Monday, October 8, 2012

Fleur de Sel Caramel Macarons

Fleur de Sel Caramel Macarons

Summer is finally over in Southern California as the temperatures drop and we prepare for our first Fall rain. Although I love warm weather, I'm excited for all the cooking and baking to come... To kick things off, I decided to bake some macarons. But not just any; one of my favorite flavors: salted caramel or fleur de sel caramel.

I've used a few different recipes for macarons over the years, some with greater success than others. Since it's been a while since I last made these little bites of heaven, I decided to turn to the Queen of Macarons, Helene Dujardin, whose blog Tartelette I've been reading for 4-5 years. If it's possible you don't know what I'm talking about, you have to check it out! It will change your life...


IAnyone who has ever tried to make macarons will tell you how exciting it is when you see feet. Add the absence of cracked tops and I'd say my macarons turned out perfect. I actually jumped up and down and did a little happy feet dance while singing: "They've got feet! They've got feet!". In my defense, I hadn't made macarons in a year, so I wasn't sure how they'd turn out. If you're scratching your head wondering what I'm going on and on about, as the shell bakes the heat causes it to rise and, if done correctly, develop a foot at its base.


Armed with a renewed confidence, I can't think of a better way to celebrate Fall than to bake some Pumpkin Pie flavored ones next week! The house is going to smell sooo good...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Peach Cereal

Peach Cereal

I love fruit, especially stone fruit. Every year, as summer approaches, I look forward to enjoying months of apricots, plums, cherries, and of course peaches. Whether they're served in salads, grilled, baked, or as is, stone fruits are both sweet and tart and pair well with a variety of ingredients.

My mom has never really had a sweet tooth, so there wasn't a lot of baking tarts or pies growing up. My experiences and memories with stone fruit were therefore limited for many years to eating them as is or in salads. I'm not complaining. The fruits were so fresh that it was like eating candy anytime you took a bite out of one of them. And, summer breakfasts were often bowls of, what my brother called, 'peach cereal' or peaches and milk. The weather was hot and humid, so this made for a refreshing way to start the day. Not to mention it's quick, simple, light, and de-li-cious!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chocolate Pavlovas and a Weekend of Firsts

Chocolate Pavlova with Chocolate Mascarpone Mouse

This was a weekend of firsts for me...
First Daring Bakers Challenge,
First time making meringue (on my own), and  
First time making pavlovas, which I can now happily cross off my culinary bucket list, although I suspect this isn't the last time I'll be baking them.

I excitedly joined the Daring Bakers community at the end of last month, after eying its members' wonderful creations for quite some time. As part of my resolutions this year, I wanted to start challenging myself more, all the while investing more time and energy doing the things that I love. Baking being very high up on that list, Daring Bakers seemed like the perfect group to join.

Here we are, a few weeks later, and it's time to post my results for the June 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge, which was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by François Payard.

I will admit I was nervous when I started reading all the different elements that were required. I kept thinking that not only was this going to take forever, but that if I didn't manage to make one or more of the components correctly, the entire dessert would be ruined. Since it was my first challenge, I wanted to stay as true to the instructions and recipe as possible. That said, I'm pretty picky with my chocolate desserts. I don't often like dark chocolate in recipes, chocolate on chocolate (crazy, I know), and the pairing of orange and chocolate. So, I decided to considerably reduce the amount of mousse I'd be making, as well as mascarpone cream, and omit the Grand Marnier, just in case. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly each piece of the pavlova came together. Most of my time ended up being spent waiting for the crème anglaise to cool and the meringue shells to bake.

Chocolate Ganache to Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

As I suspected, the combination of the chocolate on chocolate topped with mascarpone cream was a little too rich for my taste, although I used semi-sweet chocolate instead of the dark chocolate required. My mascarpone cream didn't turn out quite as expected and ended up instead having more of a pudding like consistency, probably because I whipped the heavy cream a little too long. The flavors were there, so it was still good, but it didn't help make the dessert any lighter. I wasn't quite sure how to plate the dessert to make it attractive. I made a couple of attempts at just adding the mousse on top of the meringue shell and drizzling the mascarpone cream, but I just didn't like the way it looked... Finally, I decided to turn it into a trifle by alternating layers of the meringue, chocolate mascarpone mousse, and mascarpone cream and topping it with a couple of plum slices.

While browsing the internet for some inspiration, I came across Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova recipe, and Petrina Tinslay's beautiful photo of the dessert. All I could think about was how I wished that's what my dessert looked like. So, since I have some beautiful meringue shells leftover, I will be making a simple vanilla whipped cream, piling that on top of the meringue and topping everything with fresh raspberries and chocolate shavings. I can't wait!

Thank you Dawn for an exciting first challenge!

Chocolate Pavlova Trifle

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