For the last leg of my recent holiday in Indonesia, I was in Lombok, or to be more specific; the Gili Islands; a threesome of small coral islands north-west of Lombok, with Gili Trawangang being the most developed island of the three.
The locals are descendants of Sulawesi fishermen (Bugis) mixed in with the 'local' Sasak from nearby Lombok.
There are no cars, no police and no dogs on Gili Trawangang, and all (!) cats have funny tails.
The art of snorkeling is practiced here by simply sticking your head under any water you can find.
Donkeys rule the streets by local ordinance, no motorized vehicles are allowed on land.
I spent my time at Blu d'Amare. A wonderful small resort with trattoria, right on the beach, run by an Italian couple. Moreno, the man about the house, takes out his boat early in the morning to go fishing. The same tuna he wrestles out of the water bare handed, is in the carpaccio on your plate that same afternoon.
On top of that they bake their own bread, which was the reason I decided to book with them in the first place!
To thank the lady of the manor Sandra, her hubby Moreno and their staff, I have been busy coming up with a sweet breakfast roll in their honor. I made my version of 'Roti Maros' from Sulawesi - basically an enriched sweet jam-filled bun - and replaced the durian filling with soursop jelly. The 'durian belanda' (=soursop) is considered to be a for whimps by the locals, so if you want to be brave, use the real thing :-) But don't say I didn't warn you when you do! It also works well with any other jam or fruit in season.
A Dutch person is called a 'Belanda' in Indonesia. It literally means "Holland". But just like with the word 'Bakra' in Surinam, another former Dutch colony, it has a teasingly derogatory connotation when used by the locals.
That probably explains why there is a fruit named after the Dutch in Indonesia. The 'Durian Belanda', also known to the rest of the world as soursop is a fruit that more or less tastes and looks like the Durian, but doesn't come with that one thing this 'king of fruits' is known for and probably cursed over by many a Dutch colonizer when the time of the year would come around that the (up to 3 kg!) ripe durians would fall to the ground...
Low hanging fruit
In the middle of the night a man travels from Makassar all the way to Tana Toraja, Sulawesi. After about half an hour on the road, the bus comes to a screeching halt. The driver shuts off the engine, and, turning on his chair, faces his passengers with the same blank stare he has been using to negotiate the treacherous moonlit Indonesian roads.
Without discussion the passengers start drawing their wallets. Some throw it at the driver. He picks them out of the air like low hanging fruit. A few walk to the front, fork out some rupiahs, and go back to their seats without muttering as much as a word.
The driver squints in the dark and scans the bus. The man has instinctively reached for his wallet by now, albeit with an overtly puzzled look on his face. By the time he gets it out, the driver has slammed the door of the bus shut on his way out, leaving the man startled. Is this a stick up? Or just more government officials to be paid for services never rendered?
Daniel from Makale
Daniel from Makale, who has been fast asleep with his mouth wide open at the window seat next to the man, wakes up. "Ah, Maros?" he mutters, with sleepy disappointment. He tugs on his make shift pillow, closes his eyes, opens his mouth and dozes off again.
The man watches the sleeping Daniel as if to find some sort of proof in the features of this young man's face that he has been making this journey many times before. Then he carefully leans over to try and see what is going on outside.
The door hisses open. The driver is back and carries a stack of white boxes. He is throwing the same blank stare around. He squints at the man leaning over Daniel.
The sweet smell of freshly baked bread rolls through the bus. Wafts of warm sweet dough, butter, caramelized sugar together with something... undefined. By the look on the man's face it is beyond disturbing. The slow smell with a pungent punch makes the man's nose curl up, adding horror to the bewilderment already present in his eyes.
Just about when that nasty, remotely fruity overtone of odor curls itself around the pleasant smell of freshly baked bread and starts choking it to death, Daniel from Makale wakes up with a jolt.
"Roti Maros!" he shouts into the man's armpit.
He aptly wriggles his way out of the chair before the man even gets a chance to get out of his way and starts pleading with the driver. Passengers come to the front to collect their white boxes. Daniel gets off the bus, pointing his finger at the driver, not to go anywhere without him.
By now, the evil stench, clearly emanating from the white boxes being passed around, has squeezed the life out of any association with freshly baked goods. Instead the entire bus smells of almonds, turpentine, rotten onion and size 15 gym socks after Polish Jesus' protégé Klecko and his treadmill are done with them, all at the same time.
Daniel from Makale comes back with a white box of his own. The driver shouts at him. Daniel from Makale shouts back and sits down next to the man with a big grin on his face.
He opens the box. There are ten soft sweet white buns in there. Neatly stacked in two rows of five. A snug fit. Daniel from Makale takes out two buns, shreds them apart and offers one to the man.
The man has managed to take control of his curling nose by now. No one in the bus seems phased by the horrid smell but him. Instead, big grins have appeared on all sleepy travelers' faces, and there is animated chatter as every one digs into their 'Roti Maros'. The man takes the offer.
"Apa yang bau?" The man asks Daniel. What is that smell?
Daniel from Makale laughs. He takes a big bite from his roll. A brown glob of jam oozes out.
"Ah!" The man says. "That explains a lot"
Roti Durian Belanda
(sweet breakfast rolls with a soursop jelly filling)
for the dough
375 gr / 13.2 oz lukewarm milk
115 / 4 oz gr butter
100 gr / 3.5 oz sugar
12 gr / 0.4 salt
± 812 gr / 28.6 oz all purpose flour
7 gr / 0.2 oz yeast
for the soursop jelly
370 ml soursop juice (can)
425 gr / 15 oz jam sugar (with pectin)
for decoration (optional)
a little water
making the dough
Put the dry ingredients in the bowl of a mixer; the flour, the yeast, the salt and the sugar. Mix well. Slightly beat the two eggs and add them to the flour, together with the lukewarm milk and the soft butter. Mix on low speed until the dough is well developed and passes the window pane test, about 9 to 12 minutes.
Oil a container and put in the dough. Cover the container tightly with cling film and let the dough rise at room temperature until it is just about doubled in bulk (±1½ hours).
making the soursop jelly
To make the soursop jelly; heat up one can of soursop juice (about 370 ml) and add 425 gram of jam sugar to it. Bring to a boil, let it simmer for a few minutes, and then take the jelly of the heat. Give it a good stir and let it cool until it sets.
If jam-sugar isn't available, use normal sugar and add the appropriate amount of pectin. If you are lucky enough to have access to fresh soursop fruits, you might find this link to make your own soursop nectar useful!
Preheat the oven to 190° C / 375° F
forming the rolls
When the dough has doubled, turn it out on a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in pieces of about 80 grams and then shape them into balls. Cover and leave them to rest for about 10 minutes.
Make a deep dimple in the ball using your thumb.Put a moderate blob of soursop jelly in the middle and carefully wrap the dough around it, making sure to close the rolls properly, so as little as possible jelly oozes out during baking.
Cover and proof the rolls seam side down on a baking tray until they are puffy and ready for the oven, for about 20 minutes to half an hour.
Bake the rolls for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top, making sure to rotate the trays halfway through the bake to ensure even browning.
Dilute a little water into 3 TBS of powdered sugar and brush the tops of the rolls twice right after they come out of the oven. Dunk them in maple sugar and leave them on a rack to cool.
I'm never sure when it's going to happen. Last year it was at the end of April. This year it's the 8th! As usual, I visit the Wiki Easter page in an attempt to, for once and for all, understand about full moons, spring equinoxes, Julian and Gregorian calendars and... well, that's usually where I give up.
Just hit me with it when it comes along! I usually start shifting gear when people actually start buying the chocolate eggs, -bunnies, and other Easter paraphernalia that have been patiently sitting on the supermarket shelves ever since the X-mas deco was chucked out.
With Easter shifting so violently all over the April calendar, and all the related holidays shifting with it, it is my most likely season for a good old "showing up at work on a national holiday"-experience.
Most of all I'm a bit confused about Easter itself. I have some distinct associations ingrained in my gray matter and gene pool.
This one is in the genes I'm afraid. A bonfire is a Northern European's traditional way of chasing away the winter demons and welcoming back the light. The sight of a big pile of wood waiting to turn bonfire in the middle of a field somewhere when visiting my family for Easter up North, where the tradition still lives on, never fails to get me all revved up with anticipation. As a kid the bonfires seemed a multitude of impressions bigger and more awesome. The smells and intense heat have remained equally intoxicating. This year there is a small village in the East trying to beat their own Guinness World Record. They have a live web cam, so you can see the biggest ever bonfire go up in flames if you want to, and who wouldn't! Nothing like a good friendly fire.
Chicken on a Stick
Another strong association with Easter is the Palm Sunday Parade. It involved a bread roll shaped like a rooster on top of a decorated cross. It's eye was a currant that came off quite easy. I was the kind of kid looking up all the time to make sure my rooster wasn't going blind up there on his stick.
Much later I realized the full meaning of this (literal) crossover tradition. Eggs, oranges and roosters; all pagan "finally-it-is-spring-again"-symbols mingled in with Christian symbols like (palm)leaves and the cross Christ died on. The rooster became associated with the bread Jesus broke at Last Supper and even with the rooster crowing after Peter denied knowing Jesus three times on Good Friday. Eggs doubled as symbols of spring as well as a symbol of new life (Easter Sunday).
Blissfully unaware of all of this, I was most of all concerned with my currant-eyed rooster and oranges surviving the parade. My mother once told me her story. When she was a kid, right after world war II, oranges were the stuff dreams were made off. And then; lo and behold; the first Easter came around that she proudly paraded around her chicken on a stick with two shiny oranges pinned on both ends.
My mother was of course as proud as a peacock. As soon as she came home, she took the oranges off carefully and put them in a box, carefully wrapped, guarding it with her life, to admire and eat later.
When she finally gave into her desire to eat her precious jewels, she found them dried out and wasted in her beautiful box. I consider it one of my more important lessons in life.
All Together Now
And then you realize that Jewish Pesach and Christian Easter share a whole lot of history as well, and were at one time the same thing. Christian Easter allegedly gets its name from the Saxon Goddess Eastre, the spring goddess. The Netherlands is a linguistic border in the Northern regions of Europe. All around us, geographically speaking, there is talk of "Ostern" or "Easter", but the Dutch have stuck with French & Latin influences and celebrate "Pasen", like the Flemish their "Paas", the French their "Paques" and the Italian their "Pasqua".
So what are we celebrating? The return of the light, the resurrection of Christ AND the end of slavery and thus freedom regained. That's a whole lot of celebrating! Let's turn to the Italians to provide us with the necessary festive bread. The message of this bread is simple: Peace! All of the above celebrations will benefit from that beautiful word, even if the tulip named after it at the tulip exhibition certainly isn't going to win any big prizes soon, except for maybe in the category awkward yet true...
For the peeps who rather watch things than read, here we go!
550 gr / 22.9 oz bread flour
8½ gr / 0.2 oz salt
1 x 120 gr / 4.2 oz soft butter
2 x 40 gr / 1.4 oz soft butter
120 gr / 4.2 oz whole milk
150 gr / 5.2 oz sugar
75 gr / 2.6 oz candied lemon peel
75 gr / 2.6 oz candied orange peel
50 gr / 1.7 oz of small pearl sugar
Home made orange/lemon peel
The day before; Wash and peel the skins of two oranges (or lemons). Cut into thin strips. Cover them with water, bring to a quick boil, simmer for 5 minutes and then drain. Put fresh cold water in the pan, and repeat this twice.
Then dissolve 450 gr / 15.9 oz sugar in 435 gr / 15.3 oz of water. Add 1 TBS of lemon juice. Simmer the orange peels in the sugar syrup for about 1 - 1½ hrs until translucent. Drain and dry the peels over night on a cooling rack. The next day put 100 gr / 3.5 oz of sugar in a plastic bag, add the peels and toss around to cover them well. Cut into little cubes and put aside until needed in the dough. If you want to shape your Pasquale in the traditional way, you might want to browse around for sturdy card board that can be cut into the shape of a (rudimentary) dove. The amount of risen dough yielded from this recipe gives you two medium sized loafs when baked in standard bread pans.
Mix 12 gr / 0.4 oz of instant yeast with 100 gr / 5.3 oz of flour and add just enough water to make the dough come together; 2-4 TBS. Cover and let rest at room temp until the stiff dough has turned puffy; about 45 minutes. Alternatively; try submerging your ball of dough in warm (30° C / 86° F) water.
Your starter is ready to go when it floats to the surface! (I finally tried this method, and it really works...)
Combine flour, salt, sugar and candied lemon peel, mix together. Then add the eggs, a little at a time until incorporated. Add 120 gr / 4.2 oz soft butter in pieces and mix. When the dough gets dry, add the milk and the starter dough. Mix very well on low-medium speed until you have a firm and elastic dough. Depending on what sort of flour you are using, you might have to add a few extra TBS of flour, or hold back a little of the milk to get the right consistency.
Transfer the mixed dough to an oiled bowl. Cover the dough and let it rest until increased in volume by ⅓.
When the dough has risen by a third, turn it out into the mixer bowl again. Add 40 gr / 1.4 oz of soft butter and the orange peel in portions. Mix until well distributed. Transfer the dough to an oiled container once again, and this time leave it to rise until doubled in volume.
Transfer the dough to the mixer one last time to incorporate the last 40 gr / 1.4 oz of soft butter. Mix it in and transfer the dough to your mold or bread pan(s). In Italy the traditional Colomba Pasquale mold is easily found. Outside of Italy that might be a bit of a problem. If you are dead set on shaping it the traditional way, you might have to get your card board and scissors out to put one together yourself. Don't worry about making it neat; the more "rustic" your "bricolage"-mold looks, the more rustic your Colomba will look as well.
Cover and let the dough proof one final time.
Making the topping
200 gr / 7.0 oz sugar
80 gr / 2.8 oz ground almonds
3 egg whites
¼ TSP of almond extract
pearl sugar (optional, but very pretty)
When the dough has almost fully proofed (poke it with a wet finger; if the dough springs back immediately, you are not there yet. If the dent fills back slowly, you are on the money and ready to go on) continue making the topping. First, preheat your oven to 200°C/ 390°F.
In a fat free mixer bowl, whip up a meringue using three egg whites. Fold in the sugar and the ground almonds and spread out evenly over the dough when using the traditional mold or bread pans. Sprinkle royally with flaked almonds and pearl sugar.
(Alternatively; if you are using a dove mold, you will first have to bake the bread in the mold and then add the topping to it after taking it out of the mold. You can put it back in the oven to make the meringue set and brown the almonds on top).
Put the Colomba on a rack in the middle of a preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes on 200°C/ 390°F. Then lower the temp to 170°C/335°F and bake for 35-45 minutes more until nice and golden on top. Make sure to rotate the loaf halfway the bake to ensure even browning. Keep an eye on the top; if it goes too fast, you can cover it with foil to prevent burning.
When your Colomba is done, let it cool completely before taking it out of the mold.
The first day it tastes great, the second day, it tastes better, so making this Pasquale ahead of the Easter festivities is no problem at all!
Make sure to like us on Facebook, we need your support to make that 6 part documentary on real bread! And if you want to see more bread making videos, make sure to visit the BreadLab hannel on YouTube.
I've never been much of a political animal. But ever since you, Mr. Job Cohen, former mayor of Amsterdam, were called upon by national politics and gave up your position, there has been a growing unease within me.
Sometimes things are as futile as they are; you just happen to be the man in charge for the biggest stretch of time in the city that I live in and love so much. And quite frankly: I miss you here. Even though your successor is doing just fine, I'd rather have you back tomorrow if that would be possible, which it probably isn't.
You are in my heart for all the times I have seen you rushing past through the streets and for all your strolls with your wife on a sunny afternoon along the canals. Might I have lived a little further away from your residence, I probably would not have crossed your path as many times as I did, but in the end that doesn't matter.For me you were simply there, like all the rest of us. Visible, down to earth and devoted as much to our city as to your wife. As we say in Dutch; "kom er nog maar es om"
You were called onto the national political stage to find an answer to the populist politics that are quickly gaining ground in The Netherlands. The political game is changing fast in troubled times. Scaring people into believing almost anything has never been easier.
Now you are there, and not here.
The plan was to have you lead the country, you ended up in the opposition instead. The government that was formed has all the characteristics you would expect from a political field that is jolted by something new and unexpected; the populist was put on a special bench where he was thought to do the least harm.
That hasn't turned out to be quite the case. As a matter of fact the opposite was happening; the populist knew his game quite well and found out he could simply shout some populist doo dah, draw the curtains whenever he felt it like it and become invisible.
It's been said that populist politics can't be beaten without joining them, and there, my friend, (for even if I have not spoken to you in person I hope you will allow me to call you just that) you stand out from the crowd.
Time and time again, also on the occasions where you were reportedly "slashed" in a public debate, I have never ever seen you make one populist move.
My guess is some milder forms of populism are inherent to politics, and maybe you are just doing quite well at hiding it from me, but even if that is the case, it doesn't really matter.
For every time I see you struggle to find an alternative to this apparent new set of rules in politics, I like you a little more, even if you "lose" the argument whilst trying.
I don't think things are as simple as left and right or black and white. Regardless of the polarizing times we live in, the only right thing to do is what you are doing; refusing to play THAT game, even though I suspect you could be quite good at it, I can't really imagine you ever giving into the temptation. Ah, well, maybe when you were younger.
If you ask me (but then again don't!) the populist's game is nearing its end. That seems to be inherent to populist politics: its effects peter out quite fast if not fed regularly by tangible results.
This blog you are (probably not) reading is about bread. So, as much as I like you, I have to come up with something BREAD in this letter to you for it to have any sense whatsoever. I have been forgiven before for making rather odd connections between bread and.... well, almost all other stuff in life :-), I hope I have enough credit left to throw around a lot of words before sharing what I'm here for; a straightforward recipe for something good!
I could be really corny and say; well people, here is your recipe; Do as Mr. Job Cohen, the former mayor of Amsterdam; Don't pay too much attention to squeaking wheels that get all the oil; after a while they get so slippery, they will derail themselves! That wouldn't work though... because they can't eat it!
So instead I will dedicate my latest bake to you; the humble rusk, or "beschuiten" as you and I would call them. It's hardly the sexiest bread in the world, and it doesn't promise you more than it can live up to. We all keep a roll of them in our cupboards though. For when we need them; for comfort, for joy and when it is the only thing our sometimes sick bodies will accept. Straightforward, simple, honest, reliable and here to stay!
The Humble Rusk
The Romans called it "biscotum"; it was the sort of bread that was great when you were conquering the world. ""Baked twice" is what it means. With most moisture baked out of the bread it will keep almost indefinitely! Nowadays that same word still reverberates in the French "biscuit" and the Italian "biscotti".
In the "Golden Age" (that period in the Netherlands between 1600-1700 where at a certain time a tulip bulb would sell for the price of a house...) the merchant ships, leaving all from an area just above Amsterdam, took the "beschuit" on board as their preferred bread. In no time there were 150 bakeries in the area, all dedicated to baking "scheepsbeschuit".
Around the 18th century, the rusk started to look like the airy biscuit it is today. Bakers started using yeast to make the rather tough biscuit lighter. Later on they added eggs as an emulsifier, and sugar. Around this time as well, the "Zwieback" started to gain popularity. The baked biscuit was cut in half, baked again to dry it out, and lightly toasted.
Beschuit met muisjes
The tradition to serve "beschuit" at the birth of a child started in the same region. When the "beschuit" was still a luxury item that was eaten on festive days, the rich would buy them to celebrate child birth in the community. The "beschuit" was (and still is nowadays) sprinkled with pink, white or blue sugarcoated aniseeds, an echo of the ancient tradition to sprinkle the baby with rye kernels for blessing.
The sugarcoated aniseeds are called "mice" in Dutch. The coated aniseeds with their little tails resemble a mouse (symbol of fertility) . The anise was also said to have a wholesome effect on breast milk production.
The beschuit can be found in literally every cupboard in the Netherlands. Even those who are not too crazy for them will keep a roll on their shelf for when they need them. When ill it is the perfect comfort food, dunked in some sweet pudding. When you feel queezy and nothing else goes down; the beschuit is there to help. It is reliable, it is no nonsense, it is here to stay! Enjoy!
A note on Rusk Jelly and Baking Shells
In this recipe I use "rusk jelly". An ingredient not really easy to obtain when you are not living in the Netherlands. Here is where you can buy it if you are eager to give it a try. Rusk Jelly emulsifies by making your dough more alkaline (the opposite of acid). All that is in there is sugar, glucose, vegetable fat, water, emulgator and an alkaline agent. The rusk can be made without the jelly as well by replacing the jelly with the equal amount of corn syrup and egg yolk. Your rusk will be a little less brittle, but still way better than anything you have ever eaten from the supermarket!
The baking shells are essential to get a good shape on your rusk. If you don't have baking shells and want to invest in buying some, here is a place that sells them for a very reasonable price. If you are in the States it might be harder to find them. No worries though, because 9,5 cm baking rings will also work. Provided you have a baking sheet, or even a silpat mat to cover them with, you will do just fine!
for about 24 rusks
210 gr. AP flour
17 gr. fresh yeast
84 gr. water
34 gr. corn syrup
5 gr. sugar
5 gr. milk powder
25 gr. egg yolk
30 gr. rusk jelly (optional)
1½ gr. salt
4½ gr. anise powder
I bake this recipe in two batches. When the time comes to divide the dough I put half of the formed balls in the fridge and start processing the first batch. By the time the first batch goes in the oven, you can take out the slightly chilled dough to prepare them for the second batch.
6 round baking shells with a diameter of 9½ cm. Baking rings of that size, covered with a baking sheet will also work!
Mix together ⅔ (140 gr.) of the flour with the water, the yeast, milk powder and ½ (17 gr.) of the corn syrup. Cover and leave to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
The Final Dough
Mix in the eggs and the remaining corn syrup with a few tablespoons of the remaining flour. When incorporated add half of the rusk jelly. When that is mixed in add the remaining flour and salt. Finally add the remaining jelly, sugar and anise powder. Mix on low speed for about 20 to 30 minutes until the dough is very well developed. The ideal dough temperature is 25°C.
Preheat the oven to 240°C
The First Bake
Cover and let the dough rise for about 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces of about 30-35 gr. each. Leave them to relax for 10 minutes and then form tight balls and place them on a baking sheet. Cover and leave them to rise for 10 minutes. Flatten and round the pieces to roughly the diameter of your baking shell 2 times during this short rise. Place the well oiled baking shells over the dough and leave them to rise until you can see the dough peep through the little holes on top. Alternatively, place oiled baking rings over the dough and cover with an equally well oiled baking sheet. Bake when almost fully proofed for about 8 minutes on 240°C, turning the tray halfway through the bake to ensure even browning. Take the golden biscuits out of the molds and let them cool completely on a rack.
The Second Bake
Preheat the oven to 50°C. Slice the biscuits in half and put them cut side up in the oven for about 30 to 45 minutes, until they are completely dry and crisp. Place the biscuits under a hot grill until the tops are nice and golden. This will go very fast, only a few seconds!
Leave the rusks to cool completely before eating.
If you haven't already, go here to endorse my BreadLaB initiative
UPDATE: Dear TFL-ers; here some more impressions of my macaron adventures :-)
A macaron has little to do with bread, unless your name is Pierre Hermé, and are raking in the dough on these little babies...
Nevertheless I have the guts to go totally off topic and ask your help in making a shortlist of macarons. After feasting your eyes on the options, I hope you're willing to cast your vote at the end of the post! I promise the next one will be healthy and hearty again, okay? :-D
To the Fullest
In the last couple of months I have taught myself to make a wicked macaron. They are hip, they are cool and every body will tell you how hard it is to make them, including me...
/>But guess what, it ain't half bad, once you get the hang of it!
And once making those macaron shells has become second nature to you... that is where things really become interesting!
It took me two batches to find out that in order for me to really like a macaron to the fullest, it needs to be not overtly sweet. Since the sugar parameters are practically set in stone in a macaron recipe, the only thing left to do is play with the flavors.
Another important factor to make the macaron live up to its expectation of utter exquisiteness, is to come up with a combination of flavors, rather than a single one. Eating it has to be like an adventure into unknown lands, or at times exactly those places you know your way around with your eyes closed.
Pierre Hermé is a master at this, and this whole macaron "revival" can be directly credited to him. His book on macarons has quickly become a hit, and when you start baking out of it, you understand why.
From the "classics" to the "fetish", all the way through to the "exceptions" you never stop being amazed at what he comes up with; wasabe and grapefruit, chestnut and matcha green tea, there's even something in there involving Heinz Ketchup...
Help me choose!
Here are some takes on Hermé macarons from the BreadLab kitchen. You can really do me a favor by letting me know which one of these flavor combinations you would try first, or like best! There's a poll at the end of this post, to make it easier for you (well, there is some scrolling involved...), but if you like to; feel free to leave a comment, it's very much appreciated :-)
(You will help me put together a very special gift for a very special person! but shhhht about that!)
Enjoy, and happy baking.
Chestnut Matcha Green Tea Macarons (Hermé's recipe)
Secretly I enjoy the way all of us here in the Low Lands are stumbling into 2012. After days of continuous rainfall and storms coming in, the water levels are rapidly rising. A small stretch of dike in the North has broken, but much worse has been avoided so far by doing what the Dutch were born to do, or so it seems; managing the water. In some parts of the country dikes are broken on purpose to give way to the water in a controlled way. Storm barriers are lowered, risen, unfolded, or whatever which genius technical way they have come up with to protect us from the ever hungry rising water. Don't you love it when a system works? These are the moments that your hard-earned tax money is worth every cent you paid, and more! For instead of huffing and puffing and dragging sacks of sand around, I can sit here behind my computer, with dry feet and not worry about a thing. 'Cause I got some one watching out for me, and all of us out here! The Dutch province of Zeeland ("Sealand") is, when it comes to water, the "epitome" of what it means to be living at or under sea level. Looking at this map, I guess you can figure out why.
Luctor et EmergoThe slogan on their weapon shield reads "Luctor et Emergo", translating into "I struggle and emerge". Even though that slogan goes back a long time and actually refers to the struggle against Spanish occupation in the 16th century, the average Dutchman will associate Zeeland with the biggest disaster ever to hit the province on the 1st of February 1953. In a big storm and the flooding that followed, almost 2000 people drowned and 100.000 people lost everything they owned; their houses, their livestock, everything... They struggled, together with the rest of the country and did indeed "emerge". I an epic mission never to let this sort of thing happen again, they constructed this little baby;
Brought to Zeeland by the bakers of the Portuguese Sephardic Jews who were forced to flee north at the end of the 15th century, these sticky sweet rolls, traditionally shaped in a spiral, quickly became popular with the locals as well, to such an extent that the "Zeeuwse Bolus" has become the signature bake of the province in modern days. That is another thing the Dutch are quite good at; all through history the Netherlands has been a refuge and safe haven for people on the run. Or should I say; another thing the Dutch WERE good at, because nowadays, even though the biggest part of the world still thinks of The Netherlands as a liberal and tolerant place, the Dutch authorities are sending kids who were raised here out of the country just to set an example. Let this recipe for "zeeuwse bolussen" remind us all how something really good can come from opening up to "strangers" in dire need! Luctor et Emergo indeed...
500 gr. All Purpose Flour
7 gr. Salt 5 gr. Instant Yeast
320 gr. Lukewarm Milk
75 gr. Unsalted Butter
250 gr. Brown Sugar
2 TBS cinnamon
zest of one lemon Method
Combine the flour, yeast, zest and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Work in the softened butter with the tips of your fingers. Add the lukewarm milk. Depending on your flour, you may have to add a little more milk or need to hold a little back. Start with 300 gr. of milk and add more if needed; what you are looking for is a slightly slack dough that will be easy to roll out in strands. Mix until the dough is well-developed, it should pass the window pane test; approximately 10-15 minutes on medium low-speed.
Lightly oil a container, transfer the dough and coat all around with the oil for a first rise of about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, divide the dough into equal pieces of about 45 grams. You should end up with 14-16 dough pieces. Form the dough pieces into balls and let them rest for 20 minutes, so the dough will be slack enough to form into strands. First roll out all the balls into short strands of about 20 cm.
Mix the brown sugar with the cinnamon and cover your work surface with it . Then roll out the strands in the sugar mixture to a length of about 40 cm. If the dough really resists, you might have to go for a third round of rolling strands after giving it another 10 minutes to relax. Shape the strands into spirals or knots. The spiral is the more traditional way of shaping, but since the rolls come out of the oven really dark brown, I prefer to knot them, just to avoid associations that I won't go into here and now :-)
For spirals: start in the middle and just drape the dough in circles. It is okay to make it look a little rustic and not too neat! For knots: Place a strand horizontally in front of you. Take the ends and form two loops, leaving some space in the middle for proofing. Make a knot on each side of the loop.
Place the formed bolus on a baking sheet, cover and let them proof until puffed and doubled in size, for about 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F. Bake the "Zeeuwse Bolussen" for about 8 minutes. You want them to be just done, so keep a close eye on your oven. Too long and they will be crusty, too short and they will be gooey.
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Baking is getting more festive by the day. The BreadLab is a mess after a trial bake for the X-mas specials that are up for the coming two weeks.
The flavor and texture of chestnut can really lift a dish, when used in moderation. The other week, running through Amsterdam's hottest local produce supermarket Marqt, there were some fresh chestnuts available. They would look real rustic, together with the red onions and roseval potatoes in the basket on the kitchen table...
They have been screaming not be wasted for looking pretty ever since, and today, when the sour cherries on syrup started their siren song, things started coming together. The theme clearly being nuts and fruits, let's cross the channel and ponder on that typical British dish;
Something allegedly edible that I managed to avoid for its name alone in the first two decades of my life. To the foreign ear it sounds like something with mutton sausage and a lot of gravy in it, that has been sitting in the cellar for three months. There is a lot of that where I come from. No need to explore.
Only to find out in the next decade that there is actually no meat involved at all, well... suet. But that was way back when. I do sometimes use lard and suet and the likes, but this sweet bread needs to go down easy with every one.
After making a basic mincemeat, boil the fresh chestnuts in their skins until tender, but still chewy. Chopping them up I decided to just chuck them in with the mincemeat, and that worked wonderfully well.
Sour cherries belong to New Year's Eve for me. I never knew that until I rediscovered the taste of them recently, the syrupy variety. I was immediately taken back; in my young years, when the adults would be seriously boozing in the New Year, the kids were allowed to drink something that was called "children's-liquor" (No, I kid you not). It came in a bottle that vaguely resembled the grown-ups' version. It was a deep red, sweet as hell and... without alcohol (I guess the marketing guys drew their lines somewhere in the sixties...). But that didn't seem to matter to us, as I remember. For me it was one of the high lights; that entire day, going around the neighborhood to wish every one a Happy New Year, and every house I entered had a glass of that stuff waiting. My Italian shop around the corner carries some nice jars with sour cherries on syrup, the blue one;
Raisins, apples, lemon zest, currants. Take whatever you have lying around to whip together a fruity, spicy layer of mincemeat that will ooze through the monkey bread during the bake. The chestnuts are optional if you are an avid hater (there seem to be quite a few out there), but it does give the flavor a nice twist, and, if chopped coarsely and not boiled to pieces, a different texture that works well with all the sticky caramel and the soft buns.
Since my first monkey bread, traditionally round, was rising all over the place, out of its baking tin, I decided the second bake would have to be in the biggest tin around... and that happened to be a square one. A happy accident, I would say!
Square Chestnut-Mincemeat Monkey Bread
For the (mini portion) mincemeat:
1 small apple 100 gr. boiled chestnut, coarsely chopped 30 gr. raisins 25 gr. currants 30 gr. prunes 20 gr. sour cherries (on syrup) dark beer, about 60 ml. 75 gr. brown sugar pinch of lemon zest dash of lemon juice a nob of butter pumpkin pie spice to taste, about ¾ tsp rum
If you like your apple firm, leave them out, while you bring the beer and all the other ingredients to a slow boil. When everything comes together and the butter is mixed in, add the apple and turn off the gas. Stir and cool.
You can find some good tips over here on how to boil your chestnuts, if you chose to go DIY all the way.
For the dough:
500 gr. bread flour 14 gr. instant yeast 150-175 ml lukewarm whole milk 2 beaten eggs 50 gr. butter 2 tbs honey 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice 1½ tsp salt
to sugar the monkey dough:
100 gr. caster sugar 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
For the caramel sauce:
100 gr. butter 50 gr. dark brown sugar
Mix the dry ingredients together in a stand mixer. Add just enough milk for the dough to come together. Add the eggs and the butter little by little after about 4 minutes. Mix on low speed for about 15 minutes to develop an elastic dough. Transfer to an oiled container, cover and rest until double in size, for about an hour to one hour and a half at room temp.
Mix together the fine caster sugar with the spices. When the dough has risen, deflate it gently and shape into a cylinder. When the dough resists, give it a few minutes rest before you continue. Cut up the doughroll in small pieces, deliberately uneven in size and shape. Toss the dough pieces in the sugar and place in the oiled tin. They will expand considerably; loosely spread the first layer around your BIG (improv) monkey bread pan.
Scoop the cooled down chestnut-mincemeat over the first layer of dough, and then cover with a second layer of sugared dough bits. Cover and let proof untill the dough has puffed up.
Preheat the oven to 180° C. Heat the butter with the brown sugar and gently pour this over the proofed dough.
Bake for about 35 minutes, turning it halfway into the bake to ensure even browning. Be careful with the top; don't let it burn!
After the bake, let the bread cool for about 10 minutes before inverting the monkey bread onto a rack. Leave to cool completely before slicing.
Enjoy! You can really do me a big favor by endorsing the BreadLab initiative. Every 'like' will get us closer to funding a 6 episode documentary on 'the best bread in the world'. Thank you in advance!
**second update: I have included a picture of the speculaas rolls as properly formed. In my first attempt I tried to make Levine's rolls look like stars more than flowers, but actually, the round shape is much nicer, I think!
**update: there is a minor mistake in the recipe and video, that I have corrected: the 30 gr. of lemon zest in the original recipe is meant to say: candied lemon zest" which has a lot more moisture in it and is a lot less "lemony" When using pure zest; use about 2 lemons of zest (which is still a lot, but the recipe is benefiting from that!) Sorry for the hick up!
Why do we crave certain foods or ingredients on particular moments in time? A turkey tastes like a turkey in July, but still we prefer to eat the lot of them towards the end of November. A raspberry, for instance, is best eaten when it is around, of course... I understand my craving when that time comes, but why have we made a turkey seasonal?
Here in Amsterdam, the shops are filled to the hilt with speculaas in all sorts, shapes and sizes the year round. Yet, it is when winter rolls in that the Dutch start to consume it by the bucket full. On occasion I will treat myself to a nice box of speculaas cookies in the middle of summer (from a real bakery rather than from the supermarket of course), but it's not until the "oliebollenkraam" has appeared on the bridge around the corner and in our back yard the "winter tree" (as I call it, 'cause I have no clue what sort of tree it is) starts to bloom, that my speculaas consumption suddenly goes through the roof.
"Tradition" I hear you say; we eat turkey for Thanksgiving, speculaas when winter is upon us and Pan deJamón for Christmas (if you would be Venezuelan or married to one).
So... we are okay with more "summer" in our food in winter, even if that means the strawberries need to be shipped in from halfway around the globe. But we don't want to be remembered of winter in the middle of summertime, even if all ingredients are readily available. I mean; I eat summery salads in December, but never oliebollen in full blown spring.
We all have that bottle of liquor in the cabinet that tasted so exquisite on that little terrace in Rome, but didn't quite hit the spot on a dreary autumn afternoon back home. I guess it is indeed tradition, or maybe more accurate; a ritual.
Speculaas spices are very much comparable to allspice in the U.K., or Pumpkin Pie Spice in the U.S. It's warm, brown, comforting and forgiving. Eating it is almost a message to our bodies to be prepared for things to come. Smelling it coming into the kitchen, makes you forgive the hailstorm that just spat its icy daggers in your face on the way home.
This recipe is put together by my much admired baking friend Levine. It shot straight to my comfort baking top 3 because of its original flower shape and the great taste combination of almond paste with a royal zing of lemon zest. It makes the end result less sweet than a lot of speculaas/almond paste recipes that are floating around. All of you Dutch readers, please follow the link for the Dutch recipe on Levine's blog, after watching the video of course :-)
Levine's DivineSpeculaas Rolls
500 gr. bread flour 50 gr. sugar 10 gr. speculaas spices (or a bit more for a stronger taste, formula below) 10 gr. instant yeast 185 gr. lukewarm milk (whole or semi-skimmed) 55 gr. unsalted softened butter 2 big eggs, whisked 8 gr. salt
300 gr. almond paste ± 2 TBS egg 30 gr. candied lemon zest, or the zest of 2 lemons
Described is the method using a stand mixer, but the dough can of course also be mixed using a bread machine, as well as kneaded by hand. If using a bread machine; follow the recipe from the first rise after the machine kneading.
Put the flour, sugar, speculaas spices, yeast, salt and the clumps of softened butter in a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. Add milk and eggs, mix together, and knead with a dough hook for 10-15 minutes to develop a supple dough. The dough can be a little sticky.
Transfer the dough to an oiled container, making sure it is covered all over. Cover and let the dough rise until doubled in about one hour.
Meanwhile, mix together the almond paste, egg and lemon zest. Shape into 15 equal balls.
Turn out the dough on a lightly oiled work surface. Divide the dough in 15 equal pieces and shape them into tight balls. Leave them to rest for 15 minutes.
Flatten the balls of dough in the palm of your hand or with your rolling pin. Put a ball of almond paste in the center and fold in the almond paste, making sure to pinch the seams well.
Put the ball seam down on your working space and roll out again carefully, making sure it keeps its circular shape and the almond paste is spread out evenly. With a dough cutter make eight slits in the dough, leaving the center in tact. Then pair up two petals, twist them so that their sides touch and the almond paste is showing as a swirl. Pinch them together on the bottom.
Divide the rolls on 2 baking sheets, placing them with enough space in between. Carefully flatten the rolls on the baking paper or baking mat. Cover well with oiled cling film and leave to proof until almost doubled in size, in almost an hour.
Bake the rolls in the middle of a preheated oven for about 15 minutes until golden on 180° C. Put them on a rack to cool.
Speculaas Spices; home made
30 g cinnamon 10 g cloves 10 g nutmeg 5 g white pepper 5 g aniseed 5 g coriander seed
Mix all ground spices together and store in a small airtight container.
There are many varieties and tweaks out there, I really like this one. As long as the base is the same, you can tweak your speculaas spices, just the way you like it.
Enjoy! Please feel free to comment and subscribe if you want me to keep you updated. Also I want to ask you to endorse my growing BreadLab initiative on Facebook; every like gets me closer to realizing a 6 episode "breadomentary", chasing the beast bread the world has to offer. Thanks in advance!
The Dutch embrace it all and make their way to the mall to shop till they drop and return home with many a gift, that plenty a spirit will lift.
Does this tradition ring a bell? Well, maybe if you hear his name your X-masses will never be the same;
Sinterklaas is what he's called...
Please don't be too appalled Dear Santa and elves When you see yourselves reflected in this feast that is politically incorrect to say the least.
For Sinterklaas - indeed- is the reason why A guy who goes "ho ho" stops by on your shores; his boat is now a sled, the horse became reindeer with noses red. All devoid of that annoyed "black Pete", made obsolete by elves who can show themselves without any accidental tourist dropping jaws 'cause they see their Santa Claus fretting in such an anachronistic setting.
Here in the old world, tradition reigns and black Pete, alas, remains... However racist it may seem; rest assured the theme at the root of all of this, is equal and Santa is just a better sequel to a storm of giving and sharing, so let that be your bearing!
Give and share, share and give, and live a full life void of strife!
There are many traditional baking goods associated with Sinterklaas. Butter fondant, chocolate letters, chocolate fondant frogs and mice (nobody seems to know where they came from) and pepernoten. There are three varieties of them floating around, going from rather chewy and lebkuchen-like, to crunchy and easy to eat. The traditional pepernoot is right in the middle and made with harshorn salt (yes, we use Rudolf's antlers to make cookies). This is the king of all rising agents when it comes to strength.
Since baking with hartshorn salt involves a chemical reaction to cause your kitchen to smell like ammonia for about a minute during the bake, many people are a bit wary to use it. Rest assured that there is no harm done; open your kitchen window to get rid of this volatile gas even faster. No traces of it will be left in the pepernoten. For those interested in trying it; King Arthur sells Hartshorn salt as "baker's ammonia" on their site.
Here's the video recipe.
Traditional Pepernoten (big batch)
1 kg. all purpose flour 500 gr. honey 300 gr. sugar 3 eggs 15 gr. hartshorn salt 1½ ts cinnamon ¾ ts cloves 1 ts white pepper pinch of: nutmeg coriander ginger all spice cardamom 100 gr. confectioners sugar a little water. Method
Warm the honey on a low heat together with the sugar, the eggs, hartshorn salt and all the spices, untill the sugar has melted. Mix well. Sift through the flour in parts and mix well until the stiff dough comes together (be careful not to wreck your KitchenAid on this dough!).
Preheat the oven to 190° C and grease two sheet pans. Form 2 cm balls out of the dough, place them on the sheet pan, keeping enough space between them (at least 1 cm). Bake the pepernoten for about 15- 20 minutes in the middle rack of your oven until golden brown.
Right after baking let them cool on a rack. Bring some confectioners sugar diluted in a little water to the boil, mix until smooth and brush the pepernoten with it to give them a nice finish.
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When asked where, or who, or what I would turn to when in need of comfort, I blurted out:
"I bake" All around the table there were people nodding in agreement. Comfort, food, baking. A no-brainer.
My answer caused a growing feeling of unease within myself though. As the rest of us came up with their ideas (books, photo albums from the attic, secret benches at water fronts) I counted the number of times a week I throw something into my oven, and started to get slightly worried. I must be in need of an awful lot of comfort...
Ever since, every time I bake, I ask myself; why am I baking?
Sometimes the answer has indeed something to do with comfort. A missed job that had my name written all over it will spark a very comforting autumnal frangipani.
Last week I found myself baking Dutch crust rolls after I shattered two (!) plates I really liked. At times, it is about a passion for new things and learning. Croissants, ensaimadas, macarons, complicated sourdough breads that take up to 36 hours to make, bring it on!
Most of the time the answer seems way more trivial. All the bread eaten in this house come from our own oven. I bake because there needs to be bread on the table in the morning. Simple as that, or is it...
Sharing as a disease The best part of baking, especially when baking bread, is eating it together. Sharing bread is right up there with the big boys when it comes to what is ingrained in our very genes from the start of humanity.
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the ground."
No sooner were we kicked out of paradise, or bread came into our existence... It is at the heart of what makes us human and has stayed with us till this very day!
I heard a wonderful story of a guy, here in Amsterdam, who has made it his mission to GIVE in life all that he can, without ever asking anything in return. He helps complete strangers to a new bike, finds lost photo albums and brings it back to the rightful owners, things like that.
One of the people, a radio journalist, who was touched by all this - he himself got a new bicycle after complaining on a radio show that it was stolen from him - dug around a little and found out the guy was operating... from a mental institution.
He was diagnosed mentally ill. His own words; "over here they consider sharing a disease".
The disease that is called sharing... Personally I hope it is airborne and viral, very contagious and practically incurable. This world could do with a bit of sharing.
This recipe for Swedish Kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls) came to me by way of a baking friend. She got it from a new food channel, who got it from somewhere else, etc. Along the way tweaks were made in the recipe, and what you end up with are some really stunning, very tasty cinnamon rolls that are real easy to make. Maybe something for at the coffee table on Thanksgiving? For me, any old day will do to make them; they have become very popular quite fast in this household.
For the filling:
150 g almonds
150 g sugar
100 g unsalted butter
8 TS cinnamon
4 TBS water
For the dough
500 ml milk
150 g butter
12 g instant yeast
120 g sugar
13 gr. salt
1 TS cardamom
850 gr. bread flour
(pearl) sugar for decorating
Warm the milk and melt the butter into it. Add the yeast, sugar, salt, cardamom and bread flour. Make sure the milk has cooled enough before adding the yeast. 35° C is okay. Mix on low speed until the dough is nice and stretchy, around 10 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the filling. Pulse the almonds together with the sugar and the cinnamon in a processor until fine. Add the water and the butter to it and mix until well incorporated.
Rest your dough in an oiled container until almost doubled in size. The warmer it is the quicker it goes. About one hour or so. Next, roll out the dough to a big rectangle on a lightly floured work surface. Make sure it doesn't stick, it makes working this dough much easier.
Put the cinnamon paste on half of the dough and fold it onto itself. Roll out again to even it out and cut the dough into strips. Form the rolls by stretching and winding the strip of dough, loosely, around your hand twice, go over the width of the roll and tuck in the end. No matter how you do it, it will always look lovely, so don't get too over zealous in trying to get them to look all the same!
Let the rolls proof until they are nice and plump, about 45 minutes. In a warm kitchen they might be ready within 30 minutes or so.
Preheat the oven to 200° C. Take out all the racks and prepare to bake on the second lowest rack.
Give the rolls an egg wash with the slightly beaten egg (use only egg yolk for a deeper, richer shine and a more dramatic contrast) and sprinkle with small sugar pearls if you have them. Normal sugar works as well, but won't look as classy. Bake for about 20-25 minutes with convection until they turn a deep golden brown. Let them cool on a rack and.... SHARE!
The macaron is a puzzling piece of confectionery. It can either be a good day for it or not. Some days, macarons are just in the air, those egg whites all ready to be whipped to the ceiling and back. But not any dull old day will do for the dainty lady to make her appearance. She prefers a dry and sunny day over humid dampness, and, however unfair it seems at times, that is her prerogative. She'll only get off her feet and grant you a glance at how her skirt falls perfect over her calves when she is ready and feels like it.
Even if the French method of making her is said to be superior, nothing beats the Italian embrace when it comes to the meringue; little danger of beating your beloved confectionery to death. And with the added bonus of a nice chewy macaron at the end of the roller coaster ride that is called macarooning.
Here we go. BreadLab goes 'epic recipe'.
Ingredients for a 'standard batch' of macarons;
200 gr. almond powder 200 gr. confectionery sugar
2 x 80 gr. egg whites
200 gr. fine table sugar
about 5 TBS water.
Put the fine table sugar in a pan with 5½ TBS of water. Use a thermometer to prevent the sugar going over 110C. Resist the urge to stir the water/sugar mixture for the best result.
At the same time, start making the meringue; whip two egg whites (80 gr.) to the point where it has soft peaks (see video for a visual). Have your sugar-syrup ready at this stage, and add it to the meringue on high speed.
Keep mixing on high speed until the meringue has cooled back to about 45 to 50 C. This can take quite some time; don't worry, you can't really over beat Italian meringue.
While the meringue is cooling, combine the almond/sugar mix with the other 2 egg whites (=80 gr.). When making colored or spiced macarons, incorporate them now without having to worry about deflating your meringue too much.
Tip: Split the eggs up to a day before you whip them up. Just split them and leave them (covered) out of the fridge. Eggs on room temp always do a better meringue than stone cold ones.
If you are going out of your way to use fresh eggs for macarons; DON'T! 'old' eggs work better. If you live somewhere with high humidity, chances are you won't produce a meringue as enthusiastic as in dry and sunny places. And of course; always make sure you work with properly washed and thus grease free utensils for the best result.
When the egg whites are incorporated in the 'flour' and the meringue has cooled sufficiently, work in the meringue in two halves. This is what is called 'macaronage'. You will loose some volume. Don't worry too much about that, it's logic. Just try and be as consistent as you can in working in the almond paste with the meringue.
This is the most difficult part to get right in making macarons; mix too little and the macarons won't be shiny, look quite coarse, and probably won't 'ooze' into the right shape. Mix it too long and you will loose too much air in your mix and the batter will become too runny and will produce flat macarons.
Practice makes perfect! Use a flexible rubber spatula to mix without loosing too much of your volume. Look at the video again and get the basic movement right; you go around the bowl, and then, with the flat end of your spatula, 'smear' what you have accumulated onto the center.
You are just about done when the mixture gets a bit of a gloss to it and the sugar and almonds are completely incorporated . When folded back onto itself, the mix should keep its shape. If it immediately disappears into the rest of the mix, you have gone too far and your mix might be too runny to produce a macaron that will look like what you are dreaming of.
Remember that, after putting the mix into the piping bag, the last macarons you squeeze out of the bag tend to be more runny than when you started; this is because you have been squeezing out some of the air in the process of piping. Nothing to worry about; just realize it when you are piping your macarons, and try to be gentle. If your batter is a little too thick, tap the baking sheet on the table to force the macarons into shape.
Pipe the macarons onto a quality silicone baking sheet. Make 3 cm dollops about 2 cm apart. Try to be as consistent as you can, but don't worry too much about getting it right; when baked you will pair up 'matching' halves to make perfect macarons. Baking paper can be used as well, but a silicone is worth investing in if you don't want to bother with a hundred ways to keep your macarons from sticking, and they WILL stick on paper. Another advantage of silicone is that it 'holds' the batter in shape much better than paper. Your macarons will be rounder and won't ooze out as much as on paper.
If you are baking on silicone there is a nice trick to see if your macarons are ready after baking; Take the macarons out of the oven; if you can pick them off the baking sheet really easy you have either produced the perfect macaron, or you have over baked them. When they still stick when you give them a careful quart twist on the baking mat, put them back in the oven for a few more minutes.
After piping you need to be patient. In order to get the elusive 'feet' on your macaron, leave them to dry, uncovered. The skin of your macaron should be dry to the touch before they can go into the oven. It can take anywhere between 30 minutes and a few hours, depending on humidity and general conditions in your kitchen. On a dry and sunny summer day, it will go the fastest, on dreary damp days, or when it is really humid, you might have to be patient for what seems like an eternity. Only when there has formed a proper 'skin' on your macaron, will it produce the characteristic 'feet' while baking.
Preheat the oven to 145 C. Bake the macarons for about 13 to 15 minutes with convection if possible.
Let them cool on a rack after baking, make the filling of your choice (there is hundreds of them!), pipe it onto one half, and carefully put the other macaron half in place.
They keep for quite some time. Some people like to eat them after at least one night of refrigeration, others prefer to eat them as fresh as possible.
You can really do me a big favor by endorsing the BreadLab initiative. Every 'like' will get us closer to funding a 6 episode documentary on 'the best bread in the world'. Thank you in advance! The BreadLab