Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Strawberry Macarons and AMANDINE!

This has been a week heavy on the baking, partially because of Mother's Day, but also because I just CANNOT STOP BAKING. I was proud of myself for waiting until today to bake something that I thought up on Sunday - two days is a long time to wait when you've got all the ingredients sitting in your kitchen! I almost made myself wait until next weekend, but then I thought "that's ridiculous! by then I won't even care about this idea and will have moved on to another!" And so I baked. Although I do believe that that particular recipe was improved by ideas I thought up in the tween time, but that is a story for another post.

In any case, my baking schemes do offer additional opportunities to procrastinate actual work that needs to get done (like I need more than the internet and TV afford!), so predictably the recent increase in my workload corresponds closely to the amount of goods my kitchen has been producing. It seemed a perfectly natural choice to make strawberry macarons for my sister's belated birthday gift, rather than simply purchasing a membership to REI (sorry, Amy, that may be a gift for another time...).

I think the macarons turned out wonderfully; I was nervous to tinker with the recipe that worked for me, but I did, and it did, so I'm all pumped up to try other flavors! I took the recommendations from Tartelette's strawberry macaron recipe by drying strawberries in the oven and processing them into powder, then replacing the cocoa powder in my chocolate recipe with the powdered strawberries.

Then came my real innovation: strawberry buttercream. The strawberry flavor in the macaron was rather subtle, and my sister LOVES strawberries, so I definitely wanted to kick the flavor up a notch. I basically added concentrated strawberry purée to a buttercream recipe, and the lovely pink cream in the macaron above came about. Here's a guesstimated outline of the recipe (I made no measurements when I was actually making the cream):

Strawberry Buttercream

1/2 lb strawberries
1/2 cube (4 T) butter
at least 2 C powdered sugar
1 T heavy cream

Wash the strawberries and cut their tops off. Throw them in your food processor and purée completely. Heat the purée in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning, until the purée condenses down and thickens significantly (sorry I can't be more specific; think of this as reducing the water content of the berries and concentrating the flavor). Set purée aside to cool.

Once purée is cool, cream it with the butter in a stand mixer or with an electric hand mixer. The butter may not incorporate completely, but that's okay - it'll mix in better once the sugar is added. Add the powdered sugar bit by bit until the icing reaches the consistency you want. Make sure it is thick enough to hold its shape when spread, since you don't want it running out of the macarons or off the cupcakes or whatever. Mine was a little on the thin side. Add the heavy cream in just to make the mix more creamy. Yum!

I also finally made it to Amandine on Mother's Day, a bakery on Wilshire that I would have visited the previous week had it not been for a barricade of re-paving road work. The re-paving now finished, I successfully purchased some puff pastries that are certainly some of the best in L.A. I also bought my grandmother an almond raspberry tart, since she loves almonds, and the tart had a nice dense texture to it as well as good almond flavor.

These pastries, along with with the scotchmallows I made for my mom (layer of marshmallow, layer of caramel, glued together with chocolate) AND the dim sum feast we all ate together made for a nice Mother's Day. Not to sound completely selfish, but it's nice when our mother's desires coincide exactly with our own, isn't it?

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