Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Good Enough is Never Good Enough

I've never quite been able to leave well enough alone. Look at what happened to my great-Nana Kirk's shortbread recipe under my watch - a beautiful, simple recipe for all-butter shortbread became Lavender Ginger Shortbread

or Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbread (that one is my mom's fault - must be where I learned that trait). See my website at http://www.bramblewoodtreats.com/, follow my Tweets on Twitter (shortbreadlady) or become a fan on Facebook, if you're looking for more information.
The latest recipe I've been tweaking is for Coconut Macaroons. If you read my last post on this blog, I outlined the base recipe for these amazing, chewy, satisfying treats. After reading a posting on the Baking 101 page on Facebook about Coconut Macaroons, I was inspired to come up with a few new ideas.

The first twist I mysteriously called The Scheherazade Macaroon. I used the base recipe, then added the zest of one orange, a 1/4 cup of chopped, toasted pistachios (reserve some to sprinkle on top), and then I substituted Orange Flower Water for the almond extract. They were really very beautiful, in flavor and appearance.

My second macaroon was Rose Lime, and is my favorite, so far. If you're looking for a dessert for your Easter table, this is perfect. With the addition of lime curd, they look like little drops of sunshine. Again, I used the base recipe and added the zest of one lime, one tablespoon of ground rose petals and substituted Orange Flower Water for the almond extract.

To grind the rose petals, you can use a clean coffee bean grinder (I wish I had one for this sole purpose, but, alas, I had to grind rice in my husband's coffee grinder - that removes the oils - wipe it out thoroughly, and then, grind the petals).

Next, I mixed the lime zest and rose petals in with the rest of the ingredients. I scooped the mixture with my small scooper and left a few nicely mounded. But, in some, I made an indentation - to fill with that little bit of sunshine.

While the Rose Lime Macaroons baked, I used the extra egg yolks and lime juice to make Lime Curd.
Lime or Lemon Curd
4 Large Egg Yolks

2/3 cup Sugar

1/3 cup Juice

2 1/3 Tbsp Butter (I use Salted)

1 tsp Zest

Whisk together the first 3 ingredients and cook over a slightly boiling bain marie (a double boiler) for 10-15 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and pour through a fine sieve into a bowl with the butter (cut into pieces first) and the zest. Stir until smooth. This can be frozen if you don't eat it all in one sitting.

Once the macaroons are removed from the oven, cool and fill the indented macaroons with a little spoonful of the lime curd. Lovely!

In my next blog, I'll write about my chocolate macaroons and my experiment with fresh coconut. I can say this, one provoked another food dance and another had to go back to the drawing board (darn, more baking). I'll have to come up with some more interesting combinations. Any ideas?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Macaroon Madness

I have become obsessed with Coconut Macaroons these days. My family seems to be okay with this, since they're eating every last one that I make (if I don't eat them all first), but they may start asking for good, old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies one of these days. Well, I don't always leave that recipe alone, either, but that's for another posting.

It all started with a rather innocent question from my stepdaughter about how to make macaroons. Macaroons have always been a favorite of mine. I remember getting them from the fancier grocery store in town when I was a kid, as a special treat. I loved the chewy interior and crunchy exterior. I've tried to make them with sweetened condensed milk, but that just wasn't the texture I was looking for. (I have to say, I could eat an entire can of sweetened condensed milk with a spoon, but it didn't do it for me in the macaroon.)

I decided to try the recipe on the back of the Baker's Coconut bag. Now, Baker's has a few extra ingredients that I'm not crazy about adding to the food I feed my family (propylene glycol and sodium metabisulfate - for freshness and color), but I'm not always adamant about that. Heck, we know all the ingredients in Twinkies, but I'm not opposed to downing a few of them every once in a while. I'll be heading over to my local co-op sometime soon, since I'm sure they have a very good bag of coconut that I can use instead. I've even tried using freshly grated coconut, but more on that later.

The Baker's recipe was pretty much everything I was looking for, with a few tweaks, here and there. Here is my modified version of their recipe:

Coconut Macaroons

5 1/3 cups flaked coconut (14 oz.)

2/3 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup flour

1/4 tsp. salt

4 egg whites (reserve the yolks for custard, lemon curd, or some other amazing treat)

1 tsp. almond extract

Combine the coconut, sugar, flour and salt in a bowl. Stir in the egg whites and almond extract until well mixed. Using a small ice cream scoop, or a spoon, drop onto a parchment covered pan (or, grease and flour the pan - don't use tin foil alone, since they will stick).

Bake at 325 F for 20 minutes, or until the edges are a nice toasty, golden brown. I pick them up (asbestos fingertips help) and check the bottoms for that golden brown color. Makes around 28 macaroons.

I love to serve the macaroons slightly warm. Okay, "serve" sounds pretty fancy. We all stand around the stove, staring at the macaroons, until I declare them cool enough to eat. Then, we devour them. The few left over I store in a container. If I hide them from the little foodies in the house, I might even still have a yummy treat to myself for up to 4 weeks. They can even be frozen. But, these morsels are easy to make when the mood strikes - which seems to be about once a week around here.

Next posting, I'll talk about my never-ending need to not leave well enough alone. The tea pot is boiling, and it's time for another cup of tea.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Food Dance

For the last few months, I've been playing in my tiny kitchen. And, I've been doing the Food Dance. Have you ever eaten something so good that your body starts to move, or your head starts to nod, as if you were agreeing with the food gods that you've just created one of the best tastes ever? That's the Food Dance, and it's my favorite dance. I'm here to share my recipes and some of the pictures I've taken. Let me know if you have any ideas or recipes you'd like me to try. I especially love sweets and baking.

I'd also like to share some of the things I've learned from running a very small, but growing, business for the last 14 years. I figure I've made a few mistakes and had some nice successes, and I'd like someone else to learn a little from them.

Consider this a brief ramble. I'm in my kitchen, trying to find space on the counter, creating an exciting variation on the all-American treat, the Coconut Macaroon. And, I think a cup of tea is calling my name.