Thursday, April 19, 2012

Peanut Butter and Jelly Macarons

This month's Improv Challenge ingredients, peanut butter and jelly, couldn't be a better fit for me. I remember as a child if my mother put anything in my lunch besides PB&J I would just return home with it. I'm not sure if it was the peanut butter or the homemade jelly that was the star of my lunch, but I guess you just can't separate them. I'm glad that all my kids love peanut butter and jelly, and it is a serious grocery emergency if we happen to run out of either ingredient. While the sandwich is a lunch box staple, the combination of creamy peanut butter and sweet jelly is delicious in other ways as well. For this challenge I made peanut macarons with a white chocolate and strawberry jam buttercream filling.

I started with my usual macaron recipe, substituting finely ground peanuts for part of the ground almonds and came up with a nice peanut flavored cookie that still had the characteristics of a regular macaron. I knew I didn't want to fill them with plain jam, or a plain buttercream, so I put the two together to get a smooth creamy frosting with sweet strawberry flavor. As much as our family loves PB&J, we all thought it was pretty awesome to be able to make the cookie version of our favorite sandwich and have little bites of PB&J available in the cookie jar all week long. 

Peanut Butter Macarons
2 egg whites (100 grams)
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup ground peanuts
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar

1. Process the nuts with the powdered sugar in the food processor to combine. 
2. Beat egg white until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar. Continue beating until you have firm glossy meringue.
3. Add the nut mixture in two additions. Sprinkle 1/2 of the nuts over the egg whites and fold in. Repeat with the remaining nuts. Be careful not to over mix. You will know that batter is ready if a ribbon of batter dropped from a spoon on top of the batter in the bowl disappears in 30 seconds.
4. Line cookie sheet with parchment or silpat.
5. Spoon the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch tip. Pipe batter on your prepared pan in one inch dots, they will spread to about 1 1/2 inch diameter dots. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to develop a crust  before baking
6. Bake in a 280 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until cookies just start to color. Cool on parchment paper.  Store in an air tight container.

White Chocolate Strawberry Jam Butter Cream

1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter
3 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons strawberry jam
Pinch of salt

Whip the butter and salt until fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar followed by the white chocolate, beating to incorporate. Add the strawberry jam and continue beating until light and fluffy. Fill each cookie with the butter-cream and refrigerate for 24 hours to allow flavors to mellow.

If you interested in joining the Improv challenge visit Kristen at the Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker.

Link: Foodie Friday

Monday, April 2, 2012

Apricot Oatmeal Scones

When Mimi Jr. first told me how much she loved this recipe, I have to admit, I was a little skeptical, especially since the recipe called for rolled oats. When I think scones, I think light and delicate, and in my mind, oatmeal just doesn't fit into that equation. Since Mimi Jr. loved these so much, I decided to try them for myself. And I'm glad I did. They turned out with the perfect balance of delicate flaky layers and toasty oat flavor, with a texture just hearty enough to satisfy, without being dense or heavy. 

Scones are a great breakfast treat because they can be shaped and frozen, then baked straight from the freezer either for a quick, warm breakfast, or to feed a crowd with minimal effort (for these scones, just increase the baking time to 25-30 min). While we do love our traditional orange zest scones, these are quickly becoming another family favorite, and we all like to know that there is a bag of ready to bake scones in the freezer whenever the craving strikes.

Apricot Oatmeal Scones
adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

1 1/2 cups old fashion rolled oats
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream (you can use 1/2 cup 1/2 & 1/2 instead of the milk and cream)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling on the top of the scones
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (5 ounces) cut into small dice
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots.

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Spread the oats out over a baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Let cool. Measure out 2 tablespoons of the toasted oats for dusting the counter.
2. Increase the oven heat to 450 degree F. Whisk the milk, cream, egg, almond and vanilla extracts together in a large measuring cup. Reserve 1 tablespoon for brushing the tops of the scones.
3. Pulse the flour sugar, baking powder and salt in the food processor until combined. Scatter the butter evenly over the top and process until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, 12-14 pulses.
4.Transfer the flour mixture to a medium mixing bowl and stir in the cooled oats and the apricots. Fold in the milk mixture using a rubber spatula until large clumps form.  Gently knead the mixture in the bowl with your hands until the dough forms a cohesive mass.
5. Dust the counter with half of the the reserved oats. Turn the dough out onto the counter and dust the top with the remaining oats. Gently pat the dough into a 7 inch circle about 1 inch thick. Cut the dough into eight wedges and place on baking sheet lined with a slipat or parchment paper. Brush the tops with reserved milk mixture and sprinkle with sugar.
6. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes let cool and serve.

printable recipe

Links: Foodie Friday