Honey I shrunk the (cup)cake!

Cupcakes have started gaining spotlight in the dessert world. Following the explosion in popularity of Sprinkles Cupcakes, Cupcake Wars from Food Network continued to new fad of cupcakes. I personally love cupcakes, I think they are a great way to get a single serving of cake in. I’d like to take some time to talk about cupcakes and making them with any regular cake recipe.

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Almond flour for French Macarons

French Macarons seem to never leave my mind. After my original post about French Macarons I remembered one ingredient that I totally forgot to talk about: almond flour. A few people have communicated some questions about this ingredient so I decided to talk about it for a bit.

Almond flour can be very difficult to find. A couple of places that would have it include Trader Joes, whole food stores, and health stores that have a gluten free section. It is commonly used in gluten free baking.

I’ve actually had the fortune to find it in the baking section of my local supermarket, right below the cocoa powder is. I buy Bob’s Red Mill which looks something like this.

It is typically located in a section filled with Bob’s Red Mill products so it shouldn’t be too hard to locate. If all else fails, try Trader Joe’s.

When my friends tried to make macarons, they attempted to break up the almonds in the food processors. After pulsing almonds in attempt to make almond, you actually get almond meal, not almond flour. Further processing this, creates almond butter instead of almond flour.

The above image is from Serious eats.

In the image above, the macaron on the left has little bumps which should not exist as mentioned in the blog Serious Eats. This occurs when you use either improperly processed almond meal or unsifted almond flour.

Solution

If you are a coffee fan, chances are you already have the solution sitting in a cabinet. A coffee grinder is the secret tool needed to create a fine grain almond flour. In a test across blenders, food processors, mini processors and coffee grinders, coffee grinders were able to present with the finest grain without turning the almonds into mush. There is a major drawback to this solution. Being a aromatic bean, coffee has the  nature of spilling its aroma onto other things. With macarons’ delicate nature, the aroma of coffee could potentially overpower the simple and elegant taste of the cookie.

In addition, while the grain is fine enough to prevent small lumps on the surface of the cookie, the moisture still resides from the blanching process.Moisture  makes the batter very heavy, making it difficult for feet to forming. The difference in almond meal and almond flour is in the grain size. Almond flour should have grains that are around the size of salt making it a light but fine powder. With that being said, how can one make almond flour fine enough for French macarons?

Conclusion

My solution? Buy almond meal. Until I come across blanched almonds dry enough to make almond flour in the processor, I will settle with buying almond meal. I do not wish to make macarons that taste gritty. I also don’t want to have to buy a separate coffee grinder just for macarons. Nor do I want to deal with grinding a small handful of almonds at the time. Almond flour is expensive, about 12 bucks for less than a pound. I, however, find it only a modest investment, an investment that these elegant cookies deserve.

Right before making French Macarons, I take out the needed 3/4 cup almond meal and give it a few pulses in my mini food processor/chopper. Then I proceed with the recipe. Using this, along with the other ingredients outlined in the recipe, I haven’t a problem making macarons. I wish you all the best of luck in your pursuit of macaroon making. Please leave any comments and questions below and I will do my best to answer them!

Source: Serious Eats

Pasta

Pasta is one of the most versatile bases that the Western culinary culture has developed. Just by heading over to google, one can see the huge selection.

It is most definitely possible to spend months looking through different types of pasta. Instead, of focusing on pasta, I’d like to spend a few days focusing on what has become my goto dish. Many who know me will always expect pasta when I cook for a crowd. But refocusing on my introduction, pasta is a “base”. Although there are multiple types of pasta and the variety itself is head spinning. To talk about pasta, we must consider that pasta itself cannot be a dish. Instead, it is the combination of pasta, sauce, and method that makes the delicacy most, if not all, of us have come to know. More after the break

To start off my pasta series, let us consider the basic methods in cooking pasta. When I say cooking, I refer to the actual process of getting the noodles cooked; not the sauces or any other process.

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