Fig Newtons – For Tu B’Shvat

Many years ago I bought Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to make much from the cookbook because every recipe usually has a lot of steps, and often requires ingredients that are difficult to get here, such as fresh berries, etc.  There was one recipe that has always stood out and begged me to make it.  Fig bars.  Or as we children of the nineties call them, Fig Newtons.

Fig Newtons
Fig Newtons

Another note on Sherry Yard, she was on Top Chef: Just Desserts and that was super cool.  She also works for Wolfgang Puck and he is a recurring judge on this season of Top Chef, so now that I have heard him speak, I re-read the forward to her book in his voice.  It was really cool.  I love Top Chef.

I have always loved Fig Newtons, and when you are stopping in the Hudson News in the train station, it was often one of the only kosher snack options, definitely the only pareve one.  High school was better with Fig Newtons.  Over the years there have been many Fig Newton knock-offs, such as strawberry or blueberry, but nothing compares to the original.

Cutting up the figs for the filling.
Cutting up the figs for the filling.

You would think that the recipe would be easy to make as Israel grows fresh figs and are readily available when they are in season.  But interestingly enough, these cookies need dried figs, something that is very hard to find in Israel.  I am not sure why this is the case, but for whatever reason, while you can get dried dates all the time, it is almost impossible to find dried figs.

So I gave up on making these cookies until Tu B’Shvat.  Around Tu B’Shvat, the dried fruit market expands and you can find a wide variety of dried fruits.  With all that, when I went to the supermarket on Thursday, there were no figs!! I went to a different store on Monday, and I finally found some.

In order for me to be able to have this post ready for Tu B’Shvat (yes, actually posting about a holiday before it happens), I made the filling a couple days before assembling the cookies.  Conveniently, Squeaker cooperated and let me cook while she slept in the stroller.  Thank you Squeaker!

Filling the cookies.
Filling the cookies.

The filling comes together really easily, and just needs to be boiled for a couple of hours – essentially making a jam. The dough is similarly easy to make.  I ended up making this over three days,  one day the filling, one day the dough, and the last assembly and baking.

Finished cookies.
Finished cookies.

While rolling out the dough, I did have some trouble because it was quite sticky, so I floured it up again and started rolling it out all over again.  Second time’s the charm!  I did not get as many cookies as Sherry says you are supposed to get (she says 40 – I got around 30), but they really do taste kike Fig Newtons, only better.

Fig Newtons
Fig Newtons

Happy Birthday trees!

Recipe (From Desserts by the Yard):

Filling:
1 cup dried figs, chopped
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup apple juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. orange zest

Dough:
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
1 large egg white
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour

Combine the chopped figs, water, apple juice and sugar into a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low  and cook at a simmer for 1 to 2 hours until the figs are so soft that they are spreadable. Transfer to a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Add the orange zest and process until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

Cream the butter, vanilla sugar and orange zest for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the egg white and vanilla and beat in. Add the flour and beat on low until the dough comes together.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface into a 12 by 16 inch rectangle.  Cut into 4 equal strips, each 12 by 4 inches.  Spoon a line of filling down the center of each strip.  Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the edges together.  Place on the parchment paper, seam side down.  The bars can be frozen at this point for up to 2 weeks.

Using a serrated knife, slice each log on the diagonal into ten cookies. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cook on a rack.  The cookies will keep, stored airtight, for 2 days.

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The Best Checkerboard Cookies Ever!

The Little Rocker’s Birthday was this week and as a devoted mother I thought it my duty to make her a little party with the requisite birthday cake, etc.  She actually had a party in preschool for which I brought a cake and goody bags, but we also decided to make a small thing at home for my friends (duh!).  For this party, we decided to make cupcakes and checkerboard cookies.

The inspiration for the cookies came to me on Shabbat when I was browsing through the CIA cookbook Baking and Pastry with the Little Rocker.  I saw the recipe for the checkerboard cookies and suddenly, the spirit moved me (a phrase my parents used to use when I wanted to bake).  As the Little Rocker’s birthday party was coming up, it seemed an ideal opportunity to use the recipe.

Checkerboard Cookies

Let me tell you straight from the start – this recipe is a potchke- (Yiddish for a pain in the tuchus [Yiddish for behind]). Do not start it at 9 pm and expect to go to bed early! (I know this from personal experience.)  But after tasting these cookies when they were done (at 12:30 at night) it was so worth it.  This is basically a chocolate and vanilla sable cookie that melts in your mouth and could only be improved if I had used real butter instead of margarine.

The first thing I had to do was reduce the amounts in the recipe.  This cookbook is really made for the professional pastry chef and the amounts correspond to that need.  I don’t need 10 dozen cookies.  All my hard work would go down the drain if all those cookies were lying around the house.  I decided to cut the recipe in half to make life easier.  Another fun difference in the cookbook is that all the amounts are listed in weights and not cups to make the measurements more precise (how many egg yolk is 227 grams?).  So I decided that if the recipe would be professional then I would be professional and organize everything ahead of time – get my mise en place together before starting.

Here are the ingredients for the vanilla cookie dough:

Here are the ingredients for the chocolate cookie dough:

My mise was placed.

Notice that there is no leavening agent in either dough – no baking powder or baking soda – these cookies do not rise and that helps them stay together during baking.

Then you have to chill the dough until it is firm enough to roll out and not be sticky.  I froze the divided dough to save time and went to shower and put the Little Rocker to bed – all hail multi-tasking!

Two dough squares, one vanilla and one chocolate.

The next step is to roll out the two chocolate rounds of dough and two of the vanilla rounds.  Then brush water between the layers and gently press them together (vanilla, chocolate, vanilla, chocolate).  And chill the dough again.

Brushing on the water,
and stacking the layers.

The next step is to slide the square of stacked doughs into thin long strips, cutting down through the layers.  Then (I told you this was a potchke) stack the slices one on top of the other, flipping every other strip around so that the vanilla is on top of the chocolate, etc. (This is a lot clearer to see than to explain).  I did three layers of strips, but I think you are supposed to be able to do four.

Stacks of alternating layers. Because the width of my layers was uneven, they colors were not 100% lined up.

Then (I’m telling you, these instructions just go on) chill the dough again.  Meanwhile help your husband organize his comic books into the new comic book boxes that your brother almost violated by trying to pack up your parent’s house into them.  These are also the same boxes that certain redheads that will remain unnamed, refused to take in her suitcase as she did not see the point of bringing empty boxes on a plane – see Certain Redhead, they are important!

After organizing a few hundred comics and opening up shelf space for hubbie’s new schoolbooks, go back to your chillin’ cookies (see how I made them cool there?)

Roll out the remaining frozen vanilla doughs into a thin rectangle.  Lay one stack of layered strips on the vanilla dough and carefully roll it over so that the vanilla cookie dough covers the entire stack.  Trim the excess and repeat with the other stacks of dough strips.  I had extra vanilla dough (mostly because I did not divide the dough evenly into four sections – I probably should have done three sections?  Not sure about that.  Either way, I made a batch of regualr square vanilla sables with the leftover dough.

Now that your stacks are nicely stacked and wrapped and you are so proud of yourself for getting this far, you need to chill the dough again! By chance I happened to bake the scraps of the dough before the rest of it and I noticed that the dough melted into the pan and lost all its shape.  It being already 11:15 or so, I was really hyper and started dancing around the kitchen before a weirded-out Rocker Dude trying to figure out what to do.  Then it hit me – chill the dough! And with a fist pump and half-spin, I proceeded to put the cookies back in the refrigerator (my freezer was way too overpacked for this).

Ready to be baked.

After about 20 minutes, I took out the first stack and sliced it into cookies to be placed on the cookie sheet – another trick here – wipe off the knife after every slice to reduce the chocolate smearing into the vanilla – it’s not perfect but it helps a lot. Bake cookies for 15 minutes while preparing goody bags and washing the dinner dishes.  Place on a cooling rack to chill again, and taste the most awesome cookies ever!  The CIA sure does know how to bake!

Recipe (from Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft):

Vanilla Dough:

501 g cake flour

400 g butter, cold, cut into small cubes

190 g confectioner’s sugar

pinch of salt

3 g orange zest, grated ( I used lemon)

113 g egg yolks (about 5)

5 mL vanilla extract

Chocolate Dough:

210 g cake flour

43 g cocoa powder

150 g butter, cold, cut into cubes

95 g confectioners’ sugar

1.5 g orange zest, grated ( I used lemon)

pinch of salt

55 g egg yolks (about 3)

2.5 mL vanilla extract

To make the vanilla dough, sift the flour.  Cream together the butter, sugar, salt and orange zest in a mixer, about 8 minutes.  Gradually add the egg yolks and vanilla, mixing until fully incorporated after each addition and scraping down as needed.  Mix in the sifted flour until just incorporated.

Divide the vanilla dough into four pieces.  Form each piece into a square and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate the dough until firm enough to roll (or freeze if you are in rush).

To make the chocolate dough, Sift the flour and cocoa powder together.  Cream the butter, sugar, orange zest and salt together, about 6-8 minutes.  Gradually add the egg yolks and vanilla, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Mix in the dry ingredients until just incorporated.

Divide the chocolate dough into two parts, form each into a square and refrigerate until firm enough to roll (or freeze).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of vanilla dough into a 6×4 inch rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick.  Set aside.  Roll out a piece of the chocolate dough to the same dimensions.  Brush the vanilla dough lightly with water and gently press the chocolate layer on top of the vanilla square.  Repeat with another vanilla piece and another chocolate piece.  You should have four layers all together.

Wrap the layered dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until firm.

Trim the edges of the layered dough to even them out.  Cut the square into stacks about 1/4 inch thick.  Then 4 layers on top of each other (I did only three), alternating them so that the doughs form a checkerboard.

Roll out one piece on vanilla dough to about 1/8 inch thickness.  Brush the vanilla dough with water and place one of the slacks on the dough.  Gently roll up the vanilla dough around the stack, pressing lightly on each side so that the doughs stick together.  Smooth the overlap and cut off the excess dough.  Repeat with the remaining stacks.

Refrigerate all the stacks until firm.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or 177 degrees C.

Slice each stack into cookies, about 1/4 inch thick, wiping down the knife between each slice.  Place the cookies on a parchment paper lined cookies sheet and bake for about 15 minutes until lightly browned.  Transfer to racks and cool completely.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Peanut Butter Crisscrosses

Peanut butter cookies – yum!  I have had my eye in these cookies for a while.  They look so good in the picture and look so easy too.  Rocker Dude, as usual, was a bit more hesitant and always steered me elsewhere.  But now I had an excuse and a reason why I had to make these cookies.

This week’s recipe was hosted by Jasmine of Jasmine Cuisine – thanks for choosing this recipe!

I took off work on Wednesday because the Little Rocker’s playgroup has a policy that after being off all of August, they like to ease back into service.  So Tuesday, the Little Rocker was in playgroup for two hours, Wednesday until 12:30 and Thursday until 5 pm.  Rocker Dude took off Tuesday, so Wednesday was my turn.  It was his first day teaching so there was no way he could take off.

Little Rocker with her new knapsack.

I decided that my day off would be super-productive.  After dropping off the Little Rocker at 7:30, I went to the store and did some grocery shopping.  There are a ton of sales now because of the holiday coming up (Rosh Hashana).  I shlepped it all home (now I don’t normally use Yiddish in my posts, but sometimes it just really expresses the reality – carrying 40 lbs. of groceries home – a 15 minute walk – was quite a shlep!), and then proceeded to bake.  I made the cinnamon swirl bread that TWD made a couple of months ago – it tasted just as good!  And I made these cookies (I also did laundry and cleaned the house, but who wants to hear about that?)

I was right, these cookies are really easy to make.  Pretty much mix everything and dump it in.  I did not add the peanuts in order to respect a certain person’s preference that there be no nuts in his food and they were still yummy.

Peanut butter cookies all laid out on a pan - ready to go in...

When the Little Rocker woke up from her three-hour long nap after coming home from playgroup, she had a hot cookie waiting for her, and she gobbled it up.  Rocker Dude’s comment was, “These are the best cookies you have made so far.”  Now he doesn’t really mean that because there are two cookies that he likes more, but of the cookies that I made for the TWD group, these are the best so far (maybe he was just remembering last week’s cookies and thought that anything was better than those!)

Afternoon snack of Peanut Butter Crisscrosses and milk - okay I didn't let the Little Rocker have all those cookies - I'm not that bad a mom! She had one, then dinner and then another one 🙂

Check out the recipe on Jasmine’s site here and see what other TWD bakers did here.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate Espresso Shortbreads

Yay!  We’re home!  Things have gone back to normal and everyone’s time zones have settled in the correct region.  Things have been a bit tough because the Little Rocker has been at home since we got back to Israel.  Unfortunately, Israel follows the European custom of taking off for the month of August.  This means that there is no daycare, no camp, no nothing.  The assumption is that parents will take off as well.  When I first encountered this, I was shocked.  Coming from America, where everyone works all the time, I couldn’t conceive of an entire country taking off at once.  On top of that, August is one of the busiest seasons at my office as that’s when publicly traded companies report their second quarter earnings, or losses as the case may be.  Thankfully, Rocker Dude is a high school English teacher (they don’t know about his dudeness, we are trying to keep it under cover) so he is also off for the summer.  He has really been stepping in and taking care of the Little Rocker while I go to work.  But she starts daycare today!  Okay it’s only a couple of hours and tomorrow is only half a day, but then on Thursday – full day and life goes back to normal!  Besides, I think she would have more fun playing with kids her age and doing all the arts and crafts than staying home with us.

Mixing up the dough.

Since things have gone back to normal, I obviously had to keep up my Tuesday with Dorie-ing.  This week’s recipe was chosen by Donna of Life’s Too Short Not to Eat Dessert First – so true!  She chose Chocolate-Espresso Shortbread cookies.  Dorie added another option of making Oatmeal Spice Shortbread cookies.  I really wanted to try that – I love oatmeal cookies, but after a decision-making summit with Rocker Dude, I went with his choice and made chocolate-espresso.

I have never made shortbread cookies before.  I love being a part of this group because it forces to make things that I would not normally make.  So even though I could not make the cookies that I preferred, hey, how could chocolate chip cookies go wrong?

I prepared all the ingredients.  I did not have espresso powder, so I used instant coffee – I think the coffee flavor was still nice and strong.  I mixed it all up in the Kitchen -Aid and then added the chocolate chips.  They were not exactly evenly distributed, but it looked okay.

Rolling out the dough in a bag.

Then the cool part.  I stuck all the dough inside a ziploc bag and rolled it out – no mess!  I got the dough to be pretty rectangular, just one rough edge on the side.  I didn’t have time to let it chill in the fridge for two hours, so I stuck it in the freezer while I watched an episode of Monk, love that show!

Cutting up the cookies - almost perfect squares!

Rocker Dude reminded me that I had cookies that needed to be baked when he said, “Wait a minute, wasn’t I supposed to be getting cookies to try tonight?”  Whoops!  I cut up the cookies into squares and baked them.  Because there was no leavening agent in the dough, I was able to put a lot on one pan.  I baked all the cookies in two batches.

Shortbread cookies!!

We decided to bring them to Rocker Dude’s parents for the weekend, they were well received there.  On Friday night, when I asked Rocker Dude for a review, we had an interesting little conversation.

Me:  So, how did you like the cookies?

RD: Are you happy with the way they came out?  Texture-wise? (If that’s not a leading question I don’t know what is.)

Me:  Well they are supposed to be sandy…

RD: Then you succeeded in your goal admirably.  You made them exactly as they should be made, I just don’t like them that much.  Everyone else liked them so I trust that they were good, I just didn’t like them so much.

Me: Why?!?!

You can see where it went from there.

So verdict: great!  But I definitely want to try the oatmeal spice version, I mean, if Rocker Dude isn’t going to like it anyway, why use his choice?

Chocolate Espresso Shortbread cookies

Check out the recipe at Donna’s site here and see what other TWD bakers did here.

Biscotti – the joy and the disappointment. Happy Birthday Rocker Dude!

It’s Rocker Dude’s birthday today, so I decided to make him a present.  Rocker Dude has few loves in his life.  His music, his comics, his Little Rocker, oh right, and me ;).  One of the things he really enjoys is biscotti.  Not the hard dried cookie that you normally see dipped in coffee, but the biscotti that I make, soft with a crispy outside.  He also loves biscotti because of the word.  He is a research assistant for an Italian professor (he is Italian, not that he teaches Italian) in bar Ilan University.  This basically means that he makes sure that the professor’s computer is well-stocked with music and spending a lot of time chatting.  Rocker Dude once told this professor, M., about my biscotti.  M. gave him a confused look until Rocker Dude explained.  Then he replied, “Oh, you mean biscott-i!” in a proper Italian accent.  Rocker Dude loves to imitate him saying this.

Biscotti dough, nice and thick.

One day, after Rocker Dude had had a particularly hard day (or maybe it was when he got his job for the fall) I decided to do something nice and make whatever he wanted.  I asked him what he wanted and he said, “biscotti.”  Finally I get a clear request from him.  (Of course he would say that he always gives clear requests, I just ignore them.)

So I took out my trusty dusty biscotti recipe and got baking.  This is an awesome recipe as it doesn’t call for butter so I don’t have to wait to let margarine get to room temperature (I keep it frozen) and it mixes up in one bowl and is ready to bake really quickly.

Biscotti loaves shaped and ready to bake

This time, I decided to do the recipe properly and add almond extract.  Every other time I made this recipe, I just didn’t have almond extract so I just used vanilla.  This time I figured that since I had all the proper ingredients, I would use them, including almond extract.  I know that Rocker Dude does not like nuts, but I figured that the extract could only add to the taste.

So I made the cookies, shaped them and baked them.  They smelled wonderful.  Rocker Dude came home from doing his radio show (www.rock4rookies.com) at 11:30 pm and walked into a fragrant, biscotti-smelling kitchen.  He got so excited because I had made one of his favorite things.

Biscotti, toasted on one side.

Then he took a bite.  He carefully chewed it and then took another bite.  He carefully chewed this too.  Then he asked, “Did you change the recipe?”

I told him that I added almond extract so that I could do the recipe properly.

His face fell.  “Why Elle, why?  Why would you mess with something that is already so perfect?!”

Me: “I just wanted to do the whole recipe.  Does it taste bad?”

RD: “Well, it doesn’t taste like it used to.  It’s all almondy and everything.”

Me: “Will you eat it?”

RD: “Of course, but now I don’t trust your baking anymore.  How do I know you won’t stick almonds into my blueberry cheesecake?!?!” (see post here).

As you can see, we have some trust issues to work out.  I am officially on probation and need to faithfully report any ingredient I use.  Mind you, Rocker Dude ate every one of those cookies, so I don’ t know what he is complaining about.

A couple of days ago when I offered to make Rocker Dude biscotti as a snack, he gave me a look and said, “Can I trust you not to mess with my babies?”  If only he loved us as much.

As a surprise to him, I made him biscotti last night to have when he came home from doing his show.  Because it is his birthday, and I want to be nice to him (and I don’t want to be banned from baking), I made it with only vanilla extract.  The Little Rocker and I tested them when they came out of the oven.  Yum!

I let them cool and when Rocker Dude came home I presented him with fresh-baked biscotti, just the way he likes them :).  They were well appreciated.

Rocker Dude enjoys his birthday present.
Biscotti

Recipe:

3 1/4 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 tbsp. baking powder

1/2 cup oil

3 eggs

1 tbsp. vanilla extract or 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla and 1 tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or, if you want a crispier cookie, to 375 degrees).

Mix all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix it around a little with the paddle attachment so that all the ingredients are evenly distributed.  Then add the oil, eggs and extracts.  Mix until just combined.

Divide the dough into two equal portions.  Shape each one into a flat long loaf.  Bake the loaves for 25-30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and slice each loaf into 1 inch thick slices.  Turn each slice on its side and put the baking sheet back in the oven.

Bake for another 5-8 minutes.  Remove the baking sheet and flip each cookie onto the other side.  Bake again for 5-8 minutes.

Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool on a rack.

Dip in coffee or just eat them plain, enjoy!

Macarons! And how I got into blogging.

I did not participate in the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe this week because the recipe was a fresh berry tart and I can’t get fresh berries here.  So instead I made macarons!

This is probably my first re-do recipe.  I made macarons once for a Daring Baker’s challenge, and it was a royal failure – I won’t even post the pictures – that’s how bad it was.  But after I made the ice cream last week (see this post), I had all these egg whites that I could age to use for macarons.

Until last November, I had no idea what macarons were.  In my mind, I pictured the coconut cookies that my dad always ate on Passover.  They tasted so much of coconut and no one could stand them besides my father.  When I saw the Daring Baker’s challenge I was worried that my very first challenge was going to be something nasty.  But then I was redirected from a link on the site to Tartelette’s blog.  She is a macaron genius and she is French (maybe they are connected), and through her blog I learned what a real macaron is.  Her blog also opened my eyes up to the world of food blogging.  I started by looking through the blogs on her blogroll and then the blogs on their blogrolls, etc. etc.  Then I figured out how to get all the posts sent to my Google Reader so I don’t miss anything.  Then I found the Tuesdays with Dorie group which really got me baking.

The food blogging community is amazing, because it’s as if strangers are inviting me into their kitchens to taste what they made.  They don’t know me and I don’t know them, but now we have something in common.  It also helped because my darling hubby does not often realize how much effort goes into my baking and how big some of the accomplishments are.  His latest request is vanilla cupcakes with white icing.  So I guess keep an eye out for that post.

Whipped egg whites and dry ingredients ready for folding.

I made these cookies last Tuesday night, while Rocker Dude was off doing his DJ thing, and the baby was fast asleep.  I had egg whites that I had aged for about two days (something that Helene of Tartlette strongly recommends) and I made sure to buy ground almonds.  I had powdered sugar already and all that was left was some granulated sugar.  That is the basic French macaron recipe.  I decided to make gingerbread spice macarons because I had all the ingredients and Rocker Dude loves gingerbread.  I was extremely apprehensive and followed all the directions to the letter.  After piping the batter into circles (unfortunately, I did not make a stencil, so the circles were only pretty much the same size), I let them sit out for a good 45 minutes (something I did not do the last time).  This gave them a nice dry crust and enabled them to grow their characteristic “feet”.

Macarons drying before baking

I put them in the oven for the exact amount of time that Helene directs, and I thought they were done.  Then I let them cool.  But when they were cool they were completely stuck to the parchment paper.  Everytime I tried to take one off, I ended up with a thin outer shell, but the rest of the cookie was mushy and stuck to the parchment paper or the spatula.  It then occurred to me that maybe they need to be baked longer.

I let them bake for another 10 minutes or so and only let them cool slightly before removing them to a cooling rack.  That was the charm.  There were still a few that sort of stuck, but most of them came off cleanly with the whole cookie structure intact.  They were still delicate, but now they were more than just a shell.

Then I set about making the mousseline cream that went with the recipe.  It was going beautifully.  My whites whipped, the sugar syrup reached the appropriate temperature without a problem, and even when I poured the syrup into the whites, after a couple minutes it went back to being billowy and beautiful.   Then I put in the margarine.  That’s when it all went to pot.  The whites started breaking down and becoming soupy.  They sort of separated.  The recipe said that it was likely that they would break down, but just keep whipping and they would form up again.  I whipped and waited and hoped, but nothing happened.  I decided to toss the whole thing and do something else to fill the macarons.  So I tossed the broken down cream. (A few days later I learned that what I should have done is cool the bowl a bit and whip some more, the problem may have been that the mixture was too warm. Oh well.)

I decided instead to make a pastry cream using the same spices as I put in the macarons.  I know how to make pastry creams and they work well for me.  An hour later – pastry cream done and refrigerated.

I put the cookies together right before we went to go see Iron Man (fun movie by the way) and I ended up leaving them for the babysitter.  Here is what she said, “Vive la France!”  I tried them also and they were delicious.  One thing I did learn was once you make macarons, eat them right away.  The cream soaked into the cookie overnight and they became soggy.  Still delicious, but soggy.  So when you make macarons – don’t wait!  Eat them all right away!

Gingerbread Spice Macarons

Gingerbread Men Macarons:

For the shells:
90 gr egg whites (about 3)
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds
1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature in a covered container. If you want to use 48hrs (or more) egg whites, you can store them in the fridge. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry. Combine the almonds, powdered sugar and spices in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add them 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 flows like magma or a thick ribbon. 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 lined baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 280F. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 20-22 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don’t let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer. To fill: pipe or spoon about 1 big tablespoon in the center of one shell and top with another one.

For the spiced mousseline buttercream:
3 sticks butter at room temperature
5 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

In the bowl of stand mixer, whip 5 egg whites until they have soft peaks. In the meantime, combine 1/4 cup water with the sugar to a boil in a heavy saucepan and bring the syrup to 250F. Slowly add the sugar syrup to the egg whites. If you use hand beaters, this is even easier and there is less hot syrup splatter on the side of your bowl and in the whisk attachment of the stand mixer. Continue to whip until the meringue is completely cooled. Slowly add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. The mass might curdle but no panic, continue to whip until it all comes together. Add the spices and fold them in with a spatula.

Pastry Cream:

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. cloves

1 large egg

2 large egg yolks

6 tbsp. sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. cold unsalted butter

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Heat until the milk begins to simmer.  Remove from heat.  In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, egg yolks and sugar until well-blended and smooth. Add the flour and whisk vigorously.  Pour about 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the eggs, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.  Slowly pour the yolk mixture into the rest of the milk, constantly whisking.  Heat the mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the flour from lumping until it reaches a boil.  Continue to cook and whisk for another minute until the pastry cream is very thick.  Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and the spices.  Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream to prevent it from forming a skin and refrigerate until completely cool.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Dulce de Leche Duos

Dulce de Leche, yum, and already made – yummier.  I was not sure if I was going to make these cookies (remember my diet?  I like to think about it too), and also, I rarely bake dairy a. because my husband is lactose intolerant and b. because all of my equipment is meat or pareve – meaning that it cannot touch milk or dairy products.  But then I said that if I am not going to be participating for the next two weeks because of Passover when we can’t eat flour or anything made with it, I should really do this week’s recipe.  So I sent out Rocker Dude to see if he could find ready-made dulce de leche.  Thankfully, he found it easily and bought a jar.  So on Tuesday night while he was in Jerusalem doing his radio show (rock4rookies.com – I am a good wife), I decided to make the cookies, this way, there would be a nice treat waiting for him when he got home (I AM a good wife!)

So I creamed the margarine by hand (I’m not sure why I used margarine for these cookies when I was making them dairy anyway, but I guess it’s because that’s what was in the house – old habits die hard).  And then added the caramel.  Once I got the eggs in there it was a lot easier to mix.

I baked the cookies in my trusty dusty toaster oven, and because the pan that fits in does not have a flat bottom, the cookies did not come out perfectly round.  But they came out super chewy (yum!) and when they cooled I spread a thin layer of caramel on the bottom of one cookie and topped it with another cookie.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like these cookies, because I don’t like caramel in large quantities, one bite is enough and then I get sick of the taste.  But in these cookies, the caramel taste is subtle and only adds to the cookie taste.  I had great intentions of bringing these cookies into work so that they would not be lying around the house, but then I realized that after making the sandwiches, that there were only about 18 cookies, not enough to bring to work, so they stayed home.  S. enjoyed them a lot as you can see (she is concentrating on doing her very first puzzle!).

I enjoyed them too, and Rocker Dude gave them the ultimate compliment, “they are so soft.”  Apparently (and this has taken me 4 years to figure out) he likes chewy cookies.  To be honest so do I, but I guess he just never mentioned it before.  Thanks Dorie!

For the recipe check out Jodie’s blog Beansy Loves Cake and check out what other TWD bakers did here.