Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Food for Father

Hold onto your hats: this post is going to be a doozy. Father's Day is still a couple weeks away but this year it falls in a busy month for me, and unfortunately my Dad doesn't live down the street for me to just give him a hug (much as I'd like to). So this year I was forced to plan ahead. I sound like a good daughter -- in reality, I'm a bad sister. You see, I had another reason for sending out my gift early; my brothers' birthdays came and went, and I completely forgot to remark on them. Oops.

So, in repentance, I overkilled. It was great fun though and I felt properly forgiven when they called to thank me and I could barely understand through the mouths-full. Nothing makes you feel more loved than a strong demand that you move closer :D

As I said, I overkilled. As such, I'm going to break the contents of the gift into two posts - these treats are to be savored. So! My first offering: Raspberry Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Jam. MmmmMmmm. I've been on a macaron kick (like you hadn't noticed!) and as my parents had dutifully ooh-ed and aw-ed my pictures I figured it was fair they got a taste.

There's a little story to how these macarons came about though. I'd been eyeing the dried raspberry powder from L'Epicerie but didn't want to shell out the cash to try some. I resolved to make my own and see if it passed muster first. Drying raspberries isn't hard - they go straight from freezer to oven and sit there for a few hours at a reasonably low temperature (190 F) until all moisture is evaporated. The purpose is to completely dehydrate the raspberries, leaving only the concentrated pulp left for grinding. There are a few stipulations though: 1) The raspberries should be deep-frozen before baking, and 2) you shouldn't live somewhere with 100% humidity (yes, this again.)

Eighteen hours later (I started at 10am, gave up at 10pm and continued again for half of the next day) I finally had dried raspberry shells. Grinding them up in a coffee grinder produced a coarse-to-fine dark maroon powder that tasted strongly of raspberries. Good! This seemed usable. I set it aside for the designated weekend...

....and the day after completing the powder, received a package in the mail. Inside were two packages of dried raspberry powder from L'Epicerie, a gift from my boyo's work. Wonderful people, they are! Now, even if you live in 100% humid climate, the homemade powder will do in a pinch. But oh, the superiority of the bought. This stuff turned the air around it raspberry-y. It was fine as dust and light as a feather, and had none of the grittiness of the homemade to it. Better yet, a tiny amount imparted plenty of raspberry flavor, so there was no need to over-use.

Behold the comparison:

I admit, I used the bought. How could I not? I ended up making two batches though, as through my first batch I learned of the potency of the powder. Too much used and the raspberry became almost aggressive, while the texture turned jammy. I scaled back the amount for the second batch and was left with beautiful macarons that balanced white chocolate and raspberry perfectly. The first batch I ate myself ;)

Raspberry Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Jam (adapted from LA Times)
* 1 c + 3 tbsp almond flour
* 2 c + 3 tbsp powdered sugar
* 4 egg whites
* 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
* 4 scant tbsp sugar
* 1 scant tbsp dried raspberry powder
* 1 White Chocolate Ganache recipe
* raspberry jam (I used my leftovers from here)

Line two 17-by-12-inch baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside (you may want to fold over the edges to keep the paper flat).

In a food processor, blend the almond flour, powdered sugar and raspberry powder for 1 minute. Sift the blended almond mixture directly into a medium mixing bowl. Set aside. (This can be made up to 2 days in advance.)

Fill a small saucepan halfway with water. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until foamy. Place the bowl over the pot of hot water and whisk quickly until the egg whites reach 100 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove the bowl from the pot of water and whisk in the cream of tartar. Place it on a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Whip on medium speed for 2 minutes, then gradually beat in the sugar. Continue whipping for 6 minutes until the egg whites come to medium stiff peaks (tips droop only very slightly) and are shiny.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add egg whites to the almond mixture by gently bringing the flat side of a rubber spatula through the center of the egg whites and up the opposite side of the bowl, folding the dry ingredients over the egg whites. Repeat the same motion 50 times, turning the bowl a quarter turn each time.

Fit a pastry bag with a medium round tip (No. 4) and fill with the mixture. On the parchment-lined baking sheets, pipe 1.5-inch rounds (the batter will be slightly wet) by holding the bag at a slight angle and releasing small amounts of batter. Allow one-half inch between cookies; they will spread slightly.

Keep the piped cookies at room temperature, uncovered, for 1 to 2 hours. (This will help form a skin.) If in a high humidity area, place cookies in oven turned off but with oven light on. Remove cookies from oven and heat to 325 degrees, placing the racks in the center and lower shelves of the oven.

Bake the macarons for 12 minutes, reverse the trays on the racks and rotate. Bake 8 to 10 minutes more, or until firm and not wet. Cool on a rack.

White Chocolate Ganache (from JoyofBaking.com)
* 8 oz white chocolate, cut into small pieces
* 3/4 c heavy whipping cream
* 2 tbsp unsalted butter

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth.

Pair up cooled macaron shells to approximate size match. On one half spread a thin glaze of raspberry jam. Pipe ganache onto other half and gently sandwich together.

I had a lot of fun packaging them up:

But now the real question is, now that you know what's in the pink box... what's in the orange? Tune in next time.... (dundunDUN!)


ambrosia ananas said...

Yum! White chocolate and raspberry is one of my favorite combinations. Those look great.

Losillewen said...

Delicious and gorgeous, my dear! You're making me hungry. =P Kudos to the raspberry powder.

My Sweet & Saucy said...

What a perfect gift! They turned out beautiful!

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