Food Matters: Champagne Macarons, Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery, Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
Salute 2012 with Champagne macarons
What happens when you give a NASA research engineer a pastry bag? The most amazing book of meticulously crafted macarons you've ever seen.
Jialin Tian is a Virginia-based engineer who has now written two beautifully photographed cookbooks with her mother, Yabin Yu, who lives in The Woodlands and is also an engineer. Their first book, "The Bear and Fish Family Cookbook" (Jayca, $33.95), which came out in 2009, is a culinary tour through the family history, all the way back to Yu's childhood in Beijing. You'll find recipes for Beef with Orange Peel, Pork Wonton Soup and Tea Eggs. They've used their knowledge of science not only to make the recipe instructions more clear, but to improve the flavor with techniques such as sous vide.
Toward the end of "The Bear and Fish," you can see that Tian's passion lies in pastry, which leads to their newest book, "Macaron Magic," a collection of recipes for more than 30 macarons, many of them inspired by holidays or cocktails. There are a few wacky ones made with savory ingredients like jalapeños, green peas and wasabi, but most of them are beautiful sweet treats that, with enough practice, will look as good as Tian's. Tian offers this recipe for Champagne macarons, which isn't for the faint of heart. She uses a few hard-to-find ingredients, such as egg white powder, but you can watch tutorial videos on her website, MacaronMagic.com. The Champagne jelly filling could be used in any macaron recipe or spread on toast on New Year's Day.
Celebrate the new year with these delightful little gems made with your favorite bubbly. Select a champagne that you actually enjoy drinking because the flavor of the wine intensifies after it is made into jelly. You can substitute the citric acid with one tablespoon of lemon juice if you don't mind adding a little bit of citrusy taste to the filling.
For macaron shells:
1 recipe Macaron Shells (see recipe below)
1/32 tsp. yellow, plus 1/32 tsp. white powdered food coloring (optional)
For Champagne jelly filling:
12/3 cups granulated sugar
11/2 tsp. powdered pectin
1/2 tsp. citric acid
11/2 cups brut champagne or sparkling wine
Follow the directions to make the macaron shells. Add powdered food coloring if desired.
For the Champagne jelly filling, combine the sugar, pectin and citric acid in a stainless steel mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly and reserve.
In a medium-sized saucepan, cook the champagne or sparkling wine over medium-high heat until boiling. Stir in the sugar mixture. Bring the mixture back to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir constantly. Cook the mixture to 219 degrees, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Let cool slightly. Cover the surface of the jelly directly with plastic wrap to prevent the sugar from crystallizing. Use the filling at room temperature.
Pipe the filling onto half of the macaron shells using a medium-sized pastry bag. Cover the piped filling with the remaining shells to make sandwiches. Refrigerate the macarons overnight before serving. Serve at room temperature.
4 aged egg whites, at room temperature
2 cups blanched whole almonds or 22/3 cups blanched almond flour
11/2 cups granulated sugar
Powdered food coloring, water soluble (optional)
For Italian meringue:
4 fresh egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. dried egg white powder
11/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup distilled water
On the day before baking, separate four eggs and place the egg whites in a mixing bowl. Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Reserve the yolks for another use.
One hour before baking, take the aged egg whites out of the refrigerator and allow them to return to room temperature.
Meanwhile, combine blanched whole almonds and sugar. Process the almond-sugar mixture in a food processor for about 15 seconds or until the mixture becomes a fine powder. Do not over-mix. Pour the mixture into a medium-sized mixing bowl and reserve.
Mix the powdered food coloring, if using, with the aged egg whites. Add the colored egg whites to the reserved almond-sugar mixture. Mix all ingredients well with a spatula or bowl scraper until a thick, sticky paste has formed. Set aside.
For the Italian meringue, place the fresh egg whites in a 5-quart electric mixer bowl. Add the dried egg white powder. Attach the mixer bowl to the mixer fitted with the wire whisk attachment.
Cook the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved. When the mixture comes to a boil, insert a candy thermometer and stop stirring. When the sugar syrup reaches 230 degrees, turn on the mixer and start to beat the egg whites at high speed.
When the sugar syrup reaches 244 degrees, slowly pour the syrup in a steady stream along the sides of the mixer bowl while the mixer is whisking. Continue to beat until stiff, glossy peaks form and the meringue has cooled to about 95 degrees.
Mix the Italian meringue with the almond-sugar paste using a spatula or bowl scraper; mix until a soft, glossy batter forms. When lifted up with the spatula, the batter should flow back into the bowl in ribbons, and the ribbons should disappear in about 10 to 18 seconds.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 13-inch-by-18-inch half-sheet pan with a half-sheet-sized silicone baking mat.
Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch plain tip with the macaron batter. Pipe the mixture into 1-inch mounds, with 1-inch spacing, on the silicone baking mat. The mixture will spread out to about 11/2-inch in diameter.
Gently tap the baking pan against a hard surface to reduce air bubbles in the batter. Use a toothpick to pop remaining air bubbles. Bake the macaron shells for about 12 minutes on the upper-level rack in the oven. Remove the baking pan and place it on a cooling rack.
Let the macaron shells cool completely before removing them from the silicone mat. Place them on a large clean surface with the smooth side up. Flip over half of the shells and pipe the filling onto the shells using a medium-sized pastry bag. Cover the piped filling with the remaining shells to make sandwiches.
Refrigerate the macarons overnight before serving. The macarons will stay fresh for about 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator or about 3 to 4 weeks stored in the freezer. Serve at room temperature. Makes enough shells for about 85 to 90 11/2-inch filled macarons.
- From "Macaron Magic" by Jialin Tian
Co-Op bakery launches with vegan doughnuts
It isn't easy to bake with a group of people, much less collectively own and operate a bakery, but a group of Austinites are doing just that with Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery.
A group of bakers gathered in 2010 to hash out the idea, and after a successful fundraising campaign on Kickstarter raised more than $10,000, they launched in late summer. In order to create a niche product with wide appeal, Red Rabbit bakers decided to start with a line of vegan donuts, including ones glazed with maple syrup, Mexican chocolate or coffee, that they now sell at Wheatsville Co-op and a number of local coffee shops, including Summermoon, Houndstooth, Genuine Joe and Monkey Nest. They also bake vegan buns, sourdough bread and baguettes for Black Star Co-op, and hope to add more baked goods soon. 537-8546, redrabbitbakery.com.
Sugar cookies too sugary for you? try this recipe
Does the amount of sugar in a cookie have any influence on the texture/composition/quality (other than sweetness) of the cookie? I find American cookies to be excessively sweet for my taste in general and feel that they would be so much more enjoyable if the baker didn't dump in so much sugar. Too much sugar (just like excessive red chili powder or spices) hide/overpower all the subtle flavours and aromas imparted to the product by the ingredients. I wonder if they add so much sugar because the cookie would somehow not be as "good" if the amount were reduced.
- V.G., Austin
I had a savory cookie for the first time at a cookie swap this year, but in general, cookies are sweet, if not sweeter, than just about any other dessert. To find out what effect besides taste that sugar has on cookies, I asked Anna Ginsberg, the Austinite who won the 2006 Pillsbury Bake-Off and now writes about her daily adventures in cookie baking on CookieMadness.net. (Baking all those cookies gave her plenty of material for her first book, "The Daily Cookie: 365 Treats for the Sweetest Year of Your Life," which is scheduled to come out in November 2012.)
"Sugar definitely influences texture. High sugar cookies tend to spread more and have more crackle and more crunch," Ginsberg says. "I've noticed when I reduce sugar in cookies, they're usually a little softer and sometimes fatter." Ginsberg says that when you start changing the ratio of sugar to flour to fat, you change the type of cookie, which is why there are so many kinds of cookies in the first place.
European-style cookies tend to have less sugar but more fat, so they'll taste better for people without a sweet tooth but they aren't necessarily healthier. "Ounce for ounce, sugar has fewer calories than fat, so ounce for ounce, cutting sugar raises the calories of a cookie unless you replace that sugar with something of equal mass that has about 100 calories per ounce. That's why sugar-free and reduced sugar doesn't always equal low calorie."
Ginsberg shared a recipe for a sugar cookie that is less sweet than most sugar cookies. She enjoys it with frosting, but "for someone who likes a less sweet cookie, they might be perfect on their own."
Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
1 cup shortening
4 cups (18oz.) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup whole milk or reduced fat milk with a tsp. of cream mixed in
1 tsp. vanilla plus a little almond extract if desired
1 tsp. baking soda
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cut the shortening into the flour using a fork, a pastry cutter or a food processor, just as if you were making a pie crust. Add the salt and stir well.
Combine the eggs and sugar in a second bowl and beat well with a hand-held mixer. Combine the milk, vanilla and baking soda in a small cup. Add the egg mixture and the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until it's all blended and you have a dough. Chill for about half an hour.
On a floured surface, roll a half or a quarter of the dough (I never roll it all at once) into a 1/4-inch thick slab and cut out shapes. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until cookies are golden brown (these get quite brown) and appear set. Remove from baking sheet and let cool completely. Ice with royal frosting or buttercream, if desired. Makes about 40 cookies.
- Adapted by Anna Ginsberg from a recipe in "Everyone Likes Cookies," a book that was originally printed by a gas and electric company in New York