Husband (giddy): yay…macarons! What kind?
Me (matter of fact): they are filled with mascarpone and a bit of membrillo left over from the shoot the other day.
Husband (amused): did you make them for Valentine’s Day?
Me (in my best Mrs Patmore impersonation): why on earth would I do that?
Me: well you know what I mean. We don’t really do Valentine’s Day here so I did not make them for that. Specifically. I made them for you. Specifically.
Me: dude! It’s been 14 years we haven’t cared much about that cheesy holiday and "awkward!-I forgot-a-card" day. So why push my buttons about it now?
Him: no reason. I just love seeing you scrambling…and I like to push your button. Specifically.
Fast forward to this morning. I did get him a card. And he did give me one. We were both at the grocery store yesterday and stopped by the stationary. I started flipping through the fun card and one made me giggle. So I got it. He did the same. They were fun cards. They made us giggle. And that will be the extent of our Valentine’s Day (he’s got a gig tonight).
I am not going to be the one whining about all the pink hearts and red cupids. They might burn a whole through my skull today too but I might have gotten softer in the last few years. Indeed, I am pretty sure I don’t dislike V-Day. I don’t like it either. I hate the pressure it adds for people in new relationships or in rocky ones. I like that it can give someone the wings to make a first step or to get someone out of the dog house.
Why doesn’t it phase me more than that? We are happily and giddily married. We don’t wait for February 14th to extend a nice gesture, to add a nice words, to exchange a card (I often tuck one in his bag before work). But I dig the idea of an extra hug, an extra "I love you" and a extra kiss. Most of all I like the idea of taking an extra minute to be grateful for my husband’s love and generosity towards me and my family.
Similar to Thanksgiving, we don’t wait for that day in November to be thankful for the things we have and enjoy, for the people we love and who love us back. Just like on Thanksgiving, today I said an extra "thank you" to Bill for the wonderful person he is to me. I did it yesterday. But I might forget at some point some day next year, next week. And I’d be silly to pass on an extra hug today. Anyday.
It does not have to be a dozen roses, a fancy card or a box of chocolates. Or it might. Whatever makes one feel and be a little extra kind today. I can rally behind that.
An extra bit of kindness had never hurt anyone. It would probably make the world go a little rounder too. So here is my virtual extra hug and "thank you" today for your love and generosity towards this blog and what I share with you.
Membrillo Mascarpone Macarons:
Makes about 30 macarons (depending on size)
Notes: I can’t post the exact recipe used for the membrillo (a.k.a quince paste) used to fill these macarons since the recipe is from a book not yet published (next Fall).
But I would direct you to Simply Recipes post on membrillo which I have made several times with great success.
For the macarons shells:
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds (slivered, blanched, sliced, whatever you like)
90 gr egg whites (use egg whites that have been preferably left 3-4 days in the fridge in a lidded container)(explanation here)
50 gr granulated sugar
Place the powdered sugar and almonds in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Sift if desired (helps keep the shells smooth in appearance).
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry.
Add the nuts and powdered sugar to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to dry their shells.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 280F.
Bake the macarons for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.
Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store the shells in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks (longer and the sugar starts to seep out which makes them sticky). Fill the macarons and let them mature in the fridge at least 48 hours prior to eating them.
For the membrillo:
Follow recipe on Simply Recipes.
For the mascarpone filling:
8 oz (210gr) mascarpone, at room temperature (or substitute cream cheese)
2-3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Prepare the mascarpone filling:
In a large bowl, whisk together the mascarpone and sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla and the heavy cream and whisk until all the ingredients are incoporated.
Assemble the macarons:
Place the mixture in a piping bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe a dollop of cream onto half of the macarons. Top with a square of pate de fruits and another macaron shell.
If you were to come visit South Carolina right now, you’d be hard pressed to find any sign that it is indeed Fall. For us, an extra packed schedule and an ever growing temptation for candy corn let us know tis the season. The leaves are still green, the sun is still out and the heat and humidity are still very much present. So what is a gal to do when she is season deprived? Get in the kitchen and bake something Fall-ish like these Spiced Quince Crumbles while listening to comforting favorites.
Nothing screams Fall louder to me than the smell of quince simmering on the stove with a handful of my favorite spices. My mom used to make quince jelly every year and the process usually took a couple of days between the peeling, slicing, slow cooking, straining and canning. Every year, I looked forward to these days like a famished wolf. There would be jelly sweet as honey for our morning toasts and quince compote left over from the straining for our after school tartine.
Quinces are no locally grown here so they tend to be pricey and since we are watching our budget, they are more of an occasional luxury, and I treat them as such. Nothing gets wasted not even the seeds. Once peeled I use the skin to flavor tagines and oriental stews. The seeds are very high in pectin so I wrap them in cheesecloth and use them for pate de fruits or other jams. The soft flesh is most often stewed until tender and parked in the refrigerator for tarts or crumbles just like this one.
I love that I can find them around here as soon as October rolls around even though no one at the store really knows what they are and how to prepare them. If you live in my town and they was a lady holding up the cashier’s line for a code check, might have been me and my two quinces!
There are no good words to explain quinces properly. They are a bit of this and a bit of that but also neither this nor that. Whatever you do with them, just do not eat them raw. You can always check Google and Wikipedia or trust me that they are too good not to bake with.
We’ve had a pretty packed weekend of photographing weddings and my brain is getting fried by the minute planning a job this week, working with this amazing photographer (I style, he shoots). So when we plopped on the couch last night and put our feet up with a couple of these crumbles, all seemed right and quiet with the world. At least during those ten minutes of eating them…
These gluten free crumbles start with softly poached quinces in plenty of spices reminiscent of Fall like cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, cloves. Here I used a mix of flours for the topping with some chopped hazelnuts, but you could substitute the same amount in all purpose flour if you wish.
Spiced Quince Crumbles:
For the poached quinces:
2 quinces, peeled, cored and quartered
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods, slightly crushed
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
1 teaspoon allspice berries
For the crumble:
1/4 cup (40gr) brown rice flour
1/4 cup (40gr) sorghum flour
1/4 cup (30gr) tapioca flour
OR 3/4 cup (95gr) all purpose flour instead if not baking gluten free
3 tablespoons (15gr)finely chopped hazelnuts
1/4 cup (55gr) packed light brown sugar
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
Prepare the quinces:
Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover the quinces. Bring the content of the pot to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, place a lid halfway over the pot and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the quinces are soft when you poke a knife through them. Remove the fruit from the liquid with a slotted spoon and let cool to room temperature. Thinly slice the quince and reserve.
Butter the inside of four 1 cup capacity ramekins or small dishes and set them on a baking tray. Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.
Prepare the crumble:
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your fingertips or a fork until the mixture resembles large beads.
Divide the quince slices evenly among your prepared dishes and sprinkle the crumble as evenly on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
You might have leftover crumble mixture, you can either bake it separately and crumble it up over ice cream later or freeze it for up to three months for a quick crumble later.
It’s been a long time since I made strudel dough and it’s been even longer since I made it for our own eating pleasures. When I first moved to the US, one of my first pastry jobs was at a German bakery where we would make strudel dough by the buckets, starting fresh and early around 3am. I made so much strudels in that one year there that I overdosed a little and never made it at home after that. When I saw that the Daring Bakers challenge for May was strudel I had a split reaction. A "meh" followed by "oh wait I have always wanted to do this and this and this…"
The instructions were to make the strudel dough per the recipe given but allowed us to get creative as far as the fillings, shapes and sizes. I started with one idea and as (most) usual, I ended up with three. My first idea was not to make a traditional strudel and I blame Richard Leach for that. I have been itching to make his Ricotta Cheese Tarts in Strudel Rings since the first day I flipped the pages of his book "Sweet Seasons". I refrained from it up until now because of that studel making overdose mentionned above. Ha! No more! I had the perfect opportunity!
For the strudel rings, I rolled and stretched the dough until I could see through it and cut four 1 1/2-inch strips that I rolled around a 3-inch cake rings about 3-4 times. I baked them just until the rings were golden brown. I let them slide of the cake rings and let them cool while I prepared the mascarpone tart base. It is really like a light cheesecake baked right inside the rings. Once they were cooled, I placed them inside the strudel rounds and plated some with fresh cherries and others with lemon balm infused cherries. Both versions were equally good but my heart goes toward the lemon balm one.
Of course the strudel dough recipe would give me a lot more than the quantity necessary for the strudel rings. I used the same technique to make slightly higher rings with the intention to use them as baskets for ice cream or sorbet. I even made handles for them but a mini trip over pupp Bailey and the handles flew across the room and broke to pieces. Sorbet cups would have to do. I made Garrett’s rhubarb sorbet over the weekend and it was a wonder there was enough left to fill the cups. If you have the chance, run to make it! Absolutely delightful. My only change to his recipe is that I did not strain the rhubarb but pureed the heck out of it. Worked like a charm. Pink, smooth and creamy all at once.
I still had plenty of dough to make a traditional strudel like most of my Daring Bakers partners. I filled this one with roasted quince that I had in the freezer and fresh roasted white peaches. I sprinkled a basic hazelnut crumble on the dough before layering the fruits and rolled the dough in a log. In the cacophony of friends coming over for brunch, I completely forgot to take pictures of the log and had just a split moment to take pictures of the small strudel bites I cut for everybody to sample.
I found the dough a litte bland at first but paired with a punch of flavors it really took a life of its own and today I am glad to have leftovers of all three desserts to chose from after dinner!
See below for all the recipes and my notes.
The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.
One year ago: Daring Bakers' Lavender White Chocolate Opera
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers
Notes: I used a printed tablecloth so I could see better how thin the dough was getting and how much I could keep on stretching. I found out that no pleats or wrinkles was much better or the dough will take on those at the same time you roll.
Use plenty (and more) flour to roll and instead of rubbing my hands on the cloth to make the flour stick down, I rolled my rolling pin over a few times. Do not refrain from kneading a full 8 to 10 minutes. It will develop all the gluten strands necessary to make this dough stretch like a breeze
1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.
Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).
It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.
The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it’s about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.
To make strudel rings and cups:
Cut four 1.5-inch strips of dough, brush them with melted butter and roll them around cake rings. Bake at 350F until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Cut four 2-inch strips for the sorbet cups. Proceed as with the rings.
For the hazelnut crumble, quince and white peach filling:
Notes: this will make enough for 1/3 of the dough. Adapt if necessary.
2 white peaches, cur in half and pitted
1 large quince, peeled and cored
2 tablespoons (25gr) sugar
equal parts light brown sugar, flour, butter (cut in 1/4-inch cubes) and chopped hazelnuts (I did 50gr of each)
Place the peaches and the quince in a medium baking pan lightly sprayed with cooking spray and roast at 350F for 30 to 40 minutes until caramelized. Check at half time and add 1/4 cup of water to the pan is necessary to prevent them from scortching. Once baked, let cool completely to room temperature. Slice the fruits thin.
In a large bowl, stir together all the crumble ingredients and mix with your fingertips until the mixture forms pea size crumbs.
Fill the strudel with a layer of crumble and top with the roasted fruit. Roll from the short end, lightly brush with melted butter and bake at 350 for 30 minutes (more if you are doing the whole quantity of dough as a regular strudel).
Mascarpone Ricotta Cheese Tarts In Strudel Rings, adapted from Richard Leach.
For Lemon Balm Cherries:
2 cups (290gr) pitted and halved cherries
1/2 cup (125ml) water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
4 leaves lemon balm, roughly chopped
For the Mascarpone-Ricotta Tarts:
3/4 cup (180gr) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (90gr) ricotta cheese
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half and seeded
1 whole egg
1 egg white
1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
Prepare the cherries:
Place all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Strain to discard the lemon balm. Use to decorate the tarts.
Prepare the tarts:
Wrap four 3-inch dessert rings with foil and place them on baking sheet. Lightly spray the inside with cooking spray.
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together the mascarpone, ricotta, sugar and vanilla bean seeds at medium speed, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg and egg white and beat until smooth, scraping the sides and bottom of your bowl if necessary. Still on low speed, add the heavy cream and whip until incorporated.
Divide the mxiture evenly among the prepared cake rings and bake for 20 minutes or until just set. Let cool completely.
Once cooled, place a strudel ring around each tart and spoon some marinated cherries around the tarts.
Rhubarb Sorbet For Strudel Cups, adapted from Garrett’s.
3 1/2 cups of chopped fresh rhubarb (4-5 stalks)
2 1/2 cups of water
1 2/3 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons of lemon zest
2 tablespoons of corn syrup (I used glucose)
Placethe rhubarb, sugar, water, and lemon zest in a large and heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 5 minutes, uncovered.
Let cool to room temperature. Working in batches, purée the mixture in a blender until smooth. Stir in the glucose. Cover and refrigerate until completely cold, preferably overnight.
Process the ice cream according to your machine’s manufacturer’s instructions. The sorbet will have a soft texture right out of the ice cream maker. Freeze a couple of hours before serving.