Thursday, March 24, 2011

Briefly Noted

Orange-almond macarons
All appearances to the contrary, I don't have a new macaron recipe for you today. The macarons pictured above, though perfectly ruffled and delicate, were not what I was hoping for. I dreamed of rich, intensely nutty almond macarons with just a hint of orange in their crackly shells, kind of like these cookies. But these macarons were just not meant to be--I got carried away with my first almond cream, letting it sit over the flame for too long, and then the fat separated from the nuts (yuck!); the second batch didn't quite set enough and dribbled all over the place; and in the shells, the orange zest came through too much on the tongue. The result? These macarons taste remarkably like Fruit Loops or, at least, like how I remember the stuff tasting. I'm not sure if it was the excessive orange zest or my not-so-great powdered sugar, but I got a second opinion last night--definitely like Fruit Loops. (My dinner guests took seconds all the same. Were they just being polite? Maybe it was the novelty.)
In any case, this recipe will just have to stay where it belongs--as a briefly noted failure in my lovely new Field Notes pocket notebook. If you're not familiar with Field Notes: they're a little American company that makes high-quality 5-1/2 by 3-1/2 inch soft-cover notebooks, printed right here in Chicago. Each notebook is a slim 48 pages (blank, lined, or graph paper) that fits in your back pocket, perfect for when you need to make a quick note or two about something. Every few months, Field Notes does a limited-edition run (their "Colors" series)--instead of their usual craft-paper brown, they put out notebooks with a pretty, coloured cover, like "Balsam Fir," which was the next to last in the series. 
Field Notes dry transfer
Just last week, they released their Spring 2011 run: the Dry Transfer "_____" Edition. The idea is this: you get three of their usual craft-paper notebooks in a pack, except without the usual "Field Notes" on the front cover--instead, there's a dry transfer kit for you to put whatever you want on. Just print out the template from their website, secure a notebook to it, grab a dull pencil, and transfer away! Field Notes even made a helpful little video for people like me who aren't very crafty. Naturally, my first notebook reads `Test Kitchen'. The kerning isn't perfect, but I think it's great. When I'm in the kitchen, there are always times when I want to make a note of something but can't be bothered to run to my computer, sticky hands and all. I'm going to try to keep this little guy in my apron pocket with a pen. We'll see how things go.
Almond cream on toast
Now, I wouldn't want to leave you completely empty-handed when I promised macarons. The consolation prize is a pretty good one, I think. Almond cream: sweet, nutty, and spreadable. Put it on your morning toast, in the place of frosting on your next chocolate cake, or on your waffles--I think that this would be really great on waffles with the touch of maple syrup involved.

Almond Cream
4 oz almonds (that's a generous half-cup)
1 oz granulated sugar (that's 2 tablespoons)
1 egg yolk
5 oz half-and-half
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast almonds on a baking sheet for 10-12 minutes, until nutty and aromatic. Let cool.
  2. Grind almonds in the food processor until they release their oils and turn into nut butter. Add sugar and egg yolk, pulse until combined. At this point, the mixture will be clumpy. Transfer it into a medium heat-proof bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until it just begins to bubble around the edges. Remove from heat. Stir in maple syrup and a generous pinch of salt.
  4. Gradually add about half of the cream to the almond mixture, whisking as you go. Return all of it to the saucepan over low heat and whisk until visibly thickened, 8-10 minutes. Make sure not to over do it, or it might separate. Remove from heat and scrape the almond cream into a glass jar. Put it in the refrigerator for at least 2 or 3 hours to cool and thicken.

No comments:

Post a Comment