Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Holy Macaron!

My First Batch of Macarons: Part success, part FAIL!

Hey ladies and gentlemen!

Have you ever tried making a macaron? Have you even heard of a macaron? Tempted to call them macaroons? No, not the same thing! You know, we're talking about those adorable whimsical often colorful little french sandwiched cookies, popping up all over the blogosphere, in trendy cafes and in our hearts! Well, they finally got to me. I could take their cutesy wutesy siren's call no longer, and despite the many many (many) many (did I say many?) fails of amateur bakers all over the internet and warnings of rough terrain ahead (pointing at me saying "that's you, stupid!") and even talk of necessary prayers to macaron gods for them to turn out ok, I decided, as usual, why not? After all, asking "why not" sparked the very site you are perusing! I would not know I had a talent for cakery had I not braved out that first one, being willing to fail to find out.

So, much like a drug addict recalls their first hit (omigosh did I just say that?) I am living my immortal memory right now, yes folks, last night I made my first batch of macarons and shall be deemed from this moment in time, insanely obsessed with making them repeatedly until at long last I figure these little buggers out, and prove that macaron gods don't in fact, need burnt offerings anymore, and the little charmers, macaron cookies delicioso, will eventually come from my kitchen and spread cheer amongst the office masses, family, the end. Shall we? I never thought you'd ask.

Last night. Oh my. Where to start? I started at www.Bravetart.com where I have been getting all sorts of inspired to try new and amazing things! Her recipes are unbelievable, her sassy attitude is right up my alley, and the photography makes mine look like my toddler took my photos for me. Hey, maybe he did? So what wanna fight about it? :) Ahh yes, last night. So, I made one batch. I baked several trays, experimenting all the way to try to understand them better and what makes them tick! Ok, when I say tick, I really mean crack, but hey, it sounded good.

Here's the LINK to Stella's recipe: http://bravetart.com/recipes/Macarons
If you are going to try to make these, please visit her page above and follow her instructions rather than mine, which I have included for reference only LOL On her page you'll find the links to the Macaron Myths and Commandment articles, and should read through the comments too! I'm an absolute beginner in the macaron department. Take everything I say with a grain of salt, except that you should visit Stella's macaron page!

French Macarons by Stella Parks

115g Almond Flour
230g Powdered Sugar
144g Egg whites
72g Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla Extract (she uses beans but I had none on hand)
1/2 tsp salt

10 oz Filling of choice (I used Rose's recipe for Classic Lemon Buttercream from The Cake Bible)


1. Basically, you sift the powdered sugar and almond flour together in a bowl and set aside.
Almond flour and powdered sugar sifted...

2. Whip egg white, sugar and salt together in KA for 3 minutes on 4; 3 minutes on 7; and 3 minutes on 8.

3. Add vanilla, whip on 10 for 1 minute or until a stiff meringue forms and clumps in the whisk.

4. Dump dry onto the wet, and perform "macronage" seriously, this is a word LOL, which means deflating     the egg whites in the perfect super duper way hehe that doesn't ruin it all and make you cry!

Dump it in!

****Stella recommends around 40 strokes to get it around the "just right" point of piping consistency. Overmixing, where the mix piles up on itself and after about 20secs does not melt back down will ruin them as well as undermixing, where it goes all runny and un-useable! Gah!

So, once you think you've got it just about right, you pipe one macaron onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. If it has a sharp peak, you undermixed and need to pipe it al back out into the bowl and refill your bag. If it melts back into a smooth surface, enough anyways, to look like a macaron, pray and bake at 300F for 18 minutes, of course after piping the rest about 1.5-2 inches apart perhaps, and banging it on the counter a few times to kill any air bubbles.

All three of my batches had some cracked cookies (one had ALL cracked lol, see pic) and two of my batches had some feet like thingies. Pied is the proper name for them, so I hear! Some were sticky inside, some were shiny and smooth and released easily. All different, and crazy! I used silpat, where Stella uses parchment. I can't locate parchment ANYWHERE over here, so silpat is my only choice for right now. I'm at a loss of words regarding what I did right or wrong, and only repeatedly making them will help me learn I'm afraid.

First Batch: Some cracked

Second Batch: Collapse!

What I *suspect* I learned? (snicker snicker)

~Macarons are very temperature sensitive. Use your oven thermometer! I used mine.
~A too hot oven makes cracked macs.
~Watch your batter for stray areas of meringue that didn't get whipped properly (bowl side). Don't use it.
~Bake all at once if you can, I wonder if allowing my batter to bake one tray at a time messed it up  somehow. They all turned out so different!
~Use parchment over silpat if you can find it!
~If you fail, try again and again until you figure it out or go gray whichever.
~Pray to macaron gods.

THE END! (for now) I'll try again soon, and keep trying until I figure it out! I'll share my successes and fails with you, too.

Luckily, I got about a dozen that were presentable enough to be filled and taken to work with Hubby this morning. Word is on the street they were enjoyed, so that's always a plus! A huge thank you goes out to Stella Parks for her help in making these, and her advice after I made them and reported my results for diagnosis hehe. She is awesome! Macaronomnomnom!

Happy Baking my friends!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Creativity for Hubby's office: Fauxstess Inspired Brownies and Classic Cupcakes


I hope you have been enjoying the beginning of February! This month always reminds me of the sweeter things in life, of course, anyone can imagine why! Valentines Day is right around the corner! Oh yes, that holiday of holidays where we are all encouraged to bake our hearts out, eat little heart shaped candies with messages of love enrobed in chocolate, pink frosting and pastel sprinkles a-plenty, cakes divine, the scent of vanilla in the air almost everywhere you go. You get my drift, Valentines Day is one of my favorite days of the year. I really seem to get into the baking spirit! So what is a (naughty baking) nutritarian to do with all the goods she cannot eat? Why, send them in to the office! In my book, there is no sight more wonderful than a happy, sugared man, and his well cared-for soldiers/airman/whatever when they are away from home. Well, actually, I'd prefer my man was a Nutritarian like me, but in lieu of that since *that* ain't happening haha, I digress. Anyhow, since I am overseas and so many here are without their families, I've really taken it upon myself to be more nurturing of his office mates, while in turn, getting out some pent up creative energy in the kitchen. This bunch really deserves it, they work hard, are away from the ones they love (even the ones with family here) and really have a lot to cope with here. It's the least I can do!

So, proceeding with the understanding that making them treats benefits me as much as it does them, hehe, check out this last weeks nom noms! It was so much fun making them, they are really appreciative and even comical about it. It totally makes my week to hear about how they enjoyed them, and how it lightened their day and the general mood of the office. These little gems might indeed be little morsels of doom (health wise) but hey, if they won't join me and they would just end up eating processed junk anyways if I didn't send in anything, I don't see the harm in replacing mass produced junk with homemade always from scratch junk LOL. I don't care if anyone disagrees with that either, I don't *just* live to stay alive! You have to enjoy your time here while you've got it. I like to think I have found a nice balance of that in my I choose to live. If you're confused wondering what on Earth I am talking about, please see my Nutritarian blog at www.blissfulnutritarian.com!

Ok, so first up we have a bunch of cupcakes, recipe of course from Rose's Heavenly Cakes aka Rose Levy Beranbaum, because she is, after all, the Queen of cakery. Nobody else's recipes ever hold a candle to hers. It took me a while to master the chocolate cakes for some reason, but I've got 'em down pat now and they smell so incredible and are so fluffy! The color is almost black, they truly are amazing. Out of respect to Rose, I do not post her recipes on my blog (someday she might give me permission, and that would be great!) but for now I just have to refer you to her fabulous book on Amazon, Rose's Heavenly Cakes.
I used a standard wilton buttercream for these little beauties, at my Husband's request.

Here is that recipe at least! It can also be found at http://www.wilton.com/recipe/Buttercream-Icing
Those cupcakes were so fun to make! I'll definitely be making them again soon! The guys stayed up super late and went into work at 3am to watch the super bowl, so these went in with Hubby for that! It's a time zone thing. Next, we have the dreaded Wednesday meetings, according to Hubby, that mark the least favorite day of the week right next to our "Monday" which is really, due to local custom, Sunday. I was feeling nostalgic, having spent the week drooling over Stella's magnificent creations over at www.bravetart.com and being that I just got a new Fat Daddio's silicon financier mold, I was itching to try it out! I ended up of course, making brownies in it instead of authentic financiers. Like there is another brownie worthy of this great mold, Rose's recipe for Barcelona Brownies from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, again, was my perfect choice!

Since I didn't have any heavy cream on hand for the ganache plugs that the recipe lists as optional, I opted to dress them up Fauxstess cupcake style with the white buttercream decor. It was so ridiculously good looking! Even with my poor piping skills, I am after all very good with fondant and not so experienced with piping, at least not to the same skill level...they still looked on par with my expectations. Nostalgic, check! Magical! What do you think? I am still waiting to hear how they liked them, it is almost time as I type for the meeting to start! I hope it totally makes their day.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Homemade Marshmallows

So,  I've been following my new favorite blogger of all time, Stella at www.bravetart.com like an obsessive fool!  I found a tempting recipe for homemade marshmallows I just had to try! I had to adapt it a bit to suit what ingredients I had on hand (no vanilla beans, bah) so if you want the original recipe that uses vanilla beans, go to her gorgeous amazing blog! Warning, it's addictive and makes the clock do funny things like skip hours at a time in the blink of an eye.

I've been wanting to learn to make these things for about 6 years now, what on Earth has stopped me? I have no idea! For some reason they have always just seemed so...scary! Complicated? Impossible? Everyone has irrational kitchen fears, and for me, right next to my past fear of tempering chocolate (recently conquered!) this was at the top of my list.

I am so very glad I finally bit the bullet and jumped right in, because I will never be buying these things ever again! They are so beautiful, and according to my family, taste even better than the ones you can buy at the store. Since I haven't been able to taste them (Nutritarian baker, haha) I have to go on my family's assessment that they are absolutely fantabulous :) I can say, they do smell amazing, familiar, and enchanting! They really shocked me when I went to take them out of the pan for dusting and cutting. So amazingly soft! I bet they would be mesmerizing in some hot cocoa, or roasted over a camp fire for s'mores!

Without further small talk, here is the recipe, Stella's link and my very own photo. Of course, I don't have a professional photographer at my disposal so please, if you go to her site don't laugh *too* hard at mine! LOL I am a proud Mallow-Momma!

Homemade Marshmallows
(adapted from Bravetart)

1.5 oz Gelatin
8 oz Cold water
11 oz Corn syrup
8 oz Water
28 oz Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
1-2c Powdered sugar for dusting

Mis en place: Weigh all ingredients and have them ready to go. Grease a 9x13ish rectangular pan and set aside. Have a few spatulas ready and greased, a medium pot w/lid handy and a stand mixer ready to go with the whisk attachment. Grab your candy thermometer. GO!

Step 1
Bloom the gelatin and cold water in a stand mixer bowl. Ignore it for a while :)

Step 2
In a medium saucepan combine the corn syrup, water, sugar and salt. Over low/medium heat bring to a simmer while stirring very gently, being careful not to get sugar crystals up the side of the pan. Cover once simmering and allow to steam itself for 5 minutes.

Step 3
Uncover and fit with candy thermometer. Continue to cook undisturbed until the mixture reaches 240 F. Turn off heat, cool until 210F.

Step 4
Very carefully (HOT!) pour 210 F candy mixture into awaiting stand mixer bowl, add vanilla extract, and whisk on medium high for as long as it takes to triple the volume and become as fluffy as a cloud. It will nearly exceed the capacity of the bowl. I have the Kitchen Aid Pro 600 w/6 quart bowl and it filled it nicely.

Step 5
Using the oiled scraper, scrape the fluff into the prepared 9x13 pan. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top and cover with plastic. Place in the fridge to set for 4 hours!

Step 6
Remove from fridge and reach in with your fingers, between the pan and the mallow, and pull it out and onto the counter, powdered side down! Cool is right! Powder the bottom, which is now facing up.

Step 7
Using a sharp knife or your other preferred medium for cutting sticky things, slice into long strips and then little pieces/shapes to your liking. I tried using a hot knife (knife set into hot water, wiped off), using floss to cut the strips, and using an oiled bench scraper. I found the floss to make the prettiest cuts but the sharp oiled knife to be the most efficient. Either way you slice it, heh, it's gonna be sticky and slightly challenging. Going slow and cutting cautiously is the road to success, I think. Play around.

Step 8
Eat and store them! They keep just like store bought mallows. Place them in an air tight bag or container. Voila! Congratulations! You've just made your first marshmallow! Wasn't that fun? Now clean up this mess!

I hope you enjoy making these bad boys! They were so fun to make, and honestly, I've never seen my Husband and son more excited about something I've baked! Especially my Husband!