I got to say, from my view point right this minute that I am a very relaxed and lucky gal. It's been months since I have had the ability to take a day and just chill. I happen to be sharing that feeling with a dozen other bloggers too. See, this weekend a few of us are attending the first Go Savor Culinary Retreat and we are all spending some quality time getting to know each other, share our blogging experiences and enjoy the beautiful Southern sun.
I was very fortunate to teach a workshop with Bill on artificial lighting last night, giving more options for folks who can only shoot at night. It was a very casual discussions and sharing of experiences, all facilitated by a good dinner and a few glasses of wine.
This morning Tami and I taught a workshop on composition, food styling, choice of focal points, natural light sources, shooting tethered, etc... I absolutely *love* working with Tami. We don't even have to wonder or ask questions. It's very organic, calm, focused and efficient. We loved this session just from the sheer number of "ah doh" moment that many had. That was our goal: to provide sensible informations, techniques and tips that every one would be able to duplicate at home.
It's really quite an honor to be able to share something we love with others. If it works, great. If someone decides to do something else, great! The worst thing you can do is not even consider the possibility. Photography is a series of unplanned moments, possibilities you create as well as a series of coherent decisions. It feels good to be able to share a passion with others just as passionate and interested.
Same goes with baking and cooking. It is truly an honor to be sharing new recipes and ideas with you. Today it's a recipe for Meyer Lemon Cream and Meyer Lemon Macarons as well as the chance to win a super fun little new cookbook "Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the Macaron Cafe" by Cecile Cannone.
Yes, it's giveaway time! All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog, one per person, no anonymous, until Monday March 14th at midnight. A winner will be picked at random by my lovely husband and announced on the following blog post.
I really enjoyed the pocket size appearance of the book as well as all the recipes, techniques and troubleshooting suggestions Cecile offers for both Italian and French Meringue Macarons. I found lots of familiar ideas such as painted macarons and lollipop macarons but also a lot of new and interesting flavors such as gingerbread buttercream and apple cinnamon buttercream.
I followed Cecile's instructions for French meringue macarons and flavored the shells with Meyer lemon zest and filled them with my own filling of cream cheese flavored with more lemon and a touch of honey. The Meyer Lemon creams are so simple and refreshing, you'd wish you had them at every meal. Almost. Variety is key I know, but for a lemon lover like me, this lemon all around dessert tray was heaven! Why so much lemony goodness you might ask. I have to thank my friends Anita and Jeanne for sending me a bunch of fresh, California Meyer and pink lemons to feed my addiction.
Hope you enjoy the rest of the weekend! Spring is on its way...
Meyer Lemon Creams and Meyer Lemon Macarons:
Note: once the macarons are made, let them mature in the fridge at least 2 days prior to eating so the flavor and textures can meld together better.
For the creams:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
zest of one lemon
3 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest and egg yolks until pale. Slowly add the milk and whisk well.
Bring the mixture to boiling point in a heavy bottomed saucepan placed over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until thick. Remove from the heat and slowly add the lemon juice. Return to medium low heat for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Divide among ramekins or cup and place a piece of plastic wrap over each portions to prevent a skin from forming.
French Meringue Macarons, with permission of Ulysses Press.
Makes 50 to 60 shells, for 25 to 30 filled macarons.
2¾ cups (8.8 ounces/250 grams) almond flour
2¾ cups (12.4 ounces/350 grams)
1 cup egg whites (from 7 or 8 eggs),
at room temperature
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons powdered egg whites, if weather is humid
¾ cup (5.3 ounces/150 grams) superfine granulated sugar
5 to 7 drops gel paste food coloring (optional) (I used 2 teaspoons lemon zest instead)
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 300°F (325°F for a non-convection oven), and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
Step 2: Blend the almond flour with the powdered sugar in your food processor to make a fine powder (or sift together, discarding any large crumbs and adding a bit more almond flour and powdered sugar as needed to compensate). Then sift the mixture through a strainer until it is as fine as you can get it. This keeps crumbs from forming on the macaron tops as they bake.
Step 3: With the wire whip attachment on the electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt and the powdered egg whites (if you are using them), starting slowly and then increasing speed as the whites start to rise. Add the granulated sugar and the food coloring. Beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks and your meringue is firm and shiny.
Step 4: Pour the beaten egg whites onto your almond flour mixture and gently fold them in, using a rubber spatula. Move your spatula from the bottom of the bowl to the edges with one hand, using your other hand to rotate the bowl. Now slap the sides of the bowl until the batter falls in a wide ribbon when you raise your spatula. When you can’t see any crumbs of almond flour and the mixture is shiny and flowing, you are ready to start piping.
The French have a special word—macaronner—to describe the physical action of mixing all the ingredients for macarons. This has to be done by hand. You cannot do it with your mixer—you must be able to feel the consistency of the macaron batter.
Step 5: Fit your pastry bag with a number 8 tip and fill with batter. Start by squeezing out a small amount of mix onto a parchment-lined baking sheet to form a 2½-inch circle. Be sure to leave 1 inch of space between macarons so they will not touch each other while they bake.
If the peak that forms on the top of the macaron does not disappear after piping, it means the batter could have been beaten a little more. Tap the baking sheet on the tabletop, making sure to hold the parchment paper in place with your thumbs.
Let the piped macarons rest for 15 minutes.
Step 6: Bake for 14 minutes at 300°F. After the first 5 minutes, open the oven door briefly to let the steam out.
Let the macarons cool completely on a rack before taking them off the parchment paper. Press the bottom of a cooled baked macaron shell with your finger; it should be soft. If the bottom of the shell is hard, reduce the baking time for the rest of your macarons from 14 minutes to 13 minutes.
Using a pastry bag requires some practice. It may seem awkward at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
Prepare the bag (if it hasn’t been used before) by cutting about 2 inches off the narrow end—just enough so that when you insert a number 8 decorating tip, about a third of the tip extends outside the bag. Push the tip firmly in place and spoon in your filling, leaving enough room at the top to twist the bag shut. It is best to fill the bag with half of the batter at a time, that way it is not too heavy. To make it easier to fill your pastry bag, place it upright in an empty jar or other straight-sided container. This will help steady the bag while you fill it with batter.
Squeezing the bag slowly, pipe each macaron shell out in a single dollop. Lift the bag quickly to finish.
Cream Cheese Filling:
Juice and zest of one lemon
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
In bowl of electric mixer, beat the lemon zest, juice and cream cheese on low speed, until very smooth with no lumps. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat, on low speed, until fully incorporated and smooth. Pipe or spoon about a tablespoon into the center of each macaron shell and top with another shell.