Sunday, May 9, 2010
This is a slightly long post but if you are willing to read through it, I promise you some virtual PBJ Peanut Macarons and a chance at winning a cookbook. That's a pretty good offer, don't you think?
Of course, you could always scroll straight down to the end of this post to read about the giveaway.
It’s been a while since I fell of the French macaron making wagon. There was a time when I was fascinated by the pretty and colourful sandwiched almond cookies that were all rage in the world of food blogs and else where. I so wanted to make a few of my own but had heard how unpredictable these tooth tinglingly sweet cookies could be to make.
I was however convinced that I could make some without too much difficulty. After all what was there to powdering almonds and sugar, beating up some egg whites, folding everything together, piping out the batter and baking them?
A couple of failed attempts were a great leveller. Finally I used David Lebovitz's and I had my first successful batch of Coffee And Dark Chocolate-Nutella macarons.
And the truth is that I haven’t had one single successful macaron batch in a while, despite many grand failed attempts and I bid macaron making as graceful a goodbye as I could.
Then last month some macaron talk on Twitter got me back on the ole macaron bandwagon and I decided to try my hand at making some again.
Since I was trying to get back into Macmode, there’s nothing quite like a fresh start and peanuts instead of almonds in my macarons seemed a good place to begin. I had seen this peanut-chocolate macaron recipe a long time back and that’s what I used here.
One thing different about this recipe is that does not require egg whites to be “aged”. Fresh whites are warmed over warm water, so you can make them even if you don’t have aged egg whites on hand.
I followed the recipe, having learnt from bitter experience that macaron recipes do not respond well to tweaking. I halved the recipe using only 2 egg whites and added a bit of red gel colour to the macaronnage so may macaron shells are a pale pink.
And voila, I had French macarons, the kind with “feet”!
I had filled my earlier macarons with chocolate ganache, so I wanted something else for these.
Somehow, thinking about peanuts took me back to peanut butter and jelly/ jam (PBJ). For us here in India, the “J” in PBJ stands for jam because jelly is not jam but what is referred to as “jello” in the U.S.!
Something as ordinary as peanut butter and jam in something like macarons? Well, why not? It s all about what works together and what tastes good eventually that’s good food for me. So my peanut macarons were filled with creamy peanut butter and strawberry jam.
Here’s the recipe I used. This is the full recipe and I halved this. Please see my previous macaron post for some tips and advice that worked for me.
2 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1 1/3 cups unsalted roasted peanuts
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg whites
creamy peanut butter and strawberry jam for filling macarons
Process the powdered sugar and peanuts until nuts are very finely ground. Take care not to over process the mixture as it will clump and become a paste if the oil from the peanuts get released.
Bring 2 to 3 inches of water to a boil in a medium sized deep pan. Turn down the heat to maintain a very low simmer. In a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk sugar into the egg whites by hand.
Set the bowl over simmering water in pan (bottom of bowl should not touch water) and stir constantly until sugar is dissolved and the mixture feels warm to the touch. Remove the bowl from water and, with an electric mixer on high speed (fitted with the whisk attachment if using standing mixer), whip the egg white mixture until thick, stiff peaks form. Gently fold in powdered sugar-peanut mixture into the egg whites.
Spoon mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip and, with the tip almost touching the parchment, pipe into flat 2-inch circles about 1/8 inch thick, 1 inch apart, on two cooking parchment-lined sheets.
Tap the cookie sheets against table to get rid of air bubbles and allow the piped batter to rest at room temperature for about ½ an hour or so, till the tops of the circle do not stick to your finger when touched lightly.
Place the cookie sheet on another empty cookie sheet and bake the macarons at 130C for about 15 to 20 minutes, till tops are dry and edges have formed “feet”. Let cookies cool completely on sheets, and then remove by gently lifting them up and peeling the parchment away from the bottoms. Store them in an airtight container if not filling immediately.
Spread the flat side of each of half the cookies with a bit of peanut butter and then some strawberry jam. Top each with a second cookie, flat side toward filling.
I know for many people, especially in the U.S., PBJ is something ordinary, perhaps even comfort food, something that one grew up with and took for granted. But as a child, for me, this was the stuff that my story books were made of.
There was a time when books written by Enid Blyton ruled my world. Sure, I read other books and had favourites like Winnie the Pooh and many others. I even remember reading comic books/ annuals like The Beano and The Dandy (any one remember those?).
As an eight-nine year old many of Enid Blyton’s books opened up a world I naively thought could perhaps be real, and secretly envied. Who wouldn’t want to go to boarding schools where children played pranks on teachers, especially Mamzelles who taught French, and where midnight feasts happened?
Imagine having a cousin whose father owned an island and having summer holidays which were filled with thrilling adventures, one after another! And having friends with whom one formed gangs/ clubs and secret passwords which were the only way to get into the clubhouse?
But one thing which invariably kept popping up in all these books was the mention of PBJ sandwiches. These used to be part of many a picnic or carry along meal in those books.
An Enid Blyton is no longer my choice of a good book, though I did revisit that world with my daughter some years ago and her “Famous Five” series lines a part of our bookshelf. But peanut butter (without the jam) is still one of my favourites, and the PBJ combination seemed the perfect filling for my peanut macarons.
For the month of May, the ladies at Mac Tweets want us to create a macaron inspired by a beloved childhood book, an extract, a character, something from any book from your childhood. So these Peanut Butter And Jam macarons are just the perfect thing for this edition.
And now for the cookbook giveaway I mentioned at the beginning of the post.
You might have read the review I wrote, some time back, of Monica Bhide’s Modern Spice which she wrote to introduce Americans to modern Indian cooking. In her cookbook, Monica uses the spices found in most Indian kitchens to cook up dishes with a more modern and international flavour. Yet, every recipe in this book has a very unmistakable Indian flavour in it.
As Monica herself says, "As a new generation of modern Indians, we are changing everything. We love tradition, but embody change; we respect technique, but are playful; our style is refined, our tastes are global.”
Random House India has just published an Indian version of Modern Spice and the book will be available on bookstore shelves from the 15th of this month.
This edition of Modern Spice is very well presented, and attractively put together with each chapter colour coded differently.
The book is slightly different in its approach and in a few of its recipes, naturally, since the target audience are in India. There are also no pictures in this book, which in my opinion, doesn’t matter much as the few pictures in the American edition will not be really missed.
Guava bellini, Pomegranate shrimp, Crab tikkis, Spicy fig yogurt Curried carrot soup with paneer, Pista-mirch-dhaniya spread, and Pan-seared eggplant with ginger and honey are just a few of the recipes in this book.
The publishers sent me a copy of the new Modern Spice and have also been generous to send me an extra copy of the book to giveaway to one lucky reader of this blog.
So wouldn’t you like a chance to win this lovely book?
If you would, please leave a comment below this post telling me why you would like a copy of this book. That’s all it takes.
You don’t have to subscribe to this blog, follow me on social networking sites, link to this post, mention this giveaway (though you could if you wanted to) on Twitter or Facebook, or tell me how much you love my posts, recipes or pictures (though I wouldn’t mind hearing you say so!).
So please leave a comment here (only one comment per person, please) between today and the midnight of the 20th May. I’ll randomly choose one person to giveaway the book to.
This giveaway is open only to Indian residents. If you do live outside India, but have an address in India you would like the book to be sent to (in case you win) then please feel free to join in.