Snacks

Raspberry Macarons – a Beautiful Spring Treat

For some reason, the French Macaron has developed a bit of a reputation as a tough cookie… to make, that is. This is due to the fact that they can be a little finicky, requiring more attention to detail than a regular cookie. They need to sit out before baking (long enough to form the perfect skin), the batter should flow like lava and don’t forget the coveted ‘feet’ that have to form in the oven.  Like anything, though, practice makes perfect and once you’ve mastered them, the doors are wide open! The great thing about these divine treats is that they are infinitely customizable; you can flavor them to your heart’s content and fill them with just about anything you can think of. While there are some traditional flavors like pistachio, vanilla and chocolate, the macaron is the perfect vehicle to try new and unexpected combinations.

Personally, I love raspberries, so I can’t think of anything tastier than some super-fun Raspberry Macarons with Pink Champagne Buttercream filling! This recipe was created by my Food Studio associate Jessica Duncan – an avid baker!  These are a sweet, pretty little treats that practically beg to be set out for anything from a birthday party, a bridal shower or an afternoon tea party. Even better, surprise mom on Mother’s day with this beautiful sweet treat! The tartness of the raspberry plays wonderfully against the smooth sweetness of the buttercream. Pink sanding sugar sprinkled on top gives them a little extra bling – fabulous!

So forget what you’ve heard about troublesome macarons and give Jessica’s recipe a try – your go-to dessert list will gain a sweet addition you won’t regret!  -Kathy

Raspberry Macarons with Pink Champagne Buttercream
Food Studio culinary associate Jessica Duncan loves to bake sweet treats – her passion for macrons is almost rivaled by her love of cupcakes. She shares her recipe with us today. Thank you Jessica!

Makes about 35 macarons

4 egg whites, room temperature
2/3 cup almond flour
1 cup powdered sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/8 cup super-fine sugar
1 Tbsp. strained raspberry puree
3-4 drops pink gel food coloring
1/8 cup pink sanding sugar (available at cookie and cake decorating stores)
——————————————–
Pink Champagne Buttercream (recipe follows)

Separate your egg whites and, in a covered bowl, let them come up to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a food processor, pulse together almond flour and powdered sugar until fine powdered, then sift thoroughly. Set aside.

In an electric mixer on medium speed, mix whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and whip whites to soft peaks. Be sure not to over-mix at this point to avoid macarons being too dry.

Reduce mixer to low speed and incorporate super-fine sugar, increase to high speed and whip mix to stiff, glossy peaks, about 8 minutes.

Remove bowl from mixer and sift dry ingredients in 1/3 at a time, very gently folding in with the egg whites until just incorporated. Add pureed raspberry and food coloring and fold in. Test a teaspoon of your batter on a plate – if it smoothes out immediately, your batter is ready. If there are still peaks, whisk on low for another 30-45 seconds.

Transfer batter carefully to a piping bag fitted with a 1/4-inch, round tip. Avoid over-handling the batter as it can begin to deflate. On a sheet tray lined with parchment, pipe out 3/4″ rounds, (at least 1 inch apart) being sure to pull the tip to the side rather than leaving a small peak in the center. Tap the baking sheet firmly to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle generously with pink sanding sugar. Let sit at room temperature for at least 45 minutes, or until a skin forms on the rounds.

Bake about 10 – 12 minutes or until macarons are just firm, but not browning. Baking time may vary depending on your oven, so watch them closely. Once done, remove from the oven and let cool completely – at least 30 minutes. Remove carefully and sort macarons into same-sized pairs.

Transfer buttercream frosting to a piping bag with a 1/4-inch round tip. Pipe a 1/2″ round of filling on to a macaron and sandwich together with its mate. Serve immediately or store at room temperature for up to 2 days or freeze for up to three months between sheets of parchment.

Pink Champagne Buttercream
Makes about 3 cups

2 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
5 Tbsp. champagne or sparkling wine
8 oz butter (two sticks), room temperature
1-2 drops pink gel food coloring

Bring a medium pot (one that your bowl will set on) of water to a simmer.

Meanwhile; in a heat-safe bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer), whisk the eggs by hand until light and foamy. Add the sugar, salt and champagne. Place the bowl over the pot of simmering water and whisk until the mixture registers 160 F degrees on a candy thermometer and the sugar has dissolved. Test the texture between your fingers – it should be smooth, not grainy.

Remove bowl from heat and place on the counter –or attach to stand mixer. With an electric mixer use the whisk/beater attachment, mix on medium speed until the bowl is cool to the touch, about 5-6 minutes.

Increase to medium-high speed and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce to medium speed and one piece at a time, incorporate butter until mixture has come together to a thick frosting consistency. Mix in food coloring to desired intensity. Use immediately. (You can refrigerate covered for up to 3 days – just bring to room temperature before using and give it a few turns with a mixer to fluff it up).
Recipe by Jessica Duncan

Posted by Kathy Casey on May 4th, 2011  |  Add Comment |  Posted in dessert, Recent Posts, Snacks

Looking For the Perfect Winter-Weather Treat? Have Some Cocoa!

The holidays might be over but winter isn’t, which means this is the perfect time to treat yourself to something unique like a cup of gourmet cocoa! There are so many ways to jazz up the classic cocoa and marshmallow combo. Hot chocolates are the perfect vehicle for not only warm fragrant spices — from cinnamon and nutmeg to cardamom, allspice and cloves — but also for pungent spices such as smoky chipotle chilies. My Cha Cha Hot Chocolate Mix combines chipotle chili powder, cinnamon and a touch of ground coriander and guarantees to warm you up quickly… an extra little kick of heat can’t go astray in the middle of winter!

I’d be remiss to not mention the opportunity to spice up your cocoa in a more libacious way. Frangelico and raspberry liqueur are the stars of my Grown-Up Nutty White Chocolate Raspberry Cocoa. Rich and creamy, this decadent alternative to plain cocoa makes a perfect after-dinner indulgence. Add some white chocolate whipped cream and there’s no need to serve up anything but this for dessert at your next dinner party.

Of course, I wouldn’t forget the purists out there! My go-to classic is My Mom’s “Old-School” Cocoa. This is the one that brings back my childhood memories: Mom warming milk over the stove in a pan and whisking in the Hershey’s cocoa… it doesn’t get cozier than that! This is also the perfect base to try experimenting with your own blends of cocoa and spices. Go ahead and get creative with your ingredients and your toppings. A little jar of your own signature cocoa mix is a perfect anytime gift, too.

So whether you’re a fan of the classic hot chocolate or want to jazz up your cocoa with some fun spices or liqueur, grab your favorite mug and head to the kitchen to mix up a cozy winter treat!
-Kathy

Cha Cha Hot Chocolate Mix
This is a fun twist on classic cocoa and the mix can be made and stored so you always have this spicy little treat on hand!
Makes 2 cups, enough for 10 to 12 servings

1 1/2 cups superfine or baker’s sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp real vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground chipotle chili powder
3/4 tsp ground coriander

In a medium bowl, combine the sugars and vanilla extract together with a whisk. Then add the remaining ingredients and whisk thoroughly to evenly distribute the cocoa and spices.

Store at room temperature for up to a month in a clean glass jar with a tight lid. Shake thoroughly before using to remix the ingredients.

To make 1 serving Cha Cha Hot Chocolate:
Place about 3 tablespoons Cha Cha Hot Chocolate Mix, or to taste, in a mug and add three-quarter cups hot milk, mixing well.

©2008 by Kathy Casey Food Studios®

Grown-Up Nutty White Chocolate Raspberry Cocoa
Talk about a deluxe treat; this cocoa combines rich white chocolate and raspberry liqueur for an after-dinner (or any time!) dessert!
Serves 4

3 cups milk
2/3 cup high-quality white chocolate chips or broken white chocolate bar
6 tablespoons raspberry liqueur*
6 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur
Garnish: White Chocolate Cream, optional**

Additional garnishes can include shaved white chocolate, chopped toasted hazelnuts and fresh raspberries, or gourmet marshmallows*** or raspberry marshmallows instead of the whipped cream.

Fill serving cups with very hot water to warm them while you start the cocoa.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until warmed. Add the white chocolate chips and whisk until melted. Add the liqueurs and heat mixture until hot, but not over 140 degrees.

Pour the hot water out of the cups and fill with the cocoa. Top with dollops of White Chocolate Cream and garnish.

Chef’s Notes:
*Be sure to use a high-quality raspberry liqueur or imported raspberry or berry liqueur as many raspberry schnapps-style liqueurs are high in acid and will curdle the milk.
**To make White Chocolate Cream: Place 1/3 cup heavy cream in a small bowl and whisk vigorously until soft peaks are just beginning to form. Add 1 tablespoon white crème de cacao liqueur and whisk until peaked.
***Gourmet handmade marshmallows are carried in the bakery department of upscale grocers.

©2008 by Kathy Casey Food Studios®

My Mom’s “Old-School” Cocoa
This is the quintessential classic hot chocolate – a warm, delicious, easy-to-make chocolate fix!
Serves 2

1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
2 big marshmallows

Place milk in a small heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and sugar, then whisk into the milk to incorporate. Add vanilla and heat until hot but not overheated. Do not boil. Serve in mugs and top with marshmallows

©2008 by Kathy Casey Food Studios®

Posted by Kathy Casey on January 27th, 2011  |  Add Comment |  Posted in appetizers, dessert, other, Recent Posts, Snacks

Melons

With their crisp, cool and refreshing qualities, melons evoke the essence of summer pleasure. We enjoy them simply chilled and eaten as hand-to-mouth wedges, as colorful melon-ball skewers for utensil-free eating at outdoor barbecues, or injected with tequila, vodka or rum for libationary delight.

When I asked friends and coworkers for some fun melon-eating stories, there were plenty: half-cantaloupes filled with vanilla ice cream or cottage cheese for an old-fashioned lunch; family picnics where rotund green watermelons were cooled in nearby streams; and seasoning rituals, such as a Mexican friend’s lime, salt and chili powder.

Ripe, juicy and cold melons are of course delicious when eaten just naked—but they perform well when starring in recipes, too. For those of you who have never tasted pickled melon, here’s a recipe for Sweet, Sour & Spicy Melon Balls. For a nice light supper on a hot day, pair these with some thinly sliced prosciutto, a green salad dressed with a fruit-vinegar vinaigrette, and a great loaf of bread.

There’s nothing like summer’s fresh melons to cool you off. Enjoy them while you can!

Sweet, Sour & Spicy Melon Balls

Makes 3 pints

3 cups cantaloupe balls (see Chef’s Notes)
3 cups honeydew melon balls
3 large sprigs fresh basil
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
3/4 tsp red chili flakes
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp kosher salt

Toss melon balls together. Fill three 1-pint, wide mouth jars with the melon balls, tucking a basil sprig into each jar.

In a non-aluminum saucepan combine all the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

When mixture is cool, evenly pour over the jars of melon balls, filling to top and being sure to cover the fruit completely. Cover with lids and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before eating. The melon balls will keep for about 2 weeks, refrigerated.

Chef’s Notes:

  • Use ripe but firm melons.
  • To make melon balls: Cut melon in half and scoop out seeds. With a melon ball gadget, scoop out balls. (I used the large size baller.)

© 2010 Kathy Casey Food Studios – www.kathycasey.com

Posted by Kathy Casey on August 19th, 2010  |  Comments (2) |  |  Posted in Fruit, Recent Posts, Recipes, Snacks
Untitled