Almond Macaroons

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2016. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Almond MacaroonsAlmond Macaroons are simplicity itself and one of the easiest, fastest, most delicious cookies you can make.

Be sure to use almond paste and not almond filling or almond marzipan when making these.  Each of those has other ingredients in them.  Almond paste is made of almonds, sugar and almond extract with water to hold it all together.  It is very smooth and is used to make marzipan which in turn is used in Europe to cover wedding cakes and make shaped candies or candy centers.

It is possible to make your own almond paste and several methods can be found on the internet.  At the bottom of the article several sites are given if you are so inclined. Because we made a lot of these at the bakery we used pre-made almond paste and I still do.  Several consumer brands are available in my area, the largest being Solo Pure Almond Paste and Odense Pure Almond Paste.

These should not be confused with Almond Macarons which usually are a filled almond cookie with the rounded tops and often colored.

Half dipping the Almond Macaroons is optional.  The cookies are great all by themselves.

One of my caterers said he could live on steak and these Almond Macaroons.  We use the Almond Macaroons along with macerated fresh fruit for a lactose or gluten free dessert.  This is also a perfect dessert to end a summer barbecue.

Almond MacaroonsIngredients for Almond Macaroons1 pound almond paste (454 grams)
1 3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar (225 grams or 8 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (100 grams or 3 1/3 ounces)
Scant 1/2 cup egg whites

To make uniform Almond Macaroons, trace around a silver dollar or anything about 1 1/2 inches in diameter on a piece of parchment spacing them about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. This is your template and it should be  placed on a baking sheet and covered with another piece of parchment on top.  If you need more than one baking sheet, be sure to pull the template from underneath the cookies to use again.  At the shop, we had various templates for different items that we saved and used over and over again.

Place the almond paste in the bowl of a mixer or food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Almond paste in the processor bowl for Almond MacaroonsAdd both sugars. Sugars added to almond paste for Almond MacaroonsProcess or beat until the mixture is mealy.Dry ingredients processed for Almond Macaroons With the mixer or the food processor running, pour the egg whites in and continue mixing until it no longer looks wet. If using the food processor, do not turn the machine off until the ball forms or it is completely mixed.Egg whites added for Almond Macaroons

Fit a piping bag with a # 8 or # 9 open star tip. Piping Almond MacaroonsPipe 25 macaroons about the size of a half dollar onto the baking sheet. Let dry for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake about 15 to 20 minutes until a deep golden brown. Cool completely.

Chocolate for Dipping, optionalChocolate and crisco for dipping Almond Macaroons6 ounces semi sweet chocolate, melted (170 grams)
3 tablespoons shortening

Combine the chocolate and shortening in a narrow bowl. If the bowl is too wide, the chocolate won’t be deep enough to dip half the Almond Macaroon.  Chocolate and crisco in a bowl to melt for the Almond MacaroonsMicrowave or heat over a double boiler until they can be stirred or whisked smooth. Chocolate and crisco melting for the Almond MacaroonsChocolate and crisco melted for Almond MacaroonsHalf dip each macaroon into chocolate. Dipping Almond Macaroons halfway. Allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl.Chocolate dripping off for Almond Macaroons

Place on parchment or waxed paper to set up for several hours or overnight.  To speed up the chocolate, place them briefly in the refrigerator.Dipped Almond Macaroons

To Make Ahead: The baked cookies may be frozen for several months before dipping in chocolate. Thaw on racks; dip in chocolate after completely thawed.

Note: These may be piped smaller if desired. Use a # 5 or #6 open star tip.  Dry and bake as above except reduce the amount of time baked.

The following blogs have recipes for making your own almond paste.  I have not tried any of them but they all seem to have it right:

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/homemade-almond-paste
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/almond-paste-15551
http://theseasidebaker.com/how-to-make-homemade-almond-paste/
http://www.food.com/recipe/almond-paste-15869

Lemon Blueberry Cake

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2016. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

finished-lemon-blueberry-cake.jpegThis Lemon Blueberry Cake was the result of a client at the restarurant asking for something I hadn’t  made before.  These requests gives me an opportunity to think about new desserts that I might not have thought about on my own.

The only request was a Lemon Blueberry Cake.  How I put it together was up to me.  I knew I didn’t want to make a lemon cake with whipped cream and blueberries, so I thought about it for a few days and decided that it needed to be a light cake which dictated a chiffon base.  The white chiffon cake used for Coconut Cream Cake was the perfect choice. Light and full of flavor on it’s own it can take a strong filling.

For the lemon flavor, what could be more intense than lemon curd?  Bury fresh blueberries in the curd and there you have the perfect Lemon Blueberry Cake. Continue reading

Stuffed Focaccia

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2016. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

stuffed-focaccia.jpegStuffed Focaccia takes a bread favorite one notch  higher.  I came late to “The Great British Bakeoff” and have always been sorry for that. Unlike American baking shows that seem to care only about the glitz, this is actually a baking show. Anyway, when I finally arrived I loved it to the point I purchased a book from one of the shows.

This Stuffed Focaccia is from, “The Great British Bake Off Big Book of Baking”. As usual I have altered it somewhat, most notably the filling. Mike absolutely loves it. Continue reading

Very Lemon Butter Crisps

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2016. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

very-lemon-butter-crisps.jpegVery Lemon Butter Crisps are all they promise.  Lemon cookies are often rather bland. Many are flavored with lemon juice, but a couple of tablespoons will not flavor a cookie with flour and butter. Lemon zest goes a long way to help if enough is used but by adding lemon extract you get a really full flavored cookie.

I found there is a difference between the strengths of lemon extracts.  I made the cookies with Spice Island Pure Lemon Extract and Penzy’s Pure Lemon Extract. Penny’s had a deeper flavor which I prefer for these cookies.

The dough for the Very Lemon Butter Crisps  dough can be used for stamped cookies, rolled into a log and sliced or rolled out for cut out cookies.  They are topped with sanding sugar which can be found in kitchen supply stores, grocery stores and on the net.  It won’t melt when baked as regular sugar will.   These are a crisp, but sturdy cookie ideal for shipping and sharing. Continue reading

Granola

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2016. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

granola.jpegGranola!  What could be better first thing in the morning than oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, raisins, dates and sesame seed all bound together in a honey glaze? It’s ridiculously simple and, as an added bonus, it’s good for you!! Easy and good for you, what more could you want? Any dried fruit can be substituted for the apricots and cherries. Raisins and dates work well or any of your favorites.  Don’t like almonds?  Use another nut. Macadamias come to mind.

You can see this on Thursday, April 7 on Great Day St. Louis, Channel 4 in St. Louis at 9:00. Continue reading