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Almond Threesome

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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.
 
 
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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.

Step 2: Make almond milk

1 C water
1 C almond meal


You can adjust the proportions of almond meal and water, depending on how thick you want your almond milk to be.  Add water and almond meal to a food processor or blender.  Blend, then strain the milk into a container.  Save the pulpy almond for the almond cakes.  I had a little less than 1/4 C of almond pulp, which is what I used.

Step 3: Prepare almond panna cotta

1 1/4 C almond milk
3/4 C whole milk (or cream, if you prefer)
1/4 C sugar
1 packet unflavored gelatin
2-3 drops almond extract, optional
3 T water


Spray ramekins or teacups (whatever molds you plan on using) lightly with oil.  Empty packet of gelatin into a container and stir in the water; let sit 10 minutes until the granules absorb the water.

In a separate dish, heat the milk and almond milk with the sugar in a microwave until the mixture is hot and the sugar is dissolved.  Pour the hot liquid onto the gelatin and stir until gelatin is dissolved and thoroughly mixed.  Add almond extract, if using.

Pour the mixture into the individual containers and refrigerate a couple hours until panna cotta is solidified.

Step 4: Bake almond cakes

Picture of Bake almond cakes
5692253179_413ba80086.jpg
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1 egg
1/4 C (or slightly less) pulpy almond left from making almond milk
6 T butter
1/2 C flour
1/4 C sugar
1/4 t almond extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a square 8x8 or 9x9 inch pan with oil, then line with waxed paper, leaving enough overhang to grab later.  

Melt butter and mix with almond pulp and egg.  Stir into flour and sugar, then add almond extract.  Spread batter evenly in pan.  Bake until the middle is just set and the edges are barely starting to turn golden, about 7-10 minutes.  Let cool, cover pan with another piece of waxed paper, then invert pan to remove the thin cake.  Peel off the layer of waxed paper now on top.

Using a long serrated bread knife, divide the cake into 16 equal squares.  I didn't have round cookie cutters the right size (they were slightly too big or too small).  I cut up a soda bottle and stapled it to make round cookie cutters for this.  My square also wasn't very even, so the circles weren't quite perfect at one side.  Use a round cookie cutter to cut the largest circle possible from each square.

Use a smaller round cookie cutter to cut a small circle from 8 of the circles, making sure the rings of cake are thick enough that they won't fall apart.

Eat the scraps, but not all of them right away.  Save some for tasting with the chocolate sauce you'll make later.

Step 5: Assemble the almond cakes

baked almond cake circles
apricot preserves (I prefer the all fruit kind without added sugar so it's not overly sweet)


Heat a couple spoonfuls of apricot preserves in a pan on low until liquefied.  Strain into a small container.  While the apricot preserves are still warm, use a paintbrush to paint a circle border around one of the solid cake circles.  Place a cake ring on top.  Paint the cake ring with apricot preserves, and top with another cake ring.  Repeat with 3 more solid circles and 4 more rings so you have four cup shaped almond cakes with two cake rings stacked on top of a solid bottom.

Cover each assembled cake with a small piece of waxed paper.  Top with the four remaining cake circles, then with one more piece of waxed paper.  Using a flat surface like a book, gently press down on the cakes for a minute or two.  Watch the cake from the side to make sure you don't crush it.

Step 7: Prepare tart cherry tapioca pearls

1 C tart cherry juice
1/2 C small tapioca pearls
1 t sugar

Soak tapioca pearls in cherry juice and sugar for at least 30 minutes.  Pour into a pot and add a couple cups of water.  Cook on medium for about 15 minutes, until pearls are no longer hard on the inside.  Strain the pearls, rinsing off any excess tapioca goo if necessary.

Step 8: Make the sauces and fillings

Milk chocolate strawberry sauce:

1/4 C milk chocolate chips
2 medium-large fresh strawberries, chopped 
2 T mascarpone cheese
1 t sugar
1 pinch soy lecithin

Melt the chocolate with the strawberries and butter.  Blend thoroughly, add soy lecithin, and blend a bit more, trying to incorporate some bubbles to lighten the sauce a bit.


Macaron filling:

1/4 C milk chocolate chips
2 T milk chocolate strawberry sauce
2 T butter

Melt the chocolate chips with the sauce and butter.  Stir til smooth; cool, then stir again.  Spread the filling between two macaron halves, sandwiching them together.  Don't use too much filling or it'll squish out when you bite into the cookie.

Dark chocolate cherry sauce:

1/2 C dark chocolate chips
1/2 C tart cherry juice
2 T butter
pinch soy lecithin

Gently melt the chocolate chips in the cherry juice and butter.  Stir well and cool slightly.  Add the soy lecithin and blend well, making sure to incorporate tiny little bubbles so the sauce tastes a bit lighter.  Pour into a small zip top bag.  Snip a VERY TINY corner of the bag when ready to pipe the sauce.

Raspberry Mascarpone filling:

1 oz white chocolate
1/4 C mascarpone cheese
1/4 C fresh raspberries
1 t sugar

Grate 1 oz white chocolate with a microplane.  Add 1/4 cup of the grated white chocolate to the mascarpone, raspberries, and sugar in a bowl.  Reserve the rest of the white chocolate for garnish.  Use a fork to mash the raspberries into the other ingredients, and stir well to combine.

Use a spoon to fill the almond cakes with the raspberry mascarpone.  Place the tops on the cakes.  

Raspberry white chocolate sauce:

Heat the remaining raspberry mascarpone filling, then strain it, reserving the liquid and discarding any remaining solids.


Step 9: Plate the dessert

Picture of Plate the dessert
The previous steps can be done ahead of time.  Plating should be done right before serving.


Take your dark chocolate cherry sauce and practice drawing with it, either on a plate or some other surface.  WARNING:  don't turn off safe search if you're doing a google image search to find inspiration for the chocolate background design, especially if your search includes the word "threesome."  Or, if you choose to ignore my advice, don't start drawing on plates at 4am after looking at said images.  I looked at my plate drawings after getting some sleep and realized I couldn't even post most of them to instructables without risking being banned.

Spoon some milk chocolate sauce onto the plate.  Pipe dark chocolate sauce on the plate in whatever pattern you like.  Abstract patterns are much less likely to offend your guests, especially if you have an odd tendency to paint naked people whenever you have chocolate sauce in your hands.

Dip the ramekin of panna cotta in some hot water to loosen it, then unmold it onto the plate.  Scoop out a little indentation at the top of the panna cotta, and spoon in some tapioca pearls.  Top with frozen chocolate foam - you might want to save the frozen foam for the last, possibly even waiting until the plates are on the table - because it melts so quickly.  The foam won't lose its shape as it melts, but it won't be frozen any more, and the frozen foam has a really neat texture.

Place the almond cake and the macaron on the plate.  Drizzle some warm raspberry white chocolate sauce over the almond cake.  Place a fresh strawberry over the pink sauce, then sprinkle on some shaved white chocolate.

Shave some milk chocolate over the macaron with a microplane.

If desired, slice a strawberry from the tip almost (but not quite) to the stem end.  Fan it out and place it on the plate.


Thanks for reading!  Please post pics if you make your own.  I'd love to see them.  You don't have to include all components when you make this dish... you just might not be able to call it a threesome.  :)
Mauigerbil2 years ago
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!
aazrhael2 years ago
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...
Beautiful presentation and delicious-sounding recipes. Great work!
wow this is a great
mary candy2 years ago
hummm seems delicious !
I loved it.
canida2 years ago
Wow, this looks incredible! Nice work.
I just picked up some soy lecithin, so plan to have fun this weekend. ;)

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.
supersoftdrink (author)  canida2 years ago
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.
raphnexx2 years ago
wow this is a great post here...yummy
sunshiine2 years ago
I love Italian deserts! Nice ible! You are very creative!
SHIFT!2 years ago
Delicious!
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