Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb//Strawberry Lemon Donuts

The warm weather and entering into strawberry season has me craving certain flavors. I'm always looking for good flavor pairings and when I think of strawberries, I think of the classic pairing of strawberry and rhubarb. And though I grew up eating strawberry rhubarb pie, I thought I'd modernize it by incorporating this classic flavor combination into a donut--and a sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan one at that!

As soon as I pulled the strawberry donuts out of the oven, I knew I would love them. But when I made the strawberry rhubarb glaze, I realized my tastes had changed. I've decided that rhubarb is a little too sour-bitter for me these days, but at least they were gobbled up by the friends to whom I gave them. Wanting to enjoy the donuts myself, I made a lemon glaze (this one contains sugar), which I enjoyed much better.

So, if you love rhubarb like some of my friends do and like I once did, you'll love the strawberry donuts with strawberry rhubarb glaze. And if not, the lemon is a perfectly lovely choice as well. Or just make both!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pistachio & Raspberry Macarons (Or, If at First you Don't Succeed . . .)

Is there ever a recipe that you want so badly to make but never have any success with it? For me, it was   french macarons.

The first time I tried to make macarons, I wasn't careful with how I folded in the egg whites (not surprising since I'm always in a rush). The macarons spread out all over the baking sheet and were completely unusable. The second time, I was a bit more careful. It was in vain: the same thing happened. I blamed the recipe and threw in the towel . . . for about a week.

I couldn't get those stubborn little cookies out of my head. I tried a new recipe and the dainty cookies were lovely when baked. I decided to fill them the next day and kept them in the oven so I didn't have to mess with them until then. Well, I decided to make a cake with a friend the next day and preheated the oven. In about 10 minutes, a smell overwhelmingly like burnt popcorn filled my kitchen. I glared at the oven, dreading what I'd find when I opened the oven. I found dark and crispy little macarons, burnt to a crisp awaiting me. And then that thing happened where you start laughing but you're actually crying, trying to keep it together because I wasn't alone. That was the end of my macaron baking . . . for the time being.

About a month after that, my friend, Becky, emailed me, asking if I'd ever made macarons. I regaled her with the tales of my failed macaron-making, but decided I would try one last time. I don't like to pass up a chance to bake with Becky.

So, we got together, and after a whole lot of recipe tweaking, measurement conversions (a good chance to practice the math you learned in elementary school and probably never use), and a quick trip to get a baking sheet we were lacking, Becky and I had made ourselves a beautiful and delicious batch of perfect pistachio macarons. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

So, the next time you just can't get a recipe right, keep on trying, preferably with a friend, until you're successful. Just remember that old saying: If at first you don't succeed, try, try, (try) again.

Pistachio and Raspberry Macarons
makes about 30-35 sandwich cookies

4 egg whites, aged overnight
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
a few drops green food coloring
1 cup fine granulated sugar (caster sugar)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup almonds/almond flour
1/2 cup finely ground pistachios
1/2 recipe perfect buttercream frosting (or other frosting that is actually dairy-free)
6 oz fresh raspberries, lightly mashed

Photo by Becky Rosenthal of The Vintage Mixer

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone mats (preferable) or parchment paper laid over guides for sizing the cookies (you can find these online, I'm sure).

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat aged egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peals form. Slowly incorporate the sugar. Quickly mix in a few drops of green food coloring and mix until still peaks form.

In a separate bowl, stir together ground almonds, pistachios, and powdered sugar. Carefully fold in egg white mixture.

Place the mixture in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip. Following the guide (see photo above), pipe circles onto the silicone mat or parchment paper laid over the guide. Let rest about 30 minutes, until the top of the macaron is dry. Remove guide before placing pans in the oven.

Bake macarons for about 15 minutes, until the macarons are set and have some nice feet on them. Cool before CAREFULLY removing from the baking sheet.

Make the buttercream frosting. Fold in slightly crushed raspberries. Spoon a bit of the frosting onto half of the cookies. Place the other half of the cookie on top. Then do a little happy dance because you've just made the most beautiful and delicious macarons you've ever had :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cucumber Margaritas

Deciding to go to culinary school across the country from where you lived you whole life is stressful. Especially when you figure out how much you're about to be paying for that education of yours. So when you come across this situation, you need to get yourself a margarita. 

During my initial trip to find an apartment and visit the school, my mom and I went to just about every recommended mexican restaurant in Salt Lake City. And after all of the meetings, lease-signings, and snow storms, I needed a margarita STAT. One mexican recipe passed with no alcohol served (this is Utah, after all), I kept it together ok. But after the second, I nearly lost it. So when we finally arrived at Red Iguana, I couldn't have needed a margarita more. And the cucumber margarita I found on the menu was just the thing. That drink was enough to relax me and convince me to move to Utah in spite of a trip that was not so fantastic (ok, there were a few other things)

And now every time I go back to Red Iguana for the delicious mole sauces, the cucumber margarita is still the drink I choose. I've done my best job to here to re-create it. And, to pat myself on he back real quick, I think I hit a home run. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Cucumber Margaritas
Makes 3 large or 6 small servings

1 cup silver tequila
1/2 cup light agave nectar
Juice from 4 large limes
2 cups ice
1/3 medium cucumber
coarse salt for garnish, if desired

In a pitcher or cocktail shaker, stir together tequila, agave, and lime juice until fully combined. Stir in ice.

Chop most of the cucumber into small cubes and place about 1/2 dozen into each glass. Slice the rest of the cucumber into small slices with which to garnish the glasses. Muddle the cubed cucumber in the bottom of each glass (I used the back of a fork for this).

Run a leftover lime around the rim of each glass. Pour some coarse salt into a shallow dish and dip the glass into the salt to lightly coat the rim. Pour margaritas over cucumbers into glass. Garnish with sliced cucumbers, if desired.

About Me

My photo
Salt Lake City, Utah
As a pastry chef by trade and by hobby, being diagnosed with Celiac Disease has not been easy. But through some experimental baking and a whole lot of faith, I'm living a full(er) life.