Recipes for the Christmas holidays
1¾ cups powdered sugar (210g)
1 cup almond flour, (95g) finely ground
1 tsp salt
3 egg whites, at room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar (50g)
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 drops gel food colour
1 cup unsalted butter (230g), at room temperature
3 cups icing sugar (360 g)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp heavy cream
Combine the powdered sugar, almond flour, and ½ teaspoon of salt in a food processor, and grind on low speed, until extra fine, and sift the flour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and the ½ teaspoon of salt with an electric hand mixer until soft peaks form, and add the sugar gradually, until fully combined, beating into stiff peaks. Now add the vanilla, beat, and add the food colour, mixing until fully incorporated. Gently fold about ⅓ of the sifted almond flour mixture at a time to the beaten egg whites, and continue until the batter falls into ribbons and you can make a figure 8 while holding the spatula up. Put the macaron batter into a piping bag fitted with a round tip.
Pipe the macarons onto the parchment paper in 1½-inch (3cm) circles, spacing at least 1 inch (2cm) apart. Tap the baking sheet on a flat surface a few times to release air bubbles and let the macarons sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until dry to the touch. Preheat the oven to 300˚F (150˚C) and bake the macarons for 17 minutes, until the macarons do not stick to the parchment paper. Put over a wire rack and let cool.
To make the buttercream, add the butter and beat for 1 minute until light and fluffy, gradually sifting in the powdered sugar until fully incorporated. Now add the vanilla and beat to combine, and add the cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat to combine, until desired consistency is formed.
Pour the cream into a piping bag fitted with a round-tip, and add a dollop of buttercream to one macaron shell. Top it with another macaron shell to create a sandwich. Repeat with remaining macaron shells and buttercream. Place the macarons in an airtight container for 24 hours to "bloom." Serve.
CHRISTMAS TREE CAKE
For the cake —
1½ cups vegetable oil
12 large egg whites
Forest green gel food colouring, for colouring the batter
For frosting —
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
A pinch of salt
6 large egg whites
18 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1½-inch chunks
1½ tsp vanilla extract
Leaf green food colour
A can of non-stick cooking spray
Three 15.25 ounce boxes white cake mix
Three 3.4 ounce packages instant vanilla pudding mix
3 tbsp desiccated coconut
White nonpareils, for dusting
18 white gumdrops
36 candy-coated chocolates with almonds or peanuts, such as M and M's
For star top —
Peppermint candies, crushed
Special equipment —
Non-stick cooking spray, for the parchment and cookie cutter
Three 18-by-13 rimmed baking sheets; a large cake board or cutting board; a ruler; a piping bag fitted with a small fluted tip; a 2-inch metal star cookie cutter; a birthday candle; a long wooden skewer; an offset spatula
Before starting the cake, preheat the oven to 350 F. Coat three 18-by-13 rimmed baking sheets with cooking spray, and line with parchment and spray the parchment.
Now, combine the cake mixes and pudding mixes in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low to blend. With the speed still on low, add the oil, egg whites, 2¼ cups water and 20 drops forest green food colour and mix until combined. Raise the speed to medium and mix until increased in volume, lighter in colour and smooth, about 5 minutes. Pour the batter into the sheets; and smooth it down with a spatula. Bake until golden on top and the edges pull away from the baking sheets, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely on the baking sheets, then freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
Boil some water in a saucepan, and place a heatproof stand mixer bowl over it. Place the sugar, lemon juice, salt and egg whites in the mixing bowl and whisk by hand to dissolve the sugar completely, still over the simmering water. Remove from the simmering water, transfer to an automatic whisk, and let beat at medium-high until it is cooled and the whites hold stiff peaks, about 10 minutes.
Now put in a couple of chunks of butter at a time and continue beating, incorporated each piece before adding the next. Once all the butter is mixed in, continue beating on medium-high speed, until the mixture settles down and appears to be curdled. Keep whisking until the frosting becomes spreadable and smooth, and slowly add the vanilla and food colour; beat until smooth and a vibrant green. If the frosting feels too soft, refrigerate until set but still spreadable, and beat some more before application.
Trim the edges of the first cake with a serrated knife, and use a ruler cut the cake into two 8-inch squares, two 3-inch squares and three 2-inch squares. Keep the cake in the freezer while cutting the other pieces. Now trim the edges of the second cake similarly, and cut into one 9-inch square, one 7-inch square, one 4-inch square and one 1-inch square. Take the third cake, trim, and cut into two 6-inch squares, three 5-inch squares and one 4-inch square. Reserve the scraps.
Spread a small amount of frosting on a large cake board or cutting board to secure the cake. With a large spatula, lift the 9-inch square onto the frosting. Spread a layer of frosting in the centre of the cake, avoiding the corners. Place one 8-inch cake square on top of the first square, such that the corners of the two tiers do not align. Apply some frosting in the middle of the second cake except the corners, and place the second 8-inch cake square on top. Repeat this process with the remaining cake squares, working with progressively smaller squares and continuing to stack them in offset layers with frosting in between. Trim a wooden skewer to 10 inches and insert it through the cake from the top down to add support.
Pour the remaining frosting into a piping bag fitted with a small fluted tip. Pipe rows of separate leaves in a downward motion to cover the exposed tops of all the cakes, creating the illusion of pine needles; leave the sides bare. Dust the cake with the desiccated coconut and white nonpareils to create an illusion of snow.
Cut the gumdrops in half, width wise, and press each gumdrop half into the bottom of a candy-coated chocolate to adhere. Press into the freshly piped frosting to make retro Christmas lights. For the star topper, put crushed mint candies inside a star shaped cookie cutter on a parchment-lined metal tray, both coated with non-stick spray, and place in an oven preheated at 300F. Let the candies melt to fill the cookie mould, let cool, and remove. Place it on the top of the cake.
Recipes and Food: Chef Mohammad Abu Taleb, Executive Pastry Chef, InterContinental Dhaka