I went all Irish on you with this bread. It has both Guinness Stout beer AND potato in the dough. You won’t even taste the beer, but what a pillowy-soft dough it helped create. I made a savory Celtic braid by adding some Parmesan and garlic to the dough, and turned another batch into a braided cinnamon and sugar ring.
Both were light – surprisingly light – and tender. I will say, however, that this is a bread that is best eaten the day it’s made. On day two it was just a tiny bit chewy, though if it had been heated a little, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. This almost made me wish I hadn’t deep-sixed the microwave. (A pat of butter and a few seconds in a microwave will revive any cinnamon roll . . . or braid.)
Makes two Celtic braids or one braided cinnamon ring.
1¼ cups very warm water
3½ teaspoons sugar, divided
1 package active dry yeast
½ cup Guinness Extra Stout beer
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup dry instant potatoes
1 teaspoon salt (3/4 teaspoon if your instant potatoes contain salt)
3½ cups all-purpose flour
For Celtic Braid: ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, if desired. 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water combined for egg wash.
For Cinnamon Ring: 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, ⅓ cup sugar, green candied cherries. Icing if desired.
In a large bowl, combine warm water and ½ teaspoon sugar. Add yeast and allow mixture to sit for at least 5 minutes, or until foamy.
In a small saucepan on low heat, heat the beer and 1 tablespoon butter until beer is lukewarm. (It’s okay if the butter hasn’t melted completely.)
To the yeast mixture, add warm beer mixture, instant potatoes, salt, flour, and 3 teaspoons sugar. (IF MAKING SAVORY BREAD, ADD PARMESAN AND GARLIC.) Mix well. If using a heavy stand mixer, let the mixer knead the dough for 5 minutes. (If kneading by hand, knead on generously floured surface for 7-8 minutes.) Dough will be very soft, slightly sticky, and may stick to the sides of the bowl a little. Cover the bowl with a towel and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
FOR CELTIC BRAID: Cover large baking sheet with parchment. Punch down dough and divide dough into 4 pieces. (If dough is too sticky to work with, knead it a few times on a generously floured surface.) Working with 2 pieces at a time, roll each piece into a rope about 2 feet long. Follow photo instructions in post for making braid (or find a template online). Repeat with remaining 2 pieces. Place braids on prepared baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Cover loosely with towel, and allow to rise until doubled - about 1 hour.
Heat oven to 375 F. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until rich golden brown. Cool on rack.
FOR CINNAMON RING: Prepare two large baking sheets by covering with parchment. (One will be used to coat the bread ropes in butter and cinnamon, and the other will be used to bake the braid.)
Punch down dough and divide into 3 equal pieces. Roll into ropes, each approximately 24 inches long.
Melt butter and pour onto one of the prepared baking sheets. Combine cinnamon and ⅓ cup sugar in a small bowl.
Roll ropes of dough in the melted butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture, rolling until completely coated.
Pinch the three ropes together at the top. Lift onto clean baking sheet and braid. Tuck the ends under and pinch together where the ends meet.
Cover braid loosely with clean towel and allow it to rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour. Decorate with green candied cherries, if desired.
Heat oven to 375 F. and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Place baking sheet on cooling rack for 5 minutes, then slide braid and parchment onto rack to cool completely.
Drizzle with icing if desired. To make a simple icing, combine ½ cup powdered sugar, 1-2 drops green food coloring, and 1 tablespoon milk or water.
Dough will be sticky. Don’t add extra flour yet – you can always work in a little more once it’s risen if necessary.
Rises like a champ! Wait ’til you feel this dough – it’s billowy and soft as a baby’s cheek.
Roll dough around in the flour. If it’s really sticky, knead it a few times to add a bit more flour and make it manageable.
Start by crossing the two ropes at the middle, like an “X”.
And then do this . . .
. . . then this.
It should finally look something like this.
Brush the braid with egg wash and bake!
If you’re making the cinnamon ring, it’s a little easier – just a simple braid:
For the cinnamon braid, begin with three long dough ropes.
Roll them in melted butter, then coat them with cinnamon and sugar.
Braid the sticky ropes on a clean piece of parchment. Tuck the ends under and pinch together to make a ring.
Risen and ready for the oven.
Warm and fragrant.
Oh, and if you want to go with the whole green thing, drizzle this puppy with some green icing.
Serving it was kind of interesting. You can cut it in slices (the least messy option) or you can do what we did and just rip and tear. Licking your fingers is half the fun – no fork and knife for this gal.
St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite baking holidays, and I happily challenge myself each year to come up with something different. When my children were young, their lunches consisted of green everything. Everything!
As fun as it is to make green bread, rolls, and pastries, there are many other fascinating options out there – some Irish, some not so much. Booze plays a prominent roll in my brainstorming sessions, of course, which adds to the festivity.
Yes, yes…of course they’re French (or Italian, depending on who you believe). Whatever. They sure aren’t Irish, but the idea of green macarons with an Irish coffee filling was just irresistible, and perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.
Dark chocolate, cream, butter, Irish Whiskey, Irish Cream, and coffee combine to make a silky truffle-like filling. If you have any left over, you may want to try this; it was amazing!
Heat leftover filling gently and use as a sauce for ice cream
A month ago I’d never even eaten a macaron, so baking them has been a real challenge for me. After scouring the Internet, I was determined that Italian macarons were the way to go. A little more work, since you have to boil the syrup to a certain temperature before pouring over the stiff egg whites, but more predictable.
Five batches and five different results later (and that almond flour isn’t cheap) I caved in and tried the French method…which is my favorite by far. I measured everything to the gram, and tried several recipes, tweaking measurements to find one that works well. I’m still searching for perfect, but…this is good.
I even tried adding some grated chocolate to the batter just before piping, which made a cool chocolate chip mint shell. They seemed a tiny bit flatter though, so I omitted that step in the next few batches. They’re great with a chocolate mint filling – maybe worth sacrificing loft?
I reduced the sugar a little in the recipe I’m posting, but they’re still sweet – very, very sweet., and any less sugar would compromise the structure of the meringue. The coffee filling helps balance the sweetness out, but if you don’t care for sugary desserts, macarons may not be for you.
As usual, I immerse myself in new projects, refusing to move along until I’m satisfied, so you’ll probably be seeing macarons in many different forms for a while. I’m sure we’ll all survive this current obsession – and that 3 pound bag of almond flour can’t last forever!
I painted a few macarons, using gel color or petal dust thinned with vodka. I used a gold petal dust too, just for fun. I’m no artist, and I’m sure you can do better than I, so please shoot me a picture if you attempt this!
I resisted one step in making macarons, simply because many bakers said it wasn’t necessary, and I wanted to take the path of least resistance. But…after many, many attempts, I have to admit that it’s better if you age your egg whites. I don’t do it for days, because the thought of leaving egg out at room temperature gives me the willies, but even 18-24 hours seems to help stabilize the mixture. This is just my opinion; you might not notice a difference.
Start with squeaky clean utensils. Egg whites do not like grease!
If you don’t want to age your egg whites, at least make sure they’re at room temperature.
For best results, weigh your ingredients, but if you don’t have a scale, my measurements work pretty well.
The almond flour really makes a difference. Make sure it says “flour”, and look for blanched almond flour; it makes a prettier macaron. I used Bob’s Red Mill until I found the 3 pound bag of Honeyville brand at Costco. It’s a super fine grind at a great price. (And no, I don’t get kickbacks from any companies!)
To avoid having your batter drip out of the tip as you fill your pastry bag, place the tip in the bag firmly and give the bag a little twist right above the tip – then tuck the twist right into the tip. Once the bag is filled, just pull the tip down before piping. I use a pitcher to hold my pastry bag while I’m filling it.
Silpat – especially the kind for macarons, with circles – works great for macarons, I think the bottoms are prettier and they release better, but parchment is preferred by some bakers, so it’s your choice.
Circles are your friend. If you’re not using macaron silpats, draw 2-inch circles on parchment (flip it over before using, of course) or make one good, dark, cardboard template that you can see through the parchment and just slide it out from under each sheet to use on the next. Pipe in the center of each circle to about 1/4″ from the edge. When you tap the pan the macarons will spread out a bit to fill the circle.
I don’t pipe all the way to the circle edge. If you want to do that, you may want to make your circles 1-1/2″ instead of 2″
Unless you happen to have 4 sturdy baking sheets, pipe directly on a piece of parchment on the counter (put a little batter under each corner or weigh each corner down to hold it steady) and slide a cooled cookie sheet underneath when it’s time for that batch to go in the oven.
To avoid pointy tops, test a spoonful of batter on a plate to make sure it’s thin enough. If you tap the plate on the counter a few times and the batter doesn’t smooth out, give it a few more stirs.
Don’t be shy about dropping each pan of piped macarons on the counter. Do it several times. Air in the batter = hollow shells, and you don’t want that!
210 grams (2½ cups) almond flour (use the lightest, finest flour you can find)
380 grams (3½ cups) powdered sugar
200 grams (6 whites) egg whites, room temperature or - better yet - aged *
pinch of cream of tartar
90 grams (1/2 cup) superfine sugar
green food coloring (gel or powdered)
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons butter
¾ cup (divided) heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon espresso powder, or dark instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons whiskey
2 tablespoons Irish Cream Liqueur
1 cup powdered sugar
* To age egg whites, cover lightly with a towel and leave on the counter for 24 hours before using.
Prepare heavy baking sheets by covering with parchment or using silpat sheets. (Before piping macarons on parchment, put a little batter under each corner to hold it down.) If you don't have 4 baking sheets, you can cool and slide sheets under each batch before putting in the oven.
Weigh or measure the almond flour and powdered sugar. Sift together twice, discarding any large bits that won't go through your sifter, and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle a pinch of cream of tartar over the top and beat until soft peaks form.
While beating, slowly add the superfine sugar. Continue to beat until meringue forms stiff peaks.
Add food coloring and stir just until it is incorporated.
Add the dry ingredients and carefully fold in, just until it is thick but will pour slowly from your spoon or spatula. It won't look smooth - it has almonds in it - but shouldn't be "gloppy". Drop a spoonful on a plate and tap the plate against the counter. The batter should smooth out. If there is still a peak on the top, stir a few more times.
This is important: *The more you stir, the thinner it will get (not good), so don't over-stir!*
Spoon into a large pastry bag equipped with a large round tip.
Squeeze bag to pipe uniform "patties" (about 1½") on prepared pans, about an inch apart. Drop the pan several times onto the counter to flatten out any tip left from piping and remove air bubbles. Pop any air bubbles that come to the surface with a toothpick right away.
Let the pans of macarons sit and dry for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300 F.
Place one sheet of macarons in the oven at a time, on the middle rack. Bake for 13 minutes. Check to see if they are done by touching one gently on the side. If it moves at all, give the macarons another minute or two.
Slide parchment or silpat onto a cooling rack. Let them cool completely before removing.
Repeat with remaining baking sheets.
If your macarons aren't all uniform, match up pairs of equal sizes before piping on the filling.
In a large pan on low heat, combine chocolate, butter, ½ cup of the whipping cream, and coffee powder, Stir frequently until mixture is melted and smooth.
Remove from heat and add whiskey and liqueur. Stir until blended and let pan cool 15-20 minutes, or until cool to the touch. If you have a thermometer, wait until the mixture drops under 80 degrees. (You can put the pan in a bowl of cold tap water, stirring frequently, to hurry it up.)
With a hand mixer, beat until mixture lightens in color and begins to thicken.
Add powdered sugar and beat well.
Slowly trickle in the remaining ¼ cup cream, beating continuously until the filling is fluffy and mousse-like, When you scrape a rubber spatula down the middle of the pan, the filling should not fill the space back in. MIXTURE WILL BE SOFT, but firms up quickly as you work with it.
Using a pastry bag and large round tip, pipe onto one macaron shell. Gently cover with second shell. It's best to pipe filling close to the edge to avoid having to press down too hard. Don't be tempted to pipe them all at once, or the filling may be too firm to set the top macaron.
Refrigerate macarons for 24 hours before serving (or up to 3 days) to give the filling time to blend into the shells a bit.
Here’s the colored meringue. See the peak? It’s ready to go!
Fold in the dry ingredients carefully. Don’t stir! It’s hard to believe that this will turn into……
This! It needs to flow, but not be runny.
There are different methods of piping – from the top (my method), from the side, and from the top, pulling off to the side. Though I forgot to take a picture of myself piping this batch, here’s a photo showing the chocolate chip macarons being piped onto a silpat. I dropped the pan on the counter a few times and got rid of those pesky peaks.
Piping mint chocolate chip macarons
Drop the pan on the counter several times, then use a toothpick to pop any stubborn air bubbles.
Baked. Yeah, I got a little generous with the size on this batch. Smaller is better; they’re SWEET!
Slowly melt chocolate, cream, butter, and coffee powder
Beat in the powdered sugar – right there in the pan.
Trickle in remaining cream and beat until mousse-like
Filling will be soft, but shouldn’t flow back into a track made with a spatula.
…but wait, that’s not all!
BONUS! This recipe is part of a group post.
To welcome Spring, I joined three of my favorite blogger/bakers to bring you some new recipes to usher in the season. The photos and links to their creations are below. Hope you’ll take a moment to visit them and check out their posts! – Lorinda
Amy, of Crumbs in My Mustachio, has paired juicy strawberries with chocolate in this mouth-watering Chocolate Strawberry Tart