Summer is here and what better way to enjoy the good weather by biking around town and immerse in the warm beaches and picturesque beauty of the city. I went biking over the weekend and wow, to say the least, I have forgotten how pretty Vancouver looks in the bright warm summer sun. Everyone was either strolling, biking, roller blading around the sea wall or basking on the beaches soaking in the warm fresh air. Ahhh…this is life. On top of that, it was the first night for Celebration of Lights Fireworks. As usual, everyone and anyone who was interested in fireworks arrived early; nonetheless, that did not dissuade sun loving individuals. I encourage anyone interested in biking to try; just seeing the city in the summer and feeling the gentle warm breeze is amazing and relaxing.
I also went berry picking at Emma Lea Farms over the weekend. Their fields were literally planted with hundreds of blueberry bushes; all ready for the picking. Imagine fresh sweet plump succulent blueberries for pies, ice cream and muffins. Mmmm…. I can’t emphasize enough that local grown products which ripen on the vine or plant is far superior than imported ones. As mentioned before, you get to choose the quality of the berries or fruits first hand thus picking only the biggest or brightest, most fragrant fruit. This time I went to the pick blueberries and to get the last of the strawberries. I was amazed by the size of the blueberries when compared to the ones from a supermarket. The fields were swarming with enthusiastic berry pickers as evident by the packed parking lot. Kids were skirting from bush to bush with their little pails picking berries and stuffing them in their mouths. Smiles were everywhere.
As a bonus Emma Lea Farms also has a little booth fashioned like the early 1900’s ice cream stand which serves ice cream and sundaes for the ice cream lover; an ideal and sweet way to end the day with a wonderful refreshing treat. Here is a link to their website and directions to get there. http://www.emmaleafarms.com.
To end this fabulous weekend, I decided to make Macarons. I recently bought Pierre Herme’s Macaron Book and have been salivating over the photos and recipes. I finally had time to try one of the recipes and decided to make the Pierre Herme’s Montebello.
The keys to making macarons are as follows:
- temperature and humidity
. egg whites which have been left overnight or for a few days
- Resting time allowed for piped macarons to develop their skin prior to baking-key for a foot to develop
- Ensure there are not lumps sift icing sugar.
I first did the green pistachio shells first. The recipe calls for almond meal but I am a fan of pistachios and wanted a more pronounced pistachio flavor; hence I substituted pistachios for almond meal.
When making the Italian meringue, make sure you boil the sugar syrup to at least 240F prior to adding it to the egg whites and whip until medium to stiff peak. Pipe out onto disks and let sit for least 20 minutes for skins to develop. The resting time could be more and then bake the shells. It was rewarding to see the feet appear at the bottom of the macarons. It’s a sign I did not screw up :). My next step was making the strawberry flavoured macarons. As an addition, I added some freeze dried strawberries to the mixture to add some color and hopefully flavor. Same methodology to the pistachio mixture and ended up with piped macarons resting like the photo below.
Here is the recipe for Pistachio Macaron adapted from Pierre Heme:
150 g of ground almonds (I used pistachios)
150 g of icing sugar
55 g egg whites-old
1 g yellow food colouring
2 g pistachio green food colouring
150 g castor sugar (I used icing sugar)
38 g mineral water (I used water)
55 g egg whites-old
Pipe out into circles and rest form at least 20 minutes. Touch the top of the macarons to feel for dryness. Bake at 285-290F for about 15-20 minutues.
As for the ganache, you could really do any type of ganache. Ganache consists of chocolate, cream, butter and flavouring. I just happened to make a pistachio ganache. Macarons are timing consuming to make as there are numerous steps and key points to pay attention to, but the end results are amazing. I guess that is why bakeries charge an arm and leg for these little morsels.