Monday, August 20, 2012

Chocolate vs Peanut Butter?! What's Your Choice….

Last night was the first night I have seen a glimpse of Fall and I believe it is right around the corner. (YAY!!!) I am so excited….It is one of my favorite times of year. It makes me think of all of the things I love - football, apple orchards, bonfires, Halloween parties with neighbors and road trips with windows open….

So looking back over the last year, I realized I have never done a recipe focusing on chocolate and peanut butter. I have been asked for awhile to create something so here is the end result. So I hope you enjoy Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites. 

Chocolate and peanut butter in a form reminding me of your favorite peanut butter cup….I do however have to say I enjoy these sooo much better. No preservatives…and it wont sit on a shelf for six months….lol. Always a better option. Enjoy!!!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites

For the Crust:
1 1/4 C Chocolate Graham Crackers, finely crushed  
1/4 C Sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

For the Filling:
6 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar, packed
1 3/4 C Powdered Sugar
1 Stick Unsalted Butter, softened
1 1/2 C Creamy Peanut Butter
Pinch of salt

For the Ganache:
12 oz Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
6  Tbps Heavy  Whipping Cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a small rectangular pan or square pan with non-stick cooking spray. (I use a brownie pan since it is smaller than a 9 x 13) Line pan with parchment with one-inch hangover on long sides.

To make the crust, combine graham crackers, sugar and butter in food processor fitted with blade attachment and pulse until cookies are finely crushed. Press mixture firmly into prepared pan.  Bake for 10 minutes. Set on rack and cool completely.

While crust is baking, make peanut butter filling by combining all ingredients together in the bowl  and mix at med-low speed until just combined. Set bowl in refrigerator until needed.

To make the chocolate ganache, place chocolate chips in a bowl and set aside.  Next place whipping cream in heavy saucepan. Heat cream just until bubble form around edge of pan. (Do not let come to a boil). Pour into bowl with chocolate chips and stir until chocolate is completely melted.  (This is the best way to make ganache, some recipes recommend a microwave but there is better control this way and it usually wont burn).

To combine layers, spread just enough ganache evenly over cooled crust to coat crust.  Chill until chocolate has set, about 10 minutes in freezer. Next, spread peanut butter mixture into even layer over chocolate. Place remainder of ganache evenly over peanut butter.  Let chill completely before serving.  

To serve, remove from pan using parchment paper and place on cutting board. Using a very sharp knife, cut into squares after chilled thoroughly. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Macarons……..Why Wait So Long?

I love a challenge in the kitchen. To find a recipe that pushes me to accomplish something I didn't know what possible. There are a few items I have always been nervous to attempt. French Macarons…..has alway been at the top of the list!  Why?? I can't say specifically but I think the idea they are so fragile always made me nervous. 

So what did I do?! Instead of tackling the basic, I attempted to create one with even more steps and a strange one at that…dehydrating carrots. I for one have never had a recipe requiring me to dehydrate anything before. Thankfully…a good oven, patience and a coffee grinder (I use for baking) got me to where I needed to be. 

So I offer you Carrot Cake Macarons……...

Carrot Cake Macarons
adapted from Tartlette

For the shells:
1 3/4 C powdered sugar
3/4 C almonds (slivered, blanched, sliced, whatever you like)
2-3 small carrots, sliced thin lengthwise, dehydrated and finely ground(see below)
3 egg whites (use egg whites that have been preferably left 3-4 days in the fridge)
6 tsp granulated sugar

For the carrots: cut long thin matchsticks or slices from 2-3 small carrots and lay them flat on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in a 250F oven until they shrivel and dry out. It usually takes about 30 minutes but check at 20 minutes in case your oven runs high. Let them cool and grind them as fine as possible. I find that a coffee grinder works great for that job.

Prepare the macarons:
Place the powdered sugar and almonds in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the ground dehydrated carrots and mix until blended. Sift if desired (helps keep the shells smooth in appearance).

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry.

Add the nuts and powdered sugar to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 280F.

Bake the macarons for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.

Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store the shells in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks (longer and the sugar starts to seep out which makes them sticky). Fill the macarons and let them mature in the fridge at least 48 hours prior to eating them.

Cream Cheese Frosting Filling:
1 stick Unsalted Butter, room temperature
8 oz Cream Cheese, room temperature
4 C Powdered Sugar, sifted
1 tsp Vanilla

In bowl of electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter, on low speed, until very smooth with no lumps. Add vanilla. Gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat, on low speed, until fully incorporated and smooth. Pipe or spoon about a tablespoon into the center of each macaron shell and top with another shell.