Sunday, November 8, 2009

To good health

So all this heavy baking has taken its toll on my self control. I've gone from not wanting cake at all to thinking mmmmm a good piece of mudcake would be delicious right now. This behaviour must stop! But I cannot give up my what's a baker to do? Substitute of course!
This week I wanted to try out two healthy substitutes for that sweet tooth fix.
The first comes from everyone's favourite queen of substitutes; Hungry Girl. It's not listed on her website as a recipe but while she was on Goof morning America, she mentioned that if you mix 1 can of pureed pumpkin with any cake mix, you end up with a perfectly good cake, with no pumpkin flavour.....impossible you say?
Well I'd be skeptical too if I hadn't already tried HGs cake substititutions and had moderate success. Plus it made sense.....pumpkin is pretty watery and mild so it would be good in cake right?

I did this on a whim as I had some pumpkin left from the whoopie pie experiment and a box of spice cake mix leftover from Halloween sales. I figured if HG failed me, and the pumpkin flavour did come through, at least the spice cake would be a good flavour companion.
I mixed the cake mix an the pumpkin together and it was thick, which is expected. I decied to mae them into muffin/cupcakes because those are portion controlled. I didn't realise the thick batter would not settle out and form a nice smooth done on the cakes but they have a nice homestyle look to them that I can appreciate. They were also DELICIOUS and not dry at all. I wouldnt use the substitute for anything that needed to be cut/carved or stacked higher than maybe 2 tiers because it didn't have the structural integrity of a cake with eggs, but for a quick dessert it was great. I must try this with other flavours because the pumpkin flavour really didn't come through too noticeably.
So they're not the prettiest....but at 130 cals a pop.....I'll let em time I will smooth the tops down.

So then I thought, what if  I don't really want cake....what if I get a craving for something smooshy and comforting...mmm like a good fudgy brownie....surely pumpkin is a little too watery for brownies right?

So I googled what to use with a brownie mix and I found TONS of advocates for blackbean brownies. You just puree a can of blackbeans (with water not brine) and mix that with any brownie mix and ta da! I had to try. And wouldn't ya know it....brownie mixes were BOGO at Publix this week.
The blackbean brownies are currently cooling and waiting to be sliced but so far they look delish! I sliced my finger making the blackbean puree (note to a food processor!) so that set me back a little. But the process was relatively painless and the warm brownie I tasted (I'm jus testing for doneness...gosh!!) had no black bean flavour and was surprisingly very filling which is an always welcome side benefit of the fiber and protein from the beans.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Macaron Chacaron

I decided I'd split the macaron post into 2 in case you didn't care about the long process to find the ingredients and just wanted to read the long process it took the make the macarons (macaron chacaron *does dance*....dammit!)

So I got all my ingredients together and took a deep breath. From all my reading I knew I was in for a long process, but I attempted pumpkin whoopie pies earlier (they were aight...made me realise for me personally,a cookie should be a cookie and a cake should be a cake....) and the filling melted before I could get a good shot.....damn you Florida.

Macarons were then the only thing left on my October to-bake list. And would you believe it, it's also the October Daring Baker's Challenge...I had to redeem myself....

Using MyFoodGeek's Almost Foolproof macaron recipe (hahaha I couldn't resist with that name) and looking at Canelle et Vanille's blog for inspiration, I began.
I sifted out my almond flour and icing sugar. Then I tried to make a meringue. Imagine my surprise when my maniacal pan to avoid cracking eggs ended when i read on the back of the egg-whites-in-a-box "Not for use in meringues". Awesome.
I tried it anyway, and it fluffed a little but not enough for me to experiment with my $9.99 a pound flour on it so I threw it out. My new plan? Meringue powder! I didn't even make the link between meringue powder and meringue in cooking until that moment. I mixed it up according to the directions and got great super fluffy results when I poured my syrup in. I read somewhere online that they should be stiff enough that a whisk shaped puff off meringue should stay in the whisk attachement when taken out. I then carefully folded the almond flour mixture in using the "macaroner" procedure ( has it's own named if thats not intimidating I dont know what is)
I read also that under-folding folds turn the macaron into a whole different cookie; ironically named the "success" cookie and overfolding results in no ruffly feet. So I made sure to slowly fold my mixture until it "flowed like magma" and got ready to pipe.
So far so good. I piped my little macaron circles and the settled beautifully, but not too much.
I found every pan I had that could fit into my tiny oven and piped all and left them to dry for 40 minutes.

Then I baked them off.....this was the crunch time. I did the whole shebang, timed it to a tee, didnt open the door to peep, put a wedge in the door 2/3 through and you know macarons had feet! I've heard those are the hardest part to acheive so I was so excited. I sent this image to my sister

They have feet!
She responded, I'm guessing that's good?
LOL....yes it is. :)

I was so excited! and after learning a lesson on waiting for macarons to cool before lifting them off the pan (nom nom nom cracked rejects) I ended up with some sweet lookin little french sandwiches if I may say so myself:

hon hon hon macarons! you er not so tuff now eh?? (my very poor french accent sorry)

but you er yummy!

The Chronicle of WholeFoods

So October has come to a close...and as a personal goal, I needed to get some stuff off my to-bake list bfore I thought of stuff to do for November ( Yes, I am indeed aware that I have a problem ok lol)
This weekend became my errand weekeend, I needed to get to a Whole Foods store on a quest to find almond flour. Publix unfortunately, did not have it (and at 9.99 a lb I can see why!!)
Did I mention I have a tendency to get lost a lot? 'Cause this weekend was a whole lotta gettin lost in the right places. I started off on my quest to find Whole Foods. Of course I took some wrong turns and on my way back to square one so I could try again I spotted a Barnes and Noble and quickly made a detour. For the life of me I could NOT find a Barnes and Noble anywhere....nor a Waldenbooks (okay okay I didnt really look for one....sorry Kelly) but I'd been looking for one for a while now to check out the books I had mentioned a couple posts ago. And boy did I.
I spotted the cookbook section an I was like awesome, there's alot. I saw some Pierre Herme books, a couple Dorie Greenspan and I grabbed about 5 and sat down to peruse them. When I was done, I went back and spotted another shelf of cookbooks and grabbed about 5 more. This cycle continued about 5 time, and I had "perused" about 15 books, including the ones I wanted, Baked!; Tartine, Bakewise, Paris: history of Sweets etc. I'm glad I checked out the books before buying them on Amazn because, call me crazy, but I like pictures with my cookbook. I need to know what the end product is supposed to look like. Seriously if i have to google what a St. Honoré Cake is supposed to look like then I might as well go online for the recipe. Pictures=instant reference point.
Anyway, I settled on 3 books, Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Berenbaum- this was a tough choice between this book and The Cake Bible. I figured I would figure out some way to get the Cake Bible on coupon because there were no pictures. lol. I'm glad I chose this one, the reviews say it is amazing....and after glancing it I agree....
Baked! New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis et al.- I'm kind of in love with this cookbook. It is so unpretentious, it makes baking red velvet cake seem like something that all the cool kids are doing. (my fav line: "A brownie with icing is not a's masquerading as cake")

The last book I bought was the Good Housekeeping collection of Best Loved Desserts. I HAD to buy this one. The Good Housekeeping New Book of recipes is a STAPLE at my house and well it was on sale and it had pictures. SOLD!

After spending an inappropriate amount of money buying these I stumbled into a Michael's which just happened to be there. I figured since I was never going to find the elusive Whole Foods I might as well use my 50% off coupons I'd been hoarding. I gave my last coupon away to a lady in line buying student kits for a cake decorating class . :) I figured I'd share the joy....I kno how expensive those things get.

Anyway would you believe it, on my way home to unload my loot, I found the elusive Whole foods...the exact reaction was "holy crap!!! whole foods! whole foods! *swerve*.
And after a little stretching and breaking open of stock boxes, I found the almond flour. Hooray me! I stocked up.....because apparently Whole Foods= Narnia. I picked up some egg whites in a box (muahahahaha no egg cracking for meeee) and I went home.

It's Macaron time!
(I kid you not, I "sing" this in my head everytime I say that. Damn you Spanish Directv)