Tag Archives: baking

Chocolate Orange Macarons

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Chocolate Orange MacaronsThese chewy Chocolate Orange Macarons were inspired by candied orange rinds dipped in chocolate. Stiffly whipped egg whites, powdered sugar, almonds, and cocoa form perfect circles of chewy chocolate cookies that are naturally gluten-free. Then, sandwich two of these macarons with a chocolate-orange ganache that literally melts in your mouth. It is impossible to eat just one of these.

Despite their reputation of being difficult to master, macarons couldn’t be easier. The following two pointers will help you achieve success: The first is to buy finely ground almond flour or almond meal for this recipe. Processing almonds cannot achieve the powdery texture needed. The second tip is to make these on a dry day. Humidity is the enemy of any meringue-based cookie. As with all macarons, the measurements are crucial, so only weights have been provided.

Chocolate Macarons

100 grams almond flour (3 1/2 ounces)170 grams powdered sugar (6 ounces)
15 grams cocoa, natural or Dutch (1/2 ounce)
100 grams large egg whites, room temperature* (3 1/2 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
35 grams superfine granulated sugar** (1 1/4 ounces)

*The egg white measurement is a bit tricky. The weight of whites and yolks can vary slightly within each egg. I use 3 eggs, plus a bit more, to obtain the amount needed. The easiest way to measure the “bit more,” is to whip an extra white with a fork until it is broken up and foamy.

It can then be added a bit at a time until the correct weight is reached.

**Superfine sugar can be made by processing granulated sugar for about 45 seconds. However, it is difficult to process the small amount this recipe calls for. To obtain the 35 grams, process 1 cup of granulated sugar and weigh the amount needed. The rest can be kept in a jar for later use or used in place of regular granulated sugar in another recipe.

Make a template by drawing 1 3/4” circles about 2″ apart on parchment paper

In the bowl of a processor combine the almond flour, powdered sugar, and cocoa. Process to mix completely. Sift the mixture to remove any lumps. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a mixer. Whip the whites until soft peaks form. Add the granulated sugar slowly and whip just until stiff peaks form. They are ready when the egg whites hold a peak without drooping. Do not overwhip.Egg whites whipped

 Fold the almond flour mixture into the egg whites in 3 batches, making sure to cut through to the bottom of the meringue and fold it up and over, scraping the sides as needed.Folding ingredients for Chocolate Orange Macarons

Folding ingredients

 The meringue is ready to pipe when it falls from a rubber spatula back into the bowl in ribbons.Chocolate Orange Macarons mixed

 Place the template on a baking sheet and cover it with another piece of parchment paper. Template

 Fit a piping bag with a 1/2” plain tip. Fill the bag with about half of the meringue. Holding the bag 1/2” above the template circle, pipe the meringue to within 1/8” of the edges. It will flow out to fill the circle.  Remove the template when done.Batter flowing to fill templalte

 As soon as the baking sheet is piped, hold it several inches above the counter and drop it several times to remove any air bubbles. If any remain, prick them with a cake tester.

Allow the cookies to dry at room temperature for about 30 minutes or until they are dry to the touch.Piped on a tray In the meantime, preheat the oven to 325°F / 163°C, and place the oven rack in the middle. Bake for 14 to 15 minutes until done. To test for doneness, move the top of a macaron. If it wiggles, it isn’t done.

Let the macarons cool for about 5 minutes, then remove them from the paper.

These can be made a week or more ahead. Just keep in an airtight container until needed.

 ChocolateOrange Ganache

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon instant coffee
2 teaspoons orange zest
3 1/2 ounces of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (100 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla

 Place the cream, coffee, and orange zest in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, but do not let it boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and vanilla. Let sit for several minutes, then whisk gently to smooth out. Be sure to scrape the corners and edges with a rubber spatula to make sure all of the chocolate is incorporated. Chill to firm so it can be piped.

Assembly 

Pair the macarons by matching size and shape. Paired MacaronsFit a piping bag with a 3/8” plain tip. Pipe the ganache on the underside of the bottom cookie to within 1/8” of the edge.Filling Piped on

Place the top cookie and gently press down to bring the ganache to the edges.Sandwiched Chocolate Orange Macaron

Refrigerate overnight.

Yield: 24 Chocolate Orange Macarons

Storage: These may be held at room temperature in an airtight container for several days.  They can also be frozen for longer storage.

Cheddar Pecan Date Bread – the Quick Version

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

This Cheddar Pecan Date Bread is a sleeper.  Normally, I’m not a big fan of savory quick breads.  But this one was quite a surprise and really quick.

The recipe to which I was referring used cheddar cheese, buttermilk, and bran but I had none.  I also didn’t have the recipe.  What I did have was cheddar, pecans and a bag of dates.  Armed with those I knew I could use them to good advantage.  This moist loaf with its cheesy overtones is the outcome.

Dates can be tricky to chop.  I cut them up with a pair of scissors.  It goes really fast and is so much easier than trying to cut them with a knife.

While you could use just all-purpose flour, the whole wheat flour, while not discernable, enhances the flavor of this Cheddar Pecan Date Bread even though it can’t be tasted.  This is definitely a quick bread to make.  Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Blend together the wet ones and combine them.  That’s it.  Bake, cool and enjoy!

Cheddar Pecan Date BreadIngredients

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (250 grams or 8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (70 grams or 2 1/2 ounces)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar (50 grams or 1 3/4 ounces)
1 cup sour cream (225 grams or 8 ounce)
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (114 grams or 4 ounces)
1 cup chopped dates (114 grams or 4 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (60 grams or 2 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line the bottom of a 9×5” loaf pan with parchment paper.  Spray the entire pan with a non-stick baking spray.  Set aside.

Whisk both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar together.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the sour cream, milk, and the egg. Liquid ingrediants mixwd

Add the dry ingredients, mixing completely.

Blend in the cheese, dates, and pecans.Cheese, nuts, dates for Cheddar Pecan Date Bread

Pour it into the prepared pan and smooth it out. Batter in pan

Bake for about 45 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

The aroma of the Cheddar Pecan Date Bread is heavenly, but wait until the bread cools to eat it.

Store in a plastic bag where it will last several days.

If  you like this bread, I’ll bet you’d like these:

Crumb Topped Orange Date Muffins
Bacon and Cheddar Cheese Popovers
Four in One Amazing Quick Breads

Coconut Cream Pie with a Difference

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Coconut Cream PieThis is a Coconut Cream Pie with a difference.  It has a great crust, lightened pastry cream filled with toasted coconut but instead of oodles of whipped cream topping, I have switched it to a meringue which I think allows the filling, which is the star of the dish, to stand out.

The coconut is toasted to bring out the full flavor.

I love whipped cream, but it often coats your tastebuds minimizing other flavors. It also doesn’t hurt that by substituting the meringue the calories and fat are reduced.  See what you think.

Pastry Cream 

For how to photos, go here.

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon cold water
1 1/3 cup milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar (100 grams or 3 1/2 ounces)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (40 grams or 1 1/2  ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Soften the gelatin in the water and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk until very hot but not boiling. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a non-reactive bowl. Whisk in the flour.  Add the hot milk slowly, whisking well and scraping the pan with a rubber spatula to make sure all of the egg yolk mixture is incorporated.

Strain into the top of a double boiler whisking constantly, heat until very hot and beginning to thicken. Remove the top of the double boiler and place directly over heat. Whisk constantly until it comes to a boil; cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat; add the vanilla.  Tear the gelatin into small pieces and stir into the hot liquid until it is completely dissolved.  There is no need to liquefy it, the heat of the mixture will do this for you.

Transfer to a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream, poke a few holes in it.  Cool to room temperature and then and chill at least 6 hours or overnight.

Yield:  2 cups

Single Pie Crust for the Coconut Cream Pie

For How to pictures, go here.

1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour (6 1/3 ounces or 180 grams)
1/3 cup sifted all purpose flour (scant 1 1/2 ounces or 40 grams)
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces and frozen until hard (90 grams or 3 ounces)
3 tablespoons shortening (like Crisco) frozen and cut into pieces (45 grams or 1 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons beaten egg
1 teaspoon lemon juice
5 tablespoons water, chilled and divided

Place both flours and the salt in the processor bowl. Pulse several times to mix.  Place the butter and shortening evenly over the flour and pulse until the butter and shortening are  in pea size pieces.

Combine the egg, lemon juice and water.  Pour  it in a circle over the processor contents.  Pulse until it forms clumps.  Pour out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Push the clumps together into a ball.  Knead 4 or 5 times for form a dough.  Pat into a circle about 1/2 inch thick.  Wrap in film and refrigerate a minimum of 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out to a circle approximately 13 inches.  Place in the pie pan and fit into corners.  Cut the overhang an even 1 inch all the way around.  Tuck the crust under and flute the edges.

To bake blind, freeze for 30 or more minutes until hard. Spray a large piece of foil with a non-stick baking release  Place it, sprayed side down, on top of the crust.  Fill it to the top with beans or pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes with the weights. Remove them by bringing the four corners of the foil together and lifting out.  Return to the oven and bake for approximately 13 to 15 minutes more until lightly browned and set.

Cool completely before assembling.

Assembly

2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut (170 grams or 6 ounces)
1 cup 40% cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar (22 grams or 3/4 ounce)
Pastry Cream, chilled

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Spread the coconut in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for 5 to 10 minutes until a medium brown, stirring several times so it evenly browns.  Cool.

Combine the cream and powdered sugar in mixing bowl; beat until stiff. Fold into, along with the coconut into the pastry cream. Spread it evenly into the cooled, baked crust.

Meringue for the Coconut Cream Pie

For How to pictures go here.

4 egg whites from above
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
1 cup sugar (200 grams or 7 ounces)

Place the oven rack on the most bottom rung.  Preheat the oven to broil.

Place the egg whites and cream of tarter in a mixing bowl. Beat until soft peaks begin to form. Gradually add the sugar.  Beat to really stiff peaks.  Place in a piping bag fitted with a large open star (#8 or 9 open star) and pipe the meringue into swirls onto the  filling starting at the inside edge of the crust, making sure you are attaching it to the crust.  Fill any empty places with small stars of meringue.

Pipe more meringue on top of the already piped meringue until it is all used.  Alternately, just spoon it on and make swirls with the spoon making sure you are attaching it all the way around to the crust.

At home I use a small pastry torch to brown the meringue.  The important thing is to hold it about a foot away and keep it moving to avoid burning the meringue.  You can see a lot of pastry torches, sometime called Creme Brulee torches here.

Alternatively. place the oven rack to the most bottom rung. Preheat the oven to broil on high. Set the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and into the oven for about 1 minute and 15 seconds or until lightly browned.  Watch it carefully as the top most peaks of the crust will burn quickly.  Cool completely before cutting.   Store in the refrigerator.

Makes a 9″ Coconut Cream Pie  or 10 to 12 servings

You might also enjoy:
Lemon Meringue Pie
Lemon Meringue Cake
Coconut Cream Cake

Neapolitan Butter Cookies

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Neapolitan CookiesThese Neapolitan Butter Cookies are three flavors in one and so unusual, I decided to throw one more cookie at you for the holidays.

Originated by Amy Hoan avid baker in Canada there are myriad variations on Instagram. These are a simple butter cookie that goes together without effort and is easy to shape.  The dough itself is a breeze to work with right out of the mixer.  You can vary the flavors by substituting other powders for the cocoa and strawberry.

To obtain the strawberry powder, I processed freeze dried strawberries in the processor.  However, be sure to remove the package of desiccant that is in the package. Desiccant in strawberries I failed to do that once and when I saw the shreds of paper in the powdered strawberries I had to throw the whole batch out.  If you process the whole package, store the leftover powder in an airtight container with the desiccant to keep it dry.Desiccant in powder Trader Joe’s has these and other flavors.Trader Joe's Freeze Dried Strawberries for Neapolitan Butter Cookies

It is important not to over bake these Neapolitan Butter Cookies  or they lose the balance of flavors.  The bottoms should be barely browned.  The cookies will have crisp edges and soft centers.

Neapolitan Butter CookiesIngredients for Neapolitan Butter Cookies

1 cup butter, softened (225 grams, 8 ounces or 2 sticks)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (250 grams or 8 3/4 ounces)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg
2 cups + 3 tablespoons all purpose flour (300 grams or 10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons freeze dried strawberries or raspberries, powdered
2 tablespoons cocoa*
Red food color, optional**
Sanding Sugar or granulated sugar as needed

*Any cocoa will due but there are color variations.  Black cocoa is what I used and it gives the darkest color of all the cocoas.  Dutch cocoa would be next and natural cocoa gives the lightest brown.  For a deeper understanding of the types of cocoa, please see Cocoa Fundamentals Natural vs. Dutched.

** The use of red food coloring is optional but the cookies will look drab without it.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

Combine the butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer.  Beat just to combine.  Add the egg and mix until blended.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add to the butter mixture and beat on low speed until everything is incorporated.

Assembly 

Divide the dough into 3 parts about 270 grams or about 9 1/2 ounces each.  Return one batch to the mixing bowl and add 2 tablespoons of strawberry powder.  After the powder is mixed in add red food color to get a vibrant red.  (Some of it will bake out so it needs to be darker going into the oven.)  Remove to a bowl.

Wipe the mixer out with a paper towel if needed.  If a bowl scraper is used to remove the dough, it should be clean enough to continue.

Place a second portion of dough in the mixing bowl and add the cocoa powder.Cocoa Powder in Blend in completely.

It is easiest to scoop one flavor all at once then put them together.  Wash the disher/scooper in between.Scoops of Dough

Using a #100 disher/scooper, or about 2 teaspoons each, scoop each of the doughs and line them up on a baking sheet.  Cover each batch with film as you go along so they don’t dry out.

Place one of each color before you.Balls of colored doughGently push them together so they are one.  Roll them between the palms of your hands to form a ball. In hand

Rolled between hands

Roll the ball in the sugar and place on a baking sheet.

These cookies will spread considerably so place about 3 across and 4 to 5 down on a baking sheet.  Below is an unbaked cookie next to the baked cookie.Baked and unbaked Neapolitan Butter Cookies

Bake for 10 to 13 minutes. The white part will barely be brown and they will be slightly soft in the middle.  Do not over bake.Bottom of cookie

I’m not sure why this is necessary, but as the cookies come from the oven, bang the pan on a counter to flatten them. I did with one pan and I didn’t with the other – it didn’t make a big difference.

Yield:  About 26 Neapolitan Butter Cookies.  Store in a covered container at room temperature for 4 to 5 days.

If you enjoyed these other cookies:

Holiday Cookies
Baci di Dama
Pfeffernusse

Sunny Side Up Apricot Pastries

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Sunny Side Up Apricot PastriesYou might recognize Sunny Side Up Apricot Pastries if you own “Baking with Julia” by Julia Child. Michel Richard, the consummate baker contributed the recipe.  These are a playfull French pastry featuring puff pastry, pastry cream and apricots.  The finished pastries look just like sunny side up eggs.  I told you he is the consummate baker! Continue reading