Snacks & Treats

No Fat, Low Sugar Meringues, For a Sweet Christmas

So good, though watch out for oil

So good, though watch out for oil

 

I love meringues. I’ve only made them one time before, but I grew up eating them. They used to sell them at the old Emporium department store in San Francisco, in the bakery, down in the basement. They were only a dime each, and it would only take one to give me that sweet, melt-in-your-mouth satisfaction.

I’ve only made them once before, and they came out pretty well, considering some people seem to think that they are complicated. They are actually pretty simple, though there is one, very strong piece of advice to heed while making them: keep oil out of the mix. That includes the tiniest speck of egg yolk, because if you do, your egg whites won’t stiffen up.

I actually kind of blew it with this batch, because I added just a smidgen of peppermint extract, toward the end. I noticed the stiffness withered a bit, and I wasn’t quite sure what I did wrong. I went online, and that when I found out about the oil… the peppermint extract that I used was made with oil of peppermint. Still I went ahead and made them, and they actually turned out really good, as far as taste and texture… they just didn’t stand up as much as I would have liked.

The other mistake I made was adding crushed peppermint sticks into the egg white mixture. When I starting piping with my pastry bag, the candy clumped together at the star tip I was using and jammed it all up. It started coming out at the top and made a big mess, so I’ll just have to recommend that you only sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top, before you put the baking sheet into the oven.

The main reason I made them in the first place is because I’ve got a bunch of lilikoi juice, waiting to be into gelato, and this is a great way to use up the egg whites. Since peppermint screams of the holiday season, it seemed only fitting to make these again.

Quick & easy, though they will take some time to bake, in a very low heat oven~
You can beat the egg whites by hand, if you like, but you will likely feel like your arm will fall off, by the end. Use a mixer with very, clean blades, if you can.

Start by preparing a large baking sheet by covering it with parchment paper.

Preheat oven to 250º.

You’ll need:

2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sugar
2 candy canes, finely crushed

Beat egg whites, salt and cream of tartar together until soft peaks form.
Add in ¼ cup sugar and beat. Add in vanilla and blend that in.
Add in the last ¼ cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Pipe or spoon small amounts onto the baking sheet, then sprinkle with the crushed candy.

Bake in oven for 1-½ hours. Turn of the oven and open oven door until it is ajar, then allow them to sit for another 1-1/2 hours.

They should be cool, by that time. They should also be pretty dry, crunchy and delicious.

If you’re like me, you’ll play with them on different plates, lights, settings, etc., just because it’s fun. 😄

151213_1293

Mixed lights

Mixed lights

 

White lights

White lights

 

151213_1248

Flowers, because they're there

Flowers, because they’re there

 

Merry Christmas!

When Life Gives You Mangos…

Mangos!!

Mangos!!

I’ve always said, “Sometimes you get lucky.” Just last weekend when we visited the supermarket, I saw mangos for sale for $5.99/lb. I realized that I hadn’t had a mango all summer, but I also thought that the price was a bit spendy for something that would not be as good as something I could get at the farmers’ market. It’s just that I’ve finally really just started walking again! We did manage to find a couple of small mangos from a nearby tree on the way home from the store, but they were too small to inspire me to cut them open.

Walking again is what  brings me to to this post. I saw my doctor last week for my 6 week appointment regarding my recent knee replacement, and we discussed exercise and how much I couldn’t wait to get back into it. I told him I was already being a bit abusive, with spending a recent Saturday with friends, exploring nurseries in Waimanalo for hours. I told him that I was sore for a couple of days after, but it was totally worth it. He advised me that yes, that was to be expected for a while, but I would still recover. Anxious as I am, I took this as a green light. Also, the way I see it, the only way to build up any kind of stamina is to just do.

So this past Monday morning, I took a little bus ride and a bit of a hike to Kahala Beach to attempt catching a sunrise. I was a bit late for the colors, but I managed to get a couple of really nice shots.

 

Kahala Sunrise

Kahala Sunrise

 

Kahala Sunrise

Kahala Sunrise

 

Couldn't resist the plumeria

Couldn’t resist the plumeria

How I’ve missed it!

 

On the way home, walking through an old, favorite Kahala neighborhood, I happened to run into a lady pulling mangos off of her huge tree, in her front yard.

Ready for picking

Ready for picking

 

Mangos!

Free mangos!

She said hello and I noticed the pile of the fruit sitting on a platform by her fence. “Help yourself,” she said, though I noticed the sign that advised to take just two. I very, happily complied. She said that she was out there almost every morning at the same time to pull the ripe ones off the tree. She could only eat so many herself, so she offered them to whoever happened to pass by. Sweet! I thanked her profusely, and made my way home, dreaming of the luscious mango bread that I was going to make.

Now, I’m going to put a little bit of a kink into this recipe, just because I tried something a little bit different about a month ago with some banana bread I made. That banana bread was a good test for a great variation on any quick bread that you like.

 

 

Banana upside down bread

Banana upside down bread

It is a little bit like an upside down cake, but not using the traditional pineapple and maraschino cherries.

 

Just something different

Just something different

This variation simple means baking it in a round baking pan and melting about 2 tablespoons of butter to put on the bottom of the pan. Then you sprinkle about 2-3 tablespoons of sugar on top of the butter. Arrange fruit on top of that,  pour on the batter and bake. Invert when done. It makes it just a little bit more special.

 

If you have extra mangos, try this!

If you have extra mangos, try this!

This recipe is also very flexible. I used about half white whole wheat flour (I’m a King Arthur Flour fan!) mixed in with all purpose, just to make it a bit healthier. You can skip the nuts if you are allergic, or use whatever kind you have available.

 

Mangos!

Mangos!

So when life gives you mangos, you just follow this recipe:

Preheat the oven to 350º. Butter a loaf pan or round baking pan, if you are trying the variation. Truthfully I needed both, because these mangos were huge!

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup macadamia nut oil (vegetable oil or olive oil will do)
¼ cup melted butter
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ripe medium mangos (and their juice) peeled,
pitted and diced (approximately 2 cups… more if you’re trying the upside down variation)
¼ cup chopped macadamia nuts
¼ cup chopped walnuts

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, mix together the oils and sugar, then beat in the eggs and vanilla. Gradually add in the dry ingredients, making sure not to over-mix… that will just make the bread tough.

Lastly, fold in the nuts, if you’re using them. Pour the batter into the pan (or pans, if you have lots of batter like I did) and bake for approximately 45 mins to 1 hour. This will depend on if you are making more than one bread, so I kept checking on it every 15 minutes.

Check with a toothpick for doneness, and when it comes out dry, let it sit in the pan for a bit while it cools.

Upside down mango bread… yum!

Upside down mango bread… yum!

If you make the variation, gently go around the edge of the pan with a small spatular before inverting onto a plate.

 

Mango bread

Mango bread

 

I sent the rest of this one to work with Monty

I sent the rest of this one to work with Monty

 

Mango bread… a treat worth heating up the kitchen

Mango bread… a treat worth heating up the kitchen

 

As the ice cream melts in 90º heat...

As the ice cream melts in 90º heat…

 

Eat it fast, before the ice cream melts!

Eat it fast, before the ice cream melts!

 

Until next time, enjoy the bounty of summer, while it’s here and never take walking for granted. ❤

 

Making What’s Left of Summer Peachy

Peaches, one of my favorites of Summer

Peaches, one of my favorites of Summer

You might have noticed that I’ve been gone… I had a knee replacement four weeks  ago. Before that time, I absolutely struggled to do just about anything that had to do with living, and I cannot tell you how glad I am to be reversing the trend! So, I think it’s time to dig back in again. Woo-hoo!

I have a love of Summer, and even though it’s rapidly slipping away before my eyes, I thought I’d do a tribute to one of my favorite fruits, as well as one of my favorite desserts. It involves pie crust, and making things look a bit rustic… I’m making galette!

It’s not as fancy as a pie or tart, but rather casual and easy to throw together. I made one last year, though that one was savory, using zucchini, cheese and tomatoes. This will be the sweet, peachy one, though you can use any kind of fruit that you like. I’m also going to top the crust with some slice almonds for texture.

For this, I’m using my favorite standby pie crust recipe, mainly making sure that everything I’m using is icy-cold, before I begin. I usually cut up the butter in a stainless bowl, allowing it to chill. The flour is also measured out and allowed to sit in the fridge for about an hour. This really helps to make a good, tender crust.

Ready?

For the pastry:

6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup ice water

1 beaten egg (for pastry egg wash)

For the filling:

3 cups peaches or other Summer fruit, thinly sliced (or, think berries, figs, apples, other stone fruit, etc.)
½ cup sugar
½ vanilla bean, scraped
2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
juice of ½ lemon

Garnishes:

Turbinado sugar (just a sprinkle on the exposed crust)
¼ cup slice almonds (optional)

——————————————————————————————————————-

Whisk together the dry pastry ingredients in a large measuring cup and allow to chill for at least an hour. In a separate bowl, cut up the butter into small pieces and allow that to chill, also.

When you are ready to make the pastry, mix the chilled butter into the bowl with the flour and work with a pastry cutter or two knives. Mix until you the dough forms little pea-sized clumps. Add in the ice water and mix just until it holds together. Just don’t overwork it, or it will become tough. Gently shape the dough into a ball, then transfer to a firm surface with a large piece of plastic wrap laid out on it.  Flatten the dough ball into a disk about ½” thick, wrap it up in the plastic wrap, and then allow to chill for at least 1½ hours.

When the pastry is chilled, and you are ready to make galette, pre-heat the oven to 375º F. Remove the dough from the fridge and let it set out for about 10 minutes or so. It should be very firm. Prepare a work surface by covering it with a large piece of parchment paper. I usually bake mine on a round pizza pan, so I simple cover that with the paper and dust it with a little bit of flour—it saves steps and mess. Meanwhile,  you can make the filling.

Mix together the sugar, scraped vanilla bean, cornstarch and salt in a small bowl. Place the sliced peaches into a larger bowl and squeeze the lemon juice over them. Sprinkle the cornstarch mixture over the peaches and very gently stir them together. The peaches should become quite juicy.

Gently mix the filling ingredients together

Gently mix the filling ingredients together

 

On the prepared surface, roll out the pastry into a round about 14″ to 16″ in diameter.

Arrange the sliced peaches in concentric circles on the pastry, leaving about 1½ to 2 inches from the outer edge. You may want to leave most of the juice in the bowl, because if you put it all into the galette, it will likely overflow onto the baking sheet and make a big mess. Of course, you may not mind that, either. When you run out of peaches, fold the outer edge of the pastry over the top of the peaches, pleating as you go around.

Fold the outer edge over the fruit

Fold the outer edge over the fruit

 

Brush the outer exposed edge of pastry with the beaten egg, then sprinkle the turbinado sugar on top.

Brush on the egg wash

Brush on the egg wash

Sprinkle sugar

Sprinkle sugar on the exposed edge of the pastry

 

Top that with sliced almonds if desired, gently pressing them into the pastry.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

 

Place into the preheated oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Cool.

Fresh from the oven

Fresh from the oven

 

Serve by cutting into wedges and topping with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Makes about 6-8 slices.

Light and fruity peach galette

Light and fruity peach galette

 

Look at that tender crust!

Look at that tender crust!

 

It's hard to resist juicy, vanilla-y peaches wrapped in pastry with almonds

It’s hard to resist juicy, vanilla-y peaches wrapped in pastry encrusted with almonds

 

It's a luscious combination

It’s a luscious combination

 

You'll savor every bite!

You’ll savor every bite!

 

 

Strawberries and Basil, Bringing Out the Best of Summer

I really ❤ this combination!

I really ❤ this combination!

I tried strawberries mixed with sweet basil for the very first time, just a couple of weeks ago. Now, I’m wondering where I’ve been all my life, that I managed to miss out on this wonderful combination of flavors. We were having breakfast at our usual Saturday morning buffet, and there they were, begging for me to try them. I did, and I’ve thought of little else since.

 

Strawberries and basil, some of the best of summer

Strawberries and basil, some of the best of season

I researched a little bit on this, and I found that berries prepared in such a way are usually macerated, i.e., soaked for a bit in vinegar to make them softer. Knowing that this is the best time of year to buy and eat strawberries, timing couldn’t be better. This week, I found the strawberries on sale, so I made a point of getting to one of the smaller, weekday farmer’s markets to get the basil. I knew there would be nothing better than some that’s fresh and locally grown.

 

An unexpectedly good combination

An unexpectedly good combination

Once again, this is another “What could be simpler?” recipe, one that I barely even need to write down.

All you need is…

1-2 pounds fresh strawberries
A bunch of sweet basil, though you’ll just need about 8 leaves
A sprinkling of sugar, maybe a tablespoon?
A large dash or three of balsamic vinegar

 

Simply slice

Simply slice

Wash, hull, and slice strawberries, placing them into a non-metallic bowl. Sprinkle just a bit of sugar over the berries, then add some balsamic vinegar~ you’ll need to taste it to find the right balance, but it isn’t too hard, since the flavors blend so well. With kitchen shears, thinly snip several leaves of basil over the berries. Gently mix with a spoon and serve.

 

Good for breakfast, a snack or dessert

Good for breakfast, a snack or dessert

That’s it! The result is a beautiful, elegant, fragrant dish, that will make you want to experiment.

 

You can serve this for breakfast with a dollop of vanilla yogurt

You can serve this for breakfast with a dollop of vanilla yogurt

We had these for breakfast, this morning… they were wonderful!

 

Try it on toasted bread with cheese

Try it on toasted bread with cheese

You can also use them to top toasted bread spread with cheese~ you could choose from any number of cheeses that would work well, such a cream cheese, goat cheese, or even brie. Serve as an appetizer or an afternoon pick-me-up snack.

 

Spoon it over ice cream

Spoon it over ice cream

Lastly, you could spoon it over ice cream, or even a simple cake. Vanilla would be good, but since it’s National Chocolate Ice Cream Day, that’s what we’re having. Try this easy recipe and enjoy!

 

Quick & Easy Blood Orange-sicles

Here’s an easy treat that you’ll love, with the warm summer days coming up. I found a couple of blood oranges last week, so I bought them, mainly because I know their season is about over. With the past fews days being so humid here, I thought it might be good to make something frozen and refreshing.

I’ve already made gelato from the last batch, so you have to figure that I came up with something new, or else I wouldn’t be here. I just had to think of what ingredient would go well with them. Since I only had two oranges, I wouldn’t have enough to squeeze one into a frozen dessert. I thought of using just regular oranges to make juice, but I really wanted to keep the blood orange theme going throughout. That’s when I thought of using gourmet blood orange soda.

San Pellegrino blood orange soda

San Pellegrino blood orange soda

This is the one. Of course, another would be just fine.

 

You only need one can

You only need one can

 

Just 2 ingredients and a popsicle mold & 4 popsicle sticks:

1 can blood orange soda
1 blood orange

That’s it!

Simply pour the soda into the molds, leaving about an inch and a half from the top.

Slice the oranges thin

Slice the oranges thin

 

Cut the blood oranges into thin slices.

 

They almost look like stained glass

They almost look like stained glass

The slices look really pretty held up to the light.

 

Add a couple of slices of blood orange into the mold. Put into the freezer for about 45 minutes.

Take the mold out of the freezer and poke the popsicle sticks into the slushy soda…. they should stand up by themselves. Freeze for another 4 hours or so, until completely frozen. Serve.

The orange slices look so pretty

The orange slices look so pretty

What could be simpler!

 

his makes a great afternoon treat

his makes a great afternoon treat

They are also impressive enough to serve to a guest.

 

So refreshing and not too sweet

So refreshing and not too sweet

Enjoy and happy summer!

 

Blood Orange Gelato with Chocolate Scribbles ~ Making the Best of Citrus Season

Blood oranges, available December through May

Blood oranges, available December through May

I woke up from a great dream, the other day. It was the kind that made me sit bolt upright in bed, from its inspiration. I think this whole thing got stirred by talking with a friend about gelato. She found out that her favorite gelato shop was closing, and she was really sad about it. That’s when I told her that I love making gelato. We talked about the many different, though odd flavor combinations that would be so much fun to experiment with.

I guess that conversation got me thinking, because I was all of a sudden dreaming of making blood orange gelato. Now, I realize that this has been done before, and that that flavor really wasn’t so oddball, but that’s okay, too. I started thinking of all the things that go well with blood oranges, or any orange, for that matter. Chocolate kept coming up, and that’s when I thought I should try the scribbles, like I did with the mint flavor, last year. I’ve always loved chocolate and orange together, remembering those big, chocolate oranges divided up into segments, that are mostly available around Christmas. Yum!

Then, I thought, “Candy!” I could also candy the blood orange peels for garnish! So, at that point, I was off and running.

The blood oranges are in season from December until about May, so to me, it really was a matter of doing this now, while I was so excited. I didn’t realize that there were so many varieties of these babies, which explains their inner and outer appearances. I will say that they are gorgeous~ and if my English friends will forgive me for saying so, they are bloody gorgeous!

They're bloody gorgeous!

They’re bloody gorgeous!

 

I usually make gelato over the course of two days, with it being served on the third day. It needs time to chill during its various phases, so the best thing to do is just relax, be patient and enjoy the process!

Here’s what I did~~

For the gelato:

2 cups whole milk
½ cup white sugar
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch of salt
grated zest of one blood orange
1 cup strained blood orange juice (you will need about 6 small oranges)

For the chocolate “scribbles”:

1 3-oz. dark chocolate bar, melted

For the candied orange peel:

2 small blood oranges
¾ cup sugar + extra for rolling, if desired
½ cup water

Special equipment:

You’ll need an ice cream freezer, for this

—————————————————————–

Eggs & sugar

Eggs & sugar

First whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.

 

Whisk!

Whisk!

Add milk and whisk some more

Add milk and whisk some more

Add the milk in and whisk some more.

Pour the mixture into a heavy sauce pan, and cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly. When the mixture starts to get very hot and thick, add in the vanilla, orange juice, salt and zest. Bring it back up to a boil, again, stirring all the while.

 

The cooked mixture should coat a spoon

The cooked mixture should coat a spoon

When it coats the back of a spoon, remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour into a container and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.

 

Once the mixture is fully chilled, get the chocolate ready. You’ll want to melt this over indirect heat, either in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of boiling water. You can see how I did this by checking out my mint chip gelato, that I made last year. Just make sure not to get any water into the chocolate.

Churn the chilled gelato mixture according to manufacturer’s directions in your ice cream freezer. When it is ready, you’ll be scribbling the melted chocolate in, then breaking it up with a spoon.

Once all the gelato is in the container, freeze for 24 hours.

—————————

You can make the candied orange peel at any point in the process. Just keep in mind that they will take about 4 hours to dry.

Peel from top to bottom

Peel from top to bottom

With a veggie peeler, peel the skin off the orange from top to bottom.

 

Cut them into to thinner strips, if desired

Cut them into to thinner strips, if desired

I wanted thinner strips, so I sliced them to about ¼-inch wide.

Getting the bitter taste out of the orange peel is a process of boiling it out. This step is really important, and even more so that it be repeated 3 times. The repeated boiling also make the peels more porous, so they will absorb the sugar more easily.

Place the strips into a heavy sauce pan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and allow the strips to cook for 3 minutes. Drain the strips into a sieve and rinse with cold water. Repeat two more times.

After the third boil, keep the strips draining in the sieve, while you wash out the saucepan. Then measure the sugar and water into it and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring the ingredients together.

Once it’s boiling, add in the orange peel strips and turn the heat down to a low simmer. This should simmer for about 30 minutes, and you want to avoid stirring during that process, to keep sugar crystals from forming.

 

Roll in sugar, if desired

Roll in sugar, if desired

Once done, remove the strips with tongs onto a piece of parchment paper. If you like, you can pour a bit of sugar onto the paper to roll the strips into.

 

Dry strips on a rack

Dry strips on a rack

Lay the strips onto a rack to cool and dry—this will take about 4 hours.

 

Store the candied peel in an airtight jar

Store the candied peel in an airtight jar

Once dried, store in a jar with the remaining sugar. Candied orange peel makes wonderful gifts, too. You can add a little tag with the multitude of uses for them, such as adding to garnishing desserts and drinks, and adding to cookies, breads and muffins.

 

Dip some of the candied peel into chocolate for an incredible garnish

Dip some of the candied peel into chocolate for an incredible garnish

If you really want to get fancy, and believe me, I did with at least a few of them, dip one end of the candied peel into the melted “scribble” chocolate, once you’re done scribbling the gelato. That’s a garnish that won’t soon be forgotten. Just be sure to store them separately in the refrigerator, once the chocolate firms up.

Once the gelato freezes overnight, you can serve it in a multitude of ways.

Starting with a plain, old dish…

In a dish is good

In a dish is good

Looking good, just like that

Looking good, just like that

 

Or, serve it in half of a blood orange skin…

You can serve it in its own "shell"

You can serve it in its own “shell”

So delicious!

So delicious!

 

Or, serve it with the special, chocolate-dipped, candied orange peel…

Delectable with that choco-dipped, candied orange peel

Delectable with that choco-dipped, candied orange peel

So elegant!

So elegant!

 

Now, at least I can say, that I made one of my dreams come true!

 

 

 

 

My Big Macaron Challenge, Just in Time for Valentine’s Day

I know, I know… I posted some lovely, flowery, heart-shaped cookies recently, but I also know that Valentine’s Day is really about chocolate. So, I’m going to put myself to the macaron test, since I’ve always wanted to try making these. This blog is coming up on a year, and I think it’s time to celebrate!

Gotta have chocolate

Gotta have chocolate

I’ve always heard that macarons are a real challenge to make, and of course, there are lots of little tricky things to watch for, like making sure there are no bits of egg yolk in the egg whites, or any drips of water there, either. My dear friend Shirley in the U.K. tried this recipe a while back, and she said it was relatively easy, and they were totally delicious, too. So who am I not to try? Besides, it indulges the French woman in me.

Just so you know, I made these twice. I over-beat the egg whites with the first batch, and I had a feeling something was wrong, when I piped them onto the baking sheet. I hated those turd-y, funny-looking ones so much, that I actually made a second batch the next day. I figured that they were easy enough to make, and I could always give them away as little Valentine gifts to my neighbors. That’s the spirit of the holiday, anyway. Besides, I really didn’t want all that extra ganache to go to waste!

 

All I wanted for Christmas was...

All I wanted for Christmas was…

I also will admit that we had a rather meager Christmas this year, and when Monty asked me what I wanted, I told him that all I really wanted was a pastry bag and a tart pan. He indulged me, thankfully. The pastry bag was of course for this project. The tart pan will likely make a showing in the summer.

Now, if you know me at all, you know I have a passion for passionfruit, or lilikoi, as it’s known here in Hawai‘i. So my thought was making the macarons chocolate, and then filling them with white chocolate lilikoi ganache, just to make things interesting. I collect the passionfruit juice all summer long, just so I can try little projects such as this. Besides, the chocolate-lilikoi combo sounds amazing!

Here’s that near-foolproof recipe:

For the macarons:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 cup almond flour
2 medium, free-range egg whites
Small pinch salt
¼ cup caster sugar (super fine or baker’s sugar)

For the ganache:

10 ounces white chocolate (or white chocolate chips, if they are of high quality)
½ cup passion fruit puree (or juice, or nectar, depending on what’s available
½ teaspoon Meyer lemon zest (organic is best)
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Special equipment:

You will need a pastry bag for this.

————————————————–

You’ll be baking these at 365º, but you might want to wait to pre-heat the oven until the macarons are resting. Why waste energy, is how I think.

You might also want to prep your baking sheets at this time, just so they’re ready. If you don’t have a silicone mat, (I don’t) you can use parchment paper. Some people draw little 1½” circles on the paper, just to have a guideline. If you don’t do that, just remember that the macaron mixture will likely settle and spread a bit as it’s baking, (it didn’t for me the with the first batch, but it might for you) so you’ll probably want to keep them small.

Sift with a sieve

Sift with a sieve

Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder with a large sieve into a medium-sized mixing bowl.

 

 

Whisk the dry ingredients together

Whisk the dry ingredients together

Add in the almond flour, sifting in the same way. Gently whisk together.

 

Whisk egg whites into soft peaks

Whisk egg whites into soft peaks… this may have been overdone

In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt together until soft peaks form. Just don’t beat those buggers into a real frenzy, or they might look like the photo below. Don’t overbeat!  Add in the caster sugar and keep whisking until the whites are thick and glossy. Then, gently fold in the almond flour mixture.

Here’s where the pastry bag comes in. Fill it up with the macaron mixture and pipe small amounts with a 1/3″ nozzle, onto the parchment paper, or your macaron mat, if you happen to have one.

The piped macarons may look a bit.. umm.. odd

The piped macarons may look a bit.. umm.. odd, if you over-beat

 

Once finished, tap the baking sheet a couple of times to help settle the mixture and to release any air bubbles. This is where I pre-heat the oven to 365º. Allow the macarons to air dry for at least 20 minutes.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the macarons feel firm, and easily pull away from the parchment. It’s also suggested that you open the oven door once or twice during baking to release any steam. Macarons need to be dry.

We got "feet!"

We got “feet!”

Once done, cool completely on the baking sheet. Thankfully, the second batch turned out much better.

 

Lovely lilikoi

Lovely lilikoi

Now, we make the ganache. I adapted this from stickygooeycreamychewy.com, though I’m admitting I’m using beautiful, organic, white chocolate chips, which they advised not to do. I couldn’t resist, because they were on sale. I also added about a half teaspoon of Meyer lemon zest, just because I know that passion and citrus set each other off beautifully. I’ll let you know if I have regrets.

Put the white chocolate chips  into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Put the lilikoi purée into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.

In a heavy saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. (You don’t want to boil the cream and lilikoi together, because the acid in the fruit could cause the cream to curdle). While waiting for the cream and lilikoi purée to heat, work the butter with a spatula or a knife, so that it becomes really soft and creamy. Set it aside.

Combine the hot cream with the white chocolate

Combine the hot cream with the white chocolate

Once the cream is boiling, remove from heat and pour it into the white chocolate bowl. The heat should make the chocolate melt, of course. Let it sit for a minute, then whisk or beat to combine.

 

 

Next, add hot lilikoi

Next, add hot lilikoi

Then pour the hot lilikoi juice in and combine again. The chocolate should fully melt with this last addition.

 

Lastly, add the butter

Lastly, add the butter

Lastly, blend in the butter, beating with a rubber spatula. Once the butter is fully incorporated, the ganache should be very glossy and smooth. It will also taste totally divine! The white chocolate chips worked fine, by the way… just make sure you use high quality, if you choose to use them~ none of that cheap, waxy stuff.

Chill the ganache, until it’s a good spreading consistency.

 

A nice dab of ganache will fill

A nice dab of ganache will fill

Put the lid on it

Put the lid on it

Spread or pipe it between the macarons, then chill for 24 hours, for best results. If you can resist.

 

Lovely by the plateful

Lovely by the plateful

This makes 10-15 macarons, depending upon size, or in my case, even more. Be prepared and have more than one cookie sheet at the ready.

A tropical treat

A tropical treat

Chocolate Macarons with Passionfruit Ganache

Chocolate Macarons with Passionfruit Ganache

 

Just so you know, they didn’t come out perfect. They are lumpy, because the flour needed more grinding, and my ganache is a bit goopy. I know I will be trying again, and I’m sure they will come out even better. All that aside,  they are absolutely delicious! 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Getting Fancy with Buddha’s Hand Lavender Shortbread

Okay, this one is special.

I have a love of shortbread, mainly because you can make the dough ahead, and then let it sit in the fridge to chill, pretty much until you’re ready to use it. It can also be flavored anyway you like, too. A while back, I made lavender lemon shortbread cookies, and they were quite amazing. So since I still have some culinary lavender left, I decided to make them with the Buddha’s hand zest, that I just happened to have available.

 

Fully ripened Buddha's hand fruit

Fully ripened Buddha’s hand fruit

I consider myself very lucky that Monty works at a nursery. In the nursery, there is a Buddha’s hand fruit tree, and not long ago, one of the workers gave me one of the fruits. If you’ve never seen a Buddha hand fruit, it’s sure to make you wonder what it is. It looks much like a hand, and smells a lot like a lemon. Yes, it is a citrus fruit, but there is no juice or seeds insides, and it’s used strictly for the zest. The fragrance of the zest is quite wonderful because it has a citrus-y, flowery smell. So if you think in terms of any recipe that uses lemon zest, you are on the right track.

Buddha’s hand fruit is interesting to observe as it grows. The flowers are sweet-smelling, like any citrus flower.

Buddha's hand buds

Buddha’s hand buds

When the petals fall, you can see the beginning of the fruit. See the “fingers?”

 

Fruit forming

Fruit forming

Then the fruit grows and turns green for quite a long time.

 

Almost ripe, here

Almost ripe, here

When it turns yellow, you know it is ripe. You can often find them in Asian markets, too, just in case you don’t have access to a nursery that grows them.

I was in a bit of a panic at Christmas time, since I had a friend visiting from the mainland, and being long on time and short on money, I wanted to give her something special. She had admired the shortbread cookies that I posted on Facebook, when I made them several years ago. I just thought I’d adapt the original recipe (which I found is no longer available) and make it really unique.

This is grown on Maui

This is grown on Maui

I could once find the lavender at our local farmers’ market, though they haven’t been there for a year or so. If you don’t have any available near you, you can order it here. I have an burning desire to go visit that farm in the Summertime. Here’s hoping I’ll see that this year.

 

dried, edible violas

To take it all just one step further, I thought it would be fun to decorate them with edible flowers… violas, specifically. I found some on Etsy several months ago, with the intention of using them to decorate something sweet, and this idea just came together. It seemed like the perfection solution.

An unusual Christmas present!

An unusual Christmas gift!

I found these quite delicious, with their delicate, flowery, citrusy flavor.  And, as I said above, you can prepare the shortbread dough ahead, wrap it up tightly and chill it, until you’re ready to bake. The recipe makes about three dozen small cookies.

 

Meyer lemon juice works great for this

Meyer lemon juice works great for this

 

Notice there is only rind and no seeds

Notice there is only rind and no seeds

 

Grate the rind

Grated Buddha’s hand zest

 

For the shortbread:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
2 tablespoons Buddha’s hand (or lemon~ I recommend Meyer lemon) rind, grated
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup cornstarch
2½ cups flour
approx 1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers, chopped or crushed with a mortar & pestle

For the icing:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2-3 teaspoons dried lavender flowers, chopped or crushed with a mortar & pestle
1 tablespoon zest of Buddha’s hand fruit (or lemon~ again, I recommend Meyer)
1–2 tbsp Meyer lemon juice

dried violets, violas or pansies for decoration (optional)

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and salt. Set aside.

To make the shortbread dough, combine the butter and confectioner’s sugar in the bowl with the Buddha’s hand (or lemon) zest with the crushed lavender.  Beat until well blended. Next, blend in the dry ingredients until the dough comes together. You want to try not to over-beat this, or the shortbread may become tough.  Form the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until slightly firm, about 60 minutes. Or, a few days, if you have more time later. That’s one of the nice things about shortbread.

Roll out the dough and cut

Roll out the dough and cut with cookie cutters

 

When the dough has been chilled, and you’re ready to bake,  line your cookie sheets with baker’s parchment and pre-heat the oven to 350º.

Roll it out on a cutting board to about ¼ of an inch thick (I do this a section at a time) then cut with the cookie cutter of your choice. Place them on the parchment-lined sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes, or just until set. You don’t want them to brown too much.

While they’re baking you can make the icing. That’s simply a matter of combining the confectioner’s sugar with the Buddha’s hand zest and crushed lavender flowers, then gradually adding lemon juice, until it’s a nice consistency. You don’t want it too thick, but you do want the flowers sticking to the shortbread.

Cooling

Cooling shortbread

Once baked, cool for a minute on the sheet, then transfer to cooling racks.

 

Dip into icing

Dip into icing

Once the cookies are cooled, you can dip the top side in icing. I highly recommend that you put waxed paper or something under the racks to save yourself a mess!

 

Arrange the flowers

Arrange the flowers while icing is wet

If you’re decorating them with flowers, I suggest doing just a few at a time, and then placing a flower on them while the icing is still wet. Then, put them back on the rack, until the icing is dry.

Set the icing

Drying the icing

This shortbread keeps for a couple of weeks, as long as they are stored in an airtight container. Of course, loving how they came out, I had to play with them a bit!

 

Almost too pretty to eat!

Almost too pretty to eat!

Tea time!

Tea time!

Of course, these are also perfect for Valentine’s Day!

 

I had to make a Butterfly Party with these ones!

I had to make a Butterfly Party with these ones!

In Case You Haven’t Had Enough Pumpkin

It’s kind of a crazy thing the flavor of pumpkin has really monopolized the entire Fall season, over the past several years. I only say this because I’m seeing things flavored pumpkin, that I’ve never seen before. There are Pumpkin Oreos, breakfast cereal, M&Ms, potato chips, gum, jello, ice cream, yogurt, coffee, tea, beer and condoms. Condoms?? I thought that this was all getting to be a bit much, until yesterday~ I was shopping for kitchen hand soap. I really like the kind that’s scented like lime & coconut, or maybe almond, grapefruit or pomegranate. I about choked when my eye caught pumpkin scented soap. Really? It didn’t even say “pumpkin spice,” but just “pumpkin scented.” Really? C’mon…

Real pumpkins

Real pumpkins

I’m really not anti-pumpkin, though I think the world has gone quite mad about turning every, single last thing that we eat, see or smell into a pumpkin. In fact, I have a wonderful recipe for pumpkin muffins that you might like to try, just in case you also have managed to shield yourself from the avalanche of pumpkin products.

I really like my muffin recipe, just because it’s pretty healthy, with only having a half cup of sugar and butter. The pumpkin is full of vitamin A, and then they can be made from whole wheat flour, without anyone even taking notice. I like to add walnuts and raisins for texture, and then I garnish with sprinkling of turbinado sugar and  pumpkin seeds.

Canned pumpkin

Canned pumpkin

 

The recipe is also really easy, too. Just grab yourself a can of pumpkin and get to it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1-2/3 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

1 cup canned pumpkin

½ cup sugar

½ cup milk or buttermilk

2 eggs

½ stick (½ cup) butter, melted

1 tablespoon molasses

½ cup chopped walnuts

½ cup raisins

turbinado sugar for garnish (optional)

pumkin seeds for garnish (optional)

—————————————————————

Preheat oven to 400º F.

In medium sized bowl, whisk dry ingredients together~ flour, salt, spices and baking soda. Set aside.

In larger bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, butter, molasses, eggs and milk or buttermilk.

Mix dry into wet ingredients

Mix dry into wet ingredients

Gradually add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, mixing just until everything is moistened.

Garnish first with turbinado sugar

Garnish first with turbinado sugar

Pour into paper-lined muffin tin. If garnishing, sprinkle tops of muffins with turbinado sugar…

Then sprinkle with pumpkin seeds

Then sprinkle with pumpkin seeds

…and a few pumpkin seeds, pressing the seeds down lightly into the batter.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

These are now ready for the oven. Bake muffins for 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cooling

Cooling

Cool on wire racks. Makes 1 dozen.

Pumpkin muffins

Pumpkin muffins

Good for breakfast or a snack

Good for breakfast or a snack

Good for a Halloween treat

Good for a Halloween treat!

Have a Happy Halloween!

Using Up “Hurricane Bananas”

Sometimes you get lucky, you know that, don’t you? I’ve been busy the past week, due to the existence of two hurricanes close to our waters. Hurricanes tend to throw a real, curve ball into whatever it is you are trying to accomplish at the time. Whatever you’re doing, you need to stop and prepare to survive. For me that meant gathering supplies, cleaning the lanai, so the plants wouldn’t become hurtling, airborne objects in the wind, and cleaning and organizing the household, so as to lessen any potentially disastrous impacts. It was a lot of work and not something I would want to do every week, but since we hadn’t had such a warning in twenty-two years, it was okay.

Since non-perishable food is so important in such a situation, I was so happy when Monty came home with a huge hand of bananas last Thursday night, given to him by a coworker. It is nice to have something fresh in such a situation. Thankfully, Hurricane Iselle fizzled out once it hit the Island of Hawaii, and Julio drifted well away from us, leaving me with a bunch of bananas, bottles of water, and a bunch of canned food to be stored for another day. Knowing how we only use maybe 3-4 bananas in a week, I knew the day would come soon, that I would have to whip up some banana nut bread. Since they are starting to get brown and soft, today must be the day.

Making healthy banana nut bread can be easy

Making healthy banana nut bread can be easy

 

Here’s what we’ll need:

1/3 cup vegetable oil

½ cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 cup mashed bananas

1¾ cups whole wheat flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ cup hot water

½ cup chopped walnuts

½ cup chopped macadamia nuts

Mash the bananas with a fork

Mash the bananas with a fork

——————————————————————————

Pre-heat oven to 325º.

Grease (or spray with cooking spray) a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine oil and honey. If you measure the oil first, the honey will pour out of your measuring cup much easier. Add in the eggs and mix well. Stir in vanilla and mashed bananas.

 

Stir the flour and salt into the egg and honey mixture

Stir the flour and salt into the egg and honey mixture

Gradually still the flour and salt into the wet ingredients, mixing just until everything is almost fully moistened. If you over mix, the bread becomes tough.

 

Stir in the nuts

Stir in the nuts

Next, add in the nuts, again being careful not to over mix.

 

Mix the baking soda with hot water

Mix the baking soda with hot water

In a measuring cup, mix the baking soda with hot water and stir it into the batter.

 

Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake

Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake

Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for one hour. Check with a toothpick for doneness~ mine usually needs another 10-15 minutes, or so.

 

Remove when done, and allow to sit for a few minutes

Remove when done, and allow to sit for a few minutes

Once done, allow to cool for a couple of minutes, before removing from pan.

 

Put on a rack to finish cooling

Put on a rack to finish cooling

Carefully remove from bread pan and allow to finish cooling on a rack.

 

Slice and serve

Slice and serve

Slice and serve. This bread freezes really well, if you’d like to stash some away to be eaten in about six months, or so.

 

Good for breakfast

Good for breakfast

Try it for dessert

Try it for dessert, too