Weekend mornings are my favourite mornings, especially now that a sleep-in for me means a 7am wakeup (not sarcastic)! Early morning work shifts have their upsides.
I like waking up when the sun is just getting warmed up and the streets are quiet except for a few people walking around and a maybe a car or two. I slowly make my cup of tea, plop myself down on the couch, and start browsing food blogs. Nowadays, I crack the window open a little bit to breath in a bit of fresh air and hear everyone start their days, draw the curtains completely away from the window to let in aaaaall that spring sunshine and delight in the buds coming in on the trees right outside my window. Soon, when I look out my window, it will be filled with vibrant green leaves instead of bare branches.
I'm a winter girl - I like my sweaters and my blankets and my cozy fires, but the change from winter to spring is always a welcome sight. It's like a breath of fresh air in a stale, stuffy room.
I'm not the type to do a massive "spring clean", I don't think I have ever done it (willingly), but the other day, I had a spontaneous mini spring clean. The water in my building was shut off for one of my days off last week - the laundry day, of course - so I had a pile of unwashed dishes and unwashed laundry waiting for me after work. I set to work on that, but then decided to clean my kitchen because I was already cleaning and I might as well.
Then I vacuumed and mopped the entire apartment, cleaned the whole bathroom, and folded the laundry. I opened up the cupboard to make myself a well-deserved cup of tea and thought,
"I'm going to clean this cupboard out."
And I did.
My baking cupboard is fairly well organized, my prop shelves are nice and neat. But then there's my cupboard of spices/tea/cans/jars/ little packets of half full mystery powders/ ziplock bags of I can't remember what the heck this is/ boxes of I still have this?
It's a mess. Every time I open the cupboard, I think, "Man, I need to clean this out…. but not today, nah, tomorrow or… maybe next week. Another time." and it never gets done.
So finally, with the cleaning momentum behind me, I set to work on the dreaded messy cupboard of crap.
I took everything out and cleaned the actual shelves and then rearranged them so the spacing was even in the first place. I tossed things I hadn't used in a year and found things that I had forgotten I even had. I found 4 half full containers of hot chocolate mix - they're now one giant mish-mash of hot chocolate mixes in one big jar. I gathered all my spices in their little baggies and transferred them to all the empty jars I had lying around. I got out the masking tape and made labels for everything (no more "Oh, I'll remember what this is without a label") and organized it according to frequency of use.
After two hours of cleaning, organizing, and labelling, it was done. I stood back, proudly looked at my beautiful labelled and contained cupboard and thought to myself,
"This is going to stay clean for like, a week, two weeks tops…"
Nevertheless, I was very happy with it. I made a lemon and garlic risotto using some arborio rice that I rediscovered (without using a recipe either, go me!), roasted some cauliflower to mix into said risotto, and had a lovely dinner. All this on a weekday! I didn't think it was possible.
The next day, all I did after work was have a nap and drag myself to hot yoga and go straight to bed. The day after that, I watched 3 episodes of a show on Netflix and went to bed. So don't go thinking I'm some sort of adult that has my life together.
Without realizing, I guess I've had a bit of spring fever! First with the cleaning, now I'm daydreaming about all the things I want to make with the upcoming fresh produce - both sweet and savoury!
I like cooking, but I only cook a proper meal on the weekends usually. Weeknight dinners tend to be leftover soup and simple roasted veggies, easy and quick. Dinners on the weekends used to be a stew or a fancier soup or maybe a curry, but with the sunshine (on some days), I'm craving fresher and brighter flavours.
During the week, I'm always thinking of what I can make for dessert on the weekend for the blog. I'm brainstorming all week for something sweet and delicious, but I never give much thought to what I will eat for dinner. I'll pick up couple staples at the grocery store and maybe use a basic recipe to make something easy. But it's always an afterthought for me. I put all this effort and time into my desserts, but dinners always fall the to the wayside.
Maybe it's the sunshine, maybe it's the fact that I can actually find ingredients for dinner in my cupboard again, or maybe it's just me becoming more of an adult, but I suddenly want to put effort into my dinners! I want to pickle my own veggies, make my own veggie burgers, try frying tofu for the first time, make something other than my usual 6-recipe repertoire!
I gave my boyfriend a copy of Ottolenghi's Plenty a few years back and we have made a total of one recipe from that book. One. I know, it's sad. So I'm going to borrow that darn book and start making things. I'm also dying to get a hold of Sprouted Kitchen's new book, Bowl and Spoon because I absolutely love their blog and their book seems like the perfect thing to get me started. In fact, I want to get my hands on a bunch of new vegetarian cookbooks! Even though I have 27 dessert and baking books on my shelf, I have only one savoury cookbook.
So tell me! What is your favourite cookbook? Which one on your shelf is dog-eared and bookmarked, annotated, splattered with food, and just generally well-loved? I wanna hear it!
P.S. I'm trying not to rub it in too much, but in a few days, I'm off to the Philippines for a couple weeks (!!!!!!) so there won't be any posts here for that time. But I'll be back soon with more bright and spring-y desserts!
Strawberry French Buttercream
Recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery
38 g granulated sugar
38 g granulated sugar
63 g egg yolks
75 g whole milk
250 g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, at room temperature
20 g freeze-dried strawberry powder
Passion Fruit Curd
Recipe from The Modern Cafe
79 g passio fruit purée
8 g lemon juice
100 g granulated sugar
105 g egg yolks
132 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
Recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery
212 g almond flour/meal
212 g powdered sugar
82 g egg whites
10 g freeze-dried strawberry powder
90 g egg whites
236 g granulated sugar
158 g water
50 g white chocolate, chopped finely
First, make the buttercream. If you wish, the buttercream can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. Take the buttercream out of the fridge thirty minutes before you need to use it and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow it to soften and then mix on low speed until it is the proper consistency.
Whisk 38 grams sugar and the yolks together in a medium bowl and set aside.
Combine the milk and remaining 38 grams of sugar in a medium saucepan, set over
medium heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar. When the milk is just below a simmer, remove
the pan from the heat and, whisking constantly, pour it into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the pan and place over medium heat. Whisking constantly, bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for 1 minute, lowering the heat if necessary to prevent the mixture from curdling. It should be very thick.
Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer. fit the mixer with a whisk attachment, turn the mixture to medium, and whisk for about 8 minutes, until the mixture is completely cool.
Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, to the egg yolk mixture. If at any point the mixture looks broken, increase the speed to re-emulsify it, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter. Check the consistency: if the buttercream is too loose to hod its shape, it should be refrigerated for a few hours to harden, then beaten again to return it to the proper consistency.
Add the strawberry powder and fold in by hand until completely combined.
For the passion fruit curd, combine the passion fruit purée and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl. Pour about one-third of the hot purée into the yolks, whisking constantly. Add the remaining hot purée. Place the mixture in a bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water. Cook the curd, whisking constantly, until thickened and the temperature is about 82 C.
Remove from the hot water bath and whisk for a minute to cool it down. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer.
Using a Vitamix or an immersion blender, blend on low speed for a few seconds, then add the butter 2 to 3 pieces at a time, blending until incorporated. Let the curd cool to room temperature.
The curd can be used at this point or transferred to a covered container. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
Start on the macarons. The macarons need to be as close in size as possible and a template is the easiest way to ensure that. Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a work surface with the long side facing you. Using a glass or bowl, trace the desired size of your macaroons (I used a 1.5 inch diameter for these). Make sure to leave 1 inch of space between them. Turn the parchment over and lay it on a sheet pan. Lift up each corner of the parchment and spray with non-stick spray to keep it from blowing up while the cookies are baking. Repeat with a second sheet.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl and whisk together. Make a well in the center, leaving a layer of flour at the bottom. Pour in the 82 grams egg whites and combine with a spatula. Add the strawberry powder and stir until evenly distributed. Set aside.
Place the remaining 90 grams egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Combine the 236 grams sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 203 F/110 C.
Letting the syrup continue to cook, add a pinch of sugar to the egg whites, turn the mixer to medium speed, and whip to soft peaks. If the whites reach soft peaks before the syrup reaches 248 F/120 C, reduce the speed to the lowest setting, just to keep them moving.
When the syrup reaches 248 F/120 C, remove the pan from the heat. Turn the mixer to medium-low speed and slowly add the syrup, pouring it between the side of the bowl and
the whisk. The meringue will deflate. Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5 minutes, or until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Although the bowl will still be warm, the meringue should have cooled. If not, continue to whip until it is cool.
Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond mixture, then continue adding the whites a little at a time (you may not use them all) until when you fold a portion of the batter over on itself, the "ribbon" slowly moves. The mixture shouldn't be so stiff that it holds its shape without moving at all, but it shouldn't be so loose that it dissolves into itself and does not maintain the ribbon; it is better for the mixture to be sightly stiff than too loose.
Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip. Hold the bag upright 1/2 inch above the center of one of the traced circles and pipe out enough to fill in the circle. Lift away the pastry bag and fill the remaining circles on the first pan. Lift up the sheet pan and tap the bottom of the pan to spread the batter evenly and smooth any peaks left by the bag.
Place the sheet pan in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees again.
Pipe the remaining macaron mixture into the circles of the second sheet pan and bake as directed above. Let cool completely.
For the garnish, place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for about 20 seconds, stopping every 5 seconds to stir the chocolate. Do not melt it completely in the microwave or else the temperature will exceed 32 C and become untempered and you will have to start again with new chocolate. Let the chocolate sit at room temperature and the residual heat will melt the chocolate, hopefully without raising the temperature past 32 C. Transfer the chocolate to a small parchment cone and pipe your design onto half of the macaron shells.
To assemble, transfer the buttercream to the pastry bag with the 3/8 inch tip. Transfer the curd to a pastry bag with the 3/8 inch tip. Remove the macarons from the parchment paper. Turn half of them over. Pipe a ring of buttercream, not quite reaching the edge of the macaron. Fill the hole with passion fruit curd. Top with a second macaron and gently press to spread the buttercream to the edges. Repeat with remaining macarons and filling.
The macarons are best if wrapped individually in a few layers of plastic wrap and frozen for at least 24 hours or up to 2 weeks. Defrost in the refrigerator for 3 hours, then bring to room temperature before seving. They can be served the day they are made or stored in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 2 days.