Caramel Pecan Rolls

What is the use of having a cookbook if you don’t make at least one recipe from it? For a while now we have owned Damn Good Food by chef and owner Mitch Omer of Hell’s Kitchen in Minneapolis. We’ve been there many times now and everything on the menu is absolutely amazing. I wanted to try something different that I have never made before, so I went with their Caramel Pecan Rolls. I just made half of the books recipe and some aspects were failing for me so I had to make some slight changes. Otherwise, it was superb. They were a lot easier than I first thought. The dough itself is slightly sweet rather than being bland and letting the filling and caramel carry it. My husband keeps raving about it as he finishes off the last of them. The caramel itself isn’t overly sweet either which gives the rolls a nice rounded flavor that doesn’t make you run for a glass of milk to wash it down. I’m going to make these the next time my mother-in-law comes to visit as she adores caramel pecan rolls, and I will use any opportunity available to impress her.

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Blackberry Macarons

The macaron madness continues.  I adore how they fit any flavor combination you can possibly think of.  I already have two pages in my notebook filled with combinations to try.  This round I went with a basic macaron with a blackberry buttercream.  I had some blackberry compote in the freezer left over from the orange blossom cheesecake.  This filling fits macarons perfectly, it isn’t overly sweet and has the perfect ratio of acidity vs sweetness.  Did I say they taste amazing yet?  This is so far my favoriate combination, but I am sure I will say that again soon.

I hope you get a chance to give macarons a try in your kitchen. If you do, my previous post has some of my own tips that helped me. I hope they will help you as well, so good luck!

Basic Macaron Shells
Makes 30 Cookies

Shells

  • 115g Blanched Slivered Almonds or Almond Meal/Flour
  • 200g Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 100g Aged Egg Whites (3 egg whites), room temperature
  • 20g Sugar
  • 2 drops Violet Gel Food Coloring

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.  If you only have two cookie sheets, place one on a wire rack to create a flat surface.  This is so you can double up the cookie sheets for baking the shells.  If using parchment paper a great trick for if you’re new to macarons is to draw out circles using the base of the piping tip to create a guide for me while piping.  With a pencil and the Adeco #804 tip create circles in a 5×8 pattern on one side of each sheet of parchment.   When you have made your circle guide on one side, flip it over so you don’t accidentally pipe the mixture onto the pencil drawings.

Grind the almonds and confectioner’s sugar in a food processor.  Grind for 2-3 minutes until fine and like sand in texture.  Sift 2-3 times to lighten the dry mixture. Reprocess as needed to get out all of the big pieces of almonds ground down, and lumps out of the sugar.  You are looking for the consistency of sand.

In a bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl with a hand mixer (I found a hand mixer more successful).  Whisk the egg whites until a foam tarts to foam, it should have a slight tinge of the color of the egg whites in the folds of the ribbons.  Slowly add in the sugar while mixing and whisk until a medium stiff peak forms. Add in two drops of food coloring gel. Continue to whisk, as soon as you can hold the bowl upside down over your head with out it falling out, the eggs are done.

Sift half of the dry mixture onto the egg whites, and mix in to lighten.  Sift in the remaining dry mixture, and begin to gently fold in.  Once mostly combined, tip the bowl at a 45° angle.  Spread the mixture out on 1/3 of the side surface of the bowl, sweep under and fold it over on it self.  Repeat this process 10-12 times.  When you reach the 10th time, stop and lift up a spatula full of the mixture if it forms thick ribbons, watch the mixture and count to 10.  It should absorb into the rest of the mixture with only slight indication of edges, your mixture it done.  It should just very slowly settle on itself.

Pour mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round tip.  I used Adeco #804.  Pipe out following your guide pattern (make sure the side with the pencil lead is facing down onto your prepared cookie sheet). Gently tap the bottom of your sheet twice to remove air bubbles, and let it set out to dry to form a shell.  What you’re looking for is it to not feel tacky.  This can be 15 minutes to an hour depending on the heat and humidity in your kitchen.

Bake at 300°F for 18 minutes.

Once finished baking if you are using parchment let cool for 10 minutes then transfer the top tray to refrigerator to cool.  When they are completely cool it will turn off of the parchment quiet easily.  If you are using a silpat you can let sit out to cool until you can easily remove from the silpat.

Once the shells turn over easily without sticking transfer to a wire rack, and prepare your next batch with the two cookie sheets by doubling them up and sliding the parchment or silpat with shells onto the top sheet.  Follow the same baking temperature and time, repeating the cooling process as well to remove the shells from the parchment.

Pair up the shells of the same size and flip bottom up to let cool completely before adding in filling.

Refrigerate in a sealed container for a week.  Let come up in temperature slightly before eating for best texture / taste.

Blackberry Buttercream

  • 3 Egg Yolks
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Water
  • 3 sticks Butter (24 tbsp), room temperature
  • 1/4c Blackberry Compote

In the bowl of your stand mixer whip the egg yolks with a pinch of salt.  Whisk until tripled in volume, and a pale yellow in color.  Meanwhile, place a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat with the sugar and water.  Bring it up to 245°F

While whisking the eggs on medium speed, slowly pour in the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream. Once all the sugar is incorporated, whisk on high until cool, about 10 minutes.

Once the egg and sugar mixture is cool, still at medium speed, add in the butter in small chunks of 2 tbsp.  Once all the butter is incorporated slowly add in the blackberry compote, and whisk until smooth. Add more confectioner’s sugar if you want more sweetness, then whisk until smooth.

Place into a piping bag fitted with a round tip.  I used an Adeco #809 tip.  Pipe the frosting onto half the paired macaron shells.  Once you have completed piping all the halves, place on the tops.  Store in the refrigerator sealed 7-10 days, bring close to room temperature before eating.

Macarons very slightly modified: Tartelette // Buttercream inspired by: MasterChef Australia


Chocolate Macarons with Coffee Buttercream

I now understand the term macaron madness.  I cannot believe how much fun I am having making these things!  Honestly, I don’t need this many macarons in the house and I wish all of you could show up just to take some away.  They are just too hard to resist eating.

For this batch of macarons, I wanted to come up with a filling that would require egg yolks.  I was left with three for every batch of macarons and would rather not waste them.  So, I took some inspiration from my favorite cooking show,  Masterchef Australia (link at the bottom). This version of buttercream uses egg yolks – yay no waste! – and it’s very smooth which complements the cocoa shells wonderfully.  I decided to add half of the espresso powder in the buttercream near the end give an almost crunchy texture to the cream with tiny bursts of coffee flavor to wash away the sweetness of the macaron. I don’t think it could have turned out any better.

Macarons are the bane and bliss of many food bloggers.  I have been semi-successful before but that was nearly a year ago.  I wanted to make them again as an alternative to my birthday cake. The problem was, my old recipe wasn’t working for me.  I wasn’t getting any pied or feet, I blame the new oven I got in the spring.   I gave up for a while until I read Tartelettes ebook, Demystifying Macarons.  When you want to make macarons, Tartelette is a pretty reliable go-to.  I had multiple success now with her recipe and technique by mixing it with some other little tips and tricks that worked for me.

Remember when you were told as a kid, “practice makes perfect”?  Well, Parisian macarons fall along those lines.  I cannot explain well enough in words what the mixture should be like.  Where to be gentle, where to just stir with some vigor, and the exact texture.  I will tell you I have found that adding cocoa powder produces a chewier cookie, and takes less folds than the basic macaron recipe does.  So, it’s just working with the basic recipe enough times to gain a feel for it, to know when you are at the right constancy.  If you decide to go down this road of trial and error, I promise to send you happy pastry thoughts.

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Pumpkin Scones

Oh yes my friends it is that time of year when the spicy warmth of pumpkin is everywhere.   Like a large portion of the population I love Starbucks, what I don’t always love is the prices of baked goods. For the price of two you can buy enough ingredients to make a weeks worth for two people. This is where my search began.

Trolling around the internet like I do, I wanted to find a recipe similar to Starbucks Pumpkin Scones. I found one that had rave reviews and from a tried and trusted blogger  Sweet Pea’s Kitchen.  The recipes we have tried from her before were a great success.  I knew these scones would be too.  It was a complete success with just very slight changes, due to spices I had on hand.

My husband is the scone maker in our home, but I wanted to surprise him with these.  I knew from the little tips he has told me how to make them turn out successful.  It really is just as simple as not touching the mixture with your hands, and making sure you combine the wet/dry ingredients until just barely combined.  If you over work the mixture the scones come out too cake like, and not brittle like a true scone.

It comes together quickly, and this recipe takes including cooking time less then 30 minutes.  The hardest part is waiting for them to cool before you dive in.  My husband was taunted by the smell of them cooking and picked a hot one off the tray when it came out.  Good sign of a successful recipe.

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Orange Blossom Cheesecake with Pomegranate & Blackberry Compote

I got inspired to make this when I saw it while browsing on a food app on my iPhone.  I have been looking for reasons to use my orange blossom water. I know that I could have just used some orange juice or zest and got an orange flavor, but I love the light floral notes in orange blossom water. It is easily found at any Middle Eastern market store, and it lasts forever if refrigerated. Pomegranate fruit is just fun and messy as can be, but it’s worth the work for that crunchy tart flavor. Blackberries remind me of my childhood home.  We had wild blackberry bushes all over the property that we used to just stop and eat when we got hungry while playing outside. With three of some of my favorite ingredients in this one dessert, I could not wait to make it.

You can take a typical cheesecake to a new level by adding in the orange blossom water. The flavor is amazing and subtle.  You can even substitute the orange blossom water for lemon juice and you could have a great basic cheesecake recipe.  The compote is tart and flavorful.  The leftovers are fantastic as a syrup over waffles or pancakes.  Maybe even ice cream?  The possibilities are up to you.

Seeding a pomegranate is not as troublesome as you might think. It is as simple as filling a bowl with cold water, cutting your fruit into quarters, and working it in the water prevents the juice from squirting everywhere, also easily sorts out the seeds from the skin.  The seeds sink to the bottom of your water bowl, and the skin floats.  Here is a great video on how to seed a pomegranate the way I am trying to describe.   Much easier than you might think, over all it produces a flavor that the bottle juice cannot match.

There are a few tips I have picked up to help prevent large cracks in your cheesecakes.  Watch the temperature of the cake is a big one, but to me not as big as greasing the sides of the spring-form pan before you add in the filling.  Also can always add a bit of cornstarch to the recipe to help stabilize the egg proteins.  I like to use all three methods with this specific cheesecake recipe, which is my favorite to go to.

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Chicken and Mushroom Risotto

This isn’t the first time I have made risotto, but it didn’t turn out nearly as good as this recipe did.  I knew the basic idea of it, slowly boil rice with stock until creamy and tender.  This needed to be quite savory since it was going to be as a main and not a side dish.  Big slices of mushroom, thick chunks of chicken, and creamy rice.  An ideal meal to welcome fall.  This recipe makes a perfect portion for a main dish for two, and is easily doubled for a family size meal.   It is my new favorite dinner, well for the next few weeks until I try some other combination or a new dish.  Don’t be afraid of risotto, I have a few tips to come out with perfect risotto without broken rice bits or it turning glugie and like oatmeal rather than a lovely creamy rice dish.  Once you get comfortable with the basic risotto you can add in anything you want in any combination you would like, it’s open to many possibilities.

The fundamental of risotto is simple.  Slowly cook the rice by adding a little bit of liquid at a time turning it into creamy happiness.  With the use of a second pan you save time by cooking the mushrooms and chicken with spices.  The amount of stock used in the rice will vary so in the recipe I give a range of cups to use.  I used two kinds of cheese, romano and parmesan.  I felt that the parmesan makes it too salty and the romano just perfectly balances it out, being a slightly milder hard cheese.  A great thing about this dish is it comes together in under 30 minutes.  You can have a hearty meal in no time, which is what most of us need.  You’re often tired by the time you get off work, you’ve battled traffic, and when you finally get home you don’t want to invest too much time in dinner. Want to spend that time in more productive ways, like making dessert?

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Banana Nut Loaf

Everyone has a banana bread recipe that they swear is ‘the best ever’ and it might be true.  However, I have yet to find one as good as this.  It’s simple, moist, tender, and very flavorful.  Until a few years ago I had no idea you could freeze bananas.  I know that sounds weird but once they went over ripe I used to throw them away.  One time my husband stopped me and was shocked at what I was doing.  He explained to me that you use frozen over-ripe bananas to make bread.  I looked at him like he was speaking another language.  Then thanks to the power of Google, I was shocked – he was right!

I had enough to make the bread and I was just ecstatic at how good it was. Really the best result was as simple was freezing the blackened over ripe bananas for future use.  Just add your rapidly-darkening extra bananas to the “banana shelf” in your freezer until you have enough to make a loaf of bread.  As the fruit defrosts, the water crystals that formed during the freeze break down the flesh into a syrupy mush.  You will notice the now defrosted fruit won’t hold its shape but if you snip off one tip you can squeeze it out like toothpaste. It is the ideal texture for the bread and has an intense banana flavor.  It’s so simple!  I really cannot believe it took so long for me to know this.

Now that the cold weather is upon us and I can turn on the oven without getting heat stroke, I had to make some.  It freezes very well and defrosts quickly.  I usually make up a batch and freeze the slices individually or as mini-loafs.  Then as we head out the door to work we grab a slice and by time I get to work to settle in with my coffee it’s defrosted and delicious.  This also saves me tons of money because I don’t have to buy it at Starbucks to go with my coffee.  They own enough of my soul already with their soy vanilla latte’s.  This is one of our regular favorites and easily adapts to a loaf, mini loaves, muffins, so have fun and enjoy!

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