Category Archives: maillard

Dulce de Leche Macarons, Defense Catering Part II

If cupcakes were typically glazed with dulce de leche instead of piled high with too-sweet buttercream, I might feel differently about them.

According Bon Apetit, NPR, Salon, and The New York Post, macarons are “the new cupcake.” I, for one, welcome our new, smaller, less frosting-dominated confectionery overlords.

Unlike the American macaroon, usually composed mostly of shredded coconut, the French macaron is a little sandwich cookie made from two airy disks of sweetened almond meal and beaten egg whites stuck together with buttercream or jam. The meringue-like shells usually aren’t flavored, although they are often tinted to match the filling. Traditional filling flavors include vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, and  pistachio. I decided to fill mine with dulce de leche, which I prefer to even the most delicious cooked buttercream. Dulce de leche is basically the apotheosis of the Maillard reaction—milk cooked down with sugar until it forms a thick, sticky caramel. You can start with fresh milk if you prefer, but most people just use sweetened condensed milk.

I baked the dulce du leche in a water bath this time; in the past, I've used the dangerous boiling-a-whole-can method. Both detailed below.

If you cover the dish, you won't have to pull off the burned layer...if you forget, like I did, don't throw it away. That part is almost more delicious than the regular stuff. 

I used a recipe from Tartelette, which appeared to be studded with some kind of caramelized sugar. That turned out to be a praline. However, it wasn’t clear from the recipe when the almonds were supposed to be added to the sugar or in what form (whole? chopped? all it said was “not blanched”). For my first attempt, I added whole almonds to the praline, but once I chopped it up in a food processor as instructed, it just looked like regular chopped up almonds, not at all like Tartelette’s pictures. So I made a second hard caramel without the almonds. That looked right…but then, in the oven, the bits sprinkled on the macaron shells melted and made half of the shells collapse.

I later discovered a much more thorough write-up on all things macaron at Not So Humble Pie. In the future, I’ll use that recipe and skip sprinkling the shells with anything.

The shells, before baking. As they bake, the meringue rises up and forms the little ruffled "feet"

Anyhow, despite being half-collapsed, they were pretty delicious, although they are intensely sweet. You can make them significantly in advance of serving—the quality doesn’t begin to degrade noticeably for at least a few days. We’re still enjoying the leftovers, a full week after the defense. Also, any leftover dulce de leche is incredible on ice cream, pancakes, apple slices, or just licked off a spoon.

Recipe: Dulce de Leche Macarons (adapted from Tartelette)

For the praline sprinkle (if using):Whenever I'm blending powdered sugar, I cover the food processor bowl with plastic wrap so it doesn't billow out like smoke and coat the kitchen in stickyness

  • 2/3 cup sugar

For the dulce du leche:

  • 1 can sweetened condense milk
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1/4 t. vanilla bean paste)

For the macaron shells:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 50 g. granulated sugar
  • 200 g. powdered sugar
  • 110 g. almond meal

1. Place the sugar in a dry saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar melts and begins to caramelize. Cook to a light amber, and then spread on an oiled baking sheet. Let cool for about 10 minutes, and then break into pieces and whiz to a fine powder in a blender or food processor.

dry caramel cooking shards of praline in the food processor

2. If you feel like living dangerously, simply cover the unopened can of sweetened condensed milk with water and boil for 3-4 hours. Make sure to check the water level frequently—if the can gets too hot, it may explode. If there’s any air trapped in the can and it expands, it’ll explode anyway. Assuming no explosions happen, let the can cool, open it, and whisk in the salt and vanilla bean seeds.

Alternatively: poke 2 holes in one side of the can and place it in a pot with water up to 1” from the top of the can and simmer for about 2 hrs, adding water periodically to keep the can at least half-submerged. A washcloth placed under the can will keep it from rattling. Ditto with the whisking salt and vanilla bean in after it’s cool.

Or use the oven method: Preheat the oven to 425F. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a shallow pan and whisk in the salt and vanilla bean seeds. Cover that pan tightly with foil and place it in another larger pan. Pour enough water into the larger pan to rise at least halfway up the sides of the smaller pan, and bake for 1-1/2 hours, or until it’s as thick and dark as you want it. Whisk until smooth.

If you’re dumb like me and forget to cover the pan with foil, you’ll end up with a dark, blistered skin on top that you’ll have to skin off if you want your dulce de leche to be smooth and creamy.

3. Measure the powdered sugar and almond meal into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Alternatively, just whisk them together by hand.

4. Whip the egg whites using electric beaters or a whisk. Gradually add the granulated sugar, continuing to beat until the mixture forms a glossy meringue. Beat just until there are semi-stiff peaks. You don’t want to overbeat the mixture to the point where it looks dry. Not So Humble Pie swears by hand-beating in a copper bowl. I used a KitchenAid and checked the mixture every 10-15 seconds once it looked thick and glossy. I stopped as soon as the peak formed by lifting up the beaters would stay standing up.

the peak folded over a bit, but the peak was stiff

4. Gently sprinkle 1/3 of the almond-powdered sugar mixture over the egg whites, and then fold in with a spatula just until almost combined. Use big strokes that scoop from the bottom of the bowl—you don’t want to deflate the egg white foam you’ve created too much. Repeat with the remaining two thirds of the almond meal—sprinkle and fold, sprinkle and fold, and then continue folding just until fully combined. It should flow like thick cream or pouring custard—if you spoon a little bit onto a plate, it should flatten into a smooth round on its own within 30 seconds with no peaks. If there are peaks that won’t flatten out, give the batter a few more turns with the spatula until it flows like magma.

5. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag or a ziploc with the tip cut off. Pipe little circles about the size of a quarter or a bit larger onto parchment-lined baking sheets.

6. Let the shells sit for 30-60 minutes, or until the tops are dry. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 290F.

7. Bake for 16-20 minutes, or until the shells are set. Watch carefully in the last minutes and remove them before they begin to brown. They should remain a tiny bit moist inside, like a mini version of pavlova.

8. Let cool completely, and then fill with dulce du leche (or whatever else you like).

Maple-brined Roast Pork Tenderloin, or adventures in amateur meat preparation

low lighting apparently makes food look like it comes from the 70s

I stopped eating meat when I went to college. I also changed my name. Both were pretty obviously acts of adolescent self-definition coinciding with the start of a new life chapter, which I basically knew even at the time, although of course I had other justifications. If you’d asked me then whether or not I thought the changes would be permanent, I’m sure I would have given vegetarianism better odds than "Margot." My parents still called me Stephanie, all my friends from high school still called me Stephanie, and even some of my new friends, on learning that "Margot" was a semi-adaptation of my middle name "Mariko," were insisting on using the Japanese version, as if my identification as if "Margot" was a sad capitulation to Western Culture that they were going to prove to me I didn’t have to make. Plus, there was no good reason for me to change my name; Stephanie wasn’t really that objectionable. Vegetarianism, on the other hand, seemed like a moral or socially responsible choice, and unlike the name change, it didn’t require anyone else to change their behavior.

I didn’t really consider the likelihood that if I just kept introducing myself as "Margot" to everyone I met for years, eventually the majority of the people I interacted with would think of that as my name—and, perhaps more importantly on the self-definition front, I would too. Which is precisely what has happened. Nor did I realize just how complicated the ethical implications of meat-eating were or give much thought to the idea that my vegetarianism would actually require people to change their behavior—that in fact, it might occasionally be a social imposition. And unless I somehow remained as autonomous as most college freshmen are, it would eventually me to either find a vegetarian to share cooking and eating duties with or require pretty behavioral changes on the part of any omnivore who I might cook for or who might cook for me on a regular basis.

So a decade later, my name is Margot, and I’m an omnivore.

But I’ve only started cooking and eating meat again in the last couple of years, and for most of that I was a pescetarian, so I’m really still a beginner at cooking meat. This was my first attempt at doing something, anything with pork tenderloin. I decided to brine it, because Alton Brown says that’s helps keep lean cuts like loin moist. As for the actual cooking, I decided to roast it because there’s a lot to be said for the ease and convenience of recipes that involve just throwing a piece of meat the oven for a long time so you can get on with doing other things. The various recipes books I consulted all suggested a blast of high heat to brown the outside and then long slow heat to cook the inside evenly, so that’s what I did.

like for real, this picture belongs in a 40-yr-old cookbook. i promise it was more appetizing in person.I didn’t get any Maillard reaction going on (which is what causes browning on the exterior) even thought the oven was preheated to 500F for half an hour. Maillard frequently escapes me. But other than, it was pretty delicious. You could taste the maple syrup, and it was perfectly pink and juicy and salty. I only had ground allspice, so I took it down from 1.5 T to 1 t. but I think that was still a little too much, so in the future I’d either get my hands on some whole allspice or cut it to 1/2 t. ground.

Served it with a quick colcannon-like dish I made by steaming unpeeled new potatoes whole while I chopped and then sautéed some cabbage and leeks in butter. When the potatoes were tender, I added them to the buttery cabbage and leeks with a generous splash of milk and some salt and pepper.

Pork recipe and instructions after the jump.

Recipe: Slow-roasted maple-brined pork tenderloin (adapted from the Joy of Cooking and Real restaurant recipes)

  • ~2 lbs pork tenderloin
  • 1/3 cup + 2 T.maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup + 2 T. kosher salt (do not substitute regular salt or it will be way too salty–or reduce significantly, possibly 1/4 cup?)
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 2 1/2 cups cold water
  • 3 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1 t. ground allspice (or 1/2 T. slightly-crushed whole allspice)
  • 1/2 T. cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 t. whole yellow mustard seed, slightly crushed
  • 5 medium garlic cloves peeled and crushed

Dissolve the sugar and salt in hot water in a pot big enough to hold the cuts of meat and enough liquid to cover them. Crush, crumble, or crack the whole spices, add them along with the cold water, and stir. Add the pork loin, cover and refrigerate 6-24 hrs.

in the brine 

Preheat oven to 500, remove the meat from the brine and, and pat dry with paper towels.hog tied. ha! i kill me.

I decided to tie the two pieces of loin meat together to make one even cylinder because I was afraid they wouldn’t cook evenly otherwise and it seems like a lot of the roasts I’ve seen on television have some sort of twine action. I don’t have twine, but unwaxed dental floss seems to work just as well.

Let sit for 30 min while the oven preheats so the meat comes to room temperature before cooking.

Roast at 500F for 10 min, and then lower the oven temperature to 200. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 145F, which could be as little as 20 minutes for a very small (2″ diameter or less) tenderloin or as much as 80 min. A 3 lb loin should take about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours total. After you take it out of the oven, tent a piece of foil over it and let it rest for 10 min.

Voila. Pork tenderloin roast.