Pumpkin Macarons

It’s definitely nice to be back in the kitchen and baking again! I haven’t made any macarons since I baked large batches of rose and lavender macarons almost a year ago. This time, I made pumpkin spice macarons filled with a pumpkin buttercream as well as a pumpkin white chocolate ganache.

Pumpkin Spice Macarons filled with Pumpkin Buttercream and Pumpkin White Chocolate Ganache

Pumpkin Spice Macarons filled with Pumpkin Buttercream and Pumpkin White Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients for Pumpkin Spice Macaron Shells:
125 g (1 cup + 2 Tbs) almond flour or 125 g (11/4 cups) blanched almonds
215 g (13/4 cups) powdered sugar
1 Tbs pumpkin pie spice
100 g (3 large) egg whites, aged
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
35 g (3 Tbs) granulated sugar
2-3 drops gel food coloring (optional)
chopped pecans for shell toppings (optional)

Prepare the dry ingredients: Grind the almonds, powdered sugar, and pumpkin pie spice together in a food processor for 2 minutes, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides. Sift the mixture twice, regrinding any large pieces of almonds if necessary.

Prepare the meringue: In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites on low speed until bubbles begin to form (speed 4 on the KitchenAid mixer for 1 minute), then add the cream of tartar. Continue to mix on low speed until the cream of tartar has dissolved and the egg whites appear frothy (about 1 minute). Add the granulated sugar in three portions, while mixing on medium speed, until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites have soft-medium peaks (speed 6 on the KitchenAid mixer for 2 minutes). Continue mixing on high speed for 60-90 seconds, until the egg whites have firm, glossy peaks (speed 8 on the KitchenAid mixer). Add orange food coloring, if desired, then beat on the highest speed just long enough to evenly disperse the color (speed 10 on the KitchenAid mixer for 30-60 seconds).

Perform the macaronage: Gently fold the dry ingredients into the meringue in 2 to 3 portions. To properly fold in the ingredients (i.e., to evenly mix while deflating some of the air in the meringue), scrape the spatula along the bottom of the bowl, then bring the spatula to the top and press down into the batter. Check the consistency of the batter in between every few folds. The batter should slowly fall off the spatula in ribbons, and any peaks should flatten out in about 15 seconds.

Pipe the batter: Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a round tip (about a 1-cm diameter). Pipe circles on a baking sheet fitted with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Use a template to ensure uniform circles.

Rest the piped batter: To eliminate any air bubbles, firmly rap each baking sheet against the counter (while keeping the sheet level). Sprinkle chopped pecans on half of the shells, if desired. Rest the sheets on the counter for 30-60 minutes (or as little as 15 minutes, depending on the humidity), until the tops of the shells form a skin–the batter should not stick to your fingers when lightly touched.

Bake the shells: Bake the macaron shells, one sheet at at time, at 275-300°F for 16-18 minutes, until the shells don’t wobble and can be easily removed from the parchment paper. Allow the shells to cool down before filling them.

Makes: 30-35 filled cookies

Pumpkin Spice Macarons filled with Pumpkin Buttercream

Pumpkin Spice Macarons filled with Pumpkin Buttercream

Ingredients for Pumpkin Buttercream:
100 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
65-70 g (2 large) egg whites
125 g (9 Tbs) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
100 g (1/3 cup + 1 Tbs) pumpkin puree
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Prepare the meringue: Place the sugar and egg whites in a double boiler and whisk continuously, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 160°F. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk the egg whites on medium-high speed, until a stiff, glossy meringue forms and the bowl is cool to the touch.

Make the buttercream: Beat the meringue on medium speed while slowly adding the butter. Make sure each addition of butter has blended in before adding another chunk.

Flavor the buttercream: When all the butter has completely blended in, add the pumpkin puree (in multiple portions) and pumpkin pie spice to the buttercream mixture. Continue beating until the mixture is well-combined.

Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients for Pumpkin White Chocolate Ganache:
60 g (1/4 cup) heavy cream
30 g (2 Tbs) butter
100 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1 tsp sea salt
7 g (2 tsp) cornstarch
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
80 g (1/3 cup) pumpkin puree
120 g white chocolate

Prepare the cream: Place the heavy cream and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir in the sugar, salt, and cornstarch until all the ingredients are dissolved.

Flavor the cream: Stir in the pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin puree. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from heat.

Make the ganache: Add the white chocolate and stir until all the chocolate is melted into the mixture. Allow the ganache to cool to room temperature and solidify.

Makes: 1.5 cups

There may be leftovers of both the buttercream and ganache after filling the macarons, but they both store well. Buttercreams can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for a few days, or in the freezer for a few months. To reuse the buttercream, simply whip it in the bowl of a stand mixer until it comes to the right consistency–this is especially important because of the moisture from the pumpkin.

Pumpkin Spice Macarons filled with Pumpkin White Chocolate Ganache

Pumpkin Spice Macarons filled with Pumpkin White Chocolate Ganache

Prepare the fillings: Place the buttercream and ganache in the refrigerator if they are too soft to work with. When ready to use, transfer each filling to a piping bag.

Assemble the macarons: Match like-sized macarons to each other in pairs. Pipe the buttercream or ganache in the center of one cookie. Gently press down on the filled cookie with the other cookie until the filling just spreads to the edges.

Mature the macarons: Place the macarons in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 24 hours (to allow the flavor and moisture of the filling to infuse into the cookies). Allow the macarons to come to room temperature before serving.

At first I wasn’t sure if there would be enough pumpkin flavors in the macarons, but these tasted great and weren’t too sweet! My fiancé typically doesn’t care for anything with pumpkin, or sweets for that matter, but he actually loves eating these macarons. These are now on my list of holiday desserts that I plan to make every year!

Turkey & Shrimp Shumai (燒賣)

One of my favorite brunches is dim sum! Whenever I go out for dim sum, I always order turnip cake, shumai/shaomai (燒賣), rice porridge/congee, and various types of dumplings filled with shrimp. Unfortunately, I have to drive far to eat good quality dim sum at an affordable price–it would be fantastic if I could create an array of dim sum dishes from my very own kitchen! I have already come up with a simple and delicious recipe for rice porridge. Just recently, I created my own version of shumai using ground turkey.

Turkey & Shrimp Shumai

1 lb ground turkey
1/2 lb shrimp, diced
1 stalk green onion, diced
3 Tbs cilantro, diced
2 Tbs ginger, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs corn starch
2 tsp salt
1 Tbs ground pepper
1 package shumai wrappers

Create the filling: Excluding the shumai wrappers, thoroughly mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.

Fill the wrappers: Place approximately 1 Tbs of the filling in the center of a shumai wrapper. Wet the edges of the shumai wrapper, then gather them up to form a pleated cup, leaving the top of the filling exposed. Continue wrapping the filling in shumai wrappers until all the filling is used up.

Steam the shumai: Line a bamboo steamer with cabbage leaves or parchment paper, then fill with a layer of shumai. Place the bamboo steamer over a pot of simmering water, and cook for approximately 10 minutes. Serve with favorite dipping sauce.

Makes: 50 pieces

I love how easy this is to prepare! The ground turkey can, of course, be substituted with pork or some other type of meat. I like to use turkey since it is slightly healthier, and I feel less guilty about eating so many!

Sunshine Award II

This is long overdue, but I’d like to thank Sam of Tea and Sesame for nominating me for the Sunshine Award! Sam’s blog features many recipes inspired by her multicultural influences. I was also recently nominated by Jayeeta of Cooking Delight for the same award! Jayeeta’s blog also features multicultural cuisines. I especially enjoy her homemade Indian recipes!

Sunshine Award

The rules are:
1. Include the Sunshine Award icon in your post and/or on your blog.
2. Link to the blogger who nominated you.
3. Answer 10 questions about yourself.
4. Nominate 10 other bloggers to receive the award.
5. Link to your nominees and let them know you nominated them.
6. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer.

I will be answering a combination of questions from both Sam and Jayeeta:

1. What do you look forward to most when you first wake up? A strong cup of coffee. If I don’t drink coffee within a couple hours after waking up, it makes getting through the rest of the day very difficult!

2. Are you a ‘night’ or a ‘day’ person? I try to make myself more of a day person, but I am naturally a night person!

3. Why did you start blogging? I decided to start blogging to document the dishes I make on my own in the kitchen. Blogging is also a great way for me to meet other bloggers and learn from them.

4. What would you like to see on my blog in the future? I’d love to see more unique desserts or baked goods that utilize an interesting combination of ingredients and flavors.

5. What was the last thing you Googled? “DIY card box wedding”…I’m starting to realize that my budget is not realistic for some of the wedding vendors in my area, so I need some budget-friendly wedding ideas to help offset the costs!

6. Flowers or chocolates? Chocolates, of course!

7. What has been your favorite blog post to write? My favorite blog post to date is my Rose and Lavender Macarons. I spent a long time practicing and prepping for this macaron project, and it turned out to be a great experience!

8. When was the last time you did a handwritten letter, who was it to? …This is sad, but I don’t remember! I am sure it was in a card to a friend.

9. What cheers you up on a dreary day? Being with loved ones always cheers me up.

10. What can we expect to find from your blog in the future? Definitely more restaurant reviews, and hopefully more recipes later this year!

These were great questions, and definitely thought-provoking, so I will ask my nominees to answer the same set of questions. My nominations for the Sunshine Award are:

La Petite Casserole
Improv Artz
The Blog Around The Corner
Maui Girl Cooks
Rammiegirl 2.0
Baker at Heart
My Simple Delights
The Reading Bud

Thank you, Sam and Jayeeta, for the award!

My Writing Process Blog Tour

I am so excited that Jessica of The Slender Grapefruit invited me to be a part of the My Writing Process blog tour! Jessica’s blog is packed with healthy recipes and fitness tips. She is an inspiration to those who strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle!

For those who are unfamiliar with how the blog tour works, I answer a set of questions about my writing process and then introduce three other bloggers who will answer the same set of questions next week. Each of them would also introduce a set of three bloggers for the following week, and so on.

What am I working on? Honestly, I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t been blogging regularly. It’s been hard to find time to cook and bake. I do, however, have a shumai recipe in the works! Outside of blogging, I’ve been busy at work and also with wedding planning, among other things. I am not hiring a wedding coordinator, so please send me some planning tips if you have any!

How does my work differ from others of its genre? My blog covers a wide range of food-related topics. Although the majority of my writing is focused on recipes that I’ve tested or modified, I try to be diverse with my posts by reviewing food from restaurants and food events. My recipe posts are diverse and range from desserts to Asian dishes.

Why do I write what I do? I’ve always had a passion for food, and also picked up my passion for cooking and baking 4-5 years ago. Writing about food is a great way for me to document my discoveries and to share them with everyone.

How does your writing process work? I typically have a (never-ending) list of dishes or food items that I want to make from scratch in my own kitchen. I decide what to make next based on my current mood and the availability of ingredients. I try my best to take pictures from start to finish as I cook or bake. Within the next couple days, I begin writing my blog post, which includes the recipe instructions and the appropriate pictures (I add in the pictures last).

Who’s Up Next:
The Not So Creative Cook: Jhuls is one of the most diverse bloggers I know! Her recipes range from Filipino dishes (both savory and sweet) to healthy food items like smoothies. She also occasionally writes reviews on books that she reads.
Improv Artz: This creative individual also blogs on a variety of topics. While her food-related posts are fun to read, I find her DIY projects (such as custom baby shower cards) most interesting. I learn a lot from her posts!
Shivaay Delights: Dimple runs the ultimate food blog! Her blog contains all sorts of recipes that will provide you with ideas for breakfast, lunch, and multi-course dinners. I’m always looking forward to her next post!

Thank you, Jessica, for allowing me to be a part of this tour! I am looking forward to reading the posts for next week’s blog tour!

More Pan Seared Salmon, Please

One of many things my fiancé and I love to do together is going on wine tasting trips. We often visit Temecula (just under two hours south of Los Angeles), where there are tons of wineries along a couple of long roads, making it convenient for us to hop from one winery to the next. With all the wine we drink, we have to make sure that I eat enough throughout the day (he can handle his alcohol intake much better than I do)!

One early afternoon, we had lunch at Ponte Family Estate Winery’s well-known restaurant, The Restaurant at Ponte. The dining area is located outdoors, with a nice view of the gardens and vineyards. The restaurant’s menu features locally grown produce and changes seasonally.

We started off with a plate of fried Calamari, which came with zesty marinara and roasted garlic & lemon buttermilk sauces. The calamari was lightly breaded and fried to the right amount of crispness.

Calamari with Marinara, Roasted Garlic + Lemon Buttermilk Sauce, Radicchio, Arugula, Bell Peppers, Frisee Salad, Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Calamari with Marinara, Roasted Garlic + Lemon Buttermilk Sauce, Radicchio, Arugula, Bell Peppers, Frisee Salad, Blood Orange Vinaigrette

My fiancé ordered the Meatloaf, which was made of beef and lamb–the perfect combination of meats for him! The wild mushroom demi added an extra depth of flavor to the dish. The creamy Yukon potato and celery root mash and side of broccolini nicely balanced out the flavors of the rich sauce and hearty meatloaf.

Meatloaf with Wild Mushroom Demi, Broccolini, Yukon Potato + Celery Root Mash

Meatloaf with Wild Mushroom Demi, Broccolini, Yukon Potato + Celery Root Mash

I tend to find that restaurants overcook their salmon, but this Salmon was perfectly cooked–soft and flaky on the inside with a slightly crisp outer layer. The orange pomegranate sauce added a fresh, fruity flavor to the dish. The salmon rested on a bed of creamy butternut & pumpkin squash farro. The sweet and savory flavors blended well together.

Salmon with Orange Pomegranate Sauce, Acorn, Butternut + Pumpkin Squash Farro

Salmon with Orange Pomegranate Sauce, Acorn, Butternut + Pumpkin Squash Farro

It was the perfect lunch to accompany a day of wine tasting! Overall, the food was fantastic and the service was spot on. We originally thought the menu was a bit pricey, but the quality and portion of food justified the price. I hope to dine at the restaurant again during my next trip to Temecula wine country!

The Restaurant at Ponte
35053 Rancho California Rd
Temecula, CA 92951
Price: Appetizer, $8-24; Lunch Entrée, $15-$35; Dessert, $9

More Garlic Ice Cream, Please

As I turn older, I care less about having big birthday celebrations. However, I do still love going out for a nice dinner! For my birthday this year, my fiancé took me to The Stinking Rose, a unique restaurant that serves American-Italian cuisine and pays homage to all that is garlic.

Mussels & Shrimp

Mussels & Shrimp

We started off our dinner with Mussels & Shrimp roasted in an iron skillet. The mussels, though slightly overcooked, were tasty and plentiful. Each bite of juicy shrimp dipped in garlic butter was extremely satisfying.

Bone-In Filet Mignon

Bone-In Filet Mignon

With perfect timing, our entrées came out right before we finished the mussels and shrimp. My plate of Bone-In Filet Mignon was nicely seared to a medium rare plus. I loved how my fiancé’s Garlic Braised Boneless Short Rib came in a leaner (read: healthier) cut but was still pull-apart tender. My fiancé, on the other hand, does not like his meat so lean and preferred the filet mignon–we ended up switching our entrées with each other! Both entrées came with a side of delicious creamed spinach and creamy garlic yukon gold mashed potatoes.

Garlic Braised Boneless Short Rib

Garlic Braised Boneless Short Rib

I love it when a restaurant brings out free dessert for a diner’s birthday! Along with some garlic hats to wear for a photo, we were served a large scoop of Gilroy’s Famous Garlic Ice Cream in a martini glass. Not knowing what to expect, we were pleasantly surprised by the taste of the ice cream! The thick, sweet caramel molé sauce was a nice complement to the subtle garlic flavor of the decadent ice cream.

Gilroy's Famous Garlic Ice Cream

Gilroy’s Famous Garlic Ice Cream

My birthday dinner was so decadent and will be remembered for years to come! This was my first time eating at The Stinking Rose, and I plan on dining here again in the future. My fiancé and I left the restaurant with our appetites sated and our mouths smelling of garlic. We almost had dinner here for our first date over four years ago–perhaps it’s a good thing we didn’t!

The Stinking Rose
55 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Price: Entrée, $19.95-$49.95; Dessert, $7.95-$9.95

Dragon’s Loyalty Award II

The wonderful Jhuls of The Not So Creative Cook nominated me for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award! Some of Jhuls’s latest recipes include delicious biko (sweet rice cake) and grilled chicken wrap. I always enjoy visiting her blog!

Dragon's Loyalty Award

The rules are:
1. You must link the person who has nominated you.
2. You must share 7 things other bloggers may not know about you.
3. Nominate up to 15 people.
4. You must go to their blogs and notify your nominees.

Seven things about me are:
1. I cannot wait for 24: Live Another Day to air in May! One of my all-time favorite TV series is 24.
2. I normally drink a huge (and I mean huge) mug of coffee throughout the day, and several cups of tea at night.
3. Aside from a few exceptions, I usually don’t like eating anything pickled.
4. I took piano lessons up through high school, for about ten years.
5. My favorite video game series is Resident Evil.
6. History was my least favorite subject in school.
7. If I could only choose one favorite movie genre, it would be horror/suspense.

My nominations for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award are:
Maui Girl Cooks
La Petite Casserole
The Good Food Theory
Oh Lidia

All of these bloggers, like Jhuls, create wonderful posts and are amazing supporters of other bloggers as well. Thank you, Jhuls, for this award!