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  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on October 27, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , macaron   

    Daring Bakers 24th Challenge: Macarons 

    The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe. I found this to be a very fitting challenge, marking my second year anniversary with Daring Bakers. Macarons is something I’ve wanted to try for a while. They seem to be popping everywhere in local bakeries, but prices are so steep ($3.50 for a bite of a cookie! I don’t think so…), I had yet to try one. Then came the Gastown Farmers Market last summer. A vendor (can’t find her name now) was selling macarons, 3 for $5. Now, that was a price I could deal with. So I tried the caramel and the lemon flavoured ones. And fell in love. A couple of weekends later, I tried the recipe from Cooks’ Illustrated, but ended up with a pan-full of almond-flavored hockey pucks. Not bad dunked in coffee, but nowhere near what a macaron should be.

    This recipe proved more successful. Reading through posts on the forum, I decided to follow Audax’ suggestion of aging the egg whites at least 5 days. Not being able to find “almond flour” but almond powder, I also decided to dry it out a bit by leaving it in the oven overnight with the light on. Don’t know if that made a difference in the end, but I was thrilled to see feet on my cookies. The domes weren’t quite as smooth as they should have been, but the consistency was bang on. I settled on a simple butterscotch ganache for the filling. Now that I’ve managed to complete a successful batch, I’m already thinking about the next one. Next challenge, getting that smooth dome. Thanks for this, Ami


    Preparation time: Not taking into account the amount of time it takes for you to bring your egg whites to room temperature, the whole baking process, including making the batter, piping and baking will probably take you about an hour to an hour and a half. How long it takes to make your filling is dependent on what you choose to make.

    Actual baking time: 12 minutes total, plus a few minutes to get your oven from 200°F to 375°F.

    Equipment required:
    • Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment
    • Rubber spatula
    • Baking sheets
    • Parchment paper or nonstick liners
    • Pastry bag (can be disposable)
    • Plain half-inch pastry bag tip
    • Sifter or sieve
    • If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off
    • Oven
    • Cooling rack
    • Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets
    • Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)

    Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
    Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
    Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
    Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)


    1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
    2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
    3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
    4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
    5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
    6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
    7. Cool on a rack before filling.

    Yield: 10 dozen. Ami’s note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.

    Additional Information:

    David Lebovitz breaks it down:http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2008/09/making_french_macarons.htm…
    More macaroon 411: http://www.seriouseats.com/2007/10/introduction-to-french-macarons.html
    Get inspired by our own Tartlette!: http://www.mytartelette.com/search/label/macarons
    Go behind the scenes of Paulette: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXIvX0-CEu0
    Watch a pro pipe macaroons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_RfiFoWZKQ&feature=related
    Beating egg whites: http://www.glutenfreecookingschool.com/archives/egg-series-no-1-how-to-b…

    • nutmegnanny 6:21 am on October 27, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Your macarons look great! This was my first attempt too. I was relieved to learn it was not as difficult as I had always thought.

    • Lauren 5:49 pm on October 28, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Your macs look awesome! I think it was a first for many (me too!). Love the sound of the butterscotch filling =D.

  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on October 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , oreos, pho, snickers, , wonton   

    Daring Cooks 6th Challenge: Chicken Pho 

    The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook. A perfect recipe for Fall, this vietnamese staple was a welcome challenge. You can’t go wrong with soup at this time of the year. I had pho once before in a local restaurant and had made a mental note to return once the weather would turn to our typical northwestern rainy season. I’m glad to now have a straightforward recipe I can do at home. One  small change I would do, however, is a little less fish sauce. Aside from that, it was a great recipe.

    We had an optional challenge this month involving dessert wontons. The filling was left to our imagination. I chose “flavours of summer”. We had tried deep fried oreos, jelly beans and mars bars at the last PNE. The jelly beans and Mars TM bar weren’t very good, but the Oreos TM had definite potential. We had also had a deep fried Snickers TM before and quite liked it. So, our fillings for this challenge was a frozen mini Snickers and crushed Oreos. Well, the deep fried wonton, I think, proved an even better cover than the traditional funnel cake batter. We’ll be testing other similar fillings (hum…Reeses’ peanut butter cup…) in the chilly months to come. Thanks for a great pair of challenges!

    Chicken Pho

    Preparation Time: 45 cooking time + 15 minutes to cook noodles based on package directions

    Servings: Makes 4 servings


    For the Chicken Pho Broth:
    2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
    4 whole cloves
    2 whole star anise
    2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
    1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
    ½ onion
    1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
    1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
    1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce

    1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)


    2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
    Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
    ½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
    ½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
    Sriracha chili sauce
    Hoisin sauce
    Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice


    1. To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.
    2. In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.
    3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
    4. Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
    5. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
    6. Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
    7. Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
    8. Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.

    Challenge #2: Chocolate Wontons


    • Small bowl
    • Pastry brush
    • Plastic wrap and/or damp paper towels
    • Wok or medium-sized pot
    • Frying thermometer (if you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the oil temperature by dropping in a cube of bread … if it browns quickly, the oil is ready)

    Preparation time: 15 minutes + 15 minutes cooking time (for 12 wontons)

    Servings: Makes 12 wontons.


    1 large egg
    1 tbsp. water
    12 wonton wrappers, defrosted (keep wrappers covered with damp towel)
    12 pieces or nuggets of chocolate (use any type of chocolate you like)
    High-heat oil for frying (i.e., vegetable oil, corn oil)
    Confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar) for sprinkling


    1. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash.
    2. On a clean, dry surface lay 1 wonton wrapper down with a point toward you, like a diamond.
    3. Place 1 piece of chocolate near the top end of the wrapper.
    4. Brush a very thin layer of the egg wash on the edges of the wrapper.
    5. Fold the bottom corner of the wrapper up to create a triangle and gently press to remove all air from the middle. Press the edges to adhere the sides. Make sure the wrapper is sealed completely.
    6. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and chocolate pieces.
    7. Keep the folded chocolate wontons covered under plastic wrap or a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying.
    8. In a wok or medium pot, pour in 2 inches (5 cm.) of high-heat oil.
    9. Heat the oil to 350º F (180º C) and gently slide a few of the chocolate wontons into the hot oil. Make sure you don’t crowd the chocolate wontons.
    10. Fry the wontons for 1 ½ minutes, then flip over and fry another minute until both sides are golden brown and crisp.

    • Frenchie 3:32 pm on October 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Wonderful job! The fried oreo wontons sound unbelievable.

    • Heather B 3:54 pm on October 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Great job! I love your wontons!

    • Olive 7:55 am on October 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      great job with the challenges, love your wontons! 🙂

    • Lauren 3:02 pm on October 16, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Wow! Everything looks amazing =D.

    • lisamichele 1:03 am on October 18, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Your Pho is fantastic, but those oreo wontons have stolen my palate completely..and i love the presentation! A must try for me 🙂 Well done all around!

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