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Some late mornings just beg an indulgent dish to echo an indulgent previous evening... especially if your companions from the indulgent evening are still with you at brunch.

I wanted to make an artistic dessert-y dish that was still light enough to be served with brunch.  I love the almond and its many incantations, and decided to showcase three different presentations.  I wanted a lot of contrast in the dish; I chose a soft but dense, buttery almond cake and a light, sweet, crisp macaron to accompany the mild, creamy, and soft gelled panna cotta.

Macarons are simple if the planets and stars align and everything goes perfectly.  The other 99.999999% of the time, they're a pain in the rear.  I used this recipe for the macarons because it has volume measurements and I can't find part of my digital kitchen scale... or maybe I broke it... I can't remember.

The financier and madeleine recipes I found were just too dry for my taste, and I was really sick of separating eggs by then.  I remembered the texture of the layers of italian ribbon cookies I made a couple holidays ago and decided to adapt that recipe for this dish.  Okay, that recipe called for separating the eggs and whipping them separately, but I never did.

My sister Kripa (hi, honey!  I love you!) doesn't like the taste of most almond things.  She said they taste too sharp.  I suspect she's referring to heavy use of almond extract.  Even though she's in a different state and couldn't taste this dish, I wanted to make something she'd find palatable.  Most almond panna cotta I've seen uses a fair amount of almond extract, and I wanted to emphasize the creamy nuttiness of the almond.  Commercial almond milk was a bit too thin and watery, and I didn't want the almond milk to be overpowered by the cream, so I made my own with more almond.  That way, I was able to use whole milk instead of cream to make a lighter but not too light panna cotta.


I love cherries with almond, but they're not in season right now and I couldn't even find crappy ones at the store.  I compromised by using cherry juice as one component and two other fresh fruits for the dish.  I also used three varieties of chocolate (dark, milk, and white) to continue the threesome theme.

I played around with two platings for this dish; one includes the tart cherry tapioca pearls and the strawberry milk chocolate sauce; the other does not.  Yes, I know the spoon is on the wrong side.  I was in a hurry to take pictures because the kids were getting into stuff.


This recipe makes four plates, but there will be extra macarons.  That shouldn't be a problem for most people.

Step 1: Make almond macarons

1/4 C egg whites 
1/2 t powdered egg whites
1 pinch salt
1/4 C white sugar
1 C almond meal
1 1/4 C powdered sugar

There are many food blogs with huge sections devoted to the trial and error of macarons.  Lots of them suggest to let the egg whites sit out overnight to thicken.  I guess less water in the batter makes better macarons.  Um... I didn't want to leave raw egg sitting out for hours on end and then serve a dish made with said eggs.  Instead, I used smaller egg whites (less water) and added a little bit of powdered egg whites.  I don't have a silpat and I ran out of parchment (whoops), so I used nonstick aluminum foil.  It worked just fine.

Some recipes also say to leave the pan of piped macaron batter out for an hour or so to form a skin before baking.  Eh, whatever... I didn't want to wait.


Directions:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and line a pan or two with something nonstick.

Sift the almond meal together with the powdered sugar.  Mix the egg whites with the powdered egg white; this will take some time for the powder to hydrate and get rid of the little lumps.  Don't beat the egg whites right now; just mix them until the lumps are gone.  Add the salt, then whip until they start to get foamy.  You want to gently unravel the egg proteins here, not beat them into submission just yet.  When the egg whites start to get foamy, slowly add the white sugar while still whipping.  You can increase the speed now.  Whip the egg whites until they just barely form stiff peaks, but don't over whip or they'll tighten and get lumpy.

Gently fold in the almond meal mixture, half at a time.  Don't stir too hard, and do NOT overstir or you'll deflate the egg whites and the batter will be too runny.  Because I'm still a bit of a noob in the kitchen in some ways, I made sure to fold until things were ALMOST mixed, but not quite.  That way, when I clumsily scooped it into the bag and piped it, the stuff wouldn't get overmixed.  Notice in the pictures that the batter seems stiff at first, but then spreads out on the pan.  You don't want it to be runny right away.

Scoop the batter into a large ziplock bag, snip off a corner, and pipe into little mounds on the prepared pan.  Whack the pan on the stove if you think it'll help remove air bubbles, or leave it to sit for an hour or so if you think that might help.  I didn't fee like doing it.

Bake for um... 10-15 minutes or so.  Lots of recipes will give people headaches because their macarons are slightly undercooked at the bottom and are impossible to remove from the parchment even after cooling (thanks to the undercooked goo).  Some recipes tell you to slightly overcook the macarons so they're dry on the bottom and peel off easily.  Then you're supposed to fill your macarons and let them age for a couple days so the filling can soften the insides of the macarons slightly and bring them to the right texture.


Do whatever works best for you.  I opted to bake them until I could actually remove them from the pan.
Looks tasty! I don't know where my dirty mind went with the title, but us teens are just that way....
This looks delicious! What a lot of work for a dessert plate! Great job!
hey, i love this recipe reminds me of this; http://www.bizupatisserie.com/our_patisseries/products/44/45. thank you so much!!
Oh, the extravagance...<br>Beautiful presentation and delicious-sounding recipes. Great work!
wow this is a great
hummm seems delicious ! <br>I loved it.<br>
Wow, this looks incredible! Nice work.<br />I just picked up some soy lecithin, so plan to have fun this weekend. ;)<br /><br />Also, for drying out the egg whites - why not let them sit in the refrigerator overnight? My fridge is certainly dry enough to facilitate water loss.
because i'm not organized enough to plan ahead like that :) and our fridge is always full and stuff gets spilled... our house is rather chaotic.
YUM.
wow this is a great post here...yummy
I love Italian deserts! Nice ible! You are very creative!
Delicious!

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Bio: I'm known as Glindabunny elsewhere on the web. (silly name, I know... it was based on a former pet) Everyone is born with unique ... More »
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