A Lesson in Macarons

3 Apr

IMG_3124I mentioned a while ago that I took a French Macaron class while I was in Paris last November.  And although I had made macarons multiple times before my trip, I ended up learning a lot during the class. Hands on experience with a professional French pastry chef is a great way to learn and I am so grateful for the experience!

Although I took the class in France, I was taught the Italian meringue method since it is typically more reliable then the French method. Having used both methods at home, I suggest the Italian method as well. Here are some additional tips that I picked up in class:

 

• Age your egg whites! A couple of days before you actually want to make your macarons, separate your egg whites and set them in the fridge to age.  This step really helps with your meringue.

• Sift your almond meal and powdered sugar. This is not my favorite tip as it takes a while and makes a mess!  A lot of recipes also call for sifting up to 3 times.  I only sift once but make sure that there are not large pieces of almond meal in the final batter.

• Only use powdered food coloring – I’ve made the mistake of using liquid food coloring as I mentioned in this post and it completely ruined my shells. Once I got back from Paris, I bought powdered food coloring and gel food coloring since both are recommended for coloring your shells.  However, the gel did not work well for me, so I’m sticking with powdered from now on and suggest that you do too!

IMG_3122• Macaronage – this is the term used for folding your meringue into your almond meal/sugar mixture.  I always thought it was a delicate process that had to be done a certain way. Some recipes even tell you a certain number of folds to do.  But in class, we whipped the heck out of the batter at this stage.  You’re just trying for the correct consistency. It should be shiny and run like a ribbon off the spatula. If it is the consistency of pancake batter, you’ve gone too far.  It it breaks off in clumps and doesn’t incorporate back into the batter you need to keep mixing.

• Once you’ve piped the macarons onto the baking sheet, let them rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. This step creates a skin on the macaron which helps to produce the “feet”.

• Age your macarons – once your macs are baked, filled and sandwiched together, age them in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving.  This is a very important step that makes a huge difference in the final outcome.  Macarons fresh out of the oven are crunchy.  They need time for the filling* to seep into the shell, creating the soft and chewy texture of macarons we all know and love.

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As you can see, French Macarons require a lot of time to make and take quite a bit of prep and planning. And with so many things that can go wrong, they are definitely not the easiest cookie to whip up.  However when executed correctly, they are delicious little treats that are well received by all.

*Something interesting I learned during the class is that typically macaron shells are not flavored at all (except for chocolate and espresso), which is actually a good thing since the slightest amount of liquid can ruin a batch.  Instead, the filling is used to flavor the macs, so make sure to use something tasty!

Kel-Beany Brownie Bites

9 Mar

IMG_3299I’ve been wanting to make brownies for a while but couldn’t decide on a recipe.  I don’t necessarily have a go-to brownie recipe as the last time I made the better than boxed recipe they didn’t come out that great.  I also couldn’t decide if I wanted to go with a lighter healthy recipe or a completely rich and indulgent one. Being the health enthusiast that I am, I went the less indulgent route and added some interesting, nutrient rich ingredients as well.

Since I couldn’t find the perfect recipe, I pretty much just made my own, stealing some tips and tricks from brownies and bars I’ve made before. To decrease the fat content (and add some protein!) I substituted some black beans for the oil. I know this sounds weird and I definitely don’t tell people that the brownies are full of beans until after they’ve tried them but I promise the brownies don’t have a beany taste at all. I’ve had success baking with beans in the past and have seen many recipes using this technique so it’s really not that crazy.

IMG_3300To upgrade the nutritional profile of these babies I used almond meal and sweet brown rice flour instead of all-purpose (which also makes these gluten free!) and used half coconut palm sugar instead of all white. Lastly, instead of throwing more chocolate chips into the batter, I added some cocoa nibs which are bits of fermented, dried, roasted and crushed cacao beans. They are one of the best dietary sources of magnesium and a good source of calcium, iron, copper, zinc and potassium and add an interesting crunch to the brownies. Chocolatey and good for you? Sounds like my kind of treat!

Even though there are some odd and nutritious ingredients in these brownies, they still taste like a deliciously rich and chocolatey treat. I was very happy with the outcome and am excited to use these as well as other healthier ingredients in my future baking experiments. I encourage you to sneak some beans into your baked goods as well.  Chickpea blondies anyone?  Or perhaps some red bean red velvet cake?

Kel-Beany Brownie Bites

Ingredients:
- 3/4 cup black bean puree
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp almond meal
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sweet rice flour
- 1 tablespoon cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/3 cup cocoa nibs

Directions:

  1. Grease a mini muffin tin.
  2. In a food processor, puree the black beans with the sugar. Add the coconut oil, and vanilla extract and process until smooth.
  3. Over very low heat, place the chocolate in a small pot on the stove — stirring constantly until melted. Add to the other wet ingredients.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and mix together until just combined.
  5. Using a cookie scoop drop the brownie batter into your prepared mini muffin tin and refrigerate for half an hour to an hour.
  6. When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the middles are set, but not dry.
  8. Let cool completely before removing from pan.

Les Recipes de Noel

25 Dec

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Merry Christmas! I hope you are all enjoying plenty of delicious treats and some quality time with family and friends.  Here’s a list of all the goods I baked up for gifts this year.

Cinna-chip Snickerdoodles – I made this recipe but added a bag of hershey’s cinnamon chips for an extra boost of cinnamon deliciousness.

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Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars - I’m not sure these were the biggest hit, but the dough looked amazing and I could definitely taste the browned butter in them.  I used half large milk chocolate chips and half semi-sweet.  Next time I think I’d add some toasted nuts and maybe a different flavored chip like peanut butter or butterscotch.

Cookies & Cream Peppermint Bark – This bark packs a powerhouse of peppermint.  It is definitely sweet, rich and minty, but I loved it.

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French Macarons – I’m going to do a whole post on these babies soon.  I made 2 batches using the recipes and tips from my class in Paris. Some came out pretty good and some just weren’t up to par. The flavors I made included chocolate ganache, chocolate cookies n’ cream, pistachio and chocolate raspberry. As usual, pistachio was my favorite but I’ve also been enjoying the left over chocolate raspberry jam from the raspberry ones.

Chocolate Mint Marshmallow Cookies – These aren’t the best looking cookies but they sure taste good. I followed the recipe but added about 2 cups of chopped up mint marshmallows. The marshmallows add a nice gooey sweetness to an already tasty and chocolatey cookie.

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Pumpkin Breads!

9 Nov

We are knee deep in pumpkin season and I have been busy baking up all kinds of pumpkin goodies.  So far I’ve made pumpkin chili, dinner rolls, lattes, oat bars, 2 kinds of cookies and lots of pumpkin bread. I’m surprised I haven’t turned orange! I think out of everything pumpkin I’ve consumed this past month, pumpkin bread has been my favorite.  It’s just so traditional and delicious.  I’ve made 3 different recipes so far (2 vegan and 1 paleo) and think I have settled on a favorite.  Here are the recipes:

Vegan Pumpkin Bread

by Joy the Baker

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Ingredients:
2 cups ap flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cloves
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 and place a rack in the center of the oven.  Grease two loaf pans and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup and water.
4. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix together, scraping the bottom of the bowl as you stir.
5. Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and let it cool for 20 minutes before placing on a rack to cool completely.

This is my favorite of the 3 recipes I made and was definitely well received by the many folks that got to try it.  The recipe makes 2 loaves which I’ve been splitting into 1 9×5 loaf and 2 mini loaves for sharing purposes. I’ve made the recipe twice and have been stashing the extra mini loaves in my freezer.  It’s been great having them on hand for get-togethers or to bring on a visit to my adorable nephews. The recipe is a little different in her cookbook as it is on her site and I’ve been actually been following the recipe exactly (minus the walnuts).  I would like to try replacing some of the oil with either more pumpkin puree or applesauce to make it a little lighter, however.

Banumpkin Bread

by neverhomemaker

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Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 large, extremely ripe bananas
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
1/4 cup almond plus 1 teaspoon beer (or lemon juice)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Directions:
1.    Grease a loaf pan and set aside.
2.    In a large bowl, mash the bananas until they are gooey and have as little chunks as possible.
3.    Whisk in the pumpkin puree, sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla. Add almond milk and beer.
4.    In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and baking soda. Add to the wet and mix with a spatula until just combined.
5.    Stir in the coconut flakes.
6.    Pour into the loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for half an hour.
7.    Preheat your oven to 350 and place a rack in the center of the oven.
8.    Bake for 1 hour until your loaf is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
9.    Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

This bread is more of a hybrid of banana and pumpkin bread than a pure pumpkin bread, but it’s definitely one of my most made breads (and the origin of one of my nicknames).  I make this bread anytime I’m in the mood for banana bread because I like the use of whole wheat flour and the low fat content.  I’ve tried reducing the sugar before too but didn’t like the outcome quite as much as the original  I now use coconut palm sugar for at least part or all of the white sugar to make things a tad healthier.

Paleo Pumpkin Streusel Bread

by runningtothekitchen

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Ingredients:
1 cup almond flour
¼ cup coconut flour
¼ cup ground pepitas (to make a flour)
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup honey
¼ cup melted coconut oil
4 eggs

Streusel Topping:

½ cup chopped walnuts
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tbsp honey
½ tsp cinnamon
1 /8 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsps unsweetened coconut flakes

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients and pour into dry ingredients. Mix well.
4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
5. In a small bowl, combine all the streusel ingredients and sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.
6. Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
7. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

I made this paleo pumpkin bread for a breast cancer event at my crossfit gym. It was extremely moist due to the pumpkin and coconut oil. I thought it came out pretty good but it wasn’t very sweet or pumpkiny.  I would definitely add more honey and more pumpkin pie spice next time around.  The streusel topping is definitely necessary and adds a nice, sweet crunch.

I hope you’ve all been baking and enjoying many pumpkin goodies as well. There’s less than a month before christmasy flavors like gingerbread, eggnog and peppermint take over, so enjoy the fall flavors while you can. :) I must admit I’ve already been thinking of the xmas cookies and treats I’ll be baking up this year and am very much looking forward to it.

Apple Pie Cookies

21 Oct

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I spent an enjoyable afternoon in my kitchen baking up these cute apple pie cookies.  I got the idea from one of my crossfit instructors via this recipe. As I’ve said before, I actually appreciate getting recipe requests from others as it takes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to try new things. Otherwise I’d just make batch after batch of cookies! Plus, I have been wanting to try a lattice top pie for a while and figured this was the perfect opportunity.

I decided to make the pie dough and apple filling from scratch (instead of store bought) which made the process a bit more labor intensive and time consuming. However, I really enjoyed the many hours it took to create these babies. I think it was mostly due to the challenge of baking something new as well as the the fact that I was baking for others. It was fun putting these pie cookies together knowing that my friends and family would be enjoying them soon. Also, I really do just love baking!

Since I’m not a big pie fan, I didn’t even sample the final product, but I heard they were delicious! :) So if you have a free afternoon and are looking for a baking challenge, I recommend giving these apple pie cookies a try.

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Here is the breakdown of the recipe:

Pie Dough

adapted from allrecipes

Ingredients:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tbls sugar
- 1 scant tsp salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
- 3/4 shortening
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 1 egg

Directions: In a large mixing bowl, combine all-purpose flour, shortening, sugar, and salt. Blend together with a pastry cutter until crumbly. In a separate bowl, mix egg with water. Blend into flour mixture. Chill in refrigerator until ready to use.

I’ve used this pie dough recipe many times before, usually opting for all shortening.  However I decided to use part butter this time around to enhance the flavor.

Apple Filling

copied from smittenkitchen

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Ingredients:
- 4 granny smith apples
- 2 McIntosh apples
- 1 tbls lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 3/4 sugar
- 2 tbls all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp allspice

Directions: Peel, core and cut apples into 1/4 cubes.  Toss with lemon juice and zest. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, flour, salt and spices. Mix dry ingredients with apple mixture. Set aside.

Putting it all together:

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Ingredients:

1 cup caramel sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg

Directions:

1. Roll out half of the pie dough.
2. Spread a thin layer of caramel sauce over the dough
3. Top the caramel layer with your apple pie filling
4. Roll out the second half of the dough the same size and shape as your first half and cut into thin strips
5. Create a lattice on top of apple pie filling with the dough strips (I used the tutorial found here)
6. Using a biscuit cutter, cut out pie cookies
7. Place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet, brush the tops with egg wash and then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

I’m happy to report the lattice top was much easier than I thought it would be and the cookies stayed together much better than I thought they would.  I was partly expecting the filling bust out of the pie dough once they went in the oven but luckily everything stayed in tact.  I do want to make these again someday as I think they make great little gifts, but I think I’ll wait for a nice rainy day when I don’t feel like going outside anyway…

Tuxedo Oatmeal Chip Cookies

11 Oct

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I have a bad habit of snacking on chocolate chips.  I always seem to have a bag of one flavor or another open and ready to eat.  In order to stop this unnecessary consumption of chocolate, I try to use them up in baked goods.  Although I’ll admit this doesn’t always happen as I’ve managed to eat an entire bag without making a single thing.

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Recently I found myself with opened bags of both white chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I’ve baked a lot of regular chocolate chip cookies lately so was in the mood for something a little different. At first I was thinking oatmeal raisin cookies with white chocolate chips would be tasty.  (But I don’t exactly have a raisin-snacking problem.)  So instead, these Tuxedo Oatmeal Chip Cookies were born. They are basically oatmeal raisin cookies minus the raisins and plus white chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I actually loaded them with chips (since I was trying to use up the bags), adding 1 and a half cup of each, but I think anywhere from 1 cup to 1 1/2 will do just fine.

Tuxedo Oatmeal Chip Cookies

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Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/3 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

Directions:
1. In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together and then combine with butter mixture.
3. Stir in the oats and chips.
4. Chill dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hrs.
5. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Scoop the dough onto prepared baking sheets making sure they are about 2 inches apart.
7. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are brown but the middle is still a bit under cooked.
8. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

The cookies are gone and so are those 2 bags of chocolate chips.  Yet, I somehow have another bag of white chocolate chips that is getting smaller by the minute…

What to make next?

Recently Baked

16 Sep

A couple of treats I’ve been baking and enjoying lately:

Banana Bread Protein Bars

I’ve made these Banana Bread Protein Bars from Oh She Glows three times now.  Twice this past weekend because the first batch didn’t come out great.  Unfortunately, I made some substitutions that just didn’t work out.  I followed the recipe to a T the next day and was much happier with the results. They are gluten free, vegan and a make a great snack or addition to breakfast.  I’m pretty sure the first time I made them (a couple months ago) I substituted half of the peanut butter with prune puree and left out the chocolate chips and I remember loving them.  So I know substitutions can be made, just not too many…

Black Bean Brownies

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I’ve been wanting to make black bean brownies for a long time now.  I know beans in brownies sound a bit strange, I’ve just seen so many recipes online that I figured they must be good.  Plus, the beans lower the fat and add protein to your dessert – a total win-win.  I made this vegan version from My Little Celebrations but didn’t have any espresso powder so went without.  These brownies came out pretty good and luckily had no “beany” taste.  I just wish they were a little bit sweeter, so I’ll probably up the sugar next time I make them.

Polenta Trail Mix Bars

Here’s another bar recipe that I’ve already made more than once.  They are no-bake (perfect for the hot weather we’ve been having) and so easy to throw together. I made one variation with cranberries, raisins, sunflower seeds and pepitas and another with a trail mix from Sprouts consisting of brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, coconut flakes, dried pineapple and papayas.  Both versions were quite tasty and best enjoyed warmed up with a little bit of peanut butter smeared on top.

Macarons – Italian Meringue Method

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The quest for the perfect macaron continues.  I finally tried the Italian Meringue method which is supposed to be less sensitive than the French method.  However, my macs seemed to turn out the same, flat and a bit hollow inside.  At least they still tasted good! I followed this recipe from Love and Macarons and after watching some videos from the site realized I’ve been over mixing my batter.  At least I’m getting closer… I think. Exciting news: I just signed up for a Macaron Making class in Paris (!!) and can’t wait to learn from the pros! I’ll let you know how it goes.  Hopefully I’ll be a master macaron maker when I return :)

savory/sweet/style

a blog dedicated to a sweet, savory, and stylish lifestyle.

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