Monday, April 26, 2010

Meyer Lemon Macarons

meyer lemon macarons - top view

****Just a quick note - there's still time to enter my Emile Henry giveaway! You have until Friday, April 30th to enter. Check out my previous post for details! CLICK HERE***

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a lemon curd filled macaron not long ago that ignited an interest in me for all things lemon. Naturally, I felt another lemony macaron was in order. Enter these beauties. Not only did they satisfy my craving for (and new found love of) lemon, they also helped me appreciate that other type of lemon, that of the Meyer variety.

I had never heard of a Meyer lemon prior to last year when I became consumed by the food blog world (no pun intended ha!) where I saw them popping up all over the place once citrus season arrived. It seemed as if everyone raved about the flavor so I was excited when I found some. They're said to be sweeter than regular lemon - a cross between a lemon and mandarin orange. I excitedly made madelienes with them and when I first took a bite I was well, less than floored. Disappointed, actually. They tasted weird. I couldn't put my finger on it, but they didn't taste anything like what I expected. I wanted to like them, I really did. Yet with each bite I was met with a flavor I just didn't like. Did I use a bad one? Perhaps there was chemical residue left on the skin that turned my zest foul? I wasn't sure. Into the trash those madelienes went. After that, I decided they just weren't my thing and put the Meyer lemon out of my mind, happy to use the less pricier common lemon when the need arose.

Fast forward to a day in March when I decided to give the ol Meyer lemon another shot. I'm not sure why, but I felt I needed to give them another chance. I made these macarons and they turned out great! I still tasted a certain hint of  je ne sais quoi - it's lemon, but different. This time, the difference turned out to be good. For a little comparison, I made another batch, this time using a regular lemon. The difference was very distinguishable and, surprise surprise, I found that I preferred the Meyer lemon version!

Not long after I made these, I started an herb garden (fingers crossed - I'm terrible with plants!) with some frequently used herbs in our house hold: basil, Italian parsley, chives, oregano, sage. I also picked up some lemon thyme, which when I rubbed the leaves and took a sniff of I was surprised to find that to me, it smells just like how a Meyer lemon tastes (well, in baked goods anyway)! Intriguing. Is that just me? Maybe, but I'm happy to have found an appreciation for both Meyer lemons and now, oddly enough, lemon thyme.

Meyer Lemon Macarons
adapted from Helen's basic recpie

110 grams almond flour/meal
200 grams powdered sugar
90 grams aged egg whites (about 3)
30 grams granulated sugar
zest from 1 Meyer lemon
yellow food coloring (powdered or gel - see note below)

About 24 hours before you plan to make your macarons, set your egg whites out in a clean bowl to age. Keep them loosely covered, at room temperature with a paper towel to keep any stray dust out. This helps remove some of the moisture and helps you achieve a meringue that is more stable. (Note: If you end up not using your whites after 24 hours, cover them tightly and refrigerate for up to 5 days.)

Combine the almond flour, powdered sugar and zest. Get your hands in there and break up the clumps and lumps. You can sift if you like, but I prefer this more casual method. If you're using powdered food coloring, add it to the almond/sugar mixture. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, whisk your aged egg whites until they start to get foamy. Once you start to see enough foam to hide any remaining liquid egg white, sprinkle in your granulated sugar in a slow, steady sprinkle (or 'in the rain' as Helen says French recipes would state - love that description!). Continue to beat until you have a stiff, glossy meringue. This should take from 3-5 minutes in a stand mixer. You really want your whites stiff and cloud like.

Add your almond/powdered sugar mixture all at once. Gently stir to break down your whites a bit, then begin a careful fold. The key is to not over-beat the batter. The goal is to achieve an oozy mass that looks similar to a very thick pancake batter. It should be oozy, but not flowy - flowy means you've gone too far. Oozy is like thick magma - not the liquid hot, bright orange type of magma, the black on the outside, still red hot on the inside oozy type of magma that wouldn't worry you because you could easily out run it. Yeah, that type of magma.

Transfer your batter to a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip - #807 or #808 work best. Pipe your rounds onto silpat or parchment lined baking sheets. You can trace a circle on the underside of your parchment, or just pipe for a count of 4. No need to attempt a spiral shape (as I did when I made my very first few batches of macarons - makes for misshapen circles) instead, just pipe a nice single blob.

Once your shells are piped, smack your baking sheet a few times on the counter to pop any air bubbles you may have lurking. Don't be scared to really give the pan a good whack! Let them sit at room temperature to dry for 30 minutes to an hour - or when the tops are no longer tacky to the touch.

Bake at 315 F for 18 minutes, or until the shells are hard and cooked all the way through. It's important to know your oven and check on your shells near the end of baking time. I find that I have to bake my macarons at 325 for exactly 18 minutes in my oven - no more, no less. 18 minutes, every time, and at a higher temp than the recipe calls for. It may take a few batches to really know how to judge your timing.

Meyer Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream
makes approximately 1 1/2 cups

2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp cut into chunks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons lemon juice
zest of 1-2 lemons, or to taste

In a double boiler, combine the egg whites, sugar, salt and cream of tartar. Use a hand held mixer to beat until the mixture becomes too hot to comfortably touch - approximately 5 minutes or so. Remove from heat and transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Continue to beat until you have stiff peaks. Add the butter a few pieces at a time, beating the mixture thoroughly. Lastly, beat in the vanilla, lemon juice and zest. Use at room temperature.

A note on using food coloring with macarons - powdered is best but can be difficult to find at your local market (though is easily found online with a quick google search). One thing that I've found to work is to take gel food coloring (this probably also works with liquid food coloring, but I haven't tried it. Gel coloring is easily found at craft stores) and add it to the 30 grams of granulated sugar. Mix them together very well until the sugar is evenly coated. Spread the sugar out into a thin layer on a piece of foil. Turn your oven on to a low heat, such as 200 F and once it's reached temperature, turn it off. Place your colored sugar into the oven but leave the door open. After a few minutes, the sugar will be dry. Take the back of a spoon and break it up back into small granules, as it will be clumped together. Be sure to color your sugar more intensely than you want your macaron shells as the color will lighten once the rest of the ingredients are added.

meyer lemon macarons

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lemon Sticky Rolls and a Giveaway! {CLOSED}

lemon sticky rolls

Yes yes, a giveaway! I am so very excited about this giveaway, but first, please let me blabber on about my new found love of lemony sweets, okay?

Let me just get to the point: I'm a chocolate girl. When it comes to desserts or sweets, I want chocolate. If given a selection, I will always pass on anything fruity in favor of anything chocolate. I like guarantees, and chocolate is guaranteed to please my palate. That's not to say I don't enjoy a strawberry shortcake, or warm apple crisp with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting over the top of it. I love those too, but I don't crave them the same way I crave chocolate. So when it comes to fruit filled treats, I tend to overlook them.

lemon sticky rolls - dough, first rise

I had a shift in my thinking not too long ago when I had a lemon curd filled macaron. I was pleasantly surprised with each bite, realizing how tasty lemon truly is. I realized at that moment I needed to expand my horizons when it comes to citrus. It's different. Refreshing. And seriously delicious.

dough - before/after

Enter these lemon sticky rolls. When I first saw the recipe over at The Kitchn I thought it looked nice and all, but it didn't occur to me that it would be something I'd like to try. However, after working with some Meyer lemons one day and loving the results, I decided I had to give this one a go. Horizons were in need of broadening!

lemon sticky rolls - oozy filling

As I made the dough, the smell of the lemon was so tantalizing I knew I was onto something. And then I made the cream cheese glaze - wowza! It's amazing. Combined they form the most incredible treat so satisfying it forever changed my view on citrus sweets. I've been converted and there's no going back.

lemon sticky rolls - second rise

Just a few words on this recipe; the filling is runny, so just a heads up on that. I had a lot of it ooze out after I rolled the dough into a log. No biggie, but if I planned it a little better I might not have lost as much. These are best eaten warm from the oven and by next day they will be a bit dryer but are still tasty warmed up. You may want to double the glaze recipe - I did and didn't regret it! Half a batch fits perfectly in one pie dish (full recipe is below).

lemon sticky rolls - bite

Lemon Sticky Rolls
from The Kitchn
makes 12 large rolls

Lemon Roll Dough
1 envelope (0.25 ounces, or 2 1/2 teaspoons) yeast

3/4 cup milk, warmed to about 100°F or warm but not hot on your wrist
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 lemons, zested (I used Meyer lemons)
2 eggs

Sticky Lemon Filling
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 lemons, zested and juiced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft

Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup powdered sugar
1 lemon, zested

In the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a couple minutes. With the mixer paddle, stir in the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and pliable.
 (If you do not have a stand mixer, stir together the ingredients by hand, then turn the soft dough out onto a lightly floured counter top. Knead the dough by hand for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, pliable, and stretchy.)

Spray the top of the dough with vegetable oil, and turn the dough over so it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled - about an hour.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and ginger, then work in the lemon zest with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles wet, soft sand. Stir in the juice of 1 lemon. (Reserve the juice of the second lemon for the glaze.)

Lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking dish with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface pat the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10x15 inches. Spread evenly with the softened butter, then pour and spread the lemon-sugar mixture over top. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even rolls, and place them, cut side up, in the prepared baking dish.

Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled. (You can also refrigerate the rolls at this point. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the rolls, remove the pan from the fridge, and let them rise for an hour. If you do this, be prepared for a lot of the filling to have leaked into the bottom of your pan!)

Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into a center roll reads 190°F.

While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small food processor (or with a mixer, or a sturdy whisk), whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and blend until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy.

When the rolls are done, smear them with the cream cheese glaze, and sprinkle the zest of 1 additional lemon over top to garnish. Serve while warm.

lemon sticky rolls - serving

And now for the best part! I am so happy to announce a giveaway sponsored by CSN Stores who have graciously offered to give one of my lucky readers a beautiful Emile Henry ceramic pie dish (like the one used in this post - stock photo is below)  in the color of their choice. CSN Stores has everything you might need to furnish your kitchen from counter stools and cutting boards to toasters and tea kettles. I have my eye on so many things in their cookware department!

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment answering the following question:

What was the last amazing thing you ate?

Drawing closes at 11:11PM on Friday, April 30th.

BONUS: If you're on Twitter, tweet the following to increase your chances of winning:

Giveaway! Emile Henry ceramic pie dish from @violetcassis leave a comment and/or RT to enter

Only one comment per person and entry closes at 11:11PM April 30th.
EDIT: Offer open to US and Canadian residents.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Smokey No-Knead Pizza

smokey pizza - serving

The other day, I got to thinking about comfort foods and what mine are. It seems that bloggers tend to often write about their own comfort foods and there is usually a lovely childhood story behind them. Unfortunately, I'm not quite so lucky in that regard. I didn't grow up with home cooked meals and family recipes passed down from grandma.

No, I grew up on McDonald's and anything microwaved.

smokey pizza - dough

Not very romantic, is it? Mom wasn't much of a cook. (Still isn't, but that's okay!)

I read about other people's comfort foods and they usually sound so dreamy and exotic - especially those who come from different countries (or whose parents did). I sometimes wish I could live through them the best, most comforting moments of their lives, just eating what is soothing to them. The memories and feelings a certain dish can bring back, I truly wish I had that.

smokey pizza - bare dough & sauced

I never believed I did until a recent epiphany. We were in desperate need for a hefty grocery store run, but it was late and I didn't feel like going. I figured I'd find something to throw together and make do until the next day. Being in a rather lazy mood, I decided to make a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich, something I haven't made for myself in years (though I practically make them daily for my son who loves them above anything else).

smokey pizza - onions

As I ate my sandwich, my first thought was how good it was. Every bite made me feel like a little kid again; reminded me of that sliver of time that came after school and before my parents came home from work (yes, I was also a latch-key child) and the freedom of those couple of hours. The simplicity of having nothing to do other than your chores and perhaps a little bit of homework. The excitement of catching an hour or so of MTV (banned in our house - too risque in my parent's eyes) hoping to catch a video I'd already seen a hundred times. And that's when it hit me: this is my comfort food! I never would have thought of PB&J that way, but there it was. Each bite took me back to a simpler time and gave me a touch of the warm and fuzzies inside. And that is what comfort foods are all about. It's not gourmet, it's just simple and good. I like that.

smokey pizza - toppings

smokey pizza - ready to bake

This pizza I made recently is also just that: simple and good. It's not quite as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but it's incredibly easy for a homemade pizza. You can make it after work and not feel like you had to put much effort into it.  The crust is a simple a no-knead recipe and only requires 2 1/2 hours total of rise time and turns out thin and crispy.

While you can always add whatever toppings you wish, I really wanted to showcase one of my favorite cheeses on this pizza. I used Beecher's Smoked Flagship which is amazing alone and even more incredible on a pizza. A little goes a long way and the smokiness is not overpowering. One bite and your eyes sort of roll back and you can't help but let out an enthusiastic, "Mmmmm!"

Smokey pizza - before/after basil

This recipe makes enough dough for two thin crust pizzas (sheet pan sized - 13 by 18 inch). I halved the recipe and it worked just fine. I prefer to use weight measurements but also included volumetric to the right if you don't have a scale.

One more note - no-knead bread is usually very wet and sticky. That is not the case with this recipe, in fact, it's the driest no-knead dough I've come across yet. You may have to really get in there and mix those last bits of dough into one ball - don't let that worry you! Sometimes hands are the best utensil :)

Basic Pizza Dough
from My Bread by Jim Lahey

500 grams bread flour (all purpose is fine) / 3 3/4 cups
10 grams instant or active dry yeast / 2 1/2 teaspoons
5 grams table salt / 3/4 teaspoon
3 grams sugar / 3/4 teaspoon
300 grams room temp. water (about 72 F) / 1 1/3 cups
extra virgin olive oil

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add the water and using your hands, mix until well blended. At this point, it won't seem like typical no-knead dough, but much drier. Cover with a towel and let rise until more than double, or approximately 2 hours.

Remove dough from bowl and form into a rough ball. Divide into two halves and space them about 4-5 inches apart; cover both with a moistened towel (so it doesn't stick) for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 475-500 (if it goes that high, if not 475 is fine) and prepare your toppings. I prefer to keep it simple, so I used leftover spaghetti sauce, red onion, a roma tomato, Beecher's Smoked Flagship and a bit of manchego cheese that needed to be used.

Lightly oil your sheet pan. Take your dough ball and gently stretch it the length of your sheet pan and place it in the middle of the pan. Carefully stretch your dough until it covers the entire sheet pan. This dough is very easy to stretch and doesn't snap back on you. You may need to work it a bit to get it to cover fully, but it will.

Once your dough is stretched you can add your toppings. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the crust is golden. Remove and sprinkle with fresh basil.


smokey pizza - close up

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Delectable Deliciousness Celebrates a Birthday

pink macarons - pedestal

Hard to believe it's already been a year since I began my blogging journey. So much has changed. In fact, so much so that it feels like two years ago, not just one.

I've enjoyed my slow but steady pace along the way this first year and while things have (really) slowed down over the past several months, I hope to pick it up in the future. I have a renewed excitement over many things and as most bloggers and food enthusiasts, a looong list of things I wish to try and experiment with.

One thing I'm truly focused on is improving my photography skills. There's always more to learn and I am very eager to do so! It truly makes me happy to look at some of the images I've captured and this blog certainly is a collection of a lot of them. I feel I can see a bit of growth in my images from last year at this time and that makes me happy.

pink macarons - short stack

I am still excited to read every new comment from you, my readers ("I have readers!" She says, excitedly) and appreciate every single one of them. I know things can be slow around here and I am so happy to know that there are people out there, taking time out of their day, their busy life, to stop by here to look around and sometimes even say a word or two of encouragement.

For that, I thank you.

And if I could, I'd bake you all a batch of these scrumptious macarons and send them to you to show you that I really mean it! :)

Happy 1st Birthday Delectable Deliciousness!

pink macarons - bite