When I was at Macheret Fromage in Vevey, Switzerland, I noticed stacks of perfectly piped meringues, piled up to ceiling. I wondered why a cheese shop would have so many meringues? It wasn’t until I headed way up in the alps, to the Maison de l’Etivaz, where a Swiss traveling companion said – “Ooooh, La Gruyère double cream is very good. But very, very dangerous.”
Results tagged meringue from David Lebovitz
I was teaching recently in Texas at Central Market, and I’d have to say after spending a week there, it’s the best supermarket in the world. I was using the marvelous citrus fruits they foraged from around the United States, including fresh yuzu, limequats, jumbo pomelos, bergamots, Seville oranges, citrons (which I’ve been trying to find in Paris—anyone know where I can find one?), and Meyer lemons.
(One of those lemons made it home with me, by accident. If it wasn’t so enormous, I would have tucked a citron in my carry-on…on purpose.)
There are two things hard about living in France. The first is ….well, let’s not get into that today. The second is getting recipes from French women. It’s not because they closely guard their secrets, but it’s because they frequently use recipes as guidelines rather than making them by rote.
So if you ask a question, the response is often—”Because that’s always the way I did it.” Which was what I was told when I read the instructions on the hand-written recipe I snagged, that said to dip the bottom of the bowl of melted chocolate in a larger basin of cool water to bring down the temperature, where lazy old me would just let it sit on the counter until it was cool. Who wants to empty all those dishes out of the sink?
They often refuse to specify exact quantities. “Just add enough flour until the dough looks correct” is a fairly common response when I press for things like ‘details’, and I keep imagining how much easier writing a cookbook (and a blog) would be if I could give instructions like that.
Continue Reading Chocolate Mousse Cake…
For some reason, the world went a little nuts for Parisian macarons in the past year and everyone, from New York to New Delhi, seemed to be fascinated by these little sandwich cookies.
Notice that I said “Parisian” macarons, since you won’t find these too far outside of Paris. Folks in the rest of France make more traditional macarons, made from a simple meringue with sugar and nuts folded in, then baked until crispy. Parisian Macarons, as most of us know them, are said to have been invented at Ladurée, and they claim to sell 12,000 of them daily.
When I Love Macarons! came out this year, the first run sold out immediately and the publisher scrambled to print more copies. Solid proof of the popularity of macarons, for sure. The book is a translation from a Japanese edition, written by pastry chef Hisako Ogita. It’s a slender volume, but has plenty of full-color photos and takes us step-by-step through the process of making macarons.
Especially helpful is a great page with descriptions of troubleshooting tips, including pictures of common failures and how to avoid them. Bakers who’ve had a few ups and down making macarons would find this information of particular interest.
I am not exactly sure why so many people want to make macarons. I usually tell them—“Come to Paris!” and buy them here. They’re not really something people would consider making at home: like baguettes and croissants, you’ll find them at many neighborhood bakeries and pastry shops, and even in the frozen food department of the grocery store. It’s like making your own hot dog buns if you live in America. It’s just something most people don’t do.
I once asked a restaurateur, who owns restaurants in European and in America, what he thought was the main difference between the food in American and the food in Europe.
“Everything’s very sweet,” he replied, right away.
I thought about it for a moment, and considering everyone’s got their panties in a knot about all the sweeteners that are dumped into everything from tomato sauce, bottled salad dressings, to supermarket bread, he’s got a point. A lot of stuff that doesn’t need to be sweetened, is. But one thing that we Americans do like is tart citrus desserts. The tangier, the more mouth-puckering, the better.
Backing up his claim, though, we do tend to pile ours up to the moon with whipped cream or sweet meringue. So he does have a point.
When you make desserts in a restaurant, the most important thing you can do is to smell anything made of plastic before you put anything in it. I remember someone made a big batch of crème anglaise one morning…and that evening, when I went to serve it, I opened the lid and the overpowering smell of garlic blasted forth, rendering the whole batch useless.
A few years Iater I worked as a pastry chef at a southeast Asian restaurant, which was great: I never had to sniff anything since I was using the same ingredients—ginger, chiles, galengal, and spices—as the regular cooks.
Often bakers and ice cream-lovers will find themselves with a few too many egg whites leftover. So what to do with all of them? It seems I, too, always have a few in a container in the refrigerator. Liquid egg whites can be frozen just as they are. I usually do it in a specific quantity, and label it as such, since there’s nothing more infuriating than needing 1 cup of egg whites and trying to chip that away from a frozen-solid block in the freezer. Some folks devote an ice cube tray to egg whites, slipping one in each indentation so they know exactly how many they have. Just so you know, one large egg white is about 2 tablespoons and weighs 25 grams. I often freeze the whites in plastic containers, then slip them out of the containers, once frozen, then wrap them in plastic and secure them in zip-top freezer bags – with the quantity and date written on the outside.
Here are some favorite recipes of mine, and some from others, that are great ways to use up leftover egg whites:
Or…you can make an ice cream ‘volcano’….like I did!
To Start Your Own Volcano: Line a deep bowl with plastic wrap, then fill with layers of ice cream or sorbet. You can either use homemade or store-bought. Either way, the ice cream should be slightly-softened so it’s spreadable.
It’s best to create layers that are roughly equivalent in size. Add one layer, smooth the top and let it freeze for about an hour. Then add the next and let that freeze as well. You can add as many layers as you want, but three’s my limit and I fancy alternating ice cream and sherbet or sorbet layers.
Once you’re done with all the layers, trim and line the bottom (the exposed end) with a layer of spongecake, saturating both sides with sugar syrup. Use a favorite spongecake recipe, but the piece should be about 1-inch (3 cm) thick. Make a small amount of sugar syrup by boiling about 1/4 cup (60 ml) water with 2 tablespoons sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Let it cool completely, then add a good pour of your favorite liquor. The syrup’s necessary to keep the cake from freezing too firm, but the alcohol can be omitted if you want.
Now freeze the entire cake really well (which is especially true if, like me, you have to drive 2 hours en route to the party you’re going to and you get stuck in a traffic jam at le péage, the toll plaza, because some knucklehead in front of you didn’t have money or something and traffic’s backed up to lord-knows-where. I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest. Me was freakin’.)
To Meringue the Volcano: Add some room temperature egg whites to the bowl of an electric mixer. The amount of egg whites it will take depends on the size of your cake so it’s hard to say, but leftover whipped and sweetened meringue can be baked as cookies. (You can read detailed meringue instructions here.)
Beat slowly, then increase the speed, adding a pinch of salt, until the egg whites start to hold their shape. Gradually add an equal quantity of sugar while whipping at high speed until thick, glossy and firm. You can add a few drops of vanilla extract if you’d like.
Remove the cake from the freezer and unmold it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to remove the plastic wrap, but I’m going to tell you anyways. Spread the meringue all over the top and sides. Bury a half an egg shell in the top, open side facing outwards and smooth the meringue up and around it.
At this point, you can refreeze the cake until ready to brulée—or torch that sucker right away.
To Serve: Brown the volcano in an oven that’s been pre-heated to a very high temperature, around 500F (260 C). It shouldn’t take more than a minute or two to ‘cook’. I like to finish it with a blowtorch since it looks more dramatic with slightly-burnt edges.
Fill the egg shell with liquor that’s at least 40% alcohol. Turn off the lights, ignite the liquor*, and let that Krakatoa glow!
Cut the cake with a narrow, long knife dipped in very hot water.
*Of course, always take precautions when lighting anything: Make sure nothing is flammable nearby including your sleeves. Avert your face when lighting the flame and keep kids away.
Just in case you live in a top-floor Parisian apartment with feeble water pressure, if you’re testing recipes involving baked meringues, I don’t recommend disposing of them here.
I hope by tomorrow they’ll finally be gone.
UPDATE: March 8 (the next day)—they’re still not gone!