I made cappuccino squares a couple of weeks ago: a thin chocolate cake base, a chocolate – espresso mousse, topped off with a sweetened whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon. I took them over to our usual Friday night hang out, our friend’s house, for dessert. Now usually, it is not my friend Sara who devours the desserts I bring. The boys and I take them down like champs while she takes pretty little bites and watches us chow down. I mean, she likes them, but they have nothing on a bag of Miss Vickies salt n’ vinegar chips, let’s just say that.
However, on this particular evening, Sara was loving the sweetened whipped cream. She dipped her finger in, recommended I add more next time, and I think even swiped a little from her husband’s plate. This is all very un-Sara.
Sara uses a spoon to try things, takes notes on characters while reading through her piles of books, has file drawers for everything – most impressively the tag from the sheet set she prefers so she could be sure to buy the same ones again, and uses her own acronyms like ABP: Always Be Planning. She does not dip her fingers in.
So, for her birthday I knew her baked something sweet had to be “girl sized”, as she calls it, (another Sara phrase) and it had to embrace the sweetened whipped cream. This was an easy one: macarons.
Sara and I have become dear friends since I married her husband’s friend. The two of them are, well, ‘attached’ let’s just say that. So, by default she and I have become attached. I count her among my closest friends. Here a few loveable Sara-traits, I thought I would share: after a few drinks she busts out the funniest one liners which I cannot list here as they are not really baking-blog appropriate, she suffers from EGD (Excessive Giving Disorder, note the acronym) and as such is always helping people out, she is an over-the-top-dog-mama just like me, she laughs freely, she loves to throw theme parties and she looks so darn pretty while excelling at all these things.
Happy Birthday Sara.
Vanilla Macarons with Sweet Cream
Vanilla Bean Macaron Shells
Recipe adapted from Tartelette
90 grams egg whites (aged in the fridge for 24-48 hours)
200 grams powdered sugar
30 grams granulated sugar
110 grams almonds
vanilla beans scraped from a vanilla bean pod
1 tsp vanilla
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not over beat your meringue or it will be too dry. Combine the almonds, powdered sugar and vanilla beans in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add them and the vanilla 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 flows like magma or a thick ribbon. 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 with the batter and pipe small rounds onto parchment paper lined baking sheets (or a silpat mat really does rule here). Preheat the oven to 280F. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and then bake for 18-20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer.
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp espresso
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Whip the cream and slowly add the sugar, whip until soft peaks. Add the espresso and vanilla and whip until stiff peaks. Place in a piping bag and pipe onto a macaron shell and sandwich with a second macaron.
Since the whipped cream will soften and run about, store these in the freezer and then take them out about 5 minutes before eating them.