it, giving it away and eating it. So much so that I almost forgot to write about it.
Seriously, I have this great calendar that tells me what “DAY” it is each day. Apparently, July 20th was Cake Day. As I have mentioned, a lot, I love cake. So why wouldn’t I bake and write about it? The 10thAnniversary of the Hadassah group I belong to and my daughter’s best friend’s birthday also happened to be around that date, so I baked the fabulous chocolate cake written about in April 2017 and I made a wonderful Carrot Cake.
Let me tell you, Carrot Cake comes with a lot of opinions. Do you used nuts? What kind of nuts? Do you do a cream cheese frosting, and do you put butter in yours? In my house you would NEVER put fruit in something baked. In other homes you might add pineapple chunks to your carrot cake. All this to say that even though I happen to love my recipe, make it your own.
Mine is “original” after years of adapting all the family recipes and magazine recipes I’ve tried. I used to buy the pre-shredded carrots, and they work fine. Now I like to make a really fine shred in my own processor. I like the taste of fresh carrot, but I don’t want a big piece to wander into my bite of cake. I do put a stick of butter in my frosting. I think it adds a richness. If you want to add nuts, I’d go with pecans. Walnuts are also a good addition, but almonds might be nice too.
See what I’m doing here? My recipe is a great base. If you make it as is, you will love it. But make it your own and start a new tradition. Most of all ENJOY!!!!
While visiting friends in Phoenix, we had brunch at Chico Malo. For now, it is just the local Mexican/South American restaurant around the corner but keep an eye on this one. The Group that owns it is about to explode on the scene. Chico Malo literally means “bad boy” in Spanish. The menu is only good things but with a bad boy edge. The food was AMAZING!! Each item on the menu sounded better than the next. I loved that they aren’t trying to re-invent who they are with a whole new menu, for brunch. There are things like burritos and Chimichangas and in some cases, they turn those up.
Everything we ordered was great, but I can’t get my mind off the Nana Marcella’s Drunken French Toast. I’m going to do my best to duplicate. The presentation was so beautiful and the melding of flavors so incredible. The long pieces of baguette and caramelized bananas were stacked as if building a campfire. I learned from the menu that the bread had been soaked in a tres leches bath that not only enhanced the flavor but softened the tough crust to make it easy to cut with a fork. The 5-spice butter was the perfect balance of flavors to cut the fat in the butter while giving a blend of spices that danced all around my tongue, finally landing at the back with just a hint of heat. I had my idea of what the spices were but a quick visit with the General Manager confirmed allspice, cloves, nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon.
These two hints gave me the start I needed to play mad scientist in the kitchen. I mixed eggs into the tres leches bath and I let the bread soak overnight. I did the same thing with the butter. I played around with amounts of each spice until I felt they all shined but the heat from the cinnamon was what you remembered. And so, I began. A couple of things I would be sure of before I started. When cutting your baguette, make sure your pieces will fit comfortably in the pan. You want them long but not so long that they fall apart when they are in the pan. Have everything you need to “build” the dish ready to go before you start cooking. This dish is better served hot, so don’t waste time getting everything together at the end. I noticed when I looked at the picture of the recipe again that there is a pool of tres leches under the toast then syrup. I ordered the Aged Rum Syrup and piloncillo from Amazon. You can probably get the piloncillo at a Latin market and make your own rum syrup by adding rum to maple syrup and reducing until the right thickness.
This dish was such a decadent start to the day. It was rich and the Mimosa I had helped to ease the richness. This is a great breakfast to share or even multiply for a breakfast buffet.
Recently a friend asked if I knew how to make French macarons, since she really wanted to learn. I can cook and bake anything so I was sure I could figure it out. When faced with the task, I was stumped. So off to Sur la Table I went, girlfriends in tow, aprons knotted tight and ready to bake. I am now in love with these small sweet treats!
The class focused on classic, almond flavored macaron cookies; the flavor came from the fillings. In class we made a Blackberry Jam and Ganache and Apricot buttercream fillings. The class was great but it only taught us the basics. I knew the cookies could have different flavors and the fillings were endless combinations. I mean these babies are meant to be customized. So, I put my own spin on their recipe and jazzed it up.
Traditionally macarons are made quarter sized. I recommend making them small, bite size, and make a lot! When they’re small, they can be popped in your mouth just like a small candy. I also made a full-sized “Lemon Macaron Tart”, that was out of this world. The lemon curd was extra tart and the macaron was sweet and almond flavored. Delicious!
I have just a few pieces of advice before you dive in.
Make sure you use Almond flour NOT almond meal. I found one , locally, that is called “ultra” fine almond flour.
Use gel colorings and flavorings. You don’t want any added moisture.
This recipe will get you started making macarons. I hope you will get creative and start adding different flavors and colors to the cookie and fillings.
Preheat oven to 300°. Place rack in lower third of oven.
Fit heavy duty baking sheets with parchment or silpats.
They make macaron silpats with circles already drawn.
In a food processor, fitted with the metal blade, put the confectioner's sugar in first then almond flour. Pulse into a fine powder. Do not over process or the powder will become sticky (from the natural oil).
Press (sift) the sugar/flour mixture through a fine mesh sieve. This process may be done up to three times. You are trying to get the smoothest blend possible. You can discard any coarse meal. Set flour mixture aside.
Make the Meringue:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk, add the egg whites and cream of tartar. Start with a slow speed and whisk until eggs start to get foamy.
Gradually add your sugar and start to increase speed. You can add in vanilla or other flavoring, at this point, before peaks start to form.
Once all the sugar is added, watch closely until stiff, glossy peaks form. You DO NOT want to over beat the egg whites! Think shaving cream, not soap suds. When you have the consistency right, you can fold in gel food coloring. Again be sure not to over work the egg whites when folding in color.
Add the flour mixture, to meringue, in thirds. I find a silicone spatula works best. One more time, do not over blend. You should have the consistency of thick ribbons or lava. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip.
I like to trace my circles on parchment paper as a guide, or use the pre-drawn silpat. Hold the pastry bag straight up and down and pipe small circles.
If you are making one large macaron "top", use a 9" pie guide and work in a circular pattern.
Let the macarons stand at room temperature, until they are no longer tacky and the touch of a finger doesn't leave a dent, in the top. The is about 30 minutes.
Bake until crisp and firm, 14-16 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from pan and making sandwiches.
Fill with anything from chocolate ganache or jams to flavored cream cheese. Go crazy!
Lemon Curd Filling
Place all ingredients in a large heatproof bowl and put over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the bowl does not actually touch the water.
Stir constantly as the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. The mixture will heat and thicken in 10 - 15 minutes. Keep a close eye, to not overcook.
The perfect consistency is when the curds coats the back of the spoon without immediately running when a finger is run through it.
Pulse lemon cookies (enough to make 2 cups crushed) in food processor.
Toss butter and cookie crumbs together and press into a 9" pie dish.
Bake at 350° for 8 minutes.
Let cool completely before filling.
Fill crust with Lemon Curd and gently top with Macaron.
Unless, you’ve been under a rock, you know that the 2016 Rio Olympics are winding down. They have been really exciting and I have enjoyed watching every moment, that I can. Even when I have not been “watching”, I’ve had my television on in the background, listening. The Today show has made a point of featuring lots of local food and drink each day.
Recently, they showed sweets, a very big deal in Brazil, and they talked about Brigadeiros. My ears perked right up because 4 years ago, at a friend’s baby shower, I was served these delicious Brazilian truffles. I use the term truffle loosely. They are almost like a bite-sized molten chocolate lava cakes, with no cake. When you bite into them they are so smooth and creamy, they ooze creamy goodness; but the sprinkles hold them all together.
While I have asked many times for this recipe, I have never gotten it. The recipe is one of those that each cook has their own spin on, so nobody really gives theirs out. It may also be that it is so easy that it doesn’t seem necessary to share a recipe. I loved, when I saw them, for the first time, they were rolled in pink sprinkles for the baby girl my friend was carrying. You can really customize them to any color. So, I did mine in red, white and blue sprinkles and served them in a gold candy cup. Viva America!
It is your lucky day! I am sharing a recipe. I am sharing a chocolate recipe but stay tuned at the end of the recipe and will share some variations.
Make a slurry of cocoa powder and a tablespoon or two of warm water; add more or less as needed. You are doing this because the cocoa powder doesn't dissolve easily into the butter/milk mixture. You want the slurry to smooth and pliable but not too thin.
Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon, constantly. You are stirring to keep the chocolate moving, so it won't burn. Adjust the heat if you need to.
You are looking for the chocolate to start to reduce and get thicker. This could take up to 20 minutes. When it is thick enough you should be able to pull the spoon through the center and have it stay separated a few seconds. Another test is seeing if it holds on the spoon without immediately falling back into the pot.
Once your mixture is smooth and thick, spread it over a pan or plate and put it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to cool through. You want it to be "set up", firm.
When the mixture is set, you are ready to assemble. Start by coating your hands with butter. Keep extra close by, you will need to reapply.
Using a small spoon, or melon baller, scoop a small amount of brigadeiro into your hands and roll into a ball. Roll ball in sprinkles. Cover completely. Place in baking/candy cup.
Repeat until all brigadeiro is used. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes to let firm up again, but son't serve too cold.
If you'd like to make a coconut brigadeiro, skip the cocoa powder slurry and instead; add 2 teaspoons light corn syrup and 1/2 cup coconut milk to the sweetened condensed milk/ butter mixture. Once you start your stirring process, add 1/2 cup of shredded coconut and proceed as above.