Macarons

Macarons

I’ve been wanting to try to make macarons for awhile but for some reason never rose to the challenge. So this weekend, I decided to finally give them a go, and they are honestly one of the most frustrating and difficult bakes you could do.

If the oven isn’t at just the right temperature, they won’t get their signature ‘foot’. If you don’t let them sit long enough to form their skin, they will crack. If you overmix the batter, they go flat. If you leave them in the oven for just 3 seconds too long, they turn brown. They’re affected by humidity and the ambient temperature of the room. Long story short, I made about 8 batches in total of these and only about half were actually useable. So if you want to give macarons a go, be sure you do it on a day when you don’t mind experimenting to find what temperature and things work best for you. Just don’t give up!!

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 110 grams ground almonds, sifted
  • 175 grams icing sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon meringue powder
  • food coloring

Directions

1. Weigh out your ground almonds and icing sugar AFTER sifting, to make sure you don’t get any large granules into your mixture. You want to have the finest mixture you possibly can.  After weighing the two out, stick them in a food processer and give them a quick whiz to combine, creating a superfine powder. Set aside until you’re ready to mix.

2. In the bowl of your mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, place your egg whites and meringue powder. Whisk the eggs on high until they grow in volume and form soft peaks. At this stage, gradually add in your sugar while the mixer is still running. Just before the meringue reaches stiff peaks, add in your food coloring so that it gets mixed in evenly. You want to add a really concentrated, bright color as the color will fade when baking. It is crucial that you don’t overmix them.

3. Remove your bowl from the mixer; add in your ground almond and icing sugar mixture by sifting over the meringue, then gently folding it in with a spatula. Again, be careful not to overmix! Once all the dry ingredients are incorporated, press your mixture onto the side of the bowl to help reduce the volume a bit – but you don’t want it to go too runny, you should still be able to see a ‘ribbon’ sitting on top of your batter if you lift the spatula and drip some of the batter back into the bowl.

4. Transfer your batter to a large piping bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch tip attached. Pipe your batter into 1 1/2- to 2- inch diameter circles on baking sheets lined with baking paper. You can freehand them or trace circles onto the underside of the paper so that you can have a guide to follow. Once all of your batter is piped, gently tap the trays on the countertop to help the macarons settle and remove air bubbles.

5. Let the macarons sit out to form a skin for at leas 30 minutes (I had to leave mine longer). Basically, the skin should be shiny and if you gently touch the top of a macaron, it shouldn’t feel sticky or come away on your finger.

6. Once the macarons have formed their skin, preheat your oven to 230°F (140°C). Place your macarons in to bake and set the timer for 10 minutes. Once they have formed their ‘feet’, turn the oven down slightly and bake for a further 8-10 minutes. This is where I had the most trouble, because I have a fan-assisted oven. The key is to sit there and watch them until you figure out the best temperatures and times for your macarons. Some of you may not need to reduce the temperature, others will. Just watch them so they don’t burn, because they will turn very quickly!

7. Once they’re finished baking, remove your macarons from the oven. Slide the baking paper off of your trays and allow the macarons to cool on your countertop. Once they’re cool, fill however you’d like – I used a standard buttercream that I flavored with strawberry jam for one batch, and a blueberry lime curd for the other. Just try experimenting with the flavors! These are best served fresh, so if you aren’t serving immediately, then wait on filling them so they don’t go soggy!

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Double Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cookies

chocolatepeanutbuttercookies

In my continued theme of quick and simple bakes, I made double chocolate and peanut butter cookies. To make these, I used a bag of Reese’s peanut butter chips that I brought back with me from the States after Christmas (However, I did see these on Amazon for those of you in the UK). I think next time I made these, I want to try them with Reese’s Pieces, just to get the color added in. The oranges and yellows would look awesome against the dark chocolate color of the cookie.

I adapted this recipe from the one provided with the chips, but I added in more chocolate (of course!). It makes a TON of cookies – I got nearly 5 dozen out of it – so you’ll have plenty to share!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup (288 grams) butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 package Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F/175°C.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. In the bowl of your mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs and vinall and mix well.

4. Add in the flour mixture and beat well. Finally, stir in the peanut butter chips and chocolate chips.

5. Place rounded tablespoons of the cookie dough onto a baking pan. (As usual, I used my favorite tool – the cookie dough baller!) Bake them for 8-9 minutes. Allow them to cool on the pan for about 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Baby Gender Cake

duckcake

One of the girls at work, Sarah, is expecting her second baby this summer.  On Friday, she had her scan to find out whether she’s having a boy or girl – so I asked if I could help her announce it to the rest of the team.  When she cut into this cake, it was dyed pink to announce her soon-to-arrive little girl.

This cake was only the second time I’ve worked with fondant, but I found that it was a bit easier the second time. To make everything, I used my sugar cookies recipe, and the rainbow cake recipe (divided into three layers instead of seven).

Congratulations, Sarah!

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duckcookies_2

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New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies_2

Today is Ben’s and my anniversary, celebrating two years of adventures together. We decided to go to the Science Museum here in London today to check out a special exhibition they were hosting called “ZombieLab”, followed by a special screening of the new film Warm Bodies. While the exhibition turned out to be a bit of a bust, the movie was a lot better than what we had expected. We laughed a ton!

Knowing I wouldn’t have a lot of time to bake this weekend, I decided to make something simple: chocolate chip cookies. Now, normally when it comes to this classic treat, I stick to the Toll House original recipe. It’s what my mom always made, it’s what I’ve always made and it’s never failed us. Or anyone for that matter.

But a few of the food blogs I read all posted the same recipe for chocolate chip cookies. And a quick Google search reveals that just about every food blog completely exploded over these cookies: the New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe.

After a quick read of the recipe, it seemed like a good idea. Mix the dough and let chill for 24 hours – meaning that I would have cookie dough ready and waiting for when we got home tonight so that we could have some fresh, warm cookies and milk.

I must say, these cookies are good. They puff up quite nicely, and the sea salt gives them a bit more flavor that the Toll House recipe. However, they aren’t as soft as the usual ones and are quite dense. So, while delicious, I may just stick to my old standby next time.

Try this recipe for yourself and let me know which recipe you prefer!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups + 2 Tablespoons cake flour
  • 1 2/3 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (287 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Cookies_1

Directions

1. Sift together the two flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl and set aside.

2. In the bowl of your mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop the chocolate pieces in and incorporate them. Press plastic wrap against the dough and refrigerate for 24-36 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a baking sheet with baking paper and set aside.

4. Scoop the dough into balls that are slightly larger than a golf ball and place them on your baking sheet. Sprinkle them lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown and soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more.

Cookies_3

Gingerbread Cookies

GingerbreadCake_1

Gingerbread cookies are probably the best cookies to make for Christmas. Really simple, just cut out and decorate with a bit of icing. I’ve actually made a bunch of these to use as Christmas ornaments on our tree, just up the spices a bit more so that they are a bit more aromatic and your house will smell wonderful as you’re making them.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup black treacle or 1 cup molasses
  • 5 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice

Directions

1. In the bowl of your mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. In a separate bowl, stir together the hot water, baking soda, and black treacle/molasses.

3. Sift together the flour and the rest of the ingredients. With your mixer on low, gradually add in the flour mixture, alternating with the hot water mixture. You will start to get a pretty hefty dough, so be sure not to overwhelm your mixer. Once everything is mixed, place the dough in the fridge to chill for at least an hour.

4. Once the dough is chilled, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). On a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough until it is 1/4-inch thick. Then cut the dough into whichever shapes you choose using some cookie cutters. If you want to make them into ornaments, cut a hole in the dough for the ribbon before baking, making it larger than you actually need to allow for the expansion during baking.

5. Bake for 13-17 minutes until done. Don’t let the edges turn too dark brown, or else the cookies will be pretty brittle. Allow them to cool completely on wire racks before decorating.