The Amateur Food Nerd\’s Reviews

June 14, 2006

French Chocolate Macaroons

Filed under: chocolate, cookies, dessert, recipe — amateurfoodnerd @ 10:43 pm

First of all, I would like to give a big thank you to David Lebovitz for kindly allowing me to use his recipe for authentic French chocolate macaroons. You can read his original entry about the delicious subject here.

French macaroons are a world away from American macaroons. American macaroons are large and made with a coconut meringue. French macaroons, however, are little rounded, flat-ish cookies made with a light almond meringue. They are almost always sandwiched together with some kind of filling. I don't know why, but to me, the cute little sandwiches look absolutely adorable. Seriously, I could eat them up! (Only one bad joke per update, I promise.)

I must say, after your first chocolate macaroon, there's no going back. The other cookies just aren't good enough (nor good enough for you). These delicious little sandwiches of chocolatey, almond-y goodness are amazing.

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The little lovlies in all their chocolatey glory.

As utterly delicious as they are, these are sadly, not very easy to make. They are incredibly temperamental. As of this writing, I've made them twice, and while one batch came out much better than the other (the one pictured in this entry), I still don't think they've ever come out quite right. Maybe someone can help me out here, but is the texture supposed to be crunchy on the outside and kind of chewy in the middle? Or is it supposed to be all crunch? Anyway, without further ado, here's the recipe, once again, courtesy of David Lebovitz. Also, in the recipe, David refers to the macaroons as "macarons", which, if you're a regular reader of his blog, you probably guessed to be the French word for macaroon.

Chocolate Macarons

Macaron Batter
1 cup (100 gr) powdered sugar
½ cup powdered almonds (about 2 ounces , 50 gr, sliced almonds, pulverized)
3 tablespoons (15 gr) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
5 tablespoons (65 gr) granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (180 degrees C).

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready.

Grind together the powdered sugar with the almond powder and cocoa so there are no lumps; use a blender or food processor since almond meal that you buy isn't quite fine enough.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm, about 2 minutes.

Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag (standing the bag in a tall glass helps if you're alone).

Pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1-inch (3 cm) circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch (3 cm) apart.

Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the countertop to flatten the macarons, then bake them for 15-18 minutes. Let cool completely then remove from baking sheet.

You've probably noticed that the recipe calls for "Dutch-process cocoa powder." If you're reading this blog, you probably know what that is, but for those of you who don't, I'll go into it a little bit. (Or maybe a lot.) "Dutch-process" simply refers to cocoa that has been treated with alkali. This treatment darkens the color of the cocoa and makes the flavor more mild. "Dutched" cocoa is the industrial standard when it comes to cocoa, though (at least for me) it was difficult to find on US store shelves until recent years. Nowadays, Dutched cocoa is pretty easy to find. A couple brands immediately come to mind: Droste and Hershey's. Droste is a Dutch company, but thier cocoa is pretty expensive (about 12 dollars for a box of about 12 ounces.) Hershey's makes both natural and Dutch cocoa and sells them to the masses at reasonable prices. I paid about $4 for an 8 or so ounce can of cocoa, which seemed much more reasonable after seeing the $12 box of Droste. To pick Dutch cocoa out from "natural" or "unprocessed" cocoa, it will probably say "Dutch-process" or "Processed with Alkali" somewhere on the packaging. The foolproof test that I always use, however, is to just look in the ingredient list for "alkali."

Anyway, back to the macaroons themselves. Making the batter is fairly easy if you have good folding skills. And I don't mean folding paper, of course. Like I said earlier, I've made two batches of these, the first (and better) one is the one you see in all the pictures.

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One pan turned out really well.

 

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The other one…not so much.

Luckily, I know why the macaroons in the second pan cracked; the pan was very thin. I have two jelly roll pans (Well, actually, one of them kind of died on Saturday…my father was trying to clean it with oven cleaner and it totally ruined the non-stick finish. And it was the good one too!) one is beefy and heavy, while the other is light and thin. like I said earlier, the thin one made the macaroons crack. Why, you may ask? It's all about heat conductivity, but, alas, this is a food blog and not, say, Good Eats, so I shant go on.

As I mentioned earlier, French macaroons are usually sandwiched together with filling inbetween. If you look at David's post about them, he has two filling recipes: chocolate and prune. Now, I'll admit, I cheated when I filled them. I should have been a good little foodie and made a batch of ganache, but, it was late and I was tired, so I found this lying around the house…

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I'm bad, aren't I? But you know what? It tasted good, even though ganache would have been better.

Well, what are you waiting for! Get out there and make some macaroons!

June 13, 2006

State of the Blog!

Filed under: Uncategorized — amateurfoodnerd @ 11:09 am

Well, school got out last Thursday and yours truly passed all his exams.  This, of course means a (hopeful) plethora of new blog entries and delicious recipes.  My summer project is to lose some weight, so you'll probably be seeing both some healthy products and recipes.  I'm really looking forward to getting this back in working condition.  I've said before that I want to change the layout, maybe I'll read up on it and make a custom one, although it's probably not my forte.

TO A HAPPY SUMMER OF FOOD BLOGGING! 

May 29, 2006

Gimme Your Stuff

Filed under: Uncategorized — amateurfoodnerd @ 10:28 am

A few days ago, Cybele over at my beloved Candy Blog posted about a new site called Gimme Your Stuff.  Gimme Your Stuff is a new "swap site."  These swap sites help people from wherever trade items (food, candy, CDs, whatever) special to their locale to people from other parts of the country or world.  Moving on, here is my swap list.

-The first thing that comes to mind is wine (I live about 2 minutes away from 10 or so wineries), but that's probably very difficult to ship internationally and I'd generally like to trade with Europe, where they already have lots of the good stuff.

-The next thing, is, of course, US candy.  That's pretty self-explanatory.

-A lot of people don't have access to the wonderful variety of herbs and spices here in the States, so I'd be happy to offer that, if anyone wants it.

-Magazines, newspapers and other printed items.
-Anything else you can think of.

In return, I would like:

-European or Japanese candy

-From France or Italy…Fanta (Greenz, Lemon or Red Emotion flavors) 

-Printed items (especially from France, as I'm learning French)

-French snack food, because it's so different.  I remember the time in France when I bought peanut flavored potato chips. 

May 23, 2006

The lack of content.

Filed under: News and Announcements, Uncategorized — amateurfoodnerd @ 2:19 pm

I'm sure you've all noticed that there hasn't been a whole lot of activity around here as of late.  However,the end of the school year is drawing ever closer, and that can only mean one thing…exams.  Luckily, I'm out of school for summer on June 8th, which means I'll have more free time on my hands than I know what do with.  Also luckily, when I'm bored, I hone my cooking skills.  So, you'll hopefully be seeing a lot of recipes on here starting in the beginning of next month.  As for the rest of May, there will be even less happening then normal.  

*waits for everybody to start yelling and rioting*

Oh, wait, no one reads this anyway.  Oh well. 

May 10, 2006

Jujubes

Filed under: candy, farley/sathers, retro — amateurfoodnerd @ 8:13 pm


Jujubes have got to be some of the stranger candies out there. They're little fruity…things. There's no real other way to describe them. The candies are tapered but round at both ends. They also have an odd texture, as they are thickened with potato starch, which, when mixed with water makes an extremely sticky goo. Personally, I think Jujubes are impossible to chew. You can try, but all you wind up with is a couple pieces of it stuck to your teeth. The only way to eat them is to try and chew them, then get them off your teeth and swallow them. Jujubes come in five flavors: Lemon, Orange, Lime, Cherry, and Violet.

Here, I will now look at each of the flavors in depth.

Yellow (Lemon)-Normally, lemon would be my least favorite flavor, but not in this case (more on that later.) It's a pretty good lemon flavor; sweet with a nice bitter hit. However, lemon just isn't my thing.

Orange-Orange, how you have failed me. You're horrible. There is no orange flavor here at all. I was gravely dissapointed. It seemed to have sucked up some of the lilac favor, but otherwise it just tastes sweet. Ew.

Green (Lime)-As with most old-time candies, the lime is pretty bad. It's your archetypical "floor-cleaner lime" (as Cybele would say) flavor. I must admit though, it still beats orange.

Red (Cherry)-I've always been a big fan of cherry flavored candy. This was a good, old-fashioned cherry flavor. I liked it.

Purple (Violet)-To me, this is the only reason why I would want to buy Jujubes. I am a huge fan of violet candy. This doesn't quite pack the violet punch that say, Chowards violet mints or gum would, but it's still pretty good. If I had to pick one Jujube flavor for the rest of my life, this would be it.

All in all, these weren't exceptionally bad (except for the orange), but they weren't exceptionally good either. I would only recommend these if you already like them or if you're looking for it as a childhood favorite (they've been around since the '20s or '30s.)

Rating: 5/10

Place Purchased: Longs Drugs (Livermore)

Price: $1.29

(Editor's Note: We're trying to make a few changes here at The Amateur Food Nerd. You may notice that we've changed the layout. The whole banana thing was getting annoying, and this new one is just a temporary until I make my own. You also may have noticed the inclusion of AN ACTUAL PICTURE with today's review. This is a trend we intend to continue. Lastly, reviews will hopefully be happening more frequently. We have two reviews lined up for this week and one for next Monday. A big thanks to all four of you who have read and commented!)

April 21, 2006

Coca-Cola Blak

Filed under: Coffee, Coke, Soda — amateurfoodnerd @ 1:25 pm

The general reaction to Coke Blak has been a simple "Ew, coffee and Coke? Gross!" At first upon learning of the new Coke product, my reaction was the same. However, after thinking about it longer, I decided "Eh, it might be pretty good and maybe it will get me to update my blog." So, I set out on a mission to find the coveted Coke Blak. My first try was at the closest grocery store to my house, Safeway. Sadly, after combing the aisles in desparation, they only had the outrageously priced four-pack.

Next, I went to Nob Hill, a chain owned by Raley's that is fairly common in the Bay Area I call home. I looked to their soda section, and there it was, standing out like a brown beacon rising up from a sea of "regular" soda.

I waited until today to try it, because it was too late for caffeine by the time I bought it yesterday. At first, I was a little scared. I like the smell of coffee, but no amount of cream nor sugar can make it drinkable for me. Too strong and bitter! So, I prepared myself, then opened up the bottle and took a whiff. The smell almost killed me. It was pungent and sickeningly sweet. So far, this wasn't looking good. Reluctantly, I took a sip. It didn't seem to taste that bad. In fact, it was surprisingly good! Regretfully, it didn't last long. A few sips later and I couldn't take it anymore. It was cloyingly sweet. I couldn't see how the mere 12 grams of sugar in the bottle could make it so sweet, but it did. Also, the aftertaste is horrible. It's reminiscent of a very strong fake maple flavoring, like the "Old-Fashioned Pancake Syrup" at IHOP on steroids. I guess I should also note that I have a strong distaste for maple flavor, be it real or fake.

All in all, I only recommend this if you're in to coffee. It would probably help. Also, watch out for the super-sweetness. It's viscious. As for me, I'm out a buck and a half and have 3/4 of a bottle of Coca-Cola Krap left on my hands. Any takers?

Overall Rating: 4/10 (would be better if less sweet)

Purchased: Nob Hill (Livermore)

Price: I forget, but probably somewhere between $1.50 and $2.00

March 30, 2006

Maui CookKwees

Filed under: Uncategorized — amateurfoodnerd @ 8:15 pm

(Okay, yes, I am finally posting a review, for all 0 of you people out there waiting with bated breath.)

Last Wednesday, I returned from 5 days on Maui, so the next few reviews are probably going to be restaurants in the Lahaina area and a few products that are exclusive to the islands. Sticking to that, today's review is of Maui CookKwees. These are little, crunchy, shortbread-y cookies that are pretty much the standard size of cookies. They are packaged in cylindrical bags, which may make you think that they'll go stale if they remain open and unsealed, but these are crispy and resilliant enough to last quite a while in a cupboard. (I've had one bag of them open for a week and they are just as crunchy as the day I bought them.)

They come in an array of varieties, but the two I had were White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut and Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut. Both were very good; very crispy and crumbly with a good salty note (something I appreciate a lot in baked goods) and the added crunch of the macadamia nuts. I do have one beef with them, and that is that they don't have a lot of chocolate in them, be it white or milk. Each cookie only has about five chocolate chips in it, which is a little pathetic if you ask me. However, I still highly recommend these if you are going to Hawaii anytime soon as they are definately a unique product.

Price: $1.89

Place Purchased: Long's Drugs (Lahaina, HI)

Overall Rating: 7/10

As a last note, perhaps Marvo could comment on these if he's ever had them? They might be exclusive to Maui, but it would be hard to believe if they aren't sold on the other islands as well.

March 24, 2006

The Amateur Food Nerd

Filed under: blog, News and Announcements — amateurfoodnerd @ 4:14 am

My name is Alex, and I created this blog because I love food. I love eating out, snacking, eating candy. Most of the time I'm adventurous and like to try new things. As you can probably tell by the title, this is another review blog. I will be posting reviews of new and old food products, restaurants and even some candy. I drew most of my inspiration from reading Marvo's The Impulsive Buy (www.theimpulsivebuy.com) and Cybele's Candy Blog (www.typetive.com/candyblog). I probably won't be posting reviews every day, but we'll see. I hope we can all enjoy what is to come

-Alex

The Shocking Blue Green Theme Blog at WordPress.com.

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