Monday, January 18, 2016

Salted Caramel Cashew Macarons


Entertaining these days presents so many opportunities to poison your guests. We really do live in exciting times!

Far be it from me to belittle anyone else's dietary issues. With my pork/shellfish/alcohol refusal and mild lactose intolerance, you'd be hard-pressed to find a guest so annoying. Although my daughter invited a friend with major nut allergies last week. The girls decided to bake cupcakes, which was quite an adrenaline rush with the worry that they would happen upon some bit of macaron batter and send the kid into anaphylaxis.


My point is, YIKES! For whatever reason, feeding people has now become a minefield of allergies, gluten, veganism, kosher, halal, nut-free and organic. Yesterday, I saw something online about a histamine-free diet. So, yay, another avenue to offend someone with my cooking.

This is a long way of saying, that you should definitely tell people that there are cashews in these macarons. Or just make them with almonds. Because cashew allergies are a thing, and poisoning your friends is not cool.


On the plus side, these are gluten-free. They make great apology gifts for a gluten-free coach if you happen to tell your kid to just hang out for ten minutes while the next team practices, but then you show up late to find the coach waiting with your kid.

"I would never leave a kid behind," she says, and you know she's right. Your cheeks burn with shame, and you scurry home to bake it off. Or so I hear!

Anyway...


These macarons are a combination of two recipes I use all the time. The salted caramel is from the amazing Cupcake Jemma, YouTube star and owner of Crumbs and Doilies bakery in London. I tweaked her caramel by taking it several shades darker than the original. Regular salted caramel buttercream sandwiched between sweet macaron shells, was both too pale and too sweet. You have to burn the sugar a bit to get a deeper, more complex flavor. Unfortunately, this can make the leftover sauce too bitter for some palettes. Just make more buttercream - problem solved!


The second recipe is adapted from Bravetart's macaron recipe. Hers is the first one I tried, and the one I came back to after trying all the others. But because we're adding cashew meal, it's absolutely essential to dry the nutmeal in the oven first. Cashews have a very high moisture content, and you need to get rid of some of that water or your macarons will be hollow. Just spread the ground cashews and almonds on a rimmed baking sheet in a low-temperature oven for half an hour, then get on with the recipe. As a bonus, this pre-drying eliminates most of the resting time. And if your store doesn't sell almond or cashew meal, pulse your whole nuts in the processor to chop before drying in the oven. Grind them completely with the powdered sugar before adding to the meringue.

On the subject of macarons... They are very finicky, and you simply must have a scale to make them turn out properly. So, I always give my macaron measurements in weight, rather than by volume.

Salted Caramel Cashew Macarons


Makes about 24 finished macarons, filled with salted caramel buttercream.
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Ingredients

Salted Caramel
90g water (6 tablespoons)
200g granulated sugar (1 cup)
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or a couple of pinches of kosher salt)

Cashew Macaron Shells
65g blanched almond flour
65g cashew meal
230g powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
144g egg whites
72g granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon powdered egg whites (optional)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Salted Caramel Buttercream
113g unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
180g powdered sugar (1-1/2 cups)
150g salted caramel (about 6 tablespoons)
pinch sea/kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice

For the Salted Caramel:
  1. Stir water and sugar in a deep saucepan until just dissolved. Place over low flame for several minutes until it begins to brown, swirling contents of pan, but not stirring.
  2. When caramel takes on a very deep amber color, remove from heat and slowly whisk in cream. This will steam and bubble up, but just keep whisking, and it will come out smooth.
  3. Finish by mixing in salt and vanilla. Decant to a jar, and place in fridge to cool while you make the macarons.
For the Macarons:
  1. Spread almond and cashew meals on a rimmed baking sheet, breaking up any large lumps. Place in 200˚ oven for about half an hour.
  2. Sift nutmeal with powdered sugar and salt, discarding up to a teaspoon of nut chunks too big to fit through the sieve. If you have more than a teaspoon of chunks, run through the processor again to break them up.
  3. In the stand mixer, combine egg whites, sugar and the optional powdered whites. Use the whisk attachment to beat at medium speed (4 on a Kitchen Aid) for 3 minutes. They will not seem especially foamy at that point, but increase the speed to medium-high (7 on a Kitchen Aid) and whip another 3 minutes, then crank the speed to 8 for yet another 3 minutes.
  4. At this point, the meringue should be thick, with a huge mass of it clinging to the whisk itself. Add in the vanilla, and beat for another minute on high.
  5. Add nut mixture all at once, folding until the batter starts to fall off the spatula in ribbons, rather than clumps. (There are a million YouTube videos of proper macaronnage, so watch a few to familiarize yourself with the process.)
  6. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment. Put half of batter in a piping bag with a medium-sized round tip, and pipe 1" circles; I use a template printed from here. Grab the pan and bang it hard on the counter several times, until any "nipples" in the piped macarons settle back in. Rest piped cookies for ten minutes while you preheat the oven to 290˚ regular or 270˚ convection.
  7. Bake for about 18 minutes (each oven is different), until you can put your finger on the cookie and feel no wiggle at all, meaning that the base is cooked through. Let the cookies cool for an additional ten minutes on the baking sheet before matching shells together and filling
For the Buttercream and Assembly:
  1. With the paddle attachment, beat softened butter for two minutes to aerate. Alternate additions of powdered sugar and caramel, beating to incorporate after each.
  2. Beat in salt and lemon juice, then adjust consistency with additional caramel or sugar.
  3. Spoon or pipe buttercream between macaron shells. Store in refrigerator, removing twenty minutes before serving.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Cookie Dough Party Cake



My family has long since lost interest in my baking.

Cupcakes again? Whatever... Cake pops? Meh...


Luckily, my neighbors' kids are not yet immune to my charms. A couple of times a week, we hear a knock at the back door. It's my little buddy from across the alley, come to see what's cooking in my kitchen.

Do you get Trick or Treaters in January? I bet not.

My kids know the routine now, even when I'm not at home. They say, "Robby was here. I found eight macarons in the downstairs freezer for him."


Robby has put in a special request for a birthday cake when he turns six tomorrow. So this Cookie Dough Cake is for him. It's nice to be appreciated!

Since it's a birthday cake, I don't have any pictures of the slices. But there are three layers of cookie buttercream between three layers of vanilla cake - use your imagination!


In fact, you can substitute any cake layers you like here. I happened to use the Golden Vanilla Cake recipe from King Arthur Flour, but this cake would be equally fabulous with chocolate layers. It would be absolutely gonzo with chocolate-chip cake, but I couldn't quite bring myself to do it.



Cookie Dough Birthday Cake

Three layers of vanilla cake, filled and topped with cookie dough buttercream, covered in vanilla frosting with a dark chocolate ganache drip, decorated with cookie dough truffles.
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Ingredients

Cake Layers
400g granulated sugar (2 cups)
390g all-purpose flour (3-1/4 cups)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
170g unsalted butter, softened (3/4 cups)
283g milk, at room temperature (1-1/4 cups)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Cookie Dough Balls
113g unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
107g brown sugar (1/2 cup)
30g powdered sugar (1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g all-purpose flour (2-1/2 cups)
340g sweetened condensed milk (most of a 14oz can)
128g miniature chocolate chips, divided (3/4 cup)

Frosting
226g unsalted butter, softened (1 cup)
225g marshmallow fluff (half of a 1lb container)
170g powdered sugar (1-1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons milk

Ganache
125g chopped dark chocolate, 60% (3/4 cup)
55g unsalted butter (1/2 stick)


For the Cake Layers :
(recipe from King Arthur Flour)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and beat with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.
  3. Combine the milk and vanilla and add, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.
  4. With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Repeat this procedure with the second egg. Continue adding the eggs, scraping after each addition, until all 4 are added. After the last egg is added, scrape the bowl once more, then beat at medium-high speed for 30 more seconds.
  5. Using baking spray with flour, grease three 7-8" round pans, or two 9" pans. Divide batter evenly between pans, smoothing tops with an offset spatula 
  6. Bake for about 24 minutes, until cake is nicely browned and just beginning to pull away from the edge of the pan. Cool in pans for ten minutes, then invert onto racks to cool completely before frosting.

For the Cookie Dough Balls:
  1. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then alternate additions of flour and condensed milk, beating until they are all combined. 
  2. Divide batter between two bowls, scraping the mixer bowl well (so you don't have to wash it before making the vanilla frosting). Put one bowl aside for the frosting.
  3. Stir a third of the chocolate chips into the other bowl and place it in the refrigerator. After you've baked and crumb-coated the cake, you will pull out the chilled dough and form it into about thirty 1" balls, which will be double what you need for the cake.


For the frosting:
  1. Beat butter using your mixer's paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about five minutes. 
  2. On medium speed, beat in the marshmallow and vanilla, then the powdered sugar. Finish with enough milk to get it to spreadable consistency. 
  3. Remove 3/4 of frosting (does not have to be exact) to a separate bowl. Put the reserved cookie dough (the bowl without the chips!) into the mixer bowl, and beat on medium speed to combine. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in reserved chips.

Assembly:
  1. Level your three cakes with a long knife, and divide the cookie dough frosting between them. Spread the frosting evenly over top, and stack layer. 
  2. Use the vanilla frosting to smooth any gaps and apply a thin crumb coat to the entire cake. Chill cake in fridge for twenty minutes while you form the cookie dough balls. 
  3. Put the dough balls back in the fridge, and take the cake out to apply a final coat of frosting. Don't get carried away smoothing it out - ganache covers a multitude of sins. 
  4. Microwave the butter and chocolate in thirty-second intervals, stirring between each. When you still have obvious chunks of chocolate, stop heating and stir until they dissolve. Transfer ganache to a pastry bag with a small round tip (or a ziplock bag with a corner snipped, in a pinch). 
  5. Work your way around the edge of the cake, squeezing out individual drips of chocolate as you go. Fill in the top of the cake, smooth with a flat knife, and decorate with cookie dough balls. Allow cake to set in the fridge or freezer before serving.