Friday, December 02, 2005

Hazelnut Macarons

Hazelnuts are one of my favorite nuts, and they abound where I come from. Suffice it to say that hazelnuts to Turks are what peanuts to Americans. So I could not possibly finalize my experimentation with macarons without trying my hand at hazelnut macarons. To make these, I used Clement's macaron batter recipe and substituted an equal amount of hazelnuts for almonds. (By the way, I did a couple of things differently. First of all, I used room temperature egg whites without letting them dry overnight. I let the piped macarons dry for an hour and baked them at 350F for 10 minutes without rotating. The oven door was closed during baking.)

For the filling, I used the hazelnut spread we bought from a Turkish supermarket. Those spreads are delicious but overly sweet. I was cautious and tried to use it sparingly, but still these otherwise delicious macarons turned out to be a tad too sweet for my taste. Not so for the men in my house, they thought that they are the best macarons so far.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pistachio Macarons

I mentioned in a previous post that I had a disasterous result with Nigella Lawson's Pistachio Macaron recipe from How to be A Domestic Goddess. I feel like I have to clarify that. While it is true that the cookies that came out of the oven were almost flat and did not look at all like macarons, they were really delicious. We enjoyed them to the last crumb at the cost of scraping some of them from the parchment. I was tempted to try again, but first I made a small search to see if other bloggers tried the same recipe. I found out that Chika also used the same recipe and although she loved the taste just like we did, she mentioned somewhere in her post that her macarons were flatter than the pictures in the book. Then I saw that Clement also had an unfavorable experience with pistachio macarons although his problems seemed to be of a different nature. Instead of trying Nigella's recipe again, I decided to use the basic macaron recipe I found in a la cuisine! simply by substituting pistachios for almonds. I was generally pleased with the beautiful pale green color (which the pictures unfortunately do not reflect) and the frilly little feet. Some of my macarons decided to go oblong --I suspect this has something to do with my piping-- yet others were perfect rounds. These macarons had thicker crusts and developed cavities under the crunchy crust; something I did not experience with the chocolate and chestnut macarons I made before. However, they were very delicious and definitely tasted of pistachios. Tastewise, I still prefer Nigella Lawson macarons, but since my interpretation of her recipe did not really yield macarons, this may not be a fair comparison. I used Nigella's easy pistachio buttercream for the macarons, but I had to adjust quantities and reduce the sugar. Since I used more than one source and made a number of changes along the way, I will write the recipe here as I made it.

Pistachio Macaron Batter:
  • 1 ¼ cups confectioner's sugar
  • 4 oz pistachios
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tbsps egg whites at room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
Pistachio Filling:
  • 1 1/2 oz pistachios
  • 1 c confectioner's sugar
  • 6 tbs softened butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Process the pistachios with powdered sugar until you get fine pistachio flour. (I processed for 3 1-minute intervals mixing with a spatula between each.)

In a greaseless bowl, combine the egg whites with the pinch of salt. Beat on medium power until soft peaks start to form. Increase the speed, gradually beat in the sugar and continue to whip until stiff and firm peaks form, about 2 minutes. Sieve the pistachio flour and fold it into the egg whites in two batches, mixing with a spatula just until no streaks remain. This will seem to be a lot of pistachio flour for the amount of egg whites you have, but it will work out.

Scrape the batter into a pastry bag with a round tip. Pipe 1" circles of macaron batter about 1" apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Rap the baking sheets firmly on the table to remove air bubbles. Let rest for about an hour until the macarons develop a skin. Bake for 10 minutes.

For the filling, process the pistachios and the confectioner's sugar just like you did for the macaron batter. Cream this with the softened butter until uniformly mixed.

Cool the macarons completely before you remove them from the parchment. Pair similar sized ones and glue them with some pistachio filling. I feel that the macarons benefit from an overnight rest in the refrigerator, but they can be enjoyed immediately, too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cookbook Meme

My friend Dilek tagged me for a Cookbook meme last week. Here are the questions and my answers:

Total number of cookbooks I own:

I have a lot of cookbooks. Many were self-bought, others were gifts or inherited. I especially like the ones passed on to me by friends with telltale signs of use on their pages and scribbled notes next to the recipes. I keep the ones I use frequently in my kitchen. I counted and there are exactly 35 of them. Then there are the ones in the attic and the downstairs kitchen closet. I do not know how many books I have in those places, but doubling the number I gave would be a conservative estimate.

Last cookbooks I bought:

Recently I received a generous birthday gift from my sister-in-law Fatima (who happens to be a contributor to this blog) which I spent entirely on cookbooks and kitchen gadgets. I bought 4 new dessert cookbooks: Death by Chocolate and Celebrate with Chocolate by Marcel Desaulniers, Finest Desserts by Michel Roux and Simply Sensational Desserts by Francois Payard. Thank you, Fatima!

Last food/cook book I read:

In addition to the 4 listed above, I am reading LaVarenne Pratique by Anne Willan. This was a gift from a friend who owned a restaurant, but had to stop working because of health reasons. It has many precious handwritten notes of the kind I mentioned above, is very informative and actually entertaining to read. I had this book for years but since it was borrowed by another friend for a long time, I almost forgot about it. Now that it is back, it almost feels like reading a new book.

Five (cook) books that mean a lot to me:

I have many cookbooks that I love, but the one that means a lot to me has to be the Complete Book of Turkish Cooking by Ayla Esen Algar. When I came to USA as a student many years ago, I did not know much about cooking. As difficult as it is to imagine now, there was no Internet or food blogs, either. Luckily, I was surrounded with people who were excellent cooks and I found this book. It had all the recipes that a young, homesick Turkish girl could ever wish for to ease her pain of being so far away from home for the first time. It was very reliable, well-written and just to skim through its pages to look at its lovely pictures made me feel better. I only wish I had bought a hardcover then. After years of service, it is now in pieces. I could of course buy a new one, but I cannot find it in my heart to replace it since we have been through a lot together. When my daughter Zeynep learns about book binding in her senior year, I will ask her to give this book the proper cover it deserves.

The second book that means a lot to me is Rose Beranbaum's Cake Bible. I know that this book is too much for some, but her detailed and structured approach appeals to the hidden scientist in me. The lookup tables for wedding cakes were enormously useful to me the few times I baked big cakes for friends. In fact, I do not know how I could have done it if it were not for this book. I learnt a lot from Rose, and still continue to do so everytime I read this book.

The third place goes to Alice Medrich's Cocolat. This book has excellent recipes and Alice's desserts look so perfect in the pictures! Although I never achieved to make them as good as in the pictures, everything I made from this book got rave reviews.

The fourth book is Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme. This is one of my recent cookbook purchases. Although some of his taste combinations are a bit unusual for me (just by reading), I truly admire his genius and I already have a long list of recipes that I would like to try from this book.

The fifth book is Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow. I've obviously never met Ms. Bigelow, and this is not one of those cookbooks that the writer talks at length about her life and experiences; but I feel like I know her a little after reading Pure Chocolate and I like this person I got to know. Her eagerness to share her knowledge and her pure and not-too-flashy style just appeal to me. However, I must add that I did not try many recipes from this book yet.

Which five people would you like to see fill this out in their blogs?

I would rather not limit myself to 5 people. Those of you who would like to answer the same questions, consider yourselves tagged. Please drop a comment if you do so.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

SHF/IMBB Cookie Swap: Orange Pistachio Cookies

This month's joint SHF/IMBB event is a Virtual Cookie Swap. I really wanted to take part in this event, and in fact planned ahead what I should bake. However, being the procrastinator I am, I left the actual work to the very last weekend. This was a busy -- in fact eventful-- weekend in my house and the realization that my precious little book (where all my favorite cookie recipes resided) had mysteriously disappeared did not help things, either. My search through my cookbooks for another recipe brought me across this one from a Gold Medal Cookies and Bars booklet, which really reminded me of my lost favorite. So I substituted pistachios for the pecans in the recipe and baked the cookies. Although they turned out to be quite good, I must say that they lacked the melt-in-your-mouth delicacy of my lost favorites. The next time I bake these, I plan to make a few modifications which I hope will improve the results. But right now there is no time for experimentation; so without further ado, I present to you the latest addition to my cookie repertoire:
  • 1 3/4 c flour
  • 1 1/2 sticks softened butter
  • 1/2 c confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tsp grated orange peel
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c chopped pistachios
  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate, cut into tiny pieces
  • 1 tsp shortening (I used butter)
In a large bowl, beat all the ingredients except the pistachios, chocolate and 1 tsp butter on medium speed until a dough forms. Stir in the pistachios with a spoon. Shape into a 12" log, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for a couple of hours.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375F. Cut the dough into 1/4" slices. Place the slices on an ungreased cookie sheet about 1" apart. Bake about 10 minutes or until the edges are slightly browned. Remove from cookie sheet and cool completely.

Melt the chocolate with the reserved teaspoonful of butter. Dip half of each cookie into the chocolate, and shake it for excess chocolate to drip back. Place the cookies on waxed paper to allow for chocolate to set.