I took a macaron cooking class. See what I learned

4-H was my first leap in cooking. I learned how to make dishes from the project recipe books with lots of practicing. But, I have never taken a cooking class. I’ve seen plenty of food demonstrations (that will be a future blog post) but never taken an actual class from a chef.

Ever since the macaron adventure in February 2012 I’ve been obsessed with macarons.  I have looked at different recipes on blog posts and macaron cookbooks. jothetartqueen has a chocolate macaron recipe; The Seaside Baker, my BlogHer Food friend, makes tons of macarons and has several flavors posted on her  blog; and a friend went to France and brought back a package of French macarons and a macaron cookbook completely written in French.

I saw an opportunity to take a macaron cooking class. I thought I could learn from a professional chef and fine tune my technique. After all, I am self-taught, studying recipes and cooking by lots of trial and error. I wanted to see what an expert could teach me.

I was off to a rocky start as I rolled in 15 minutes late and as my online reservation wasn’t received. But, they had room in the class and I fell into an affable group of two women, Erin and Susan, who welcomed me to the class. Susan has a knitting blog, so we bonded quickly.

When I jumped in, Erin was sifting the almond flour with the powdered sugar. Tip #1 was to sift the dry ingredients twice for a finer flour and to throw out the bigger pieces. You could even put it in the food processor first before sifting. You can’t over sift the dry ingredients.  Tip #2 store your almond flour in the freezer so it doesn’t spoil.

Next was the egg whites. Tip #3 whip them until foamy on a medium speed before adding the sugar and when the sugar is incorporated whip at a high-speed until stiff peaks are achieved. Deborah our chef said the bowl did not have to be cold but the egg whites should be at room temperature and “aged” at least one day.

Tip #4 use a Silpat liner under the parchment paper to prevent burning as well as an extra cookie sheet underneath. Our first batch of blueberry macarons turned out great. Perfect in fact.

Then we learned how to make a berry cream filling. That was new for me because I have used pre-made fillings like curd, jams, Nutella, or caramel in the past. I volunteered with three other students to go to the stove and make the filling. It turned out to be a lovely curd-like filling using cream, marscapone cheese, berry filling, eggs and sugar.

So I took those techniques from class and fine tuned my macarons.

Problem #1: Too hot an oven. The recipe called for 375 degree oven. After the first batch I turned it down to 350-360 degree F. See the first batch on the left is a little too brown compared to the light green batch on the right.

Problem #2: Cracked macaron. I think this happened because I didn’t let this batch dry completely for 30 minutes, I might have popped them in at 25 minutes.

Problem #3: Powdered mango. The mango macaron recipe called for powdered mango. In our class we had powdered mango. I asked Chef Deborah how to make it and she said to food process dried mango. As you can see below that did not happen. I dried it in the oven twice and pulverized it 2-3 times in the food processor and I got maybe 2 pinches of mango powder into the mix. I added some water to it and used it to make my filling.

I made two fillings Lime Cream and Mango Cream. I can’t believe I used a stick of butter for each of these fillings with the curd flavoring. They tasted good. mmmm butter.

While I was in the class, I asked lots of questions and I think Chef Deborah liked that. There were four groups of students, 15 in all, and four helpers clearing away our dishes. If I was taking the class for the first time I would’ve been overwhelmed. Making macarons calls for many details. I knew my subject and kept up with a fast paced class. All in all, I am glad I took the class. I felt more confident making my macarons today.

Pièce de résistance (my fine accomplishment). Embrassez le cuisinier (kiss the cook)

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The Ice Cream Social

The weather this summer has been unbearable, so far. Colorado has had horrible fires that thankfully, are nearly all contained by the time of this post. It was hot and humid on the 4th of July, so ice cream was the best remedy to the solution.

The Fearless Cooking Club challenge was for each member to bring an ice cream dessert. A few members were concerned about what to make as they had no ice cream maker. Alas, everyone rose to the challenge of making ice cream, and for most members, for the very first time.

To begin our “star”, Joy made three, yes you heard me, three ice cream desserts. She is holding the Honey Ice Cream recipe by The Hungry Australian blog site. Joy had  honey all the way from Mt Vernon, Virginia. This recipe does not require an ice cream maker and the cream is whipped prior to combining all the ingredients. We only wished we had some honey from the bees who pollenate the eucalyptus trees.

Joy then brought out a lavender ice cream from an edition of English Home magazine. One taste transported me to a tea room sipping hot tea and a lovely biscuit. And lastly she made a homemade ice cream cake out of two cartons of ice cream and cookies. She found the ice cream cake container at home. Her basement is a great supply closet for all kinds of kitchen equipment.

Cindy, our newest member, made the WordPress Freshly Pressed recipe Christmas in July Gingerbread Ice Cream Sandwiches from Cookie Talk. She said that she messed up the gingerbread as she didn’t have parchment paper. But she put the “damaged” gingerbread on the bottom layer and no one knew there was a problem. She had a cute presentation didn’t she?

Next up, our calorie conscious member Char, made Brown Cow Ice cream floats. She had a soft serve ice cream machine that she made vanilla ice cream with Splenda, sugar-free chocolate syrup and Diet A&W Root Beer.

Julie made a chocolate ice cream that she made with sweetened condensed milk and silky chocolate.  It served well in popsicle form.

Barb made a fabulous Lemon Semifreddo by Anne Burrell Food Network. It tasted like frozen lemon meringue pie. So refreshing.

Lastly I brought my ice cream: Maple Bacon Cayenne (on the right, this time marinated with bacon) and the Mexican Style Chocolate Ice Cream (left). The bacon was chopped and provided as a topping.

Patty’s Points:

1. Everyone was equally impressed by each other’s efforts. Luckily, husbands and grown children came by to partake in all the sweets. We had lots of savory like veggies, chips and dips to balance out the sweet.

2. All of the ice cream treats were delicious. My personal favorite was the semifreddo. It was so unique and fresh. Anne Burrell is becoming one of my favorite chefs on the Food Network. Her recipes are so tasty and easy to replicate at home.

Halfway through the summer. The monsoon rains started and cooled everything off for a few days. It will be back in the 90s later this week. Stay cool out there.

Ice Cream Social Countdown: Mexican Style Chocolate Ice Cream

The 4th of July party is just an hour away! For the finale I made a recipe from the Cuisinart Recipe Booklet that came with my ice cream maker: Mexican Style Chocolate Ice Cream.

2 C whole milk

1 1/2 C heavy cream

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1-2 pinches cayenne

pinch salt

2/3 C granulated sugar, divided

5 large egg yolks

6 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

Medium saucepan whisk milk,cream,vanilla,spices, salt and half the sugar. Bring to a boil

In a separate bowl combine egg yolks and remaining sugar whisk until pale and thick.

In another bowl place chopped chocolate.

When the cream mixture comes to a slight boil, whisk 1/3 of hot liquid into the yolk mixture and whisk so it doesn’t become scrambled eggs. Whisk in another 1/3 of the hot liquid then return the cream/yolk mixture back into the saucepan stirring with a wooden spoon constantly over low heat until it is thick and coats the spoon.

Pour the mixture through a mesh strainer into the bowl with the chocolate pieces which to combine and let it come to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

When ready, pour it into the ice cream maker and let it process 20 minutes. It is soft and creamy so if you want it to have a firmer consistency, pop it back into the freezer.

Patty’s Points:

1. Lovely flavor, nice combination of cinnamon and cayenne.

2. I didn’t have bittersweet chocolate so I used cocoa powder and improvised (3 TBSP cocoa + 1 TBSP oil = 1 oz chocolate).

3. I didn’t have whole milk and substituted half and half and it turned out fine.

I am dashing off to the party now. As you can see below, I made my Pretzel Sparklers that I will be bringing to the party to serve with ice cream. Details of the party to come later….