Sunday, August 16, 2009

Baking helps me stay sane

Work has gotten to the 'busy' season. I've got deadlines coming out of my ears and the only thing that manages to keep me from losing my mind is baking and knitting. My baking/making plans this weekend included Fleur de Sel Caramels, pickles and chocolate macarons. As is well documented my plans sometimes go awry.

The caramel recipe is from Ina Garten, the combination of sweet and salty is probably my favorite taste. Everything went fine at first, butter and cream and caramelizing the sugar and corn syrup. The problem arose after the cream mixture and the sugar mixture met and boiled. I still don't have a candy thermometer (I have no good answer for why except I forget I need one until I need one) and I really needed a candy thermometer to gauge when the caramel was 'done'. Since I didn't have a thermometer I winged it. Oh and I winged it incorrectly, the caramel set in the fridge but never 'set' up as candy, it remained a hot fudge sauce consistency. So I gave up, poured the caramel into jars and called it fleur de sel caramel sauce. We had it over leftover brownies last night. It still tastes fabulous and would probably be a welcome holiday gift.
The pickles were a recipe found on the Gluten-Free Girl blog. I'm a fan of pickles and the recipe seemed pretty simple so I bought four enormous cucumbers at the market Saturday and went to town Saturday afternoon. They're currently 'curing' in a shoebox in the pantry until Friday and then I'll test one for the appropriate level of pickle-ness. At least they look pretty.Macarons were my plan for Sunday. After my first macaron fiasco that ended with my husband calling the would-be macarons 'fried chicken cookies' I was scared to try again. But this time I had the stand mixer and a better idea of what they should look/taste like and I used David Lebovitz's recipe. The egg whites took f o r e v e r to get stiff, making that much happier to be the owner of a stand mixer. It was a little difficult to get the almond mixture folded into the egg whites without taking the air of out the whites but I managed. For the life of me I couldn't find my plain pastry tip so I used decorative one and tried to smooth out the tops of the cookies with a knife. This was a 'learning' batch of macarons. The first batch baked a little too long and got burnt peaks. The last batch was much better, no burns and they were flatter. While the cookies cooled I made the filling, essentially a chocolate ganache. I could have eaten the filling alone by the spoonful, delish. After everything had cooled I made the little macaron sandwiches. They taste like macarons (based on my limited macaron sampling) and mostly look like macarons so I would call them a partial success. I have plans for more, this time with a pistachio base and a vanilla bean cream filling, maybe next weekend.I didn't pick up any flowers at the farmer's market, all the lines were packed, so instead I used some of the lantana and the dwarf sunflowers from my backyard.I'm still knitting on the Annette sweater, I swear it doesn't seem like it's getting any bigger. I might be knitting on it for eternity.

1 comment:

spike. said...

sounds like you've been busy! That caramel sauce sounds perfect- although dangerous to have around in the fridge. I would try pouring it on just about everything! maybe on the pickles?!