Tuesday, March 20, 2012




I am anti-trend. Yes, I have worked in the arts. And fashion. Now food. How much trendier, how much under the influence can one get than art, fashion and food? Yet I recoil from trends, fads and crazes with a knee-jerk reaction, like being faced with the plague. Never one to easily fit in, I found that no matter how I tried to wear the latest styles or act like the others I looked little more than a misfit, a goon (yes), so why bother? While others were oohing and ahhing over the hot new artiste du jour, the David Salle or Julian Schnabel or whoever was being promoted as hot, I was too much of a naturally born skeptic to follow the crowd blindly, analyzing, over-analyzing and doubting the sincerity of this one or that. Too much is made over a film, a book or an exciting new gadget? I steer clear. I may purchase something – a cool pair of shoes, a lovely skirt, all the rage – but then I will safely tuck it away in the back of the closet only to pull it out 5 or 10 years later when the fad has passed and happily slip it on, pairing it with the most unlikely things. I may deign to discover a book or a film several years down the line, but first impressions and doubts tend to stick and I have been known to regret the money spent, close the book with disgust and give it away without having read further than the first chapter. Cell phone? Had to have one forced on me when I began working outside of the house. Iphone? Just got my first and my men still roll their eyes in dismay that I only use it…to phone.

And food. Once one is plugged into the world of food blogging, one has a front row seat to all the newest trends and crazes, watching the hottest, the coolest, the funkiest scroll by with a flick of the wrist: cupcakes, macarons and cake pops, bacon or pork belly, this new restaurant or cookbook. Mini this or fried that, edible dirt, molecular and foam, have absolutely no charm for me. If you must tack the word gourmet, heirloom, redefined or gastro- onto the name of whatever you are selling, then count me out. Farmer’s markets and eating more leafy, green vegetables, eating local and seasonal…wait a minute? Well, we’ve been doing this for years! I wouldn’t call these trends as much as I would call them smart!

Screeeeeech…. Wait a doggone minute there. Did you say….macarons? Ah, the trendiest of food trends, that lovely little French confection, that wisp of powdered sugar and almonds, that mouthful of delicate, feminine froth. Since these tiny, colorful treats have taken the world by storm, shops spreading like wildfire across the globe, one pastry chef creating even more eye-popping, astonishing flavor combination after the next, I have tasted exactly five store-bought macaron selections: Ladurée (much too gooey and sweet), Fortnum & Mason (a tad dry, a tad bland), Pierre Hermé (luscious! Some I could have passed over but his cassis-chocolat and caramel au beurre sale are exquisite) and Vincent Guerlais and Sucré (my favorites, beautiful flavors, perfect shell-filling balance and not overly sweet, simply suggestive, seductive), but I tend to prefer purchasing a box of handmade chocolates to macarons any day. Macarons for a treat, a snack, a dessert are simply not my thing. There is little attraction and, quite possibly, the fact that everyone seems to go wild over them, everyone dreams of nibbling on a chocolate-truffle macaron by PH or is willing to spend hours queuing on the sidewalk in front of Ladurée, so many have elevated this tiny sweet to dizzying heights, had me simply turned off from the get go. Just another trend, fad, craze. And I am so not interested.

So then why do you make macarons?” you ask with a sneer or a laugh. “I mean, just take a gander at your blog, stroll through your own recipe index and there they are for all the world to see: Espresso Sea Salt Chocolate Macarons, Coffee Macarons, Gingerbread Macarons, Blueberry Hibiscus Macarons with Blueberry Vanilla Mascarpone Cream, Tulip Macarons with Honey-Pistacho Mascarpone Cream, Violet Macarons, Vegetable Macarons with Chili Chocolate Ganache, Beetroot Macarons with Smoked Salmon, even Cotton Candy Macarons. Guilty as charged! I’ve been caught red-handed falling in line and succumbing to this latest food trend. But I can honestly say that I was seduced by the baking challenge rather than beguiled by the treat. Never one to be tempted and turned on by any dessert not rich and hearty, creamy and gooey, I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would have taken to the delicate, ethereal French macaron. Husband despises them and I did long avoid both eating and making them, but THIS challenge got me started, thanks to Deeba, the wonderful baker behind Passionate About Baking, and ever since we have baked macarons side by side, in failure and in success, gathering around us so many passionate, talented bakers in our own virtual Mactweets’ Kitchen. And today is World Macaron Day, so I will heartily and lustfully shout out a cheery Happy Macaron Day to you all and share my latest creation: Raspberry Coconut Macarons with Chocolate Ganache for Mac Attack Challenge #27.

These rather brown macarons are indeed Raspberry-Coconut – having mysteriously turned the color of mud in the oven after beginning their round life a stunning, deep fuchsia pink. I added 2 tablespoons of dried raspberry powder – sifting out the seeds – and a couple of tablespoons sifted dried coconut powder to the powdered sugar/ground almond blend of my traditional recipe (without the spice, cinnamon or cocoa of course). I filled the shells with a simple dark chocolate ganache, although if I did not have such a persnickety family I would have stirred some raspberry or cherry preserves into the chocolate. In spite of their sad murky color, the flavor was brilliant, a mild yet wonderful fruity flavor which paired beautifully with the chocolate. The macarons were perfect: a thin crispy outer shell giving way to a perfect, tender, mildly chewy inside. Wonderful.

But to end this anti-trend, non-fad, craze-free sentiment and blog post, I will add on a recipe that immediately became a family favorite: Pudding au Pain. We always prefer the old fashioned, the homey, the comforting over the latest and the hottest. And what is better or more delightful or, for that matter, more popular than a Bread Pudding? But this Bread Pudding is no regular Bread Pudding…. This is French Bread Pudding. The stale bread is soaked in hot milk and then the softened bread is mashed into a purée into which is blended the rest of the ingredients. Plump raisins are added for sweetness to an otherwise lightly sweetened pudding and baked under a lovely caramel. Of course, I based the recipe on JP’s favorite Françoise Bernard from Recettes Faciles, but giving it my all-American twist of finely grated orange zest, a dash of cinnamon and a splash of vanilla.

The result? Instead of chunks of bread rising to the top and getting crusty while others remain soft and rather than, as so often happens, the custard separating during the baking, the puréed bread blends into a batter-type mixture and creates a dense, chewy, pudding-like cake. This is a marvelous way to use up any type of stale bread or cake, any and all kinds blended together; this is a staple of most French boulangeries: leftover breads and cakes are used to create a very popular, old-fashioned dessert, either vanilla or chocolate and topped with either gooey caramel or a chocolate glaze or ganache. Next time you crave bread pudding, next time you have stale bread piling up around you calling for attention, make this fabulous French Bread Pudding. Gorgeous, addictive, a perfect balance between very delicately sweetened pudding and sweet, sweet raisins, mildly bitter caramel and the hint of orange and cinnamon….a truly stunning treat.

Adapted from Recettes Faciles by Françoise Bernard

3.5 oz (100 g) raisins, dark or blond
7 oz (200 g) stale bread, cubed
2 cups (500 ml or ½ litre) milk, whole or low fat
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Finely grated zest of one orange, preferably untreated
Dash of ground cinnamon, ¼ to ½ tsp
½ tsp vanilla

10 sugar cubes (2 oz, 60 g)
2 Tbs water
Couple drops lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Have ready a regular loaf pan.

Rinse the raisins and place in a small bowl; cover with hot water and allow to soak for 15 minutes to plump. Drain and set aside.

While the raisins are plumping, cube the stale bread (smaller is better, but about an inch square is fine) and place in a large mixing heatproof or Pyrex mixing bowl. Bring the milk to the boil in a small saucepan and immediately pour the hot milk over the bread cubes. Allow the bread to soak up all of the milk, tossing and pressing the cubes down into the hot milk regularly. This should take several minutes.

Once the bread has soaked up all of the hot milk and is softened, either run it though a food mill or purée it using an emulsion mixer or robot until fairly smooth. Return to the mixing bowl and whisk or stir in the sugar, the lightly beaten eggs, the plumped and drained raisins, the finely grated orange zest, the ground cinnamon and the vanilla. Stir to blend well.

Place the sugar cubes, the water and a few drops of lemon juice into the loaf pan. Place the loaf pan over medium-low heat and carefully cook. The sugar will melt and the mixture will bubble; allow to cook gently, shifting the pan around and back and forth gently, until it turns into a deep golden/light brown caramel. This can take from 5 to 10 minutes but watch very carefully for as soon as the sugar begins to turn into a caramel (turning brown) it goes very quickly and can burn easily.

Remove the loaf pan from the heat and carefully tilt the pan back and forth so the caramel evenly coats the bottom of the pan and goes a little way up the sides. Immediately pour the pudding batter into the loaf pan on top of the caramel and smooth. Bake for one hour until puffed and golden.

Remove the loaf pan from the oven and allow to cool just until the pan can be handled (the pudding should no longer be hot but should still be warm). Run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen the pudding then place a serving platter upside down on top of the loaf pan. Quickly invert the platter and the pan and lift the loaf pan off of the pudding.

The Bread Pudding is delicious eaten warm or at room temperature, plain, with yogurt, whipped cream or ice cream. We love it plain with a cup of coffee.


Emma said...

Uh oh, you may have just started a worldwide bread pudding trend... Husbands and sons will queue up in the kitchen from afternoon to evening, waiting for their share of the pudding! Strange flavors will be added such as jalapeno and cumin, or tomato and mango caramel; my, how exotic! The people won't be able to get enough!!

:D Just kidding... maybe.

I know what you mean about bucking trends until a later date. It helps explain why I so love the Spice Girls today...

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I'm glad you are fiercely anti-trend like me! I never follow fads and steer clear of any commercial propaganda. I try to be myself and not copy anybody... Copycats who want to be "in" are just destestable.

Those macarons are awesome! That flavor is terrific.



Javelin Warrior said...

I've always assumed macarons were far more enticing to look at then to eat ;) While I have never tasted a macaron or attempted to bake them, they never fail to look dry - and somewhat boring if still elegant. So I've really never seen the appeal in fussing over cookies like macarons when I could be baking gooey chocolate chip cookies. Just saying, this is one trend I still don't get...

Kate at Serendipity said...

HERE'S that bread pudding! Now I see what you meant--this looks amazingly wonderful. I'll trade you a cup of gelato for a slice!

What a great idea to make the caramel in the bottom of the pan. Sort of a bread-pudding tatin...

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

It's funny, I much prefer making them to eating them too... Happy Jour du Macaron! Btw, the brown? Maybe the coconut in the shells? Oilier than almonds? Bakes faster and discolours? Anyway, they look great to me!

Lora said...

What an elegant flavor combination whatever the color. The bread pudding looks divine. Thank you so much for starting Mactweets and inspiring us month after month. It's been so much fun.

Terra said...

I didn't know there was world macaron day? That is sooooo fun!!! Your macs look simply perfect, gorgeous:-) I just recently fell in love with bread pudding, I know, I know, I have been missing out:-) Your bread pudding looks delicious! Hugs, Terra

Sandy said...

I'm so with you, Jamie, thanks for these wise words! I am macaron-addicted for years now. To me it isn't a trend but I know there are people trying to jump the "trendy train".
I love mac-attack and your's are as stunning as a macaron can be. warmly, Sandy

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

...I feel much better after reading this post. I always thought it was just the awkward streak in me that, when everyone was running towards cupcakes, whoopie pies, cake pops et al, I was rapidly backing away in the opposite direction!
I'm not a fan of eating macarons so have never made them (although my 13 year old had a go and they were excellent). Your French bread pud is interesting too - my Mother made bread pud with water not milk but in a similar way. I was brought up on the stuff (no throwing away bread in our house).

Jill @ MadAboutMacarons said...

Your macarons sound absolutely delicious and they look perfect. Tell me, for the brown colour - what colouring did you use? I hear it can sometimes happen with gels rather than the powdered colouring. Your husband doesn't like them? What? My husband hates me talking about them but he never complains when he 'has' to eat them, lol. Love how you finished off with your new trend of the bread pudding. It sounds so funny in French! Wonderful.

Gourmantine said...

I have to agree, there's no point really in following any trends, but macarons... I love eating them so much, that I've been baking them non-stop for a good year just not to go bankrupt in buying them :) (expensive little suckers..)

Mira said...

Your macarons look fabulous and full of flavours! I'm glad I found the MacTweets, because I enjoy both baking and eating macarons (actually, learned to bake them so that I could eat them more often :)).
And thanks a lot for the bread pudding - I've seen it in tha bakeries, but never thought of preparing some at home.

Lisa said...

I could eat bread pudding at every meal..sweet or savory, and be quite happy. Macarons, maybe not, but I do love them..as long as they're not too sweet, an as you mentioned, the flavors are unique and delicious. Hermes are the best to me..but Frabcois Payard makes some mean macarons too. Dying to try Zumbo's!

That said..I love your bread pudding and the raspberry-coconut macarons look and sound phenomenal! Oh, I do like certain aspects of MG - like the pearls, sometimes called caviar. Once you feel a chocolate (or any flavor) pearl pop in your mouth, it's love :)

Baker Street said...

Bread pudding is the most welcome dessert in my house. My husband absolutely loves it.

Your macrons are just gorgeous Jamie! So inspired to just get up and give it go..

Sara{OneTribeGourmet} said...

Happy Macaron Day...I think I need to come to France to learn how to make these gorgeous mac from you babe! xx

WiseMóna said...

Happy Macaron Day - and sorry I missed it Jamie. I am so tardy these days but that bread pudding caught my eye and I had to swing by to see it. I do love bread pudding and yours sounds like it would be devoured in an instant in my house. And - I also try not to get swallowed up into the world of trends ... drives me nuts!

Dewi said...

Your macaron look absolutely gorgeous, and the pudding is irresistible!

Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

Sorry I missed the celebration! Funny, I made something using pomegranate juice the other day and the end result is brown too. The flavor is fantastic so I'll survive but I'm on the trail of how to color the end result to have a more visual appeal. Truth is, these look good to me; you know me...I simply watch the festivities from afar!

Deeba PAB said...

Love the anti trend you, so much like moi sistah, but some trends like these are worth every frill, foot and fancy! Love how you churn out perfect and delicious macarons month after month, effortlessly! And that is a mean bread pudding ... flavours after me heart! Now that is a trend you might have just set hun! xoxo

Elizabeth said...

How on earth did I manage to miss out that it was World Macaron Day just 5 days ago? I've been robbed. Now I will have to wait until next March.

(The last time I had macarons was when we bought some from a vendor in Lyons. They were so amazingly wonderful that we sat by the river, finished the lot and immediately returned to the fellow's cart to buy a dozen more.)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...