Thursday, December 10, 2015

Chanukah Macarons




Whose idea was it to have an eight-day holiday centered around greasy foods?

I already feel ill. And my Instagram feed is starting to fill up with kale soups from fellow members of the tribe who are ready to go on a juice cleanse just four days into this holiday.


Jews around the world mark the festival of Chanukah by eating oily foods like jelly doughnuts, called sufganiyot, and fried potato pancakes, called latkes. If this seems odd to you, you probably spent the weekend driving around with a tree tied to your car roof. I could Jewsplain the whole thing, but basically...

They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat. (Applies to most Jewish holidays.)


But, seriously, who would actually eat a jelly doughnut any other week of the year? What is that red gloop in the middle? What fruit makes jelly that glows in the dark?

I went to the best kosher bakery and got a few of every kind. Even the kids were unenthusiastic.


So, I whipped up these Chanukah macarons and used raspberry jam in the buttercream. See, it's kinda like a jelly doughnut! I happened to have candy melts and molds around, but gelt toppers are super cute.



This "recipe" is more of a concept. Basically, you take your plain macaron shells, top with gelt, and fill with frosting mixed with jam. But, if you were looking for something more specific, I'm happy to oblige.

(But only if you buy a scale. You just can't make macarons without one.)


Chanukah Macarons

Yield: 24 4cm filled macarons
_____________________________________________

Ingredients

For the Macarons:
72g egg whites
36g granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon powdered egg white (optional)
60g blanched almond meal
115g powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

For the Filling:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (170g)
8 oz marshmallow fluff (227)
1 cup powdered sugar (120g)
1/4 cup seeded raspberry jam

Optional Decorations:
Gelt
Candy melts

  1. Beat egg whites, granulated sugar, and powdered whites at medium speed (KitchenAid 4) for three minutes. Increase speed to medium-high (KitchenAid 7) for three more minutes, then up to high (KitchenAid 8) for a final three minutes. Add vanilla and almond extracts and any gel coloring you desire, then beat at top speed for an additional minute.
  2. While eggs are whipping, sieve together almond flour, powdered sugar, and salt. When meringue is ready, fold the dry ingredients into it until the mixture has a texture like lava. You'll know you're there when you can a drop of batter settles back into the mixture within thirty seconds.
  3. Pipe 1.25" rounds, 1" apart on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment. I use this template underneath as a guide. After piping, take the tray and bang it very forcefully on the counter to knock out all the bubbles. Do not skip this step - it is much more important than resting the macarons!
  4. Preheat the oven to 300˚ (280˚ convection). Rest the macarons for about 15 minutes on the counter while you make the buttercream. Bake one tray at a time for about 15 minutes. You will know they are done when you touch one with your finger and it feels solid, rather than wobbly.  
  5. Let the macarons cool in the pan for at least ten minutes before flipping over and filling.
  6. Beat softened butter for three minutes on medium high to aerate. Add in fluff, then powdered sugar. Finish with the jelly, but use your judgement about the quantity - the moisture content of jellies varies widely.
  7. Pipe or spoon frosting between shells. Decorate with gelt or melts, glued on with a dab of melted chocolate chips or melts. Let rest at room temperature for three hours, or overnight in the fridge. Serve at room temperature.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Puckery Lemon Blueberry Swirl Cake


In November, we make lemon cake.

There aren't many lemon desserts happening around here the rest of the year. I can take or leave lemon, but the kids won't touch it. So the only time my husband gets lemon cake is on his birthday.


I know, Poor Guy, soldiering through eleven months of chocolate cakes, bundts and macarons. It's a hard life.

This recipe is a bit of a mash-up. The cake is adapted from Lomelino's Cakes, by Linda Lomelino. I wanted to punch up the frosting though. And, honestly, how much swiss meringue buttercream can you eat? Am I the only one craving a little variation? So I pulled this recipe for microwave lemon curd off the King Arthur Flour website and used it to flavor a cream cheese buttercream.




The frosting recipe makes enough extra to fill three dozen macarons. If you find the acidity too intense, add more sugar and a splash of milk to maintain the consistency. Knowing that the kids weren't going to eat it, I left ours very tart.


So...a very sour cake for my very sweet guy.

Puckery Lemon Blueberry Swirl Cake


Yield: Three 7-8" layers of vanilla cake with blueberries, frosted with lemon-cream cheese buttercream.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ingredients

For the Blueberry Cake Layers

2 sticks softened butter (226g)
2 cups granulated sugar (400g)
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (320g)
2 teaspoons baking powder (7g)
2 tablespoons cornstarch (19g)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup greek yogurt or sour cream (160g)
2/3 cup milk (150g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
4 large eggs
12 oz bag of frozen blueberries (340g)
three 7-8"-round cake pans
baking spray with flour

For the Lemon Frosting

1/2 cup lemon juice (115g)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (100g)
4 tablespoons melted butter (56g)
1 egg
8 oz softened cream cheese (227g)
12 tablespoons softened butter (170g)
4-5 cups powdered sugar (480-600g)
2-3 tablespoons blueberry preserves


  1. Preheat oven to 350˚ (325˚ convection).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar for five minutes. While the mixer is doing its thing, whisk the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. In yet another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk, vanilla and lemon zest.
  3. Scrape down the mixer bowl, and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add the dry and wet ingredients, alternating between the two, and beat until the batter is smooth. Gently fold in the blueberries.
  4. Spray the pans thoroughly, and divide the batter between them. Bake for about 40 minutes, rotating the pans to ensure even cooking. When the cakes are browned and cooked through, rest in pans for five minutes, then invert onto cooling racks.
  5. While the cakes are baking, get on with the lemon curd. Whisk the lemon juice, granulated sugar, melted butter and egg into a large, glass bowl or measuring cup. Microwave on high for one minute, then whisk. Repeat until the curd is thick, about six minutes, then refrigerate until ready to frost the cake.
  6. Using the mixer's whisk attachment, beat the softened butter and cream cheese until soft and fluffy. Mix in the cooled lemon curd until fully incorporated. Add the powdered sugar, half a cup at a time, until you achieve the texture and sweetness you prefer.
  7. Crumb coat the cake and give it a good chill to set the frosting. Apply the finish layer of frosting using your preferred method, then use your knife tip to mar the surface in several spots with holes about half an inch wide. Fill the holes with blueberry jam, then use a long knife or other frosting tool to spread the jam just a bit over the cake's surface. Keep going until you are happy with the design, then chill to set.
  8. Decorate with optional macarons, blueberries, or lemon rind.



Sunday, August 2, 2015

Oatmeal Nutella Muffins


With only one child home this week, my husband and I have become slacker parents. The younger two are off at camp, leaving only a teenager around for us to ignore. Also, it's too bloody humid to cook any real food after lunch. That's summer in Baltimore, but it does make for gorgeous hydrangeas.


Lucky thing I bought this giant vat of Nutella! The kid can live on Nutella sandwiches for two weeks, right?


When I was a kid at sleepaway camp, my mother relied on my frequent letters to know how I was. Today, camps post a thousand photos a day to their websites. Which is good, because my kids write once a week, at most. But I feel guilty if I don't scrutinize that website minutely for a glimpse of my kids.


There's my daughter at the pool, my son at archery, field trip, dining hall, blahblahblah. I think I'm spending more time looking at the camp websites than talking to the kid who's actually home. Lucky thing the teenager only cares about sports, and getting fed before and after practice. He grunts his thanks, then lopes off to watch whatever sportsball game is on tonight. Not that I'm complaining! As teenagers go, A+, right?


Anyway...

I've been making these muffins a lot. Even with the Nutella, I think these qualify as an acceptable breakfast. Lots of "muffin" recipes are just a plan to eat cake in the morning. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But I find it easier to justify frozen pizza for dinner if I feed the boy something nutritious for breakfast.



Bonus: the oatmeal retains moisture, so you can make these muffins the night before without them drying out. Which is good, because the teenager and I are not morning people.


Oatmeal Nutella Muffins
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (150g)
1 cup quick oats (80g)
1/2 cup of sugar, or a little bit less if you prefer (100g)
1 tablespoon baking powder (15g)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup milk (227g)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (56g)
2 eggs
3-4 tablespoons Nutella (57-76g)

adapted from KingArthurFlour.com

Preheat oven to 500˚ (475˚ convection). Line a 12-cup muffin tin with 12 regular or 9 large paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, oil and eggs. Gently whisk the wet ingredients into the dry, being careful not to overbeat.

Drop the Nutella by tablespoons into the muffin batter. Use a knife to marble the Nutella throughout.

Divide the batter evenly among the liners - an ice cream scoop works best for this. Place in the oven and immediately drop temperature to 400˚ (375˚ convection). Bake for 15-20 minutes, until tops are just starting to brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Peaches and Cream Tart


Today I dropped my son off at sleepaway camp. It's the same camp where I spent seven summers, and my son is already a four-year veteran.

Did he get the best bed in the bunk? Darn right he did!


We pulled up at 7:55, and he dismissed me with a "See ya, Mom," at 9AM. We are not sentimental people.


I do admit to a bout of nostalgia when I drove past Baugher's Orchard and Fruit Market in Westminster, Maryland. My mother and I used to stop there on the way home from the last day of camp. My mom is a wonderful, amazing woman. But she was very strict. I knew that our reunion was special because she actually bought me a scoop of ice cream! I was hardly deprived - it's amazing how much junkfood a doting grandmother can slip to a kid. Still, this was a big deal, and I knew Baugher's had the best ice cream in the world.

Photo Credit: Baughers.com
I called my mom on the way home today. She said, "Did you get a scoop of Baugher's Peach Ice Cream?" As a certified adult, I could have gotten a triple scoop, even at 9:30AM. But now I'm lactose-intolerant. Womp womp! (As an aside, Lactaid is like a condiment on the table at Jewish summer camps. #AshkenaziTummy)












I did pick up some gorgeous stone fruits. Look at these Methley and Shiro plums. Summer humidity in Maryland is a bodily assault, but it does make for some pretty fruit.



I used these ripe peaches to make a Peaches and Cream Tart, adapted loosely from a pie in A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove, by Laura Schenone. This is a really beautiful history of women and cooking, with some great recipes mixed in.


You can use any crust you like. I happen to prefer Dorie Greenspan's Sweet Tart Dough, but use whatever works. Or buy it...no judgement.


Peaches and Cream Tart

Crust:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (180g)
1/2 cup powdered sugar (65g)
pinch of kosher salt
1 stick of cold butter (113g)
1 egg yolk

Filling:
3 tablespoons melted butter (42g)
1/2 cup sugar (100g)
3 tablespoons flour (24g)
pinch of kosher salt
2 eggs
3-4 ripe peaches

Equipment:
9-10" tart pan with removable bottom
baking spray
aluminum foil
rimmed baking sheet 


In the food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt to combine. Cut the butter into chunks, add to the machine, and pulse for ten seconds to incorporate. Add the egg and run the processor for about a minute, until it starts to come together in a lumpy ball. Spray a 9-10" tart pan with baking spray, then press the dough into it. You can use your hands and a measuring cup dipped in flour to distribute the dough evenly up the sides. Prick the dough all over with a fork, then slide it into the freezer for 45 minutes.

Heat the oven to 375˚ (350˚ convection). When the unbaked shell is completely frozen, spray a piece of foil with baking spray and press it smoothly onto the bottom and up the sides. The foil is holding the dough in place and preventing shrinkage, so make sure that it completely covers the crust. Place the tart pan on a larger rimmed baking sheet to catch any leaks. Bake for 15 minutes, then pull it out for filling and reduce the oven to 300˚ (275˚ convection).

While the crust is baking, whisk together all the ingredients for the custard. Peel and slice the peaches thinly. Remove the foil from the crust and arrange the peach slices in two concentric circles. If you have a red plum, place it cut side up in the center. Gently pour the custard over the peaches

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the filling is just set. Let cool on the counter before hardening in the fridge. Serve cold or at room temperature.



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Maltball Cupcakes


Why do English baking recipes never work here in America? Am I the only one who has this problem? Look at these cupcakes.


Don't take it personally, Cupcake Jemma. I'm sure your recipe works perfectly well on your side of the pond.

It's not a metric system problem, since I bake by weight. And it isn't the malted milk powder, since I used imported Horlicks instead of Carnation or Ovaltine.

(Do you know how funny the name Horlicks is to teenage boys? Very)

There has to be some difference in the ingredients. Maybe our "baking soda" is not the right substitute for "bicarbonate of soda?"  Maybe American "Self-Rising Flour" is different from European "Self-Raising Flour?" Maybe I'll just use the European recipes as inspiration and seek out an American version rather than lose my mind trying to duplicate!

Anyway...

This morning my daughter climbed into my bed and asked if we could make cupcakes. I am in the last precious minutes of having a child young enough to climb into my bed. I'll be lucky if she speaks to me at all in two years. And this sweet kid has somehow dodged the Snarky Gene which marks the rest of us as a matched set. Of course, those cupcakes were in the oven half an hour later, clad in the overpriced cupcake liners she loves.

But... no. Sad trombone.



Not to worry. I tweaked an American recipe for malted milk cake that worked perfectly for cupcakes. Thanks, Hungry Rabbit NYC! And I adapted a classic Hershey's frosting recipe for the buttercream.

The buttercream is Malted Chocolate Milk. It is RI-DONK-U-LOUS! Send the children away so you can lick the beaters yourself.

I made some extra frosting and let the kids decorate their own cupcakes. They do love to dump that grit on there.


I topped my own cupcakes with both crushed and whole malt balls. In for a penny, in for a pound, right?

And here are the bazillion minis I made for a BBQ this weekend. You know, the little ones have no calories.


Maltball Cupcakes
makes 24 large cupcakes, or about 70 minis

Cupcakes
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk, microwaved for 15 seconds to warm
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups cake flour (210) 
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar (300g)
3/4 cup malted milk powder, preferably Horlicks (100g)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (230g)
cupcake papers, preferably grease-proof

Frosting
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted (170g) 
3/4 cup natural cocoa powder (85g)
3/4 cup malted milk powder (75g)
6 tablespoons milk
4-5 cups powdered sugar (480-600g)

Decoration
1 maltball per cupcake
12 additional maltballs, roughly crushed
disposable pastry bag (optional)
open star tip (optional)

Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350˚ (325˚ convection) and line your cupcake tins. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla. Place cake flour, sugar, malt powder and baking powder in the bowl of the stand mixer and run at low speed for thirty seconds to combine. Slowly beat in softened butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the mixture has the texture of cornmeal.

Add half the egg mixture, then beat on medium high for one minute to incorporate. Repeat with remaining egg mixture, then divide batter among cupcake tins. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the center looks dry, closer to 10 minutes for mini cupcakes.

Frosting:
On low speed, beat cocoa and malt powder into melted butter. Alternately add the powdered sugar and milk, beating at medium speed until you achieve the appropriate consistency. Don't mind if it seems a little gritty from the malt - that will dissolve as the cupcakes set.

Assembly:
Pipe decorations appropriate to your cupcake size. Sprinkle on crushed maltballs, and top with a whole candy. Store in the fridge if you plan to serve them another day.



Thursday, May 7, 2015

Raspberry Cream Cake

Berries with everything! Time for local food!


Okay, maybe not quite yet. This photo is in my raspberry patch, but obviously those are not my berries. Soon I'll have tons of very local fruit. But right now all I have is a yard full of glorious potential.

Cherries

Strawberries


Blueberries


Gooseberries

Soon the truce between me and the squirrels will come to an end - it will be fighting season again in Roland Park. For now, I am still buying grocery store raspberries from whoknowswhere.


For the raspberry curd, however, I suggest using berries from the freezer.  First, because they're cheaper. And second, because freezing and thawing ruptures the berries' cell walls so the juice comes right out. You can use fresh berries, but you'll need to heat them for a few minutes in a saucepan. Either way, the color and flavor will be fantastic. The recipe as written only makes enough for the cake, so you should probably double (or triple) it. I find regular lemon curd pretty dull, but the raspberry recipe is floral and complex - worth the calories.


The cake is a pale, fluffy one from the amazing Sweetapolita blog, made using the reverse creaming method. It may seem counterintuitive to beat the butter into the dry ingredients and then add the eggs and milk, but it does produce a finer texture. Sweetapolita specifies that all ingredients should be at room temperature, but she lives in Canada. In my sunny Baltimore kitchen, everything is tepid by the time I finish separating the eggs. If you live in a place with national health insurance, adjust your recipe accordingly.


Raspberry Cream Cake

For the Raspberry Curd:
3/4 cup frozen raspberries, thawed
juice of one lemon
2 large egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the Vanilla Cake:
1 cup milk
4 egg whites (130g)
2 whole eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups + 6 tablespoons (284g) cake flour
1 1/2 cup (300g) sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons (16g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (4g) table salt
1 stick (115g) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c (56g) vegetable shortening

For the Whipped Cream Frosting:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (35g) powdered sugar

Raspberry Curd

  1. With a stick blender or in a small food processor, puree the berries. Press berries through a fine sieve to remove seeds and pulp, and place the juice in a large, microwave-safe bowl. 
  2. Whisk in lemon juice, egg and yolks, sugar, and diced butter. 
  3. Microwave on high in 45 second intervals, whisking between each, until curd is thick. Refrigerate until needed for cake.
Vanilla Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350˚ (325˚ convection). In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons milk, eggs, whites, and vanilla. 
  2. Place, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large mixer bowl. On low speed, use the whisk attachment to aerate dry ingredients for 60 seconds. Add the butter and shortening, and beat for 30 seconds at low speed to incorporate. 
  3. Add reserved milk, and beat for 90 seconds. Scrape down the bowl, then add the egg mixture in three batches, beating just until incorporated. 
  4. Use baking spray with flour to grease three 7-8" round pans, and divide the batter evenly. 
  5. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until center is just set and resists when you gently touch it. Cool for five minutes in pan before inverting onto a rack.
Frosting and Assembly
  1. Using whisk attachment, beat cream for two minutes on medium speed before adding sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat on high until cream is stiff enough to frost cake.
  2. Using a serrated knife, level cake layers. 
  3. Put half the curd on the bottom cake, then top with a thin layer of whipped cream. Repeat with the middle cake, then top with the third layer and frost with cream. Arrange berries on top and sides. Take copious photos.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Endive Avocado Salad with Pomegranate




I feel like a recipe for salad is kind of cheating. Because the composition of my salads is governed by two basic principles: 1) The Law of Using Things Up Before They Grow (Too Much) Mold, and 2) The Unified Theory of Salad Equilibrium.

The first is obvious - there are starving children in Africa, donchaknow.

The second is intuitively obvious. The Unified Theory of Salad Equilibrium* requires a balance of:

  • CRUNCHY
  • SALTY
  • RICH
  • SOUR
  • PRETTY
*Jell-O salads need not apply. Or exist. Yuck.

You can get away without Pretty, but skip any of the others and it's just a side dish. 

Try it yourself. Blanched beans with butter? Side dish. Blanched beans with lemon, olive oil and salt? Salad. See? Intuitive.

The salad I made today was truly gorgeous, though, so I'll post the recipe. Pomegranate molasses is kind of an oddball ingredient - metallic, but weirdly pleasant as a background flavor. Just substitute half lemon juice and half honey if you don't have it. 

And don't toss this salad or you'll wind up smearing the avocados everywhere. It will taste the same, but no one will know because it will be an unappetizing grey gloop. Sad face.


Endive Avocado Salad with Pomegranate 
3 heads endive, red or white
1 ripe avocado
1 spring onion
1/4 cup pomegranate arils
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
2 teaspoons prepared dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons water

Slice the endive into thin ribbons and arrange evenly on the serving plate. Halve and pit the avocado, then slide a soup spoon along the skin to remove the flesh. Slice the avocado thinly and gently fan across the middle of the platter. Chop the spring onion into thin rounds, and scatter them with the arils over the endive and avocado. Whisk together the remaining ingredients and drizzle them over the top.

Serves 5.




Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Earl Grey Macarons with Milk Chocolate Filling



My macarons were not lovely today. I blame those weirdos I live with.

Lots of kids run their mouths during the day. My people don't even sleep in silence. Someone's always protesting the essential unfairness of the universe. Which is why it was unsurprising to be woken up in the middle of the night by footsteps and muttering upstairs.


You know the feeling of going from sound asleep to sprinting up the steps in five seconds? And the adrenaline rush that comes from knowing that you have about a ten second window before the entire house is awake?

"Go back to sleep. You're having a bad dream," I said.

More muttering.

"Turn around and go back to bed." I ordered.

"What? I'm not having a nightmare. I'm just trying to find the bathroom."

Okay, then. He's lived here for 11 years, i.e. all the years he's been on this earth. Lost in the five feet between his bedroom and the bathroom. I am so tired right now.

This is a long way of getting to my point. Which is, my macarons were not so gorgeous today.


Lopsided, all sunken on one side, with half-centimeter feet on the other, as I knew they'd be from the moment I cracked the first egg. The whites were water-thin, gushing out of the shells. The batter would be too wet, and anything I did to fix it would be just tinkering on the margins.

I have read so many recipes where the writer says, "I use fresh whites all the time, with no problem." Or, "I always age mine, and my macarons fail when I don't." Yes, if your recipe is designed for aged eggs, your results will be unreliable with fresh ones. And vice versa.


My recipe is designed for aged whites, which are slightly dryer. But after last night's hijinks, I was just too zonked to listen to that voice in my head saying, "Put those whites back in the fridge and made the macs tomorrow."  So my spur-of-the-moment macs are less than picture-perfect. Whaddayagonnado!

The taste, however, is perfect. Identifiably Earl Grey, but not over the top. I love the pale blue tint, although my mother informs me that blue foods are inherently vile. And the rich milk chocolate is ideal against the bergamot tang of the tea. So, I'll share the recipe with you today, and hope to make a lovelier batch with aged whites and post the photos soon.


Earl Grey Macaron Shells
125g almonds or almond meal
125g confectioners sugar
100g aged egg white, divided
1 teaspoon Earl Grey tea leaves
1/2 teaspoon powdered egg whites, optional
125g granulated sugar, divided
20g water
3 drops blue gel food coloring, optional


Milk Chocolate Ganache Filling
55g milk chocolate, chopped fine
165g heavy cream

piping bag
plain/round tip
silicone baking mat or parchment





Directions:
  1. Run the almond, confectioners sugar and tea leaves through a food processor or spice grinder. Pass through a fine sieve, then regrind any chunks. Mix with 50g of the egg white, and set aside.
  2. Add remaining egg whites, optional powdered whites, and fifteen grams of granulated sugar. Beat on low speed with the whisk attachment until powder is combined and mixture looks frothy, about two minutes. Kick the mixer up to medium high, and let it go until you achieve stiff peaks, roughly five minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a glass measuring cup, microwave the water and remaining sugar until has been at full boil for thirty seconds. In my microwave, this takes two minutes, but machines vary. Pour the sugar syrup into the stiff whites in several additions, stopping to beat after each. Once incorporated, let the machine run for several minutes more, until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Add in the optional food coloring and beat for another minute.
  4. With a spatula, fold the almond mixture into the eggs. Don't worry too much about this part; cooking the egg whites with the syrup makes them much more stable than the traditional French method. Just keep folding until it falls off the spatula in thick ribbons.
  5. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip, then pipe two-inch circles onto a baking sheet lined with Silpat or baking parchment. Grab the corners and bang the hell out of the pan on the counter. Forget about gentle tapping - give it several good whacks, rotate 90˚, then repeat. Rest macarons for about 40 minutes, until the tops feel completely dry to the touch.
  6. While macarons are drying, microwave the cream just until it starts to bubble, then stir in the chocolate. Refrigerate for half an hour, stirring every ten minutes until it firms to a pipable consistency.
  7. Bake macaron shells in a preheated 280˚ convection oven for approximately 15 minutes. Rest on the baking sheet for ten minutes before matching up halves for sandwiching.
  8. Pipe a generous teaspoon of ganache on half the shells, and carefully sandwich together. Cover and leave at room temperature for several hours to ripen. Then store in the fridge or freezer.
In other news, my mother just told me that bergamot, the main flavoring in Earl Grey tea, is just Bee Balm. I've been growing this stuff in my yard the whole time? Unpossible!