Tag Archives: macarons

Kitchen Adventures: Guava-rama

As much as I’d like to think of myself as something of a food savant, I’ll often come across random things in the grocery aisles and wonder, “What the eff do I do with this?”

Such was the case recently with a round can of guava paste. I picked it up at a local supermarket with an excellent Latin American food section, intending to use a bit of it in a baking experiment, but wasn’t quite clear on what to do with the rest. I mean, there’s a crapload of it stuffed in there. It sort of looks like that gelatinous cranberry jelly that pops out of a can, only darker, thicker and tastier.

Well, it turns out you can use guava paste in a crapload of ways, too–in Cuban empanadas with some cream cheese, in turnovers, in muffins, even in meat sauces. Pretty much anything goes when using the stuff, including these:

Ta-da! Guava macarons, straight up.

I’ll post a recipe shortly for these guava macarons. In the meantime, here’s a fresh and simple way to munch your way through a whole can of guayaba paste: Stick cubes of paste and a white cheese (the stronger-tasting, the better) with a toothpick, add some bread, and have yourself a little feast. Muy bueno!

 

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Mac Madness

My first macarons

Hello. My name is Chow Bella, and I’m a macaron addict.

My obsession with the little Parisian gems first began in September, when, in the throes of post-planning depression after the wedding, I decided to channel some of my pent-up creative energy into making macarons, which are notoriously temperamental and difficult to make.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Parisian macaron, it’s a type of sandwich cookie comprising two meringue disks with filling in between. Think of it as the Oreo’s fancier, cuter and daintier French cousin.

Armed with Jill Colonna’s book “Mad About Macarons” (seriously, I’ve had the best luck with her method), I set off on my culinary adventure, following the instructions to a T. The road from egg white to finished macaron is a long one, fraught with potholes in the form of incorrectly measured ingredients, humidity, and overly low/high oven heat. But the results can be pretty amazing if you get it just right.

My first batch, consisting of a plain almond shell and honey buttercream filling, turned out amazingly well, if I do say so myself. But this first success would open the floodgates to my macaron madness.

I started doing some serious research on different flavor combinations that are out there, starting with the menu from Ladurée, the Tiffany & Co. of the macaron world.

Then I bought “Les Petits Macarons” by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E. McBride to get more flavor ideas, and, after days of planning and mixing, matching and adapting recipes, I made a couple of batches for Thanksgiving dinner (five-spice shells and pumpkin-bourbon buttercream filling). After getting the approval of five real Parisians, I knew my macs were legit.

From there, I just went about crazy making macs as Christmas presents.

First, I made a boatload of two flavors for my in-laws in Minnesota: gingerbread and chocolate mint:

Minnesota-bound macarons

Then, emboldened by the success of these batches, I went into overdrive, dreaming up a rainbow of tantalizing flavors for my friends and family back home in Orange County, California. I had grand plans of packing up hundreds of frozen macs into an insulated bag with ice packs for the 10-hour trip home, thawing them out, placing them in pretty boxes, and delivering them lovingly by hand.

The result? Close to three hundred macs in tea-inspired flavors: Earl Grey and salted caramel, cardamom and chai ganache, matcha green tea and rooibos and white chocolate. It ain’t pretty (my geriatric iPhone 3G can only do so much), but this’ll give you an idea of how far my madness had gone:

A freezer full o'macs

Yep. I’d officially gone off the deep end. All in all, I’d made close to 450 macs in five days. I’d even made extra shells for the tons of leftover filling for Dr. J and I to hoard and nibble on over the next few weeks.

(At least my experience hasn’t led me to conduct even crazier mac experiments in the kitchen, as fellow blogger Not So Humble Pie did back in 2010. Now that’s taking culinary geekery to the nth degree. It’s a great resource, though.)

Even though the process nearly killed me, what makes it all worth it is the moment when someone bites into one of these little guys and gets that “omg this is so good” look on his or her face. For someone who expresses affection through food, that’s priceless. And if all this craziness amounts to an addiction, well, I’m not sure if I want to be cured, to be honest.

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