Macarons

French Macarons are all the rage here in the Bay Area. I actually never tasted one until we were in Paris and then I only had one or two. There were so many yummy things to get around to eating there. In retrospect we should have gone in Laudrée, the bakery known for macarons, when we walked past it. I just never imagined they were as glorious as they are. I guess mainly because I’ve never found meringues that interesting.

I set about learning to make these delectable cookies when we got back from Paris. I’ve tried three different recipes and finally have one that works for me. I’ve read dozens of them to get to this point. I’ve kind of gleaned a little here and there.

I’ll point you to One Vanilla Bean’s blog post for details on how to make good macarons. I must say I vary on a couple of minor points: fresh eggs work fine for me, right from the fridge. I have backyard hens, and used their eggs both times I’ve made the recipe. I always run my almond meal-powdered sugar through a sieve. I swear not doing so messed up one of my earlier test runs.

Getting everything folded together is the most challenging part for me. I tended to under mix. That’s better than over mixing, but getting it just right gives you nice feet, but not running feet. Cecilia’s picture of the mix falling off the spatula is particularly helpful.

I also have a cheat. I bought this silpat like item from Fantes.com, the Mastrad Small Macarons Baking Sheet. It sure helps me make all the shells the same size. I’m not that good with a piping bag. I spray it with a little canola oil to make doubly sure no sticking.

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For the filling I took inspiration from Mardi of EatLiveTravelWrite.com. She very recently filled some macarons with Meyer Lemon Curd and a special blackberry jam. I made lemon curd from our Meyer lemons and I already had a jar of blackberry jam from Amber in the fridge.

I pity the boule. #BakeTogether

I liked the #BakeTogether Peasant Boule I made last week well enough that I wanted to make it again. It was so tasty as sandwich bread that I decided to vary the recipe slightly again and make it into a traditional loaf. It was barely cool before I sliced off the end and ate it with European butter. Mmmm!

This time I did much the same, but left out the baking powder. Not sure I notice a difference.

It did take a bit longer to bake, but that was probably due to me setting the temperature at 350°F accidentally.

Update: I did this again making it rye. See the note at the bottom.

Whole Wheat Loaf (adapted from Abby Dodge)

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1 1/3 cups warm water (about 110°F)
1 tablespoon butter melted

1. Dissolve sugar in the warm water, add yeast to proof. Wait until you see a foamy top to continue. If you don’t after 10 minutes your yeast may not be alive. Don’t proceed unless you yeast is doing it’s job.
2. In a large bowl of electric stand mixer, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder. Clip the bowl into the mixer stand and fit the mixer with the dough hook.
3. With mixer on medium-low speed, slowly pour the water/yeast into the flour and mix until the flour is completely incorporated.  Increase the speed to medium and beat until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the bottom and sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. It shouldn’t be too sticky at this point. Slight sticky is fine.
4. Scoop up the dough and shape it into a ball. Lightly oil a rising bucket (or mixing bowl) and pop the dough, rounded side down, turn over. Cover the top securely. Let the covered dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to an hour.
5. Punch down the dough, smooth it out and let it rise in the bucket again until doubled, another 45 minutes or so.
6. Oil or butter a standard loaf pan. I use olive oil spray.
7. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and press to deflate it. Shape the dough into a flatish oblong shape. Pull the sides and ends towards the middle, pinching to get them to stick together. Turn over and place in loaf pan.
8. Let the dough rise covered in a warm spot until almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
9. Preheat the oven to 375°F while the dough is rising. Brush the top of the loaf with the melted butter. Bake 40 – 50 minutes. The loaf should sound hollow when you knock on it’s bottom and be nicely browned all around.

Rye Variation:  substitute dark or light rye flour for the whole wheat flour and add 2 tablespoons of caraway seeds. Mine turned out fairly dense, but tastes good. It may take a bit longer to rise.

Peasant Boule #BakeTogether

As Barbara of Creative Culinary just noticed, there seems to be a treatment facility for #CharcutePalooza addicts and it’s called #BakeTogether. Abby Dodge has been heading the project for a few months now. I just heard about it through other paloozers. The idea is to take Abby’s recipe, modify it and post your results. Come and go as you like, not a lot of rules. I need motivation to post more often, so I thought I’d take a stab at her boule, the January project.

It all starts with her recipe. I made some modifications, mainly switching out some for white flour for whole wheat, and active dry yeast instead of instant. I was dubious about the baking powder, originally leaving it out and then deciding to put it in. I’ve never made a yeast bread with it before and I’ve been baking bread for 40 years. (Eek, maybe I shouldn’t admit that number.) I’m not exactly clear on what it’s role is here. If I was a real food blogger, I’d make it again today without and do a blind taste test. But, that ain’t gonna happen.

I rise dough in a plastic bucket like thing from the restaurant supply place. Over time theses are replacing my plastic storage containers. They’re inexpensive, like $3.49 plus $1.49 for the lid, and perform better. I have several sizes. You can buy them from King Arthur online at an exorbitant markup.

This is the picture after the first rise. Contrary to the original recipe I also went for a second rise.
My final change to the recipe was to do the final rise in my brotform proofing basket. I sprayed it lightly with olive oil spray, dusted it with flour and that’s what makes the pretty spiral on the top.

I served it at a dinner party last night and it was a big hit. Just the right amount of whole wheat to give it some flavor, but not to weigh it down. However, I think it was best this morning as toast. Super yummy, the expensive European butter probably helped too.

Whole Wheat Peasant Boule (adapted from Abby Dodge) Makes 1 round loaf

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/3 cups warm water (about 110°F)
water bottle for misting the oven(optional)

1. Dissolve sugar in the warm water, add yeast to proof.
2. In a large bowl of electric stand mixer, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder. Clip the bowl into the mixer stand and fit the mixer with the dough hook.
3. With mixer on medium-low speed, slowly pour the water into the flour and mix until the flour is completely incorporated.  Increase the speed to medium and beat until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the bottom and sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. It shouldn’t be too sticky at this point. Slight sticky is fine.
4. Scoop up the dough and shape it into a ball. Lightly oil a rising bucket (or mixing bowl) and pop the dough, rounded side down, turn over. Cover the top securely. Let the covered dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to an hour.
5. Punch down the dough, smooth it out and let it rise in the bucket again until doubled, another 45 minutes or so.
6. If you have a proofing basket get it ready. Otherwise grease up an 8-inch round cake pan with some room temperature butter.
7. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and press to deflate it. Shape the dough into a 7-inch-wide round and place it, smooth side up, in the center of the prepared basket or pan.
8. Let the dough rise covered in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
9. Preheat the oven to 375°F while the dough is rising. If using the rising basket you’ll need to have a pizza stone in the oven to invert the boule onto. Or you could put a cookie sheet in the oven to invert it on. When ready, mist the oven with your water bottle, invert the boule onto the stone and close the oven. Bake 5 minutes and mist the oven again. This will give you a crisp crust. Omit the misting if you want a softer crust. Bake and additional 30 – 40 minutes. The boule should sound hollow when you knock on it’s bottom and be nicely browned all around.