Macarons Love

aerial macarons
Delicate flecks of raspberry tucked into almond meringue domes have enough berry muscle behind them to fill your mouth with a summer rush. The raspberry in these macarons is a newly discovered, delicate picture of your 90 year old grandmother who weathered the Depression to come up jitterbugging and two-stepping, wry sweetness in tow. Many macarons are without substance, their alluring pastel colours a lie despite their playful names. The macarons of Douceurs de Terroir are grace, a ballerina with a PhD; Billie Holliday after finishing school.

Buttercream radiating with lavender successfully unites the raspberry domes and surpasses all of my hopes for a proper macaron. I also was fortunate enough to try the chocolate honey and the creaminess of the alluring honey domes against the subtle chocolate buttercream. It would delight the rumbling of Winnie the Pooh’s tummy, end his search for yet another smackerel of something.

A tower

I met Florence at Pete’s Frootique on Bedford one sunny Saturday afternoon and from a distance I spotted the corner of one brightly coloured macaron. “Macarons!” I exclaimed in that delightfully awkward way I have and dug my fingers into Mr.’s shoulder. As much as I try I am not that well-versed in baking these treasures and considering I live in Eastern Canada as opposed to Paris, they are not readily available. Florence is a representative of Douceurs de Terroir, a French import company that is mainly focusing on macarons, as they well should since each is a lesson in art.

Lavender macarons
I ate my share of the macarons on our sunny balcony, feet tucked under me. The flavour in every one was full and bold yet so perfectly understated that you’ll think your imagination has snuck its way into your mouth to play.

This is where I mention that I was in no way paid to write this rambling and overly favourable review. I am just smitten and would probably let them pay me in macarons if they asked.

Honey Wasabi Chicken Burgers

Honey Wasabi Chickenburger

The sun peaked out of the dense gray and warmed my dark hair as my children climbed ropes and dangled from monkey bars. It was something akin to a spring day, shrieks and laughter are freer when carried on warm breaths of air. The weight of winter is slowly lifting, never mind that we had a weak Nor’easter bluster its way through the region on Friday because Wednesday and Thursday were devoted to sun. The beginning of a new season is promise and we are in the midst of a full on love affair with spring right now. The rain that beats the windows and chills our cheeks has yet to arrive and if we try hard enough we can even have a picnic outside instead of in the living room, no matter how fun and unique a living room picnic may be in November it has lost its charm by March.

leaning stack of chicken

After Miss N had happily dug in the stones at her playground and hung upside down for an admirable amount of time we ventured off to the grocery store in search of barbecue fare. We rarely buy hot dogs but the first warm day of the year demands hot dogs slathered in ketchup and cushioned on a fluffy white pillow of bun. I am not much for hot dogs so after sighing dramatically over all the packages of sausages that contained corn syrup solids (for all their faults, the hot dogs did not) I settled on ground chicken so I could make these cheese stuffed burgers. Since the children were not having the chicken burgers with us I was free to make them spicy and loaded with onions even though Bubs had half of one for lunch the next day and loved it.

grilled.
I highly recommend storing a package of wasabi powder in your refrigerator for all sorts of culinary uses, mixed with honey or in an aioli and it is one of my quintessential warm weather flavours. If you have ever eaten sushi you will know that wasabi can be a sinus-clearing, eye watering experience if you aren’t careful so just remember you don’t need much to get the woody, mushroomy flavour of it.

Honey Wasabi Chicken Burgers (cheese-stuffed)

Yields 5 patties. Preparation time is 10 minutes and cooking time is 15-18 minutes. Total: 25-30 minutes

1lb. of ground chicken

one egg

1/4 cup finely crushed plain wheat cracker

one onion, chopped

one cup shredded spinach

one tsp each of salt and freshly ground pepper

5 1”x1” squares of goat mozzarella (about a half inch thick)

2 tbsp. liquid honey

1-2 tsp. wasabi paste

  1. In a large bowl combine the first group of ingredients. Mix well with your hands.
  2. Take a clumped pinch (about 2 tablespoons) of the chicken mix and form into a round patty. Place a piece of the cheese in the centre.
  3. Top with another patty made of approximately same amount of ground chicken mix.
  4. Repeat until you have used all of the mix.
  5. To make the wasabi paste add a half tsp of boiling hot water to the dry wasabi powder. Mix until dissolved. Add 2 tablespoons of honey and mix well.
  6. Brush a hot barbecue or equally hot grill pan with oil and gently place the burgers on it. Cook for 7-8 minutes or until the sides of the pink burger are a solid white.
  7. Flip and cook for 7-8 minutes. At the 5 minute mark drizzle the the honey and wasabi over top. Be sure to reserve some of the wasabi honey to spread on the bottom half of the burger bun.

Once cooked dress with a micro spring green mix and a light dollop of mayonnaise. Extra points if you make your own aioli, they are always worth it. We served ours with sweet potato wedges and wasabi mayonnaise. Enjoy.

Cocoa Blood Orange Cupcakes

Blood Orange and Cocoa Cupcakes

A secret of mine, one that Mr. playfully teases me about is that I would dearly love to take part in a pie baking contest. I love recipe swaps and sharing food with others which is largely the motivation behind this blog, the online food community is like a large recipe swap reminiscent of county fairs with shiny blue ribbons, freshly baked pastries and steaming pots of chili. Instead of plank board tables covered in an array of delectables it is our computer screens and the friends peering at our dishes live up to thousands of kilometres away. I am delighted to be a part of a recipe swap, started by Christianna of Burwick General Store. Each month a new recipe from her thrift-store find All Day Singin’ and Dinner on the Ground unites us in inspiration.

This month when the “Busy Day” Wacky Cake made its appearance in my inbox I was intrigued. The original recipe is a basic chocolate cake and the wacky element comes from the mix of baking soda and vinegar which provided a fun at home science experiment for Jennifer at Adventuresome Kitchen. Toni at Boulder Locavore was incredibly secretive about her Gluten-free Volcano Cake which has me incredibly excited and imagining all sorts of exciting things but I know my imaginings will pale in comparison because really, have you seen her blog?

As I ventured into the kitchen, weighted down by an overflowing bowl of blood oranges and a jar of sour cherries in the pantry taunting me I was muddled and a little reticent in my baking hand. There were so many flavours at my disposal and to decide between them all was a challenge. Miss N was pushing for chocolate but Mr. was scowling and Bubs’ only concern was that I didn’t add any frosting. If the child wasn’t an exact twin to 3 year old Mr. we would have cause for concern since the child has no love for icing or potato wedges in direct defiance of my sweet tooth and Mr.’s salty tooth (is that even a thing?).

I dream of making beautiful, round layer cakes with ribbons of delicate icing between each layer and a thick, smooth surface on the outside to hide its inner beauty. Alas, I do not have a round cake pan. My kitchen gadgets are a motley crew, gathered over time and space through need or love and in all that time, a set of perfectly round cake pans have never made their way here. I’d like to imagine that a quivering dessert spoon or scrappy can o’ beans will find their way into my kitchen and set forth to convince a cake pan with a speckled past to join us. (If you haven’t a clue what I’m rambling on about, check out Skinny Legs and All.)

I do have a square cake pan but my love affair with its equal sides is over. I could trim and fuss but the majority of my baking is done with two little people both of whom have neither the patience or the will to watch me hack at their cake. For this reason, the majority of our cake-like baking is in the form of cupcakes. They are cute and a snap for Miss N to transport to school. In keeping the spirit of the “wacky cake” I did prepare the cake batter in one bowl and then spooned it into the cupcake tin. I added a significant amount of cocoa to the batter which gave it an overall fudgey texture and so to compensate for the weight of it I left only a half centimetre of space from the top on each which allowed the cupcakes to rise but not spill over.

The Wacky Blood Orange and Cocoa Cupcakes

2 ½ cups flour

6 tbsp cocoa

1 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 cup cold water

juice of 2 blood oranges

2 tsp vanilla

5 tbsp neutral tasting oil

  1. Whisk dry ingredients in a wide bowl and make a well in the centre for the wet ingredients.
  2. In a large measuring cup whisk the blood orange juice, vanilla and oil. Pour into the well in the centre of the flour mix. Whisk, slowly adding the cold water until smooth.
  3. Bake at 350º for 20 minutes.

The Sour Cherry Glaze

4 tbsp juice from jarred sour cherries

1 1/3 cup icing sugar

  1. Mix on high speed until smooth.
  2. Top the cooled cupcakes with the glaze.

The glaze will mostly sink into the Cocoa Blood Orange cupcakes which will give them a beautiful and smooth crust, to keep them from looking less than appetizing (see the ring of pink around the edge? Use your imagination) dust with icing sugar prior to icing. The cupcakes are not overly sweet because of cocoa and blood orange so this extra dusting of sweetness is perfect. Enjoy.

P.s. Be sure to visit the other swappers, they are a lovely and creative bunch. There are quite a few of us so be sure to stop by Christianna’s page dedicated to the recipe swap as a jumping off point.