We try something different

A pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream costs about $10 in Bangkok, which is exorbitant even by the Ben & Jerry’s standard in the U.S. Fortunately, I have the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream recipe book and a new Kitchenaid ice cream freezer bowl, so today we’re making Oreo Mint ice cream. If this works out, this first batch will cost me only $25 per pint, but hopefully I’ll amortize down the cost of the freezer bowl quickly.

The ingredients for ice cream are quite simple: eggs, sugar, milk and cream (the more fat the better), and flavoring. You whip the eggs, add the sugar, add the cream and milk, and then mix it in a freezer bowl to chill it down. At the end, you add the goodies and mix it a little more. The initial consistency is like soft-serve ice cream, and you can eat it like that, or you can put it into the freezer in an air-tight container to harden it.

So, after “ripening” in the freezer overnight, how is it?  It’s pretty good. Not quite as intense a flavor as Ben & Jerry’s own version – I think they use a better quality of mint extract – but it’s a close second.  It’s not a round of smackaron, but I win.

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Attempt no. 46 – red velvet macarons (from a kit)

I’ve finally settled in to my new apartment and unboxed all the kitchen tools, so I was ready to resume the quest. I feel rusty, however, so to ease my way in, I used the Red Velvet Macaron Kit from Dana’s Bakery.

It is amazing how quickly this goes when all the ingredients are pre-measured.

I put everything together, and tested out my macaronage technique. The batter piped out in more or less the right manner. However, I only have one tray that will fit in this oven, and the oven comes with only one rack, so I could only pipe out one tray at a time. The batter that remained in the bag became a little less smooth somehow, which means that my mixing technique still needs a little work.

More importantly, I discovered, my oven runs hot: when I took out the first tray, they were slightly burned. In response, I reduced the baking time for the rest, but the next two batches still came out a little crunchy. Nonetheless, I piped in the cream cheese filling and put them in the refrigerator overnight to see if they’d soften up.

And the verdict is …
… they have feet, but they’re a little too dense and a little too burnt. The victory goes to the meringue, with an assist from the oven – think of it as the meringue has me trapped in a corner when, all of a sudden, the oven climbs into the ring, grabs a folding chair, and bashes me in the back of the head.

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Dana’s bakery

I had the opportunity to meet Dana, the macaron genius of Dana’s bakery, yesterday. She was incredibly gracious and gave me some helpful tips that I’ll try out as soon I settle into my new apartment. She also gave me an assortment pack with an amazing variety of flavors.

The flavors include strawberry shortcake, s’mores, red velvet, chocolate molten, birthday cake, cafe mocha, orange creamsicle, fruity cereal, key lime pie, cookie dough, pb+j, and Neapolitan.

And yes, Smackie’s cousin Mackie is joining the blog.

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Attempt no. 45 – more bergamot and Sichuan black pepper macarons, Cliff Notes version

Whoops, he did it again.

I followed the same recipe as in attempt no. 42, baking at 250° F for 20 minutes, rotating the tray, and then another 10 minutes. The first tray was underdone, so I added 90 seconds of baking time to the the second tray, which came out perfectly. 

In summary, they piped out nicely (2 points, as per my scoring system), they all came off the Silpat (3 points since the first batch stuck a little), they look like macaron (4 points), and they’re delicious (1½ points, because they are a little too chewy). I win.

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Attempt no. 44 – the lemon macaron

With all of the experience I now have under my belt, both figuratively and literally, I decided to go back nearly full circle to attempt no. 2 and finally perfect my lemon macaron. Admittedly, I’ve become a bit more casual about preparation:

I put everything together, blah blah blah – I’d forgotten how little batter this recipe makes – and I pipe it out. So far, so good.

What comes out of the over, however, isn’t so good at all.

Perhaps its because I left the oven open a crack (as I was taught to do in Paris), maybe there’s just something about the chemistry when there’s lemon juice in the batter, or maybe it’s just me, but all I ended up with was 10 dense non-macaron lemon sandwich cookies without even enough filling to cover up the browned bottoms. The meringue wins.

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Attempt no. 43 – the chocolate macaron with chocolate-hot pepper gananche

Chocolate and chili go well together – think of Max Brenner’s Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate, with red chili, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper – so, fresh off the success of the bergamot and Sichuan black pepper macaron, I figured I’d try this next step. It’s easy enough to do, in concept: take your standard chocolate shell, make a ganache (300 g chocolate and 300 g cream), and add in 2 ½ teaspoons of hot pepper paste.

Given that I’ve had two successes in a row, I decided to be more objective in how I judge success.  I’ve settled on four factors:

Did the macaronnage work – did the shells pipe out nicely? 0: no
1: well enough
2: yes
Can I get the shells off the Silpat after they’ve come out of the oven? 0: no
1: at least ⅓ of them
2: at least ⅔ of them
4: all or almost all of them
Do they look like macarons? 0: ugh, no
1: I’d eat them with the lights out
2: no feet, but otherwise okay
4: yes
Do they taste good? 0: no
1: they’re okay
2: yum!

To win, I have to get at least 8 points.

The results:

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They piped out nicely piped, so that’s worth 2 points. Only ⅓ of them went into the sink; 2 points. Appearance-wise, they were a real mixed bag but most of them were lucky to have no feet, so 1 point for that. finally, the hot pepper has a nice kick that keeps the macarons from being overly sweet, but I wouldn’t want to eat more than one or two at a sitting*; 1 point.

In total, I get only 6 points, so the win goes to the meringue.

*(a sitting is defined as approximately two minutes.)

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Attempt no. 42 – the bergamot and Sichuan black pepper macaron

image1It’s Thanksgiving, so it’s time to make a macaron with traditional Thanksgiving flavors: bergamot and Sichuan black pepper!

Bergamot is an oil extract from the dwarf variety of the Seville orange, commonly used to flavor Earl Grey tea. Having just come back from Chengdu with Sichuan peppers, I realized that the two flavors would complement each other, so I took a recipe for bergamot buttercream filling and added the pepper, as follows:

For the shells:

  • 100 g aged egg whites
  • 225 g powdered sugar
  • 125 g almond flour
  • 5 g dehydrated egg white powder
  • 28 g granulated sugar
For the filling:

  • 80 g caster sugar
  • 25 g water
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 160 g soft butter
  • 1 bag of Earl Grey tea
  • 1 teaspoon of ground Sichuan black pepper

I’d never used dehydrated egg white powder in a recipe before, so I wanted to see what would happen.  The answer is, I can’t tell, but it didn’t hurt. The shell tops were a little fragile, but that could have been for any number of reasons; I used the French method, which makes a slightly less sturdy shell.

I haven’t had time to age them fully in the refrigerator, since I’m gifting part of the batch tonight, but based on a preliminary taste test: the victory goes to me, and they taste fantastic.

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