Tag Archives: Passover

Triple Coconut Macaroons

pyramid 2 625 sqThese are my absolute favourite macaroons. That’s macaroon, with 2 o’s – the coconut variety, not the pain-in-the-ass Diva, ground almond and meringue variety, which are macarons, with one o. This recipe for Triple Coconut Macaroons, comes from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. I have been making these since the recipe first came out in 2000. Why I have waited so long to share with you is a mystery to me. I promise you, I’m reallly not a petty person.

Although I could make them any time of year, I always associate coconut macaroons with Passover. As a child we bought our macaroons from Open Window Bakery in Toronto. They made both vanilla and chocolate coconut macaroons. I preferred the simplicity of the vanilla ones. I found the chocolate ones too chocolatey for me. The cocoa powder masked the flavour of the coconut, which is exactly the point of coconut macaroons. I always felt sorry for those families that had to get their macaroon fix from the can. They were gummy and chewy, in short, just awful.
00091_chocolatemacaroons_10coconut macaroons in can
The quintessential coconut macaroon is slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle, without being gluey. They should be sweet, but not cloyingly so, and they should be bursting with shreds of sweetened coconut. A final dip in a melted chocolate bath, to cover the lower third of the macaroon would not be a bad thing.
in polka dot bowl
Cook’s Illustrated’s test kitchen discovered that the choice of coconut in the macaroon makes a big difference in both taste and texture. Unsweetened shredded coconut, which is drier than sweetened, solved the gluey texture issue.  Sweetened shredded coconut packed more flavor than unsweetened, and together they worked very well. To add one more layer of coconut flavor, they tried cream of coconut and cracked the coconut macaroon code.

Cream of coconut, is not to be confused with coconut cream or coconut milk. Here is a little coconut product primer:
coconut milkcream of coconutKTC-Creamed-Coconut-Big
Coconut cream is very similar to coconut milk but contains less water. Coconut cream is made by simmering equal parts of shredded coconut and water until frothy,  then straining the mixture through a cheesecloth, squeezing out as much liquid as possible; this is coconut milk. The coconut milk is refrigerated and allowed to set. Coconut cream is the thick non-liquid part that separates and rises to the top of the coconut milk.

Cream of coconut is coconut cream that has been sweetened. It is used most commonly in piña coladas. This is the one you want for this recipe. I usually find it in Asian supermarkets, although some larger stores carry it in the drinks aisle.

Creamed coconut is a compressed block of coconut flesh which has been slightly dehydrated and sold in a waxy lump.

This recipe does contain corn syrup, so if you keep strictly Kosher for Passover, here is a recipe for a corn syrup alternative.

Lately, there has been much written about the evils of high fructose corn syrup. This is not the same as the regular corn syrup you buy for baking. If you are at all concerned and want to know more about the science behind it, this article clears up the confusion.

The canned cream of coconut has liquid at the bottom, so it is best to empty it out into a bowl and mix it up with a spoon before measuring and adding to the batter.
Adding cream of coconutadding coconut
The batter should be chilled for about 15 minutes before shaping macaroons. here is a video demonstrating how to shape them.


The chocolate should be chopped fairly fine. I melt about 3/4 of it in the microwave on medium power. When it is totally melted, stir in the remaining 1/4 of chocolate. This is a quick and dirty tempering method but it works quite well.chopping milk chocolatemelting milk chocolateadding second amount of chocolate
I like to dip the bottom third of the cookies in chocolate.
dippingput on parchment

dipped

Click here to print recipe for Triple Coconut Macaroons.

in polka dot bowl

 

Roasted Chicken Soup and Perfect Matzoh Balls

ladling soup 1

 

Bowl of soup 1

Yesterday was the first day of spring. Apparently, someone forgot to notify the Weather Gods of this fact because over 25 centimetres of snow fell on us here in Ottawa! My son, a go-with-the-flow kind of guy, just took it in his stride, embraced the white stuff and went snowshoeing!

trails

I also embraced the bonus snow storm, by hunkering down in my kitchen and making a big pot of Roasted Chicken Soup with Perfect Matzoh Balls, just in time for Passover.

There are only two things you need to know to make good chicken soup. The first is that you must use homemade chicken stock, not water, as the liquid. The second is that you must allow enough time to chill the soup, after cooking, so that all the fat can be removed. If you follow these two rules, you will have wonderful chicken soup.

Chicken stock is a mystery to many people.  Exactly what is it and how is it made?  Stock is simply chicken bones, simmered, in water, with aromatic vegetables (typically, carrots, onion and celery) until the bones have given every ounce of their flavour to the liquid.  This usually takes about 2-3 hours. Then you take this flavourful liquid, add some fresh bones and vegetables and simmer for a further 2 hours to get chicken soup.

I have recently discovered roasted chicken stock. Before throwing the chicken bones and vegetables into the pot with some water, you roast them in a hot oven for about 45 minutes until they are deeply browned.

roasted bones and vegetables

Then you simmer these browned bones and vegetables with water for about 2 hours.

adding waterstraining roasted stock

This gives you a stock with much greater depth of flavour. It is rich, dark and delicious and makes a killer chicken soup. Here is a photo comparing unroasted stock and roasted stock.

2 bowls

Now, onto the matzoh balls. Here are my golden rules for making perfect fluffy matzoh balls. I have tried many different recipes and techniques over the years and the best recipe comes from the Manichewitz box, but with a few adaptations.

  • After you make your chicken soup and chill it, there will be a layer of fat sitting on top of the soup. Do not throw it away! Scrape off that fat layer and use some of it as the fat called for in the matzoh balls, instead of vegetable oil. I know that some of you are already having heart attacks, in advance of even eating this, but Passover comes only once a year, and you will actually only be eating one little matzoh ball, so the chicken fat will not kill you. It adds such flavour and tenderness to the matzoh balls, you will be amazed.removing fat

Eggs, matzoh meal, chicken fat, salt, a bit of water or chicken stock are combined to make the matzoh ball batter.

cracking eggs

adding matzoh meal 

  • The recipe on the box instructs you to chill the batter for 30 minutes. Ignore the box, and chill it overnight. If you leave the mixture overnight, the matzoh meal absorbs more moisture, holds together better and cooks more evenly.
  • When forming the matzoh balls, wet your hands and gently toss the balls from palm to palm, to form the balls. The size you make them is up to you. I like to make them about 1 tablespoon in size. They will swell in the liquid as they cook.

scooping

  • Do not cook the matzoh balls in the chicken soup! It will make your chicken soup cloudy. Cook the matzoh balls in HEAVILY SALTED water. The water should taste like the ocean. As the matzoh balls cook, they absorb the cooking water. If you start with unsalted or just lightly salted water you will have bland matzoh balls. And that would make me very sad.

salting water

  • Gently simmer, do not boil the matzoh balls. Cook them in a shallow wide pot, rather than a tall narrow pot, so they will have room to swell. Cover the pot so that they will cook more evenly. If your matzoh balls are large, it could take up to an hour. You will know they are done when you slice one open and they are the same colour all the way through. After cooking, remove with a slotted spoon and set in a single layer on a baking sheet. They can be wrapped and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. Rewarm them in the chicken soup, before serving.

use a wide pot

Bowl of soup 4a

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Chicken Soup with Perfect Matzoh Balls.

 

Blondes have more fun and Blonde Chocolate Ganache Macarons.

macarons in bowl 1

 

in egg holder square for blog

Seems that blondes really are taking over the world. First we had the introduction of Blonde Ale, then Starbucks released its Blonde Roast, and now Valrhona has introduced the world’s first blonde chocolate. Say what?? Blonde chocolate?? You thought there were just dark, milk and white?

milk dark and white

Before we delve into the world of Blonde chocolate, I offer you a quick Chocolate 101 Primer:

cocao bean on treeroasted nibs

The process of making chocolate starts with the cocoa bean. The beans are fermented, dried, roasted and then shelled. These shelled beans, known as cocoa nibs, are ground and the resulting product is a thick liquid known as chocolate liquor. (It’s not actually alcohol.) Then, this chocolate liquor is pressed and from this pressing we get two products:

1. Cocoa butter, which is actually the fat from the chocolate liquor

2. Chocolate solids, which when ground results in cocoa powder.

Unsweetened chocolate is basically cocoa butter reblended with cocoa powder. Sugar is added to make semi-sweet and bittersweet dark chocolate, and milk is added to produce milk chocolate. White chocolate contains none of the chocolate liquor. It contains cocoa butter, milk, sugar and sometimes vanilla.

Yes, you chocolate purists out there, I know that technically white chocolate is not really considered chocolate since it does not contain any pulp from the cocoa solids extracted from the cocoa bean.

To be labeled white chocolate, there must be a minimum of 20% cocoa butter, 15% milk powder and a maximum of 55% sugar. Note that real white chocolate is not pure white in colour, it is actually an ivory colour. If you see snow white chocolate, it is likely that it contains vegetable oil, rather than cocoa butter and trust me, the taste difference is significant!

OK, now onto the discovery that rocked my world, Blonde Chocolate! (Just a little aside here, when I announced this startling discovery to my husband and two sons they all started snoring! Ungrateful sods, no blonde chocolate treats for them!)

As with several other culinary innovations, this one was also an act of pure serendipity! About 8 years ago, Frédéric Bau, Executive Chef and director of Valrhona’s Ecole du Chocolat, was doing a demonstration for pastry chefs from around the globe. He had some white chocolate melting in a bain-marie. He used a small amount of that white chocolate for his demonstration and the remainder was left sitting there, continuing to slowly heat, completely forgotten about.

Around 10 hours later, he returned to discover that the white chocolate had caramelized into a stunning buckwheat honey blonde colour.  It had the aroma of toasted shortbread, and when he stuck his finger in there for a taste, he was shocked to discover an intense biscuity, caramel flavour.  It was smooth, buttery and there was a hint of salt on the finish.  Frédéric was convinced that he was clearly onto something big here. It took almost 8 years to be able to reproduce this happy accident on a large scale and sell it commercially.

But in October of 2012 Dulcey 32%, the world’s first blonde chocolate was born. Clearly I must have been living under a rock, as I had no idea about this launch. I only became aware of it last week when I got an email from The Vanilla Food Company, featuring some new products to their lineup. My mind was spinning with the possibilities and I immediately ordered a 2 kilogram bag.

dulcey 32-1

Since Passover is coming up soon (March 25), I decided to make some macarons and fill them with a Blonde Chocolate ganache. I think Frédéric would approve. These are classic French macarons, with only one “o”, not to be confused with American macaroons, (with two “oo”‘s), which are made with coconut.

on marble slab 2

Macaons are the perfect Passover dessert, since they contain no flour. There is a plethora of information and recipes out there in the Blogosphere. I have tried numerous recipes and techniques. Last year I discovered Stella Parks’ (aka Bravetart) macaron primer. I had always thought that macarons were the prima donnas of the pastry world, very temperamental and required a delicate touch. Not so says Stella. If you are a macaron geek like me, then these posts by Stella are required reading:

1. The 10 Commandments of Macaron Baking

2. Macaron Mythbusters

To make your life easy, print out this template for piping your macarons. Depending on the size of your baking sheets, you could print two and tape them together. Place template on baking sheet, cover with parchment and set aside.

template

A kitchen scale and stand mixer are recommended for success with macarons. Classic macarons begin with almond flour, sometimes called almond meal. You can buy ground almonds at most grocery store or bulk food stores. The ground almonds are combined with powdered sugar and then pressed through a sieve.

scalesieve

Egg whites, sugar and salt are whipped to stiff peaks. Stella gives quite explicit instructions, including number of minutes and speeds, which I have detailed in my attached recipe.after 3 minutesafter 6 minutes

after 9 minutesadding vanilla

The meringue is whipped enough when there is a big clump of meringue in the center of your whisk, like this:

meringue clumped 2

Next the ground almond/powdered sugar mixture is dumped on top of the meringue and a rubber spatula is used to combine everything. A combination of a folding stroke and a pressing motion, against the sides of the bowl to help deflate the meringue, are used. Remember, we are making macarons here, not meringues. You want to knock the air out of the egg whites.

The batter, also known as the macaronage, is sufficiently mixed and perfect for piping when you spoon some batter on top of the bowl and it mounds up on itself, but after about 20 seconds, it melts back down on itself. Your macaronage is under-mixed and too stiff if you spoon some out and drop it back into the mix and it just sits there, never incorporating. Your macaronage is over-mixed if it has the consistency of pancake batter. Do not let it get to this stage!

Filling the piping bag is easy if you place it inside a tall glass or pitcher, and cuff the top down. Only fill the bag half full. Otherwise, it will ooze out from the top and you will have a sticky mess, and probably curse me!

too thick 2spooning into piping bag 2

Pipe just inside the circles, as the mixture will spread.

piping 2

Remember to remove template before baking. Top half the macarons with a few Skor bits. These will be the top half of your macaron sandwich cookies.

remove templatetopping with Skor bits

While macarons are baking and cooling, prepare ganache filling. Bring cream and butter to a boil. Pour over chopped blonde chocolate. (You could also use white, milk or dark chocolate) Let sit for 3 minutes then whisk until smooth.

pouring creamwhisking

Let cool to room temperature, until quite thick and then pipe onto half the macarons. Top with Skor lids.

piping blond ganache

Macarons will keep in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for up to a month. Let come to room temperature before serving.

in egg holder

Click here to print recipe for Almond Macarons with Blonde Chocolate Ganache Filling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alice’s New Classic Macaroons

For me, it’s just not Passover unless we have macaroons.That’s macaroons, with two oo’s, the ones made with coconut, not to be confused with macarons, the French confection, with one o, which are typically made with ground almonds, powdered sugar and egg whites.

In fact, I love macaroons so much that I dressed up as a chocolate one several years ago.  My youngest sister, in Toronto, held a masquerade Seder.  We all had to come dressed as our favorite Passover character.  I took a little creative license and showed up dressed head to toe in chocolate-brown, topped with a very large pyramid-shaped cardboard hat, covered with macaroons.  A word of advice for anyone thinking of trying this – don’t!  I used canned macaroons (I didn’t want to waste the homemade ones for a craft project) and they became very heavy when coated with glue.  The overpowering stench of coconut and glue, as we drove from Ottawa to Toronto, left everyone in out van feeling quite ill.

However, it didn’t cure me of my love for all things coconut, especially macaroons. Cookbook author, dessert chef and Chocolatier Alice Medrich, created these incredible macaroons in her recent book, “Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies.” Leave it to Alice to come up with a genius twist on this classic cookie. Instead of using shredded or desiccated coconut, Alice suggests using coconut chips. These are wide shavings of unsweetened coconut that can be found in most health and bulk food stores these days.

Chewy, toasty and supremely yummy! The pure coconut flavour really shines through in these stunning beauties. Alice suggests shoving a large chunk of bittersweet chocolate into the centre of each cookie to take a great cookie over the top!

Egg whites, coconut chips, vanilla extract, sugar and a pinch of salt all get mixed together in a large bowl. I used vanilla extract paste so you can see the flecks of the vanilla bean seeds in my mixture. The bowl then gets set in a large pan of simmering water, to heat the mixture through and thicken the egg whites.

I used a small ice cream scoop (about 3/4 of an ounce) to form the macaroons. I stuck a piece of 70% bittersweet chocolate in the centre of each before baking. Unfortunately they oozed right out once I baked them.

I got a little smarter on the second tray and carefully inserted the chocolate into the centre of the macaroon and used wet fingertips to make sure chocolate was mostly enclosed. It wasn’t until I baked them all that I reread the recipe and discovered that Alice inserts the chocolate after baking, while macaroon is still warm!

However you insert the chocolate, these macaroons are pure coconut heaven!

Click here to print recipe for New Classic Coconut Macaroons.