Macarons

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Macarons are definitely not a forgiving recipe if you want to get them exactly right.  However, even if the tops crack or the sides don’t develop the characteristic foot or the cookies taste grainy, they’re still very tasty.  Just think of them as delicious almond sandwich cookies!

 

Baking notes:

  • Make sure your almond flour is finely ground, or your macarons will taste grainy (the Walmart almond flour/meal I used was too coarse even after being pressed through a sieve).  I’ve seen Bob’s Red Mill almond flour recommended by other bloggers.
  • Separate your eggs a few days before you plan to bake the macarons and let the whites age in the fridge.
  • Don’t over-beat the egg whites, or the texture will turn grainy.
  • When heating the sugar syrup, keep a close eye on it near the end because the temperature will rise quickly.
  • Don’t use liquid food coloring, because adding enough to achieve a bright color will thin out the batter too much.
  • If the tops of your first batch of macarons crack, the oven temperature is too high.  Lower it a little before you bake your next batch.

 

Macarons
From Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies

Yield: 45 macarons

For cookies:

  • 2 cups (200 grams) almond flour (make sure it’s finely ground)
  • 1 2/3 cups (200 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2/3 cup aged egg whites (150 milliliters), at room temperature (about 5 large eggs)
  • Gel or powder food coloring (optional)
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) water

For filling (makes about 1 cup):

  • 8 oz full-fat cream cheese, cut into chunks, at room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted if you have the patience (it’s fine if you don’t)
  • 2 tablespoons thick preserves or jam (without chunky fruit)

 

  1. Take out 2 baking sheets.  If you plan to line them with parchment paper, it’s best to make a template.  Using a cookie cutter as your guide, trace circles about 1 1/2 inches in diameter on each sheet of paper, leaving about 2 inches between them, then flip the papers over on the baking sheets so pencil marks face down.  If you’re using silicone mats, just line the baking sheets with them.
  2. Fit a large pastry bag with a plain 1/2-inch tip. (Alternatively, you can use a zipper-lock bag: Fill the bag, seal it, and snip off a corner.)
  3. Have a candy thermometer handy.
  4. Place a strainer over a large bowl and press almond flour and confectioners’ sugar through it.  Don’t skip this step, even though it’s annoying, because it’s necessary to get the correct texture.
  5. Whisk to blend almond flour and confectioners’ sugar.
  6. Put half of the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  7. Add food coloring, if you’re using it, to remaining egg whites, stir, and then pour them over the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar.
  8. Using a flexible spatula, mix and mash the whites into the dry ingredients until you have a homogeneous paste.
  9. Bring the granulated sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  If there are spatters on the sides of the pan, wash them down with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.
  10. Attach candy thermometer and cook syrup until it reaches 243-245°F.  This can take about 10 minutes.  Keep a close eye on it because the temperature increases rapidly near the end.
  11. Meanwhile, beat egg whites on medium speed until they hold medium-firm, glossy peaks.
  12. Reduce the mixer speed to low and keep mixing until sugar syrup comes up to temperature.
  13. When the sugar syrup is ready, take the pan off the heat and remove the thermometer.  With the mixer on low speed, pour in the hot syrup, trying to pour it between the whirring whisk and the side of the bowl.  You’ll definitely have spatters, but don’t try to incorporate them because they’ll spoil the smooth meringue.
  14. Increase mixer speed to high and beat until meringue cools to room temperature, about 10 minutes.  Check by touching the bottom of the bowl.  (However, it’s better to have your meringue be a little too warm than to over-beat it.)
  15. Give the almond flour mixture another stir with the spatula, then scrape the meringue over it and fold everything together.  Don’t be gentle here: Use your spatula to cut through the meringue and almond flour mixture, bring some of the batter from the bottom up over the top, and then press it against the sides of the bowl.  The action is the same as the one you used to get the egg whites into the almonds and sugar: Mix and mash.
  16. Keep folding and mixing and mashing until when you lift the spatula, the batter flows off it in a thick band.
  17. If you want to add more food coloring, do it now.
  18. Spoon half of the batter into the pastry bag (or all of it into a gallon zipper-lock bag) and, holding the bag straight up, 1 inch above one of the baking sheets, pipe out 1 1/2-inch rounds.  Don’t worry if you have a point in the center of each round; it will dissolve into the batter.
  19. Grab baking sheet with both hands, raise it about 8 inches above the counter, and let it fall with a satisfying bang.  This gets the bubbles out of the batter and helps smooth the tops.
  20. Refill the bag if necessary, pipe batter onto the second sheet, and drop it onto the counter.
  21. Set baking sheets aside in a cool, dry place to allow cookies to form a crust. When you can lightly touch the top of the macarons without having batter stick to your finger, you’re ready to bake.  (Depending on room temperature and humidity, this can take 15 to 30 minutes, sometimes more.)
  22. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350° F.
  23. Bake macarons, one sheet at a time, for 6 minutes.
  24. Rotate pan and bake for another 6-9 minutes, or until the macarons can be lifted from the mat or can be carefully peeled away from the paper.  The bottoms will feel just a little soft.  The tops will feel disconcertingly crisp and dry.
  25. Slide silicone mat or parchment off the baking sheet onto a counter and cool macarons to room temperature.
  26. Repeat with the second baking sheet.
  27. While macarons cool, make the filling.  Either in the clean bowl of your stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth and creamy.
  28. Add confectioners’ sugar and beat until it is incorporated and filling is smooth.
  29. Mix in preserves or jam.  (The filling will keep for up to 5 days tightly covered in the refrigerator.  Stir before using to bring it back to its creamy consistency.)
  30. When macarons are cool, peel them off the silicone or parchment and match them up for sandwiching.
  31. Work on a baking sheet lined with fresh parchment paper, or on a sheet of parchment paper on which you baked macarons.  You can use a teaspoon or a piping bag to fill the macarons; it’s up to you to decide how much filling you’ll want to use.  Spoon or pipe some filling onto the flat side of a macaron and sandwich it with its mate, gently twisting the top macaron to spread filling to the edges.  Piping leads to cleaner edges.
  32. Place sandwiched macaron on parchment paper and repeat with remaining macarons and filling.  Cover with plastic film or pack them into a container.  Be careful not to squish the tops.
  33. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving.  While chilling, moisture from the filling will soften the macaron cookies and allow them to develop their characteristic texture.
  34. Macarons can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.  They can also be frozen, packed airtight, for up to 2 months; defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.
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Almond Crackle Cookies

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Almond crackle cookies are deliciously crunchy and fragrant, as well as amazingly easy to make.  In the time that your oven preheats, you mix together three ingredients and then dollop the batter onto baking sheets.  Voila – cookies!

Baking notes:

  • Dorie Greenspan also gives instructions for making the cookies in muffin tins, which leads to a prettier shape, but getting them out of the tins is finicky.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have let them cool for longer than 10 minutes, but by the time I tried to remove them, all but five (pictured above) were stuck fast.  The good news is that if you soak the tins in the sink, the cookies will soften and you can clean out the tins.  The bad news is that you won’t have many cookies.
  • If you bake the cookies on cookie sheets, they will be thinner and more crunchy, which I personally prefer.
  • The batter is fairly robust: The second time I made the cookies, I only had 1 cup of almonds, so I cut the sugar to 5 tablespoons and kept the full egg.  The cookies still tasted good.

 

Almond Crackle Cookies
From Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies

Yield: 20 cookies

  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups sliced almonds (blanched or unblanched)

 

  1. Position racks to divide oven into thirds and preheat to 325°F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  Have a small cookie scoop or a teaspoon at hand.
  2. Whisk sugar and egg together in a bowl for a minute or so, until well blended and just a bit thick.
  3. Add the almonds and whisk until evenly coated with the mixture.  You need to use the batter right away — it separates as it stands.  In fact, it’s good to give the batter a stir or two as you’re spooning it out.
  4. Each cookie needs 2 teaspoons of batter.  Scoop the batter onto the baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches of space between the mounds of batter, and flatten each mound with your fingers or the back of a fork.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes.  Rotate the pans front to back and top to bottom midway through baking. The cookies should be toasted-almond beige, and dry and crackled on top.
  6. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the cookies cool for about 10 minutes.
  7. Carefully lift cookies off sheets with a wide spatula.  (If you used parchment paper, they release very easily.  You probably don’t even need to use a spatula.)
  8. If your kitchen is cool and dry, you can keep these in a tin or paper bag overnight. Keep them longer, and they might soften, a condition easily reversed: Place the cookies on a lined baking sheet and warm them in a 350°F oven for about 6 minutes; cool on the sheet.

Peanut Brownie Sables

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I was very happy with how well these cookies worked gluten free.  They don’t spread out much as they bake, and helped by the peanut butter, chopped peanuts, and chopped chocolate, they hold together very well.  Like sables, they have a sandy texture; like brownies, they’re a little chewy in the centers.  I personally like them best fresh out of the oven, when the chocolate is gooey and the cookie soft, contrasting nicely with the crunchy peanuts.

 

Peanut Brownie Sables
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies

Yield: 36-40 cookies

For sable dough:

  • 1 cup gluten-free OR all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons natural peanut (peanuts-only) butter, smooth or crunchy
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel OR pinch of fine sea salt
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup honey roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped OR salted peanuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

For brownie batter:

  • 2/3 cup gluten-free OR all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel OR pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar OR 1/2 cup white sugar+dollop molasses
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

 

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350ºF.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Make sable dough first: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter and peanut butter together on low speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add sugar and salt, and beat for 2 minutes.
  4. Add yolks one at a time, beating 1 minute after each one.  Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
  5. Mix in baking powder.
  6. Turn off mixer, add all the flour, and stir it in partway so it won’t fly everywhere.
  7. Beat in flour on low speed.  (If you’re using all-purpose flour, beat only until flour is almost all incorporated.)
  8. Add peanuts and mix on low speed until dry ingredients all disappear and peanuts are evenly distributed.
  9. Scrape dough into another bowl and set aside.  Don’t bother washing the mixer bowl.
  10. Make the brownie batter: Using a rubber spatula, stir together flour, cocoa powder, and salt in mixer bowl or large bowl.
  11. Add brown sugar OR white sugar+dollop molasses.  Pulse mixer to combine.
  12. Add butter bits and mix on low speed until ingredients are fully blended, about 2 minutes.  The mixture looks a little like damp sand, and you might have some crumbs and clumps.
  13. Add beaten egg and mix on low speed until batter resembles fudge frosting.
  14. Add chopped chocolate and pulse to mix it in.
  15. Scrape sable dough back into the bowl with the brownie batter and mix on low speed until homogeneous.
  16. Drop dough in rounded tablespoonfuls on baking sheets, spacing cookies 2 inches apart.
  17. Use either your fingers or the bottom of a jar or glass (covered in plastic wrap) to press each cookie down gently, just enough to level the tops of the mounds.
  18. Bake cookies one sheet at a time, 12 minutes if gluten free, 10 minutes if not.  They will be set at the edges and soft in the centers when prodded lightly with a fork.  They will look uniformly dull.
  19. Cool cookies completely on baking sheet on a rack.  They will firm as they cool.
  20. Repeat with second batch.
  21. Cookies can be stored in a covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days.  Packed airtight, they can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Flourless Peanut Butter Jelly Cookies

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It’s America’s favorite lunch in cookie form!  These flourless cookies are very simple to make and have an intense peanut butter flavor.  Top them with your favorite jam or jelly.

Original recipe

 

Flourless Peanut Butter Jelly Cookies
Adapted from AllRecipes

Yield: 12-16 cookies

  • 1 cup peanut butter (I used smooth, but I’m sure chunky works just as well)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Jelly or jam, of your choice

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  2. In a mixing bowl, stir together peanut butter, sugar, and egg until smooth.
  3. Drop spoonfuls of dough, about 2 tablespoons each, onto the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Use the tines of a fork to press a crisscross pattern across the tops, flattening them to about 1/2 inch thick.
  5. Drop 1/2-1 teaspoon of your favorite jelly or jam in the middle of each cookie.
  6. Bake 6-8 minutes.  Do not over-bake!  The cookies will still be extremely soft and just barely brown on the bottoms.  Leave them on the baking sheet, and they will harden as they cool.

 

Classic Scones

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I made these scones for a friend who’d just gotten off a long flight from Europe.  I think the texture is quite good, and the golden-brown color is similar to that of non-gluten-free scones.  I’d add a lot of chocolate chips, dried fruit, and/or nuts, though, because you can definitely taste the difference from normal flour (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).

Update: You should really try spreading them with clotted cream!

The original recipe is here:
King Arthur Flour Scones

Classic Scones
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Yield: 12 scones

2 3/4 cups gluten-free OR all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter
1 cup to 2 cups chocolate chips, chopped dried fruit, nuts, or a combination (optional)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup half and half or milk (I always use non-fat milk and it works fine)

  1. If using gluten-free flour, preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
  3. Using your fingers, work butter into the flour mixture until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of small peas.
  4. Stir in fruit, chips, and/or nuts, if using.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together eggs, vanilla extract, and half and half or milk.
  6. Stir the liquid mixture into flour mixture.  The dough should hold together.  If not, add some more half and half or milk.
  7. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  8. Divide dough into 12 portions and shape them on the baking sheet into triangles about 3/4″ thick.  Separate them by about an inch.
  9. If using gluten-free flour, put baking sheet straight into the oven.  If using all-purpose flour, place baking sheet in freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 425°F.
  10. Bake scones for 20 minutes if gluten free OR 20 to 25 minutes if not.  They will look golden brown when done.
  11. Remove scones from oven.  Cool briefly on baking sheet and serve warm.