Wednesday, June 16, 2010

CHOCOLATE-VANILLA MACARONS & CRANBERRY-CHERRY MACARONS

TAKE A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE and The Law of the Jungle

Zebras

Pink Flamingos

The life of a food blogger is a series of ups and downs, a bumpy road of utterly brilliant, finger-licking successes and horrible, miserably stunning failures! Watery, separated sauces, breads hard as rock, cakes dry and unpalatable, soufflés fallen. If we’ve cooked it, we’ve had it fail. Now, this is only human nature, you argue, and you would be right. Life is an unexpected blend of comedy and tragedy, brag-worthy triumphs and embarrassing mishaps. Which, as I say, is all fine and dandy and makes for a much more interesting, colorful life (less the cursing), but when one is a food blogger and the failure is in the kitchen and (worse) we are tight with posting time, misery sets in. The dilemma then arises: do I post the failure on my blog or not? Should I only post the perfect, the tried and true? Or should I brave the shame of failure and open myself up to the risk of losing face and reputation? Shall I use my stunning failure as a teaching tool, a “see, it happens to the best of us” lesson? A dilemma indeed!


Now, my little blog is no showcase for the stunning. I, like my cooking, am not perfect and although I love cooking and baking and I love sharing what comes out of my kitchen, I feel that I am simply in one long learning process. So, needless to say, I have my fair share of failures. Sad, but the truth must be told. But the failure is all the more painful when I fail at something that I have built my reputation on, something that usually works to perfection. Okay, let’s put it all out on the table and be done with it: the macaron! Yes, I am sorry to say but the Mac Queen has failed. Miserably. Cracked and feetless, these babies would have quickly found their way into the trash if, well…, if they hadn’t been so darn delicious! Mmm, as bug-ugly as they were, the chocolate-vanilla marbled macarons filled with a fabulous mascarpone cream with a luscious swirl of melted chocolate were simply fabulous! A thin crispy outer shell gave way to a dense, brownie-like chewy center and the cool, thick cream was just delicious. The pink macaron shells had been flavored with deep garnet-red pure cranberry powder, which gave the cookies an intense strawberry flavor (strange but true). I used more mascarpone cream filling but this time swirled in a couple of spoonfuls of rich, ruby-red cherry jam. We popped them in our mouths one after the other with amazed delight!

The macarons in question were made for the latest Mactweets event: Take a Walk on the Wild Side: the Mactweets Express is bound for adventure! Armed with only the barest of equipment, the most necessary of arms, whisks, beaters, spatulas and pastry bags, we were left to wander through jungle and across the savannah, hunting for the most dangerous of wild creatures which we were to then capture, bag and carry back to camp to turn into the wildest, the tastiest of macarons. I plunged headfirst into the dense underbrush of my kitchen with barely a pith helmet or mosquito net to protect me, and, pastry bag poised and ready to use at the merest hint of danger, I forged ahead, whipping, sifting, piping like there was no tomorrow, as if my very life depended on it. Working from morning to night, the sun beating down, the humidity rising, snakes and scorpions threatening me with that one fatal bite, I worked and worked. Then I heard it. Ears alert and eyes peeled, I saw movement in the distance, heard the rustle of leaves, the stomp of hooves, the flutter of flapping wings. Cautiously I headed towards the noise, quietly so as not to draw attention to myself, I stepped out into the clearing and saw the herd of zebras and the flocks of tall, elegant pink flamingos.


Well, sadly, I am no Jane nor Sheena Queen of the Jungle, and, slow on my toes, the only wild beasties I managed to bag were the old, slightly deformed ones, the rejects of the crowd, the ones so slow themselves that I managed to catch up and toss my net over their little heads. Oh well, the luck of the hunt was not with me this day, but whipped up, piped out and baked, these babies were tasty treats after all. Okay, so my adventure was more like a Marx Brothers comedy than a Tarzan movie, but done is done and lesson learned: a bit too much confidence and the wrong conditions and things don’t turn out the way one had planned.


It’s a Jungle out there! Food blogging is a dog eat dog world and everyone wants to be King (or in my case Mac Queen) of the Jungle. We move in a herd and hopefully it is one in which we all watch over one another, encouraging, supporting, picking nits out of each others’ hair, rolling on the ground in joyful abandon. The Law of the Jungle is an easy one to learn: over confidence always comes back to bite us in the rear end! We learn from our lessons and hopefully in sharing our mistakes, our faux pas, our little trip ups, we can slow down, understand and improve with each attempt.


But revenge shall be mine and I shall recreate these delectable treats and offer you perfection on a plate.


Thanks to my darling mac partner and sister Deeba! And you can see all of the fabulous Wild Macs created by our fellow MacPassionate Bakers here! Et merci comme toujours à Mathilde pour les belles journées macarons! And thanks to Deeba, Ken and Mardi for patting me on the back and convincing me to post these little beasties anyway.


ZEBRA MACARONS



Vanilla batter:
100 g (3 ½ oz) powdered/confectioner’s sugar
55 g (2 oz) finely ground blanched almonds
1 ½ large egg whites (about 55 g/2 oz)
15 g (1/2 oz/1 Tbs) granulated sugar
Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean

Chocolate batter:
100 g (3 ½ oz) powdered/confectioner’s sugar
55 g (2 oz) finely ground blanched almonds
1 ½ large egg whites (about 55 g/2 oz)
15 g (1/2 oz/1 Tbs) granulated sugar
2 tsps unsweetened cocoa powder


Prepare 2 large baking sheets. On 2 large pieces of white paper the size of your baking sheets, trace 1 ½ inch-diameter circles (I used the wide end of my pastry tip) evenly spaced, leaving about ¾ - 1 inch between each circle. This will be your template to help you pipe even circles of batter onto the parchment paper. You will be able to reuse these endlessly. Place one paper on each baking sheet then cover with parchment paper. Set aside. Prepare a pastry bag with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809).

Sift the powdered sugar, the ground almonds and either the vanilla pod seeds (for the vanilla batter) or the cocoa powder (for the chocolate batter) together into two separate mixing bowls, one for each recipe.

In a standing mixer or with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites, again, each measure of 55 grams in a separate bowl (preferably plastic or metal) for 30 seconds on low speed then increase speed to high and whip until the whites are foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar as you are whipping the whites until you obtain a stiff glossy meringue.

Working one recipe at a time, gently but firmly, using a plastic or silicone spatula, fold about one bowl of whipped whites into the powdered sugar/ground almonds mixtures. Fold the whites into the dry, turning the bowl as you lift and fold, scraping up the dry hidden at the bottom, making sure you fold in all the dry ingredients completely. When the batter is ready to pipe, it should flow from the spatula like lava or a thick ribbon. To test to see if you have folded it enough, drop a small amount onto a clean plate and jiggle it slightly. The top should flatten, not remain in a point. If it doesn’t flatten, give the batter a few more folds and test again, but do not overfold or the batter will be too runny.

You should now have one bowl of white batter and one bowl of chocolate batter. Fill your prepared pastry bag with large dollops of the two batters, alternating blobs of white and chocolate batters without blending the two together. Pipe circles onto the parchment paper, using the traced circles on the template sheets to guide you, holding your pastry bag above each circle and piping into the center. You should have dollops of batter with swirls of white and brown. DO NOT FORGET TO CAREFULLY REMOVE THE WHITE PAPER TEMPLATE FROM UNDERNEATH THE PARCHMENT PAPER. YOU DO NOT WANT THIS TEMPLATE TO GO IN THE OVEN!

Preheat your oven to 280°F (140°C).

Allow the macarons to sit out for 30 minutes to an hour. The top of each shell should form a “skin” (it will feel like it hardened a bit when gently touched). Bake the shells for 15 – 20 minutes, depending on their size (when I touched macs that were not quite done, the top jiggled a bit as if there was still a bit of liquid batter between the top and the “feet” so I let it continue to bake another minute.) I turn the trays back to front halfway through the baking.

Remove the tray from the oven and immediately slide the parchment paper with the shells off of the hot baking sheet and onto a surface, table or countertop. Allow to cool before sliding the shells very gently off of the parchment by slipping a cake spatula under the shell as you lift it up. Be careful or the center of the shell risks sticking to the parchment.

Prepare your filling as your macaron shells cool.

PINK FLAMINGO MACARONS


7.2 oz (200 g) confectioner’s/powdered sugar
4 oz (115 g ) ground blanched almonds
3 large egg whites (about 3.8 – 4 oz/ 110 – 112 g)
1 oz (30 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp powdered cranberry powder
a couple drops of red food coloring

Follow the directions above for the macaron shells, sifting the cranberry powder into the dry ingredients and adding a couple of drops of red food coloring to the meringue to heighten the pink color.


MASCARPONE CREAM FILLING
This recipe is enough cream to fill one set/recipe of shells.

8 ½ oz (250 g) mascarpone, drained
1 oz (30 g) fresh goat cheese, drained
2 Tbs (30 g) superfine sugar (I used about 1 ½ Tbs sugar so it wasn’t too sweet as I would be adding chocolate or jam)
½ tsp vanilla

For the Zebra Macarons filling:
Melted semisweet chocolate cooled

For the Pink Flamingo Macarons filling:
A heaping tablespoon or two of Cherry jam or jelly

It is best to have the mascarpone and the goat cheese almost at room temperature so they are creamy. Drain either or both in a colander over a bowl if necessary.

Place the mascarpone, the goat cheese, the sugar and the vanilla in a bowl and beat with an electric beater on low or with a wooden spoon until smooth, creamy, a little fluffed up and well combined. Spread the cream out and place a few tablespoons of either the melted chocolate or cherry jam here and there on top of it. Using a sharp knife or spoon cut the chocolate or jam into the cream just giving it a swirl effect. Carefully spoon into a pastry bag with a round or star tip so it doesn’t blend more and pipe a dollop onto the bottom shell of each pair of shells. Sandwich closed. You can also just use a teaspoon.

55 comments:

The Cooking Ninja said...

Love your play mobil pics. Brilliant ;)

Jamie said...

@The Cooking Ninja: Thanks, Pam, that was the most fun we had all day!

Debugcooking said...

Jamie..simply brilliant..Love them..you are a wild child sweetheart..it shows!

MeetaK said...

You remain the elegant Mac Queen my sweet. It takes a real Queen to show courage and you have. I think they look wonderful! You know you are my idol and you can nit-pick my hair anytime! LOL!

Jamie said...

@MeetaK: ROTFL!!!!

sunita said...

Jamie, whoever says that they always manage to dish out the perfect recipe without a single failure, is surely lying. I am loving the combination of flavours here.

sarah said...

all I can say is that I wish I was as imperfect as you :-)

Happy Cook said...

I love that zebra macaron, now why i didn't think about jungle around ... no vision for things like that for me :-(

Ken said...

The story telling and honesty of your post is beyond what a "perfect" mac can show. I personally love macs that don't turned out perfectly. This way I can eat them without thinking that I have to save them for photography. Yum I say, yum!

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Seriously? They're hardly a "failure" Indeed, if a novice mac maker were to produce these, I am sure they would be over the moon at how lovely they are (and taste!)

You can totally ignore me, since I am the person who unashamedly posts all her mac failures (but then again I am not the Mac Queen thank goodness - too much pressure!!) but THANK YOU for showing that even people who normally have FAB macs have their off days! But please don't call them a failure. They might get a complex!

Jamie said...

@Ken: Yum is right and I can honestly say that these macs were gobbled down faster than the prettiest I've made!

@Mardi: I LOVE you mac posts and yes especially your Mac Failure posts! They do warm my heart with their humor and honesty. xo

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Now see I REALLY think that onetime we should post pics of our most awful mac failures - that would be fun(ny!)!

Barbara said...

The pink flamingo ones look really pretty.

Deeba PAB said...

ROFL sistah! Bug ugly they are not, precious they certainly are! You know I love the first picture... ...'you didn't burn the beer'! Teehee... how nice life is! You are still the ruling Mac Queen dahlin', and even the odd failure won't knock the crown! Even the Queen Of England didn't get fined for not wearing a seat belt. The rules are different for Queens!! xoxox

Deeba PAB said...

O BTW... I want cranberry powder too... pout!

catty said...

Your little blog is no showcase for the stunning? Are you KIDDING ME? everything you bake and cook looks deliriously delicious and you blog makes me drool... gorgeous macs, I'd love to try a zebra one one day! :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Cranberry powder, that's interesting! Two wonderful recxipes! I love the presentation...

Cheers,

Rosa

Jamie said...

@catty: I just burst out laughing! Thanks for that, funny you!

@Rosa: I have to find more cranberry powder. Found it in a health food store but they've sold out and I've not seen it since. Made the mac shells taste like strawberry!

Barbara Bakes said...

They may be slightly deformed, but they are certainly decked out in their finest and looking wildly delicious. Long live the Queen.

Jamie said...

@Barbara Bakes: (nodding head and doing the Queen's wave....dahling)

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

Darling you see I do think you are Sheba Queen of the Jungle. You're fearless and that's why we love you!

Jamie said...

@Lorraine LOL! Okay, will slip back into my leopard skin bikini....

Cathy said...

Macs are such temperamental little sweets and it's nice to know that I'm not the only one with occasional mishaps.

Your flamingos and zebras are beautiful, Jamie. I've never heard of cranberry powder. It produces such a beautiful pink color.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I give you kudos for trying. I still haven't been brave enough to make macarons. And your photos are fabulous.

Lora said...

First of all, that old Schlitz ad is hilarious. I love your writing and your honesty. It give macminions like me hope and encouragement.

Regardless, I agree with Mardi, I would have been thrilled to turn out macs like these when I first started.

A_and_N said...

Love the zebra macarons! I failed so miserably at making macarons. Gotto give them a try again!

Pink Little Cake said...

My goodness, I want to eat a pink flaming right now.

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

Successes... failures... cooking is a journey, not a destination!! At least you got out there and tried your jungle macarons - I (on the other hand) have not yet worked up the courage to try them! I am a consumer rather than a producer ;-) Love the sound of the cranberry/strawberry ones!

Katharine @ agirlinmadrid.com said...

They look absolutely lovely. Rustic is always more real, authentic and inviting than the perfectly uniform of anything. You are such a gem!

Heavenly Housewife said...

Lovely macs. I've taken a little break with mine, it just got too frustrating. No matter how I tried I couldn't make a great mac. Then I got to ask a real pastry chef about it and he said that even his didn't always turn out right. Thats when i realized i don't need to keep beating myself up about it.
I like eating laduree much more than I like making them, still, I'll be back daaaaaahing.
*kisses* HH

The Duo Dishes said...

Thanks for sharing these! There will be failures no matter how hrd you try. 'Tis life! Lucky for you, they were still edible. :)

sasasunakku said...

Leopard skin bikini? Pics please! ;P I think failures are as interesting as wins - it's the story that counts for me and you can always learn from where others think they went wrong.

Jamie said...

@Cathy: Waiting for more of your perfect macs for mactweets!

@Lora: Ah, yes, the problem is these are not my first macs!

@Jeanne Cooksister: we need a Spicy Macaron Making Weekend!

@Deeba: You kill me! The Queen wearing a seatbelt! LOL!

@HH: Ah dahling, you make such lovely macs! And yes now I remember that it was you who said that about the chef. Whew! Glad even the pros mess up! xo

@Duo Dishes: Yep and thanks!

@sasasunakku: Ooh don't think anyone would want to see a pic of that ;-)

shaz said...

LOved, loved, loved all the pics Jamie. So glad you decided to post, and they still look so pretty even if feetless :)

On to the next Mactweets ride, O Queen.

elra said...

Such a delicious treats Jaime. Haven't made it since a while.

Vivian said...

Jamie these are lovely! I love how you staged a jungle scene with Lego's. As my husband would say when I have a failed batch "Ain't nothing wrong with these!" All while he was popping mac shells into his mouth :)

Jamie said...

@Vivian: I'd like your husband! My "assistant" Mathilde thought I was nuts when I asked her to help me dig through the huge box of Legos to look for jungle pieces! Was fun!

Mary said...

Just to let you know you're miles ahead of me, cause your macarons look wonderful to me. I do report failures and bad recipes although I try to be gentle with myself and others when I do so. Now to the meat of my response. Sheena's fella needs to spend more time in the gym. Times have really changed :-).

Jamie said...

@Mary: I did see what you may have considered a "failure" on your blog today but I think it was more a matter of taste cause everything on your blog is always fantastic and mouth watering.

And ROTFL!!! Funny you are!

Ana Powell said...

Lovely post.
Always so perfect and delicious too ♥

Bonnie said...

The taste is the most important thing. I've bookmarked the recipe. They do look lovely and we all have failures. Most of us just won't admit them.

Nicisme said...

Those are awesome as usual! Love the pink ones most of all.

Snooky doodle said...

wow these macaroons are spectacular :)

Heather Davis said...

Now that's the attitude of a formidable member of the new & improved cooking spice girls. You go girl! However, they look pretty good to me. As a MacQueen I think you have quite high expectations but to the novice they look amazing.

lisaiscooking said...

I'm having my fair share of failures lately! Your pink flamingos sound fantastic. I have to find some cranberry powder now.

Lisa said...

Jamie..I'm so bummed I had to skip this Mac Attack because I had these black and white zebra macs planned, which I had succeeded with before(shocking lol). In any event, this line resonated with me but when one is a food blogger and the failure is in the kitchen and (worse) we are tight with posting time, misery sets in. OH, do I know that feeling all too well! the last two months have been a mess - in the kitchen and personally (or to put it in a better way, life affects what you do in the kitchen)!

I think your macs turned out gorgeous! I'm not seeing what you felt was failure aesthetically, at all! The flavors and brownie like center sound so luscious, as does the cranberry masquerading as strawberry :)

Ivy said...

I've had my share of failures in a lot of recipes but then that's how we learn. I have never maked macarons and may be I shall try making them one day. I've never heard of cranberry powder before. Is there a substitute?

tasteofbeirut said...

They look fantastic to me; am I missing something? love these flavors too!

Jamie said...

@Ivy - I always use the same basic macarons recipe (which usually works!) and added cranberry powder as I had some. You can add any flavoring as long as it is in powder form. Dried fruit ground into powder works as does natural teas/infusions made with flowders, fruit, leaves.

Ken of Hungry Rabbit gave me this link: https://www.nutrifruit.com/index.php a bit pricy but interesting.

Jamie said...

Thanks to all the very nice, generous comments! I love seeing all of you here! Thanks a million for stopping by (Taste of Beirut, Lisa, Lisa, Ivy, Heather, Nic, Bonnie, all of you!)

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

Ha, ha you've really tickled me this morning! I love your picture with the playmobil!

Marscapone filling with goats cheese sounds truly divine and did I read somewhere about cranberry powder? Another ingredient to add to my "to find" list!

Incidentally we are just discovering playmobil in our house, Ted has a shiny new ambulance to play with and he loves it.

Jamie said...

@Sarah, Maison Cupcake: Ha Ha! Think I need to organize a food blogger Lego play session at my house! If I hadn't been so darn late with my mactweets post I could've spent more time perfecting the scene. Go Ted! Was that his birthday pres?

RamblingTart said...

Oh Jamie, you're the best. "Bug-ugly" - that'll have be grinning all day today. :-) I love that you messed up and it ended up delicious anyways. :-) Hope you have a SPLENDID day. :-)

asiangrrl said...

Jamie, I don't see anything wrong with the macs you posted, but then again, I am not a cook! I like seeing Jamie unplugged because it makes your stories all the more vivid and fun to read. Besides, they tasted fabulous, and that's all that matters!

Sophie said...

I think that these macarons look so pretty!! oooh yes!!

I also love your playmobil pics!! hahahahaha,..very funny!

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