Pour l’amour de septembre

This year September is about French macarons. I’ll have a new macaron variation for you each week.

Let’s kick the unofficial start of fall off with an earl grey macaron filled with orange marmalade Italian buttercream.

Infusing tea into macaron shells is a clever way of adding additional sense experience to the macaron eating experience.  Uhm.  What I mean is that, as most people know, smell is an important element of the eating experience. Earl grey has a wonderful floral and citrus nose to it.  So, even before you take your first bite, the seduction begins with the scent of oranges.  It works the same with other tea varietals…chai…green…lapsang soughing (okay fine, I just wanted to type that last one).

Buttercream, Italian or otherwise is also a great bet for filling macarons.  On its own, the filling is rich but stable (no need to worry about it squeezing out the sides).  It’s also a great neutral beginning to a host of added flavors.  In this recipe I’ve whipped in some orange marmalade.

Another fabulous thing about Italian buttercream is that sealed tightly in a ziplock freezer bag (don’t forget to label), it freezes extremely well.  This allows you to cut-off a frozen hunk, thaw it, add-in your choice of flavorings and then fill a dozen or so at a time.

A final note on aesthetics.  I’ve seen earl grey macarons in multiple macarooneries (if this isn’t already a word I’m claiming it).  However, they are often colored grey or even lavender.  I’m not really pro-grey food and I think the lavender is misleading.  So, in this recipe I added just a couple of drops of orange food gel coloring.  After all, earl grey tea gets its characteristic citrus scent from bergamot oranges (though, if I’m being honest, bergamots are actually yellow, not orange).  I also like how the light hue allows the speckles from the ground tea to show through.

Next week, a nod to Fiesta Hermosa (and no, I’m not making an edible driftwood clock or bedazzled acid-wash demin purse).

Earl Grey French Macarons with Italian Buttercream

For the shells

I have found the best way to get consist results with macarons is to use weight measurements.  

Make 20-24 shells

Ingredients

  • 60 grams almond meal
  • 100 grams confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp earl grey tea, finely ground (I use a coffee grinder)
  • 20 grams granulated sugar
  • 50 grams egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 or so drops orange food gel if desired
  • Piping bag (a ziplock can be used in a pinch)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 315 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.  I like to draw the circles with Sharpie on a couple of pieces of parchment as a stencil. In order to use them multiple times I lay another piece of parchment over the top.
  2. Weigh and measure out all of your ingredients.  When I’m making multiple batches I actually weigh out the almond flour, sugar and any other dry ingredients into separate zip-lock baggies and label them.
  3. In a food processor fitted with a blade, pulse together almond meal, tea and confectioner’s sugar.  Give it a few pulses then sift into a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  4. In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or an electric hand mixer), add the egg whites.  Beat on medium low until frothy.
  5. Increase the speed and slowly add the granulated sugar and pinch of salt.
  6. Add-in your gel coloring if desired.
  7. Beat eggs until they form soft peaks.
  8. Working in three batches, add first portion of almond meal mixture to the egg-whites.  Gently fold until just combined.  Repeat with the additional two portions of meal folding to combine while using as few folds as possible.
  9. To test if the batter is ready to pipe, scoop about 1/4 tsp onto a flat surface.  The batter should act like lava and spread enough to lose its peak but not its shape.  I usually do this test several times starting at the point where everything is just combined.  If you under-mix the batter you can always give it a few more folds.  However, you are out of luck if you over mix.  So, err on the side of multiple tests.
  10. When the batter is ready, pour it into your piping bag.  To be honest, I don’t bother with a tip, I just snip the bag about an inch or so from the tip (eh…maybe a little less).
  11. Pipe your shells onto the parchment-lined baking sheets.
  12. Allow to sit for 10-60 minutes or until the shells appear dry.  I have found this process is heavily dependent on the weather.  The more moisture in the air, the longer they need to sit.
  13. Working with one sheet at a time, bake for about 20 minutes.  To test, gently grab one corner of the parchment and attempt to peel it from the shell.  A clean peel means the shells are done.  If they are sticky, back in the oven for another 5 minutes and test again.
  14. Let the shells cool but once cool, carefully remove from the parchment.  I have found that you don’t want to let the cooled shells sit on the parchment.

For the Italian Buttercream

The Italian buttercream is this week’s baking class derivative.  The instructor taught us how to test the syrup without using a candy thermometer and I want ed to practice.  The recipe included here uses a thermometer because I have no idea how to accurately describe the “drop syrup dab in  water and see if it forms a soft ball without totally scorching your finger tips method.”

And another thing.  You could half this recipe and still have enough to fill several dozen macarons.

Start with this recipe for Italian Buttercream from Gourmet Magazine (sniffle).  For a single batch of macarons you’ll only need a quarter of the buttercream (at most).  To the portioned buttercream add about 1/2 cup of orange marmalade.  Whip frosting to incorporate.  Frost macarons as desired.  Store remaining frosting in a sealed container in fridge (eh…maybe a week) or freezer (up to a couple of months).

 

 

 

Why yes, that is Earl Grey in my cookie!

Less than a year into our relationship TD and I wandered over to Europe on vacation.  I point out how long we’d been dating because we were still in that stage where everyone is polite and both parties still happily do things the other likes.  Even if they don’t.

We spent the first week in London and loved it.  Of course.  We did all the touristy stuff, drank at Punch and Judys (where I couldn’t keep myself from asking several of the locals why they were drinking Budweiser on a continent with far superior beer.  The answer: same reason people drink it in the U.S.–you can drink a lot and still stand) and visited Harrods (we went at least three times that I recall).

One of the visits to Harrods was for the sole purpose of partaking in afternoon tea.  There was going to be tea sipping and crumpet eating and lots of pinky lifting.  Until we walked in and TD discovered that there was an ice cream shop right next to the tea shop.  Somehow by some sort of relationship voodoo, I found myself agreeing to ice cream instead of tea.  Oh, the salad days of early love.  Good thing I don’t hold a grudge.  Ha!  Nearly 12 years later, this is the incident at the top of my, “well, remember the time” list whenever TD attempts to talk me into doing something I don’t want to do.

Anyhow, I do enjoy a nice cup of tea.  Which brings us to this week’s post.  Earl grey shortbread.

I love Earl Grey tea.  Mostly, it’s the way it smells.  But, I also love the word bergamot, one of the tea’s main ingredients.  I love the way berg-a-mot rolls around in my mouth when I pronounce it (or think it).  Bergamot is actually a type of orange (though its yellow) and it is what give Earl Grey tea its brightness.

In this recipe, the tea leaves are first finely ground (I used our coffee-bean-gone-spice-grinder) and then pulsed together in the food processor with dry ingredients and my own special addition: orange zest.

Then, the butter is cut-in until the dough just forms.  The whole thing is rolled into a log and then, because I like a little sparkle, rolled in granulated sugar.

Some time in the fridge (or freezer) and all that is left to do is slice and bake.

This delicious cookie does create a bit of a quagmire.  What do you drink with your shortbread when the tea is actually in the cookie?

Soundtrack

Amy Winehouse and her friends on Pandora

Earl Grey Shortbread

This recipe originated from Foodnetwork.com but has been adapted substantially by yours truly.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 1/2 C rice flour (all purpose can be substituted)
  • 2 TBS loose Earl Grey tea leaves (I’m a fan of Twinnings)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • zest from large orange
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature, cut into cubes

Directions

  1. Grind loose tea leaves in a spice or coffee bean grinder until fine.
  2. Pulse together the flour, tea, salt, and orange zest until the tea is just spotted throughout the flour.
  3. Add the confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla.
  4. Pulse-in butter one cube at-a-time until a dough is just formed. Place dough on a sheet of parchment paper or plastic rap, and roll into a log, about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Roll log in granulated sugar until coated.
  5. Tightly twist each end of wrap, and chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (double wrap if freezing).
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  7. Slice the log into 1/3-inch thick disks. Place on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart (2 probably needed depending on size of sheets). Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool to room temperature.