If It Isn’t Broken …

So my last batch of French macarons, I wanted to try a recipe I had seen.  Users commented that it was a “fool-proof” recipe.  Seeing that it made slightly more macarons than my current recipe, I figured I’d give it a shot.  Results (for me, at least): Awful.  I’m sure the recipe was great for some people but it did not turn out for me.  I wish I had taken pictures of the hollow and cracked mess that resulted, but I don’t think anyone wants memories of their failures haha.

So I went back to my tried-and-true recipe, the one that I had experimented with for so long and is my very own fool-proof macaron.  Stick with what works for you!  I also did some experimenting still with the baking time.  Instead of baking it the usual 20 minutes that I normally do, I decided to do 16 minutes, rotating at the midway mark.  They are even better than before.  Normally I’d have to let my macarons “mature” for a day prior to serving but these were ready to be eaten immediately.

I wish I had cut one open just so you could see how beautifully un-hollow they are.  Oh, I filled them with strawberry buttercream and mocha buttercream.  Yes, those are my leftover buttercreams from the holidays but they hold up well in the freezer when sealed tight!

And then there’s my Cubs cake that I made for my brother’s birthday.  This was my first attempt at cake decorating, so yes it’s not very pretty.  And yes, I noticed the crack on the face but I absolutely hate fondant so I used gum paste instead.  I’ll probably do fondant next time though and just stop complaining about it.

When I walked in with the cake, he didn’t seem very pleased at receiving just a cake.  But when I told him to look closer, his eyes just lit up.  He immediately took a bunch of pictures and started sending them to friends and coworkers.  He has been a Cubs fan since as long as I can remember, so when they won the world series, you could imagine the elation.  This Cubs cake was going to happen either way though, win or lose.  Very happy they won.

Oh Goodness!

Oh my, it has been so long since I’ve posted.  A lot has happened since my last entry but the short of it is that my mom got very sick so the stress built up.  We are dealing with it but things are slightly better now.

On to baking!

So I started getting really into baking cakes.  Seeing gorgeously decorated cakes really inspired me.  So during the holiday season, I just decided to go for it!

For Thanksgiving, I made a chocolate cake loaded with fresh strawberries and pastry cream.  I wanted to do an ombre rose top and the results are below!  It wasn’t perfect and there are gaps between some of the petals.  I also ran out of pink buttercream (Swiss) so I finished it off with the natural white.  It was still pretty though!

Then Christmas rolled around, the holiday for baking.

My friends and I don’t do Friendsgiving.  Instead, we do Friendsmas which has been tradition for quite a few years now.  And honestly, I just wanted to have another excuse to bake more.  After racking my brain for weeks trying to come up with a flavor, I decided to do a red velvet cheesecake-cake!  Yes, I got lazy in blending the blues on the icing but those sugar snowflakes took a lot of time to color/glitter.  It was delicious, but next time instead of baking the layers separately, I may just bake 2 and slice them up afterwards.  The cake was a bit dry/overcooked.

Then came family Christmas.  By request, I made the chocolate strawberry cake again but decided to use a mocha buttercream instead and OH MY, mocha buttercream has got to be my fave.  This was definitely one of my better looking cakes.  The layers baked up evenly and make frosting it a breeze.

And then NYE rolled around, my last bit of baking for the year.  By request, I made my mom a rum cake.  And for a friend’s NYE party, I made pink champagne cupcakes.

I decided to make a strawberry buttercream for my cupcakes; cooked down some fresh strawberries, pureed then tossed them in with some pink gel color.  Topped them off with some sugar star confetti and sugar pearls I had laying around.

And then there was this beauty – the rum cake.  Hello gorgeous!  I used a recipe on King Arthur Flour’s site.  I was very afraid that this would taste too liquor-y but it doesn’t.  It is delicious and wonderful to look at.

That’s all I have for now.  I just realized I missed posting another cake but that will have to wait until next time.

Happy Mother’s Day!

So my boyfriend found an array of extracts and picked me up several different flavors. After a 2 week hiatus from baking due to being sick, I knew I had to get a batch for Mother’s Day. It was also coincidentally a friend’s birthday so 2 birds/1 stone.

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I wanted to make something with the rum extract. Initially it was supposed to be rum chocolate ganache with peanut butter, but with my array of new flavors I decided to throw in some hazelnut and made a hazelnut rum bittersweet chocolate ganache.

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I’m quite sad that this is the only pic I have of the macarons as it was an extremely busy weekend. Maybe I’ll stop by my mom’s and nab another pic if she hasn’t eaten all of them yet. This was also my first successful attempt at a chocolate ganache.

I was overall very pleased with the outcome of the flavors. I will definitely be making more ganaches in the future. Hope everyone had a fantastic Mother’s Day!

My first post

My first post!  Let me start by chronicling my past 6 weekends of French macaroning adventures.

Oh French macarons, you finicky little creatures.  How I love and loathe you at the same time.  I had been procrastinating making macarons for the longest time.  I wanted my first to be rose flavored, and when my best friend found and bought me rose water, I knew it was go-time.

My first week, raspberry-rose, was a hot mess.  They tasted amazing but I was ill prepared.  I also tried to make a white ganache and it was awful.  So I had to pull a last minute buttercream which was a lifesaver.

Expectations (courtesy of Laduree) vs Reality

 

Week 1’s lesson: Do not add any liquids to the macaronage batter, you will utterly ruin your cookies – domed cookie, no feet.  Also, quality chocolates are a must for ganache.

Let me tell you, I spend most of my week after work/during lunch break researching and troubleshooting macarons.  Week 2, I’d already been obsessed.  I needed to perfect these little delicacies.  The flavor this weekend was going to be salted caramel.  As quoted by my sister “Salted caramel anything is the effing bomb.”

 

 

That’s right, I finally have liftoff!  FEET!!!  YESSS!  Look at the perfection, I thought I had done it.  But I was wrong, these babies were hollow.  They sure did look pretty though, and I purchased boxes to give away to friends because there was no way I was going to eat all these cookies.

Week 2’s lesson: when you’re banging the trays to knock out the excess air, do not be afraid to drop them and make some noise!  Time to research hollows.

Week 3, inspired by Stan’s donuts, I decided to make pistachio lime macarons.  There are no pictures this week, they were a complete disaster.  Watching videos and reading blogs, someone suggested to continue the macaronage until you can write a number 8 with one continues batter stream.  The batter was too far at that point.  Result: flat macarons.  Delicious though, my favorite buttercream flavor by far.

Week 3’s lesson: “When in doubt, lime buttercream” is my new motto.  Seriously, that sh*t is delicious.

Week 4, oh boy.  As I write this, I’ve come to the realization that I’m devoting a lot of my life to these little cookies!  They have definitely become a passion of mine.  This week, I made 2 flavors: Saturday was Passionfruit and Sunday was Taro/Coconut.

 

Oh they were beautiful and tasted amazing.  My official taste tester (my bf, not my dog) said they were the best flavors I’d made.  Oh but the hollows!  After all my research, reading that my batter still had too much air, I thought I had finally defied all odds!  They looked really cute in the macaron boxes I had just acquired though.

Week 4’s lesson: DAMN YOU, HOLLOWS!  Also, nuts.com is amazing.  Look at all the amazing loot I got (below) from them at affordable prices.  And everything comes in a resealable bag – a baker’s dream come true.

Week 5, had a pint of fresh strawberries, so decided to keep it simple.  Cooked down and strained my strawberries for the buttercream the day before.  I read that my cookies were rising too fast and decided to cut the baking temp to 275°F.  Results: still hollow.  No pictures because I was starting to become disheartened.  I began to think about giving up.

Week 5’s lesson: Cook down your fruit more til they’re really thick, or else it will be too runny for the buttercream and cause you to use more sugar.

Week 6, my bf’s birthday.  I thought by now, I would have mastered the cookie for my bf’s birthday.  I had this planned from week 1, pb&j macarons since those were his favorite sandwiches.  This week, I decided to turn on the convection option on my oven at 300°F.  The first tray, I could tell right away they were hollow.  I was beginning to lose hope.  Then I remembered a tip from the very first macaron recipe I tried “when you get hollows, turn up your oven temp.”  So I went for it, 320°F convection.  I should’ve listened to Miss Ann Reardon from the get-go (https://www.howtocookthat.net/public_html/easy-macaron-macaroon-recipe/) because this batch, it was perfect.  I sacrificed a shell and cracked it open: no hollow, macaron perfection.

 

I made a buttercream from the previous week’s strawberry reduction and swirled it with a peanut buttercream.  It was tough keeping my bf out of the kitchen for his pb&j surprise.

Week 6’s lesson: If there’s hollows, turn up your oven temp!

Why didn’t I turn up the temp before?  Well I tried but my cookies browned (lime pistachio).  Turns out I was using the wrong food coloring.  I bought the first gel coloring I saw and it was for icing.  Icing coloring is not meant to be cooked, so they will brown faster than your cookie.  Buy yourself some proper Americolor.

Also, here’s the recipe I use:
30g granulated sugar
100g egg whites
200g powdered sugar
120g almond flour
pinch of salt

When making a different nut flavored shell, substitute half of the almond flour w/ the flour of your choosing.

That’s all for my first post!  Doubt this will get much traction but I just had to write this all down.  It was like a constant battle/argument with myself these past 6 weeks trying to figure all this out.