French


There are a number of reasons why food bloggers might plan a get together.

Perhaps it’s to finally meet long-time fellow food blogger friends in person.

Many times we get together for a worthy cause.

Since we love what we do, we are always looking for ways to learn and improve our craft; we’ll get together for that.

However, regardless of the circumstance that might bring us together there is one thing you can be certain of… rarely does one show up empty-handed.



Those who know me, know that I usually show up with a batch or two of french macarons. And, anyone who knows Rachael of La Fuji Mama knows without a doubt that she will most likely show up with a delicious batch of Fuji Nana’s Deadly Chocolate Almond Toffee.

Which, while we are on the subject I really think should be renamed to “Fuji Nana’s Dangerous Chocolate Almond Toffee” because:

a)You run the risk of not being able to control yourself once you have possession of said toffee.

b)You can end up with a chocolate dipped chin or a chocolate dipped lens.

c)You might turn your head at the bowl of oatmeal you had planned on having for breakfast, and have this instead.

So consider yourself warned…



Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Toffee
inspired from Fuji Nana’s Deadly Chocolate Almond Toffee

1 cup roasted unsalted hazelnuts
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely chopped or ground walnuts

1. Line a baking sheet with foil or a Silpat, spinkle the hazelnuts in a single layer over the over baking sheet to cover an area of approx 9 X 12; set aside.

2. In a heavy saucepan or copper pan combine butter, sugar and salt. Cook over high heat stirring constantly until the candy reaches 300 degrees F (Hard Crack stage) this step takes between 5 – 7 minutes. Remove for heat, stir in hazelnut liqueur, and quickly pour candy over the hazelnuts; allow to cool completely.

3. Melt chocolate in the microwave oven in intervals of 40 seconds at 50% power and stirring inbetween until chocolate is soft enough to spread. Spread chocolate mixture over cooled toffee and sprinkle with your favorite ground nut. Allow chocolate to cool completely before breaking toffee into bite-size pieces.


Here’s a batch of Fuji Nana’s Deadly Chocolate Almond Toffee I made a couple of weeks ago. Mmm Mmm Mmm…

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Extravaganza Cake

This past Monday (Memorial Day) was our middle son’s 14th birthday.

The weather has been so beautiful these past couple of days that we just couldn’t resist a trip to the beach. We decided to get an early start and headed out knowing that it was probably going to get crowded later in the day.

Our first stop was Bonjour for breakfast, the birthday boy ordered french toast, my husband and his brothers all went with the ham, cheese and mushroom omelette, and I ordered the salmon crepes. Everything was delicious!

Breakfast at Bonjour in Dana Point
After breakfast, we drove a couple of miles down to the beach. The boys tossed around the football for a bit, we tried playing badminton but it was just too windy. I layed out on the beach and read a little while the boys braved the very cold Pacific – BRRRR. The only way I was going in was in a full wet suit.

Beach Time
Some people made sure they got the full beach experience, including bathing in what felt like ice cold water to me.

Fun in the sun
Later in the day we headed back home and rested a little then we washed up and got ready for dinner. The birthday boy chose our favorite local Sushi restaurant.

Everyone chose their favorites which included a rainbow roll, fresh oysters, a couple of snow drop rolls, seared ahi tuna, and an albacore garlic roll that was fantastic!

Birthday boy chose sushi for dinner
Once we were done with dinner, they dimmed the lights and brought out a softball sized Green Tea Mochi Ice Cream which was gone in a flash!

Birthday Dinner at Marui Sushi
After dinner we headed back home, sang Happy Birthday and ended the evening with a small slice of Peanut Butter Extravaganza Cake.

Cake Time
Peanut Butter Extravaganza Cake
The birthday boy’s favorite candy bar happens to be Butterfinger so while flipping through my cookbooks trying to decide what type of cake to make him, I came across “Peanut Butter Mousse with Milk Chocolate Chantilly, Peanut Brittle, and Chocolate Cake” in The Modern Cafe by Francisco J. Migoya and said aha! This is it!

I switched it up a little and kind of pieced together my own version of this amazing cake.

Peanut Butter Mousse
adapted from Stephanie’s Kitchen

3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cups creamy peanut butter
2 cups heavy cream(cold)
1 tablespoons vanilla extract

In a bowl combine the heavy cream and vanilla with a hand mixer whip until stiff peaks form. Place in the refrigerator while you move on to the next step to keep the whipped cream chilled.

In a bowl combine the cream cheese, sugar, milk and peanut butter. With a hand mixer beat until smooth and creamy.

Place a 9″ x 6″ round ring mold over a sheet pan lined with plastic wrap. Pipe the chilled mousse into the mold and smooth top with an off-set spatula and freeze.

Refrigerate until very cold.

Peanut Butter Mousse

Peanut Butter Mousse

Peanut Butter Mousse

Milk Chocolate Chantilly
adapted from The Modern cafe by Francisco J. Migoya

500 g heavy cream
160 g milk chocolate

Bring the heavy cream to a boil Pour over the chocolate blend until uniform then refrigerate. Once chocolate is cool enough beat until stiff peaks are formed. Pipe whipped cream into 9″ ring frame (I didn’t have a second ring frame so I used my 9″ tart pan which has a removable bottom), then top with chopped pieces of homemade butterfinger carefully pressing them down into the chantilly level off with an off-set spatula if necessary and freeze at least 4 hours or overnight.

Chocolate Chantilly

Here’s the recipe for the Homemade Butterfinger Candy

Homemade Butterfinger Candy

Chocolate Cupcakes Cake
adapted from A Year In Chocolate by Jacques Torres

3 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups boiling water
2 cups cake flour, sifted
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a bowl combine the chopped chocolate and the cocoa powder. Pour the boiling water and whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool at room temperature.

Chocolate cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.

In a bowl sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy about 3 minutes.

Add the brown sugar and continue to beat until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and continue to beat just until incorporated.

Reduce the speed to low and beat in the sour cream, and vanilla until blended.

Add the sifted flour and melted chocolate mixture in thirds alternating each one and beating only until combined.

115
Pour cake batter onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove pan from the oven and place over wire rack to cool. Cake can be frozen once cooled.

Chocolate cake

Cake Assembly
1/2 cup melted/tempered milk chocolate

When ready to assemble, remove the peanut butter mousse and the chocolate chantilly round from the freezer.

Place the frozen chocolate chantilly round on top of the peanut butter mousse with the candy pieces facing the mousse. (I made mine the other way around, but I think this would work even better)

Using the same size ring mold cut out a piece of the sheet cake and brush the top with tempered chocolate to create a thin layer. Then place the chocolate covered side of the cake facing the chantilly. This is will act as a bonding agent between the chantilly and the cake. Press the cake into the mold to avoid any air pockets and return to freezer.

When ready to serve allow cake to thaw out in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. Place your serving platter over the cake and flip, the ring should slide off easily.

Chocolate cake

Peanut Butter Extravaganza Cake

Josh

Final note, the birthday boy loved his cake! As did everyone else…

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Orange-Lime Margarita Macarons

Happy pre-Cinco de Mayo everyone!

To bypass the “mini” history lesson, scroll down to: “OK, now for the fun part!” :)

I wanted to share just a little bit of history for those that may be unfamiliar with the origins of this holiday.

Contrary to popular belief, this holiday is not a major holiday in Mexico, it is mainly only celebrated or observed in the state of Puebla. Unlike September 16th Mexico’s Independance Day, which is the biggest patriotic holiday in Mexico. Cinco de Mayo conmemorates the victory over the French during the Battle of Puebla. Here in the US and in other parts of the world, this day is seen as a day to celebrate Mexican Culture and Heritage.

OK, now for the fun part!

We all know very well there is no better way to celebrate a holiday than with a little F & B (food & beverage) right?

So…….. I made these just for you, a little F & B rolled into one. Enjoy!

Orange-Lime Margarita Macarons
Orange-Lime Margarita Macarons

Orange-Lime Margarita Macarons

Orange-Lime Margarita Macarons

Orange-Lime Macaron Shells

90 grams aged egg whites (roughly 3 egg whites)
25 grams granulated sugar
200 grams powdered sugar
70 grams blanched almonds
40 grams ground pine nuts (pignolias)
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon grated key lime peel

Place the powdered sugar, almonds, and pine nuts in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Sift a couple of time to remove bits and pieces. Regrind if necessary.

Once your nuts, and powdered sugar are mixed together, rub them in between your fingertips to break the bigger pieces.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry.

Add the dry ingredients to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit.

If using convection: preheat the oven to 280F. If using regular electric or gas, preheat the oven to 300F.

When ready, bake for 18 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool

Orange-Lime Buttercream

4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon tequila sauza gold
1/2 teaspoon cointreau
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon key lime zest

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and mix until incorporated.

How to age egg whites:

Separate the egg whites from the yolks and place the whites in a clean bowl. Leave out at room temperature, uncovered or loosely covered with a towel for 24-48 hours. At this point the whites can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Bring egg whites to room temperature before making the macaron shells.

Pipe macarons onto shells, top and refrigerate. Remove macarons from refrigerator 1 hour before serving.

Orange-Lime Margarita Macarons

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Salvaged Macarons
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to partake in an amazing Macaron Class taught by none other than The Macaron Goddess herself, Helene Dujardin (Tartelette)

The class was organized by Rachael (La Fuji Mama) with the help of Jenny (Devour the World) and Gaby (What’s Gaby cooking).

Before I dive into the post, I wanted to share with you one of the most important if not the most important lesson we learned this day (at least in my humble opinion):

When making macaron’s, even though you execute each and every single step in the macaron making process with perfection, there is still a chance your end result will be a less than “perfect” macaron. And always remember… this is not your fault!

I would like to call this… “The Oven of Doom” effect.




That being said, we can now move on to the very exciting and enlightening French Macaron Class.

The class took place at the Academy of Culinary Education in Woodland Hills, CA.

Pantry
I took a few pictures of the school’s pantry racks.

Ready for Macaron Class
As each of her students arrived at the Academy, Helene greeted us with a big smile and introduced herself.

Gift Bags
She was also gracious enough to prepare these goodie bags for her eager students.

Each goodie bag contained the following:

  • 18″ pastry bag
  • Ateco #807 tip
  • Candy-n-Cake powdered food coloring
  • Helene’s Famous Macaron Recipe
  • A small box for us to take our macarons home in
  • Refreshments (Fuji Water & Pistachios)


Precision
One of the very first things we learned was that precision is key when it comes to macaron making.

Ground Almond
Each ingredient was weighed in grams according to Helene’s Macaron Recipe, here we have ground almonds.

Powdered Sugar Egg Whites
Precisely weighed powdered sugar and aged egg whites.

Ground Almonds Powdered Sugar
The ground almonds and powdered sugar are then combined and free of any lumps.

Beating Egg Whites
Helene goes over the process of making the meringue for the macaron shells and explains why it is very important to use aged egg whites when making French Macarons.

The aging removes moisture from the egg whites which in turn results in a much stabler meringue.

Beating Egg Whites
Once the egg whites have reached the glossy meringue stage we slowly pour in the granulated sugar to simulate “rain”.

Meringue
Here my egg whites have reached the glossy meringue stage, or as Helene likes to refer to it the “thick shaving cream” stage.

Macaron Batter We were also tought how to fold in the dry ingredients into the meringue, and when to stop.

Macaron Batter Color
At this point we were told if we wanted to add a little color to our macarons we could. I decided to add a bit of the powdered food coloring from my goodie bag… well, what I thought was a bit.

Avatar Blue Macaron Batter
Lo and behold I ended up with Avatar Blue Macaron batter.

Tools
Prepped Baking Sheets
One other key element for successfull macaron making is Mise en place.

Therefore we made sure our pastry bag with tip and baking sheets were ready and on standby for us as soon as our macaron batter had reached the perfect consistency for piping.

Avatar Macaron
Avatar Macaron CloseUp
My Avatar Blue Macarons piped and ready for the oven!

Convection OvenHelene, unknowingly feeding “The Oven of Doom” our beautiful macarons.

We had done everything to perfection with Helene’s seal of approval nonetheless (well except for a piping misshap here and there which was due to our own wrongdoing). That is… until the “Oven of Doom” took over our beautiful macarons.

It turns out that because of the way the industrial convection oven was circulating the air, only the baking sheets placed on the two top oven racks were baked properly. (Totally out of our control.)

And this my friends… is just one of the reasons why the quest for the “Perfect Macaron” will continue to live on.

C’est la vie… they still tasted magnifique!

Rather than post a picture of my so-so macarons, I made a couple a batches at home, hopefully these are worthy of Helene’s seal of approval. :)

So stay tuned for more macaron making action and recipes!

Helene Dujardin
All in all it was truly an amazing experience, thank you Helene!

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Or more appropriately… How to give new life to an over-baked flourless chocolate cake.


The story started off with the best of intentions.

The plan was to make a luscious flourless chocolate cake for one of my colleagues who recently accepted a new job in NY.

I pulled out this baby off the cookbook bookshelf, looked through the index and found the perfect recipe.

As I was reading through the recipe I discovered I would need a pair of 6-inch round cake pans which I didn’t have. (I usually bake my cakes using 9-inch rounds)

I continued reading and was relieved when I got to the “TIPS” section which noted the following: This recipe can be used to make a 17 1/4-by-11 1/2-by-1-inch cake. (Using a standard sheet pan) Perfect!






So, I proceeded with the plan at hand… Oh one other thing I should mention.

The recipe called for almond flour, which I didn’t have either. But, I did have ground almond meal and when reading the bag it said it could be interchanged for almond flour.

OK, moving on… I proceeded with the plan and began making the cake.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
adapted from The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts

Equipment
Two 6-inch round cake pans or a 17 1/4 by 11 1/2 by 1 inch pan.
Saucepan
Heat-proof bowl to fit saucepan
Wooden spoon
standing electric mixer fitted with whip attachment
Rubber spatula
Cake tester
Wire racks

Ingredients
Butter and flour for pans

For the Batter
115 gr (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
80 g (2 1/4 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
15 ml (1 tablespoon) borghetti espresso liquour (My contribution to the recipe)
80 g (2 1/4 ounces) almond flour
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature

For the French meringue
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
150 g (5 1/3 ounces) sugar

Prepare you mise en place.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Fill a saucepan large enough to allow your heat-proof bowl to fit snugly into it without touching the water with about 7.5 centimeters (3 inches) of water. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately remove the pan from the heat.


Combine the butter and chocolate in the heat-proof bowl and place the bowl into the pan, checking to make sure that the bottom is not resting in the hot water. Using a wooden spoon, stir to blend as the butter melts.

When the butter and chocolate have melted and the mixture is homogeneous, stir in the almond flour.


Then stir in the egg yolks. The mixture will be warm, but should not be hot. If it is too hot, the yolks will cook and congeal and render the mixture unsuable.

Remove the bowl. from the heat and set it aside.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Beat on low to aerate. Add the sugar, raise the speed to high, and beat for about 5 minutes, or until firm peaks form.


The peaks should not be too stiff or dry.

Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the meringue into the chocolate batter.

Carefully pour the batter into the prepared pans, smoothing it into an even layer.

Bake the cakes for 20-30 minutes, or until a caketester inserted into the center comes out clean. The tester can be moist or shiny but it should have no crumbs attached.

Place the cake pans on wire racks to cool completely before unmolding. The cake will fall as it cools.

Serve as is, with crème chantilly

“The finished cake should be very moist, with a tight, dense crumb and a strong chocolate aroma and flavor.”

Hence, it SHOULD NOT look like the image below:


Coffee Syrup & Chocolate Ganache to the rescue!

Coffee Syrup
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brewed espresso

In a small sauce pan pour the brewed espresso, water and sugar and place over medium heat. Stir to combine, and remove from heat once sugar has dissolved.

Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

Chocolate Ganache
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream

Place chocolate chips in a medium heatproof bowl.

Pour heavy cream into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Carefully pour cream over chocolate let it rest a few seconds then begin to stir until all the chocolate has melted, and has a glossy finish.

Set aside to cool until it becomes thick enough to spread.


Assembling the Dobos Torte

Once the cake has cooled place on a large cutting board, and cut into six equal sized rectangles.

Take your sheet pan and place it upsidedown. Place a sheet of parchment paper over it.

Carefully take your first later of cake and place it on the parchment paper.

With a pastry brush the coffee syrup over the cake and let it absorb for a minute.

Apply a thin layer of the chocolate ganache over the cake with an angled spatula.

Repeat with the remaining cake rectangles.

Top with the remaining ganache.

Lessons learned:

I should have checked the cake much sooner since the layer was so thin compared to what it would have been in the round cake pans.

You can always “artificially” moisten a dried out cake.

Chocolate Ganache is a lifesaver.


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