Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mac Secrets

Hello there. Its been quite sometime since I last posted. There are many reasons for this but I do have something to share with you so I kind of figured this would be the place to do it. If you've read my blog, in the past, or if you know me, in person, you know that French macaron's have become a thing in my life. Two and a half years ago I decided to attempt making them. I failed and I refuse to fail when it comes to the kitchen so... the story begins. I really nailed them. I figured out how to make them, how to make them creative and interesting (aka delicious), how to perfect them in my the climate/altitude here in Utah and I had fun. I met new friends, joined a little club/site where we were challenged to make new macaron's each month and truly... found a new culinary passion in my life. I  love their daintiness and pretty design. They are such fun to make and so wonderful to give to and share with others.

Because of my interest and success with the little pastries, I've been featured on KUTV news, been invited to serve them at local events, I'm selling them to order (shipping as well) and am now creating beautiful wedding "cakes" for wedding events in SLC. I've taught several classes and that brings me to the reason behind this post. I'm teaching my first "official" local macaron class this Saturday June 16th at 11am.  My dear friend Heather from @slclunches has generously helped me coordinate this event and I am really looking forward to sharing this passion of mine with others. If it's a successful class, I will continue with more (basic as well as more advanced, adding a little funk to the mix). We are keeping class size to 10-12 attendees and serving a light lunch with cocktails. Everyone will get the chance to have a hands-on experience, taste our delicacies and take home a few flavors. If you are interested in attending a macaron class, please comment below, contact me on Twitter (@foodfinery), email me at tspegar@gmail.com or contact Heather (@slclunches) on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you and get you more information.

Allow me to now share a few tips for baking these sweets. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

* always use parchment paper. I've seen people using silpat and while it might "work", it isn't the proper way to bake the cookie part of the macaron. You are looking for a very light crisp surface that, once bitten into, has a soft chewy texture and finishes with a crisp bottom.
* if you're using a convection oven (I do), bake them at 280 degrees for 10 minutes. If you're using a traditional oven, bake at 300 for about 8 minutes. With convection, you can bake 2-3 sheets at a time.
* traditional macaron's are made with almond meal (ground almond flour) and that is what I typically stick with but you can use pistachio or cashew as well.
* always pipe the batter out and allow the piped circles to rest, at room temperature for 10 minutes. The object here is to create a slightly tacky surface so the pastries stand on their own and form a sort of protective barrier before being baked.
* use stainless steel bowls for all of your mixing. Egg whites in one bowl and dry ingredients in another.
* use a rubber spatula to do all of the folding.
* this one, for me, is important but... like my silpat opinion, I'm sure a few will disagree with this too. Use a hand mixer. Don't rely on your Kitchenaid to do this for you. Take the 3 minutes, stand and use a plug in, electric beater, on medium-high speed and do this by hand. You will learn the proper consistency and really be able to control the meringue aspect of this pastry.
* age your egg whites at least 2 days. I prefer 3. Separate the eggs cold, put 2 whites in each bowl (never more, never less) and store them at room temperature. 

We can get into questions, address the more science part of the reason behind how the cookies work and why they are so tricky later.

Ok :) that should suffice, for now. I'll be back with a class update and more tips next week. Thanks to all of you who have and are supporting me. This is fun and a very exciting time. Thank you to those of you who have purchased macaron's from me, passed my information onto friends and family and to those of you attending this class. Thank you to my sweet husband and my precious daughters for advising me, supporting me and being my relentless taste testers.

Happy Baking Friends!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Warm Shrimp Salad

Making salads at home is wonderful because you choose your fresh and local ingredients but it can be a challenge to make them exciting. This salad is something I came up with a few weeks ago and it is so tasty. A much needed break from all of the heavy winter foods served around the holidays, I served it with fresh wheat bread sticks. The warmth makes it a cozy winter salad.

Warm Shrimp Salad

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 head butter (Bibb) lettuce
1 pound fresh spinach
1 head romaine lettuce
1 avocado, cubed
2 ripe tomatoes, cubed
1/4 pound Apple Walnut Smoked Promontory cheese (Beehive Cheese Co.)

Peel and devein shrimp then slice down the center, to split in half. Heat a sauté pan with the olive oil and garlic then toss the shrimp until cooked through (they will "curl" as they cook, after you've split them...makes for a beautiful presentation). Set aside and shred lettuces and spinach. Toss together, in a serving bowl with avocado and tomato. Make dressing.

Dressing for salad

1 avocado
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup sour cream
5 fresh limes, juiced
Salt and pepper

Process all ingredients in a blender and pour over salad. Toss well then top with warm shrimp and grate fresh cheese all over.

Serve with your favorite bread.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Maple Egg Nog Cupcakes

My best friend and I have a tradition. Every year we get our families together, for one evening the week before Christmas and have coffees, dessert and exchange gifts with each other. We have been friends for 20 years, had our first babies 10 months apart 14 years ago (both girls... also very best friends), can talk on the phone (literally... just ask our husbands) for up to 3 hours at a time, have fought and made up where another set of friends would have given up, have been with each other through babies, moves, marriages, deaths, job changes/losses, business openings/closings, family drama, friend drama, selfishness, selflessness, fear, joy, pain, health scares, heartache, happiness and everything in between. I love her. We are so opposite it's almost laughable but we gel and share a closeness that I value and cherish deeply. We usually do this Christmas get-together at my house but this year we are doing it at hers. See... this year she had a new baby (a surprise baby!) so I figured it'd be easier to go to her since she has 4 kids and I only have 2 :) Another great part about our tradition is that my mom is a part of it. She comes over and she and my bff exchange gifts as well. She's coming tonight too. I decided I'd make a treat to take. I came up with these cupcakes this morning and they are awesome. I'm taking them tonight and wanted to share so you can make them for one of your holiday gatherings this week.

Maple Egg Nog Cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter
2C maple syrup
3 eggs
1t vanilla
2 1/2C flour
1T baking powder
1t salt
1/2t nutmeg
1/2C milk
1/2C egg nog

Heat oven to 350 and line muffin tins with cute little Christmas liners. Sift dry ingredients together and set aside. Cream butter until it's light and fluffy then add the syrup. Add eggs, one at a time then add vanilla. Alternate the dry ingredients and milk/egg nog and combine well. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for 15-18 minutes. Cool completely.

Cream topping

1 1/2C whipping cream
2t vanilla
2C powdered sugar
nutmeg (for dusting)

Whip the cream till it forms soft peaks then add the vanilla and sugar and whip until it forms stiff peaks (fairly stiff too... you want it to hold up). Pipe onto the cupcakes and dust each one with a light sprinkle of nutmeg.

Merry Christmas! Enjoy this week with people you love so much and make sure they know it!