Ginger Spice Macarons

Take a look at my swirly pumpkin cheesecake from the previous post. Isn't she lovely? For the batter I had to beat cream cheese with nutmeg and crystallized ginger and as I was polishing away ahem taste testing this I thought - this would make an incredibly awesome macaron filling. And I was right! So here is my discovery- that I just couldn't wait to share with you all- delicious cream cheese ginger spice filled macarons! 
Unfortunately I ran out of cream cheese and time to fill the rest of my macarons, which are as you can see shamefully lacking feet. But feet or no feet I still think macs taste awesome. This time I used Helene's recipe on the recommendation of the very talented foodieblogger Ria who I had the good fortune to meet for a short bit last week during her visit to California. ( More on that and her awesome almond cookies later when she posts the recipe- they were really good and are definitely worth waiting for!)
First check these out!

While my first batch had no feet at all, for the second batch, I lowered the oven temperature to 275 and also placed two large cake tins directly underneath my cookie sheet ( tripling the cookie tray would be what I was trying to achieve but unfortunately I only own one non-heavy duty professional baker type cookie sheet) This seemed to help and looking in the oven window I saw this:

Could they be? Yes they are! Glorious little  ruffles on the underside of my macs! Those longed for, tiny little feet! However in my excitement I opened the oven door too soon so these had cracked, undercooked shells that gave me a broken heart :(  Never mind I have 6 egg whites aging on my counter waiting for my next macattempt! I will definitely be trying Helene's recipe again.

Ginger Spice Macarons

For my awesome Ginger Spice cream cheese filling:
  • Cream cheese- 8 ounces softened ( I used one block of the Philadelphia brand) 
  • Sugar: 1/4 cup or more depending on sweet tooth
  • Nutmeg powder: 1/4 tsp
  • Crystallized ginger: 1/4 cup ( shredded in your food processor) 
In your food processor or using a stick blender ( Like I did) shred the ginger along with the sugar. Now add the cream cheese and nutmed and blend until smooth and combined.
Let it harden in the fridge for about 30 mins and then spoon or pipe onto your macaron and sandwich with another macaron shell.

For the shells:
Recipe Source: Adapted from Helene from her blog Tartlettle here as well as notes from her classes kindly shared by bellalimento from here

90 gr egg whites (roughly 3 egg whites)
25 gr to 50gr (2 Tb to 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
200 gr ( 1.5 cups + 2Tb) powdered sugar
110 gr almonds ( 3/4 cup) (slivered, blanched, sliced, whatever you like)
Separate the whites from the yolks and place the whites in a lean bowl 48 hrs or atleast 24 hours before you make the macarons. Leave the whites at room temp, uncovered or loosely covered with a towel at least 24 hrs. Refrigerate after that if desired. You can use eggs that have been “aging” for up to 5 days. This helps the water to evaporate and is important for the right texture and for achieving those feet. Am sure you can skip this step if you arent aiming for perfection. They taste about the same. Also don't worry about old egg whites killing you. The germies get killed at the temperatures were going to bake them at. 
If you are still queasy or just in a hurry you can skip the aging and microwave the egg whites for two short 10 second periods, stirring in between each period. Careful! don't overdo this and cook the eggs! if you do please start over with fresh eggs and reducing the time. 
Prepare the macarons:
Place the powdered sugar and almonds in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Sift a couple of time to remove bits and pieces. Regrind if necessary. You can also use a coffee grinder for the nuts or you could use store bought almond meal like I did from Trader Joes. But don't forget to sift, sift and sift again.
Once your nuts and powdered sugar are mixed together, rub them in between your fingertips to break the bigger pieces.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the granulated sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry.
Add the nuts and powdered sugar 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 falls back on itself after counting to 10. 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. If you overfold the batter will become too runny so be very careful.
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 or silicone mats lined baking sheets.I used my spritz cookie gun instead with the icing tips which I personally find easier to use rather than the frustrating double-ended pastry bag. I also found this macaron template/stencil very useful- just print it out, slide it under your baking sheet, pipe out the macarons and then remember to slide it out and remove before putting them in the oven, else you'll have a nice flame.
Now lift the tray up and gently let fall, so that the underside of the tray hits your kitchen counter, to let air bubbles escape. No, I don't want you to throw macaron batter all over your kitchen :P
Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit. 
If using convection: preheat the oven to 280F. If using regular electric or gas, preheat the oven to 300F ( I reduced to 275F) . When ready, bake for 18 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.
Am sending my delicious fall inspired macarons to this months Macattack at the mactweets blog hosted by the awesome Deeba and Jamie.

For more macaron tips see my post with tips from my macaron classes
Obsessed much? want more? Here is a very useful document from Helene of Tartlette's feature on macarons in Dessert Magazine which she's linked on her awesome blog

Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake Pie with easy Gingersnap Cookie Crust

Hope everyone in this part of the world enjoyed a good thanksgiving meal! I have an awesomely sweet friend and fellow new mom to thank for hosting it this year, inspite of being a busy working mom of an active little toddler. I always enjoy meeting them and my little monkey has a good time checking out baby T's toys and trying to lick him!

I thought I'd take a side dish along, and after many hours of deliberation and back and forth-ing between this, and this, I finally decided it would be pie. Pumpkin pie. But after having made Libby's  pumpkin pie and a lovely Cardamom Caramel pumpkin pie already, I wanted to make something different. So then it was back to my favourite food blogs and sites and thumbing through cook books, until I began to see ginger molasses pies, pecan pumpkin pies, buttermilk pies... everywhere. And then  it happened. I saw this stunner on Gourmet magazine and fell in love. Look at her! Swirly pumpkin and cream cheese goodness, spiked with crystallized ginger. Just tasting the batter itself I knew this one is a true winner.

Pumpkin ginger cheesecake pie with easy gingersnap cookie crust

Recipe Source: Lillian Chou for Gourmet Magazine from here

Serves 8. Active time about 20 mins, From start to finish including resting and cooling : 8 hours so best if made the day before your big fat thanksgiving bash.


For the gingersnap crumb crust from here
  • tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus a little more ( about a tsp) for greasing
  • 1 1/2 cups cookie crumbs (10 graham crackers or 24 small gingersnaps; about 6 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Special Equipment


    a 9- to 9 1/2-inch pie plate (4-cup capacity)
  • To make cookie crumbs, break up crackers or cookies into small pieces ( I thulped crushed mine, still in the package, with a rolling pin) , then pulse in a food processor until finely ground.
  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly butter pie plate
  • Stir together all ingredients in a bowl and press evenly on bottom and the side of pie plate. Bake until crisp, 12 to 15 minutes, then cool on a rack to room temperature, about 45 minutes
For the Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake filling:
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup chopped crystallized ginger ( the original recipe stated 1/4 cup which would make it very strong)
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg ( The original recipe says 1/2 tsp freshly grated nuteg-but I think that's too much) 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin (If using fresh pumpkin, cut it in half and bake at 300 F for about 30 mins and scoop out the flesh after discarding seeds. If using a 15-oz can-you'll use almost all of it)
  • Make the gingersnap pie crust and let it cool.
  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Pulse sugar and ginger in a food processor until ginger is finely chopped, then add cream cheese and pulse until smooth. Add eggs, milk, flour, nutmeg, and salt and pulse until just combined. ( i don't have a food processor, but my immersion/stick blender worked just fine) 
  • Keep 2/3 cup cream cheese mixture separately - we'll use this later. Whisk together remaining 1 1/3 cups cream cheese mixture and pumpkin in a large bowl until combined.
  • Pour pumpkin mixture into gingersnap crumb crust. Now slowly stir the cream cheese mixture kept separately  and drizzle decoratively over top of pumpkin mixture, and swirl little circles with back of a spoon for that marble like effect. Gorgeous!
  • Put pie on a baking sheet and bake until center is just set, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours, then chill, loosely covered with foil, at least 4 hours. Very gently blot any moisture from surface ( If required) with paper towels before serving.
  •  This cheesecake can be chilled up to 3 days (although the crust will soften slightly)

Verdict: The cheesecake pie looked really good and everyone commented on the swirlyness, but unfortunately  T and I thought the spices were way too overpowering (The others were too nice to say!) Maybe because I made it the night before and it sat in the fridge overnight and matured, but the next time I make this, I will reduce the ginger and nutmeg by half (as already noted in the recipe above) 

Cinnamon Apple Braided Brioche Bread

I totally love baking apples into pies, breads, tarts and cakes. There is nothing I love more than the smell of baked apples and cinnamon, except for the smell of yeasty bread so why not combine the two huh? Let me tell you how fantastic that idea is!
A soft, rich, decadent brioche that lovingly wraps around a filling of apples, cinnamon and caramelized brown sugar. And while this may look like I spent 10 hours slaving over, its really quite easily done. I used the pre-made and refrigerated, no-knead brioche recipe from Artisan Bread in 5. Seriously Zoe and Jeff, like hundreds of others, I love you guys. As you may have realized, I have much love for genius chefs and foodies who come up with easy ways to make delicious goodies, with simple tools like a mixing bowl and a spoon. 

Cinnamon Apple Braided Brioche Bread
Recipe source: slightly adapted from Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day from their website here
Brioche dough (makes about 4 loaves- I used only half the recipe) 
You could also use the slightly less decadent Challah dough (see here
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 8 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup honey 
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 7 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Mix the yeast, salt, eggs honey and melted butter with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or lidded (not airtight) food container. I used a largeglass  mixing bowl ( one from set of  Pyrex stackable, lidded ones I love and use for prepping, storing or reheating daily) 
Mix in the flour, using a spoon until all of the flour is incorporated.
Cover (not airtight), and allow to sit at room temperature for about two hours.
The dough can be used as soon as it is chilled. This dough is way too sticky to use after the initial rise, but once it is chilled it is very easy to handle. 
Zoe also uses this same dough to create other goodies like this Tatincaramel sticky bunsgrilled fruit tartFresh Fruit Muffins,Brioche à têteapricot pastries and even doughnuts! The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. After that you can freeze the dough.

For the Apple filling:
1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon pwd
1 apple ( I used a sweet gala apple but you could use any) slice thin with a knife or mandoline )

1 egg (lightly beaten) mixed with 1 tbsp water

Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon powder for the filling
Take the brioche or challah bread from the fridge and working quickly, roll it out on a baking sheet or silpat.
Roll the dough into a rough rectangular shape
Spread out the filling in the center portion of the rectangle and lay out the apple slices over it.
With kitchen shears or a pizza cutter cut evenly spaced strips on both sides of the filling and lightly egg wash them ( The egg wash acts like a glue)
Fold the strips over the filling, crossing one strip from one side over the other, and pinch them together. Zoe suggested something I missed- Make sure that there is quite a bit of excess dough beyond the point where you pinch them together. If you pinch right at the ends it will bust open when baking. Hence you may notice that some of my filling has come out :( 
For a far more easier to understand pictoral how-to see the Danish Braided Bread from Artisanbreadin5 here or their fabulous book.

Let the braid sit loosely covered with plastic wrap ( I didn't cover mine) for about 40 mins
Slide the braid on the baking mat to a cookie sheet/baking tray
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Lightly coat the bread with egg wash and sprinkle with regular or pearl sugar, a sprinkling of slivered almonds if you like, and bake in the middle rack of your oven for 20 mins or until a tooth pick insirted into the center of the bread comes out clean.
If you can wait that long, allow to sit for about 15 mins before cutting slices off and serving. 
And yes, yes of course you'd like to try other fillings- savoury like feta cheese and spinach, or as Zoe suggests in her Danish Braid:
1/2 cup softened cream cheese, 
3 tablespoons sugar, 
1 teaspoon vanilla, 
raspberry preserves and fresh blackberries or other fruit like peaches, pears... many many beautiful possibilities.

Am sending my gorgeous braided brioche to this month's Monthly Mingle hosted by the passionate about baking Deeba with the theme 'baking with fruit'.

Alice Medrich's Best One Bowl Cocoa Brownie

I had about 20 mins until a cousin dropped in for dinner and I had a sudden urge to bake brownies.
So while I waited for T to navigate the end of day traffic I grabbed a bowl and some simple pantry staples and whipped up a batch of these delicious, decadent brownies. We had some warm from the oven after dinner with ice cream and I ( hesitantly)  wrapped up the rest for him to take back.
Did I say one bowl is all I used? One bowl in which to melt butter in the microwave and mix up the other ingredients with a spoon. No need  to break out my fancypants stand mixer. I see myself baking these many, many more times.

Best Cocoa Brownies
Recipe source: Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet from smittenkitchen here

Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces or 141 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (9 7/8 ounces, 280 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces, 82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaky salt, as Deb suggests)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
( I used my silicone cupcake molds instead)

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added. (I just put it all in a medium size Pyrex bowl and microwaved it 10 seconds at a time until the butter was melted, as Deb also suggests is ok.)

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me and Deb at least 10 minutes longer to get them set and for the bottom to get a little crisp -just the way I like it :) . Let cool completely on a rack. (Deb goes further and puts her's in the fridge or freezer for a while; to get them to cut with clean lines.)
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

As you may have noticed I used my mini cupcake molds filled about one fourth instead since I didn't feel like messing around with lining. I placed the molds on my digital scale to make sure I was spooking equal amounts of batter- about 50 gms into each so they all were the same size and bake evenly. I got exactly 16 two bite size brownies. The easiest way to spoon the batter is to use two spoons one with the batter and the other to scoop it into the mold. Sometimes I use an ice-cream scoop.

Verdict: Rich, decadent without being overly so, crispy outsides and chewy on the inside as all good brownies must be. Alice and Deb certainly don't disappoint! The reason they are real winners are that they take so little time, effort and ingredients to make ( not to mention fewer dishes to clean!). A definite keeper recipe that will be made often- everytime I'm craving my chocolate fix :) And oooh the possibilities- nuts, choco chips, orange extract, cheese, caramel, peanut butter cups....some body stop me!

Am sending these brownies over to Divya for her brownie event!