Nut Free French Macarons

The October Daring Bakers’ challenge is the most temperamental cookies of all – French macarons. I stopped making these about three years ago, as my little son developed a severe nut allergy. Grinding the nuts, then multiple sifting seemed extremely hazardous and life threatening. I loved the cookies, but mother’s love was stronger, so I gave up on them. I didn’t have my baking blog back then, so this is my first macaron post. Somehow, it hasn’t occurred to me before to look for nut flour substitutes. But it is actually possible. Finely ground coconut, along, or in combination with black sesame seeds produced familiar, very French result. The shape, the texture (thin crackly crust and moist interior) were just as they were supposed to be. I made two kinds:

  • Coconut black sesame macarons filled with wasabi bittersweet ganache (totally awesome filling)
  • Chocolate coconut macarons filled with white chocolate and mango ganache

This month’s challenge was hosted by Ami S., who chose the macarons recipe from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern, which worked for me with some minor baking time adjustments.

I would advise not to get discouraged by some intimidating information on the net concerning the macaron making. It’s definitely not a rocket science. I never had any problem myself; approached them knowing no fear and succeeded on the first attempt (unfortunately, I also didn’t know then that I accomplished quite a feat :)

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Lemon Honey Panna Cotta with Lemon Fennel Puff Pastry Straws

Even the last scraps of home made puff pastry taste great and puff perfectly. Never ever dispose these precious leftovers, always put them to some use. The flavor of the real butter and the texture of the finished product is far superior compared to store-bought puff pastry.

I’m crazy about lemon-licorice combo. But the key is not to overdo the last component. If you wish, you can use anise seeds instead of fennel, but since the anise is more potent, reduce its amount accordingly. A little bit too much and you can end up with a cough syrup flavor.

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Sesame Mascarpone Cookie and Lemon Ginger Ice Cream Sandwiches

I had a little bit of mascarpone cheese left over – not enough to fill a tart or a cake. So, I put it in the fridge and forgot about it. The poor cheese spent there a few days too long and, when discovered, it was suitable for baking purposes only. So, I made some cookies. They turned out quite yummy. They also behaved well as the ice cream sandwiches – neither became too hard nor lost their crispiness once frozen.

I apologize for the recent lack of posts and some unanswered e-mails. We are on vacation. We’ve just returned from one trip and now planning another one. Hopefully, everything will return to normal pace as soon as the school year starts. Thank you, everyone, for the lovely comments you have left! I greatly appreciate it.

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Chocolate-Covered Marshmallow Cookies

Finally, here’s a long ago promised post, part two of the DB challenge. The recipe (another Gale Gand’s) makes an enormous amount of cookies. It seemed a bit boring to make them all plain vanilla (by the way, there’s not even remotely enough vanilla extract stated to make decent-flavored marshmallows, may I say). I made four different kinds as follows:

  • Chocolate cocoa nib cookies with sour cherry jam center and chocolate marshmallow
  • Cinnamon-chocolate cookies with dulce de leche center and chocolate-cinnamon marshmallow
  • Lemon cookies with lemon curd center and blackberry marshmallow
  • Espresso cookies with coffee-flavored ganache center and coffee marshmallow

Unfortunately, I can’t show you the insides of the cookies. I accidentally deleted these photos from my camera before I had a chance to upload them into the computer. It has never happened before… I need a vacation, I guess.

The recipe below is an adaptation of Gale Gand.

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Milan Cookies

This month Daring Bakers’ Challenge was Gale Gand’s cookies, and there were two different varieties to choose from – Milan cookies (ganache-sandwiched thin crispy cookies) and chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies. I intended to make both, and I still do. The marshmallows are in production, four different kinds. I just simply couldn’t finish them on time due to a bunch of circumstances. I will probably post the rest within a week, since dear Nicole from the Sweet Tooth, the host of the challenge, generously extended the posting date. Meanwhile, here’s my interpretation of the Milan cookies.

First ones are lemon-flavored cookies filled with white chocolate and raspberry ganache. I wanted to figure out a perfect formula for white chocolate and fresh berry/fruit puree ganache. I liked the idea to tame the chocolate sweetness with sour fruit. So, I experimented. And the final result was satisfying in every way – flavor was great and the texture was extra-creamy.

The second kind is coconut cookies sandwiched with dark chocolate coconut ganache filling. I used unsweetened coconut milk and a bit of rum in the ganache. It was very nice, but the coconut flavor could be more pronounced. Although, once placed between two coconut cookies, it seemed to get interesting enough.

I loved them both. The cookies were the best (the crispiest) the day they were sandwiched together. I would definitely recommend assembling them the day you plan to serve and keeping the leftovers in the refrigerator.

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Honey Cardamom Mousse with Mango Gelée and Pistachio Apricot Kernel Toasts

Desserts served in glasses (or any other vessels) are stress-free for entertaining hosts. All you have to do on the day you are having guests over is to transfer these glasses from the fridge onto the table. It is very nice not to slice or plate anything for a change, just try to relax and enjoy the company.

The toasts themselves, I suspect, originated from Australia (correct me, if I’m wrong). I saw similar cookies in Australian cooking books and magazines. The cookies are thinner and even leaner relatives of Italian biscotti; basically fat-free besides the fat contained in the nuts. If you are uncertain about using apricot kernels due to safety issues, substitute for whole almonds instead.

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