Friday, November 26, 2010

French Almond Macaroons


Happy Thanksgiving! The holiday season is finally arriving again with Thanksgiving now past and Christmas just around the corner. This is my second year celebrating Thanksgiving, and it is already clear to me that Thanksgiving is all about family and food. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie… Thanksgiving dinner truly is the epitome of comfort food.

My family and I had Thanksgiving dinner this year at a friend’s house, so I did not cook an oversized chicken or any of the typical chow this year. Instead, I decided to experiment a little, and make some French almond macaroons. Macaroons are one of those things that I’ve been meaning to make for a long time, but never have had the chance to do so. Finally with a four and a half day weekend on my hands, I decided I could spare a few hours.


These dainty fellas were very time consuming. First of all, I had to make my own blanched almonds—not from scratch, but from raw almonds of course. It was pretty cool to “pop” the skin off. Next time though, I would definitely just buy the almonds already blanched. Then came piping every little kiss one by one… If you don’t have a piping bag, you can create a makeshift one by using a resealable plastic bag and snipping one of the corners off. While these macaroons took a lot of time and effort, they were definitely worth every single drop of sweat. In fact, I think that they were even more scrumptious because of the effort I put into making them.

Traditionally, macaroons are sandwiched with a creamy ganache or buttercream, but I decided to take a short cut (and rid some fat calories) by using marshmallow fluff. It was the first time that I had fluff, and the texture was pleasantly spongy. I’m surprised that they keep their spring for so long in a jar. I like these macaroons with a cup of refreshing green tea—the flavors combine perfectly in your mouth. Bon App├ętit!

Ingredients

1 cup blanched almonds
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
3 large egg whites
3/4 tsp salt
3 tbsps granulated sugar
Red food coloring
8 tbsps Fluff

Directions

1. Pulse almonds with 1/2 cup confectioners sugar in a food processor until very finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and rift in remaining cup icing sugar, stirring to combine.
2. Beat egg whites with salt in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar a little at a time, beating, then increase speed to high and continue to beat until whites just hold stiff, glossy peaks. Add drops of food coloring to reach desired shade and mix at low speed until evenly combined.
3. Stir almond mixture into meringue with a rubber spatula until completely incorporated.Spoon batter into bag, pressing out excess air, and snip off 1 corner of plastic bag to create a 1/4-inch opening. Twist bag firmly just above batter, then pipe peaked mounds of batter onto lined sheets.
4. Let cookies stand, uncovered, at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes or until the tops are no longer sticky and a light crust forms. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300°F.
5. Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until crisp and edges are just slightly darker, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on sheets on racks. Sandwich with marshmallow fluff.



Friday, November 19, 2010

Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing


What could be better than banana bread, baked in cute portions, all jazzed up with creamy frosting and topped with crunchy nuts? It’s a dream come true, a fortune cookie proved authentic, a reason for living (aside from the other 2 billion of course).

What do you do when you have leftover cream cheese frosting? Why you find a recipe to use it of course. I guess you could eat it straight from the bowl, but that would be a little gross, not to mention totally infringing on my nutritional standards.

What is one of the most potassium rich fruits? It’s your common food with the apes, the one that goes better with peanut butter than jelly does, the food b is for, after a is for apples. It’s your friend, the banana.

What reduces the risk of high blood pressure and stroke, helps your kidneys function properly, reduces stress, and keeps you up and running? Yep you guessed it. Potassium!

What…

Do you really need any more reasons to try out this recipe?

Ingredients

½ cup trans fat free margarine
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
¼ cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda

For the cream cheese frosting:
1/2 pound cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the margarine and sugar. Add the eggs, vanilla, bananas and buttermilk. Combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda; add to the banana mixture. Fill 18 paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full.
3. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
4. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Frost cupcakes and enjoy!