A little cooking

So last night I decided to make macaroons. It’s been so long that I not only could not find but could not recall the outlines of the recipe I made, so i started from scratch (so to speak). I made Alton Brown’s recipe, cutting the recipe in half and using vanilla sugar instead of sugar plus vanilla. The results were OK; nobody left any on the plate, but they weren’t quite what I wanted. I wanted a bit more cookie, these were, well, something like a crisped meringue with slightly chewy inside. (good, just not what I thought I wanted.)

A couple of small notes, mostly for myself. I toasted the coconut to a pale to medium brown, I should have stopped at pale. reminder, cooking in the meringue does not stop the browning (grin). Second, the oven I am presently using seems to run a little, idunno, hot? The thermometer I used to test it says not, but I pulled the macaroons at 18:30 minutes instead of the full 30 and they were on the edge of being too brown. Not just the aforementioned coconut but the meringue itself. But the inside was still chewy, so maybe I did do it right. Being redundant again, it was good just not what I thought I was looking for.

To go along with the cookies I made a basic vanilla pudding with the yolks. See, one of the unfortunate frustrations I have with making meringues (and angel food cakes and so on) is all the yolks — I hate to leave them and never seem to think of good things to make with them. Last night, though, inspiration.

In a saucepan, two cups of milk and a half-cup of vanilla sugar. (see below for this digression.) In a small bowl, the yolks, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, and a dash of salt. Heat the milk and sugar till it comes to a simmer, stirring often to ensure the sugar dissolves. In the gaps, whisk the egg yolk mixture till it’s lighter in color and smooth. As soon as the milk is simmering, whisk it into the egg yolk mixture till it’s evenly mixed, then pour the whole back into the saucepan. Return to a simmer and continue heating for three or four minutes so it obviously thickens. Remove, apportion into serving dishes, and let set. It’s a relatively light pudding and went well with the cookies.

Vanilla sugar. I tend to use this for meringues (see the cookies above). Thing is it’s a bit stronger in vanilla flavor, so I do use some caution. You can make your own fairly easily. Take a container that will seal well – ideally one that’ll hold about eight cups of sugar, but a pint minimum. Get a vanilla bean, split, scrape, and cut the pod into segments of about one inch each. Stir it into the sugar, then pour this into your container. Stir regularly for a week, then once a week. Fair warning, the moisture from the bean will cause the sugar to lump. That, in addition to spreading the flavor, is the reason for the regular stirring. Use it when you really want the vanilla flavor – not where you’re adding vanilla as a small but subtle boost to the flavor.

ps – if you’ve got a macaroon recipe you like, yours or someone else’s, share. I think I’m looking for more of a cookie than the meringue but I’ll take a look at everything. I do ask, if you’re using someone else’s, that you attribute. It’s just the right thing to do.

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