Friday, June 18, 2010

Mission to Macarons

There is a certain food that has been trying to bump cupcakes out of my #1 favorite sweet treat spot for a while now. I am referring to the adorable French Macaron. Not to be confused with the coconutty overly sweet macaroons. From wikipedia:

"It is meringue-based: made from a mixture of egg whites, almond flour, and both granulated and confectionery sugar. The confectionery is characterized by its smooth, domed top, ruffled circumference, and flat base. Connoisseurs prize a delicate, egg shell-like crust that yields to a moist and airy interior. The French macaron differs from other macaroons in that it is filled with cream or butter like a sandwich cookie, and can be found in a wider variety of flavors that range from the traditional (raspberry, chocolate) to the exotic (truffle, matcha tea)"

Doesn't that just sound beautiful and tasty?

I had my first macaron about 3-4 years ago. I was at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco having brunch. The dessert table was overwhelming, but in a very very good way. They had all of the typical options like tiramisu, cheesecakes and napoleons. Around one side of the table were 4-5 bowls filled with mini macarons! I have been reading food blogs for years so I knew what macarons were, in theory, but I couldn't imagine what they tasted like. (Sidenote: I have what I consider to be a pretty unusual ability to be able to very accurately imagine what things will taste like. If I know the majority of the ingredients in a dish I can almost taste it in my mind. This makes watching the Food Network very interesting and also torturous.) So I'm pretty sure I grabbed one of each flavor on my plate. I remember putting the first one in my mouth and being shocked. They were light and chewy. The chocolate one had a very light chocolate flavor but a very deep ganache filling. The raspberry one was perfectly fruity and not too sweet. I even like the pistachio one and I am not usually a fan of pistachio flavored things. Long story short (TOO LATE, KAYLA!) I kind of fell in love. I also was on a mission.

Unlike cupcakes, macarons are not on every single street corner. Over the past few years I've really only had macarons a handful of more times. The best of those times, of course, being from Thomas Keller's Bouchon. His macarons are also the size of a drink coaster. So you can't go wrong there.

Where was I going with this? Oh yes. So I've been tired of only being able to come across these precious little gems every once in a blue moon and I decided I am going to make them myself.

Through reading all of my various food blogs, I almost scared myself out of doing it. There are so many steps! There are so many bloggers who made 4, 5, or even 6 batches before coming out with something that even remotely looked like a macaron. I didn't want to set myself up for disappointment. I was not cocky enough to think "Well I am going to get it right on the first try."
Puh-lease. I can barely brush my teeth correctly on the first try, let's just be honest here. The other thing I had going against me was all of the warnings that you had to follow instructions exactly in order for these things to come out o.k. In case you didn't know, I am not one for precision. "Good enough" is usually "good enough" for me. Perfection and precision are not my bag. Plus, you needed a kitchen scale! You have to measure things in grams and/or ounces! Who does that? (The answer: Bakers. Real bakers measure things in grams/ounces, Kayla.) Despite all of the things stacked against me, I decided that I had to try.

Part II to follow...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cupcakes bridging the gap

I promise there are some baking posts to come in the future. I pinky promise. In the meantime I wanted to share a cute experience I just had involving cupcakes and teenagers. My favorite and least favorite things, respectively.

I made a run to Lunardi's this afternoon because I needed to buy some almond flour and Safeway doesn't carry it. (Sidenote: Did you know that a small bag of almond flour costs $11??? Is that highway robbery or what? From now on I will buy it in bulk if I need it). Anyway, as I was walking in the store I saw someone sitting at a table outside with flyers, etc. and I thought "Oh crap, someone is going to try to sell me/get me to sign something" so I walked quickly by just barely glancing. I was wrong though. It was just a couple of high school kids selling cupcakes! To make it even more awesome, they were donating all of the money they made to help towards the BP oil spill. Could that be any cuter/more awesome???

I went inside and bought my grossly overpriced almond flour and when I came back out I walked over to their table. I told them I didn't want a cupcake but I did want to donate to their cause and they were stoked. They said "Don't you want a cupcake?? Everyone loves cupcakes!" I laughed. I told them I loved cupcakes more than anyone they know and I could prove it. I turned around and showed them my cupcake tattoos and they thought they were "so cool." They asked if I was a baker and I told them I am an aspiring baker, I hope to be a professional someday but right now it's just for fun. They asked me if tattoos hurt and I was honest. I told them they hurt but it isn't the worst pain ever, by any means. I also told them to wait to get their first tattoos and to make sure its something they really want. I told them to check out my license plate when I drove away, since that says Cupcake too and then the one kid said "You are, like, the coolest chick EVER."

Did you guys know? I am the coolest chick ever. So says some 15 year old kid.
It made me smile though. Maybe not all teenagers are horrible little bastards.

Oh, what was I buying the almond flour for? For that, you'll just have to check back later this week.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's a gift OR Why do I lie!?

So, this is a baking blog, right? Well yes, that is mostly right. But sometimes something so awesome (and by awesome I mean horrific) happens that I feel the need to blog about it. This doesn't happen very frequently. But I figured since this story is somewhat food related, I could tell it here and no one would really mind. Also, it is my blog and I will derail it if I want to.

So in a moment of weakness (I have one of these moments about once an hour) I stopped at See's Candies on my way home from the Post Office today. For those of you not in California, See's candies is the devil. It is also known as a chocolate shop. They make, in my opinion, the best chocolates ever. Since it is right next to my local Starbuck's I figured I would grab my nonfat latte and pop my head in and pick up a couple pieces of chocolate (It's all about balance people).

That didn't happen. I did not pick up a couple of piece of chocolate. I decided to buy a whole box of chocolate. Now, to be fair, I will not be eating this whole box in one sitting. I'm not that pathetic (I don't mean to insinuate that if you eat an entire box of chocolates in one day that you are pathetic. O.k.....yes I do) . A box of chocolate (12 pieces) will last me at the very least a week.

So, I'm picking out my chocolates and the lady asks me "Is this a gift?"

and I froze.

I could have just said "No." But I was afraid she would judge me. I don't even know why I cared. This lady looked like maybe she had eaten a few boxes of See's candies in her life, so who was she to judge?

But I did not say "No." I said "Yes, it is a gift."

I was baffled by the words coming out of my mouth. But I figured it was out there now, and that was the end of it. I was wrong. I was so wrong. My lies did not end there. This was the dialogue that followed:

Her: What is the gift for?
Me: It's a Thank You gift.
Her: Oh how thoughtful of you! Everyone loves to receive chocolates!
Me: Oh yeah, I'm sure she'll love it.
Her: Would you like me to wrap it for you?
Me: That would be lovely!

So she wraps it all up and throws a big "Thank you!" sticker on the top. And a little gold ribbon!
I'm dying. I'm almost thinking at this point that I should find someone who has done something nice for me recently and give it to them.

As I'm paying for my "gift", my head hung low in shame, she asks:

Her: Would you like anything else? Maybe a few chocolates for yourself?
Me: Oh...ha...ha....No, that's ok. Hopefully my friend will share with me! he...he...he...

I then grabbed my purchase and slinked out of the store.

So now, I have this beautifully wrapped box of chocolates. I don't even want to open it. I feel so stupid.

Ok, who the hell am I kidding? I'm about to rip this baby open. Shame be damned!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Recipe #100 - Icebox Butter Cookies - The Baking

I have a feeling you might be needing this.
Why? Because I've been a bad, bad blogger. A flogger for the blogger. Get it? I'm not redeeming myself, am I?

So here's the skinny, my babies. I'm LAZY. I know. If you know me, even a little bit, you already know this. First I didn't have ingredients, then my kitchen was messy, then I wanted cupcakes instead of cookies, then I wanted to take a nap. So today, I decided I would just buckle down and make my cookies.

I woke up with a meaaaan craving for cupcakes this morning. It was so mean that I decided to go onto and find a local bakery and drive there and procure said cupcakes. I went to Danville Bakery on Hartz Ave. and picked up some cupcakes to sate my craving. And holy crap. These cupcakes were the most amazing thing I've eaten in YEARS.

So, I did that.

Then Nate messaged me from work saying that he really wanted to make these chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes that he found a recipe for, but the dough has to chill for like 3 hours before you can make the cupcakes. So I went ahead and made the cookie dough and put that in the freezer.

THEN! I did all all of the dishes and started on my cookies.

To recap.
I bought cupcakes, I started to make cupcakes, I started to make cookies.

I have been a dessert machine today.

So I realize that the dough for my icebox cookies needs to chill in the fridge for an hour or up to overnight. I will probably wind up baking them tomorrow as I'm going to be baking Nate's cupcakes tonight, but I figured I would post the start of my cookie bakings today. Mostly because I've gotten a few people bugging me about it. Thank you for that, though. I need a swift kick in the ass sometimes.

These cookies are ridonkulously simple. Look at the ingredients. I bet you have all of this in your cupboards right now.

Butter, Egg, Vanilla, Flour, Sugar, and Salt. The chocolate is optional.

So the recipe says to cream the butter and sugar with a paddle attachment. Doesn't it frigging figure that I can't find my paddle attachment. There really aren't many places that it could be. Regardless, I can't find it anywhere. So, I throw caution to the wind.

My mixer is so sexy.

I used the whisk attachment. I don't think this will make a huge difference, but I'm sure one you culinary types will tell me if I made a big no no. Everything seemed to cream just fine, so I think all will be well with my cookies.

Then you mix in all the rest of the crap. I didn't take a picture because it wasn't that interesting. So then you roll the dough into a log. And it doesn't look that appetizing. But don't let the appearance fool you. I may have licked the whisk....and the spatula....and then scraped the bowl with the spatula and licked it again. I may have done that. And if I did do that, maybe the dough is really really really frigging tasty.
Who's to say for sure. You'll never know.


This recipe actually makes enough for TWO dough logs. I'm surprised I was able to contain myself and not eat one whole log by myself, unbaked. I'm not that pathetic. Yet.


So, that's all I've got for now. Right now the logs are sitting in my fridge. Waiting for me. Tomorrow I'm supposed to roll them in sanding sugar. I have an idea of what that is and I think I even have some. But I think it is rainbow colored. Will that look tacky? Do I care?


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Recipe #100 - Icebox Butter Cookies

Sorry for slacking. What is my excuse? I don't have one. So there.
But here I am, I am back. I am ready to take on my next challenge.

I got 8 responses to the last post suggesting numbers for me, and out of those 8, random number generator told me lucky response #2 would be the winner. So, Rachel picked number 1. Well guess what folksies. The recipes in the book don't start till the 30s-40s! So I decided to add two 0's to the end of Rachel's number 1 and get 100. That sounds fair, right? I think so, I suppose.
This doesn't mean that you should start only picking numbers above 30. It just means I will change the rules as I see fit, because I can do that sort of thing.

See? Random number generator doesn't lie.

So the next recipe is icebox butter cookies! More butter! Yay! With all of the butter I'm purchasing I should probably buy stock in it. Can you do that? Buy stock in butter? I have no idea how that sort of thing works. You know what, don't even tell me, you'll just confuse me. I bet there is math involved somehow.

So here is what the talented (yet crazy) Ms. Stewart has to say about icebox cookies.

"Since you slice and bake only what you need, these logs of dough are great to keep on hand for when guests drop by or for when you're in the mood for just a few cookies..."

Let me stop you there, Martha. No one "stops by" my house unannounced. I would shoot them. Do you know what my house usually looks like? It looks like a nuclear bomb went off. A nuclear bomb that was filled with dirty dishes and cat toys. So I won't be needing these cookies for my unannounced visitors. Secondly, when am I ever in the mood for "just a few" cookies. When I want cookies, I want to eat them by the dozens. I want to pour them down my gaping maw while cackling hilariously and counting down the moments until my sugar induced coma.

That last part isn't so much true, but the first part definitely is. Where were we?

"They can be kept in the freezer, wrapped well in plastic and parchment, for up to three weeks; let dough sit at room temperature for thirty minutes before slicing. To help logs hold their shape, chill them first in empty paper-towerl tubes"

I don't know. That sounds like a load of crap to me. Empty paper towel tubes? This sounds like too much work. I have a feeling my cookies will not be perfectly round. They will probably have a flat bottom. Much like myself. (Ha, who am I kidding?).

So this recipe offers three variations for the types of cookies I can make. I guess this means I get to choose! One is just regular boring, I guess like a sugar cookie of types, one has chopped nuts (who cares? Boring), and the other has CHOCOLATE FLAKES! I think these are like snow flakes, but made of chocolate. Therefore, I am in.

These look ridiculously easy, so I will probably be able to knock these out in a few days. Maybe in between that time I will have a chance to write to you about the cake disaster I made for Easter. (By the way, I hold myself to ridiculously high standards, everyone else thought the cake was fine, I thought it tasted like garbage).

Here is what Martha says the icebox butter cookies should look like.

mmm cookie logs

Monday, April 5, 2010

Recipe #87 - Breton Biscuits - The Verdict!

Recipe # 2 is done! It's in the bank. In the bag. In my belly.
I forget how that saying is supposed to go anyway.

I can say with confidence that this recipe was a great success. And not just because anything would be a great success over the debacle that was recipe #1. These cookies were genuinely freaking tasty! I will start at the beginning, because that is where things should start.

Here is what Martha said the cookies should look like. I'll be honest, I wasn't too intimidated. Yes, there is "lattice work" but c'mon, I'm not an idiot, I can make this work.
Do you like my makeshift cookbook stand? I'm classy.

The cast of characters. The recipe called for room temperature butter. Can I tell you a secret? When this picture was taken the butter was not room temperature! I know. Insanity. You wouldn't have even known if I didn't tell you, so just chalk it up to my unwavering honesty.

Martha is a big fan of sifting. Me? Not so much. But I did it, because she asked me to.
I won't bore you with all the steps. You're just here for my witty commentary and wonderful iphone photography, let's be honest =D

I love creaming. Butter + Sugar = Love.

Yeah, that's Dashboard Confessional in the background. Haven't I given you enough ammo to judge me? Why do I do this?

Once all the wet ingredients were combined, I added the flour and had to roll it out on a "lightly floured surface." I took this to mean I should put at least enough flour on the surface to draw pictures in it.
Don't worry, for my next recipe I will use a real camera.

You separate the dough into two batches and make them into discs. Then you make hand prints in them. Ok, that wasn't in the cookbook, I took that one upon myself.

You have to let your dough discs chill up for a while first, so I did just that.
Also pictured - Worlds largest jar of mayonnaise, the remainder of the god awful olives from recipe #1, lots of yogurt in flavors like boston cream pie, I can't believe it's not butter! (It's NOT butter btw), more eggs than anyone could ever possibly need (except me, I needed them it turns out), Pepperoni (which I ate by itself later in the evening), and CARROTS. You know, for healthful reasons.

Once the dough is chilled, you roll it out into sheets and then you put it in the freezer. Apparently the dough needs to be freezing it's ass off before you can cut it.

Here are the cookies with the egg wash on them. Mmmmm. Egg bath.
Using a cookie cutter is fun. Also, I have an odd idea of what "fun" is.

They were big cookies!
Except, of course, that I have freakishly small hands. Don't make fun of me :(

Martha, I think you should put a disclaimer. The picture in the book is not to size.
What do you mean there is a bite taken out of that cookie? I certainly wouldn't take a bite out of a raw cookie. No sir. Not I.

Look Martha, I'm rotating the cookie sheets, just like you said. I don't think it made a difference though.

After 15ish minutes, the cookies were done!

Look at this sexy bitch.

I decided I even needed to take a glamour shot of the cookie on a plate. On the cooling rack didn't do it justice.
Ooooohhh yeah.

Go ahead, just say it. "I want to put that cookie in my mouth."
Extreme closeup. Cookie porn.

I'm sorry I didn't have any fun pictures from my shopping trip, but the only thing I didn't have was the cake flour and that was not an exciting grocery trip. I promise in the future I will document the grocery trip if it is entertaining. If I forget maybe I will draw it out for you. That will be particularly hilarious since I can't draw for shit.

I guess it's time for the final verdict! As I'm sure you can deduce from the tone of the post (in comparison to the last post) this was a pretty damn successful recipe! Martha said that these are very similar to shortbread and I would have to agree. I do think I could have made the cookies a little bit thicker, but overall I was quite pleased.

Level of Difficulty - 1/2 out of 5 Sticks of Butter

Appearance - 4 out of 5 sticks of Butter

Taste - 4 out of 5 sticks of Butter

(I'm sorry but I couldn't be arsed to find a cute butter graphic and alter it for rating purposes. So sue me. On second thought, don't sue me. That would be overkill)

It's back to you now, ladies and gentlemen. I need more numbers so I can pick the next recipe! In the interim I will have another post for you because I baked something else for Easter yesterday.
So, what recipe will I make next? You can comment a number between 1-400 (not 333 or 87) and I will randomly select one of them within the next few days! Come on and participate, you know you want to.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Recipe #87 - Breton Biscuits

I received 13 number suggestions in total. I went to and plugged in 1-13. #10 was chosen.
See? Would I lie to you? Possibly, but not likely.

So thank you, Katy! You were response #10 and what recipe did you pick? Recipe #87: Breton Biscuits.

Are you wondering, "What the hell is a Breton Biscuit?" Yeah, I was too up until about 5 minutes ago. Here is what Martha has to say about Breton Biscuits:

"These shortbread-like cookies hail from Brittany, a region of France renowned for its delicious butter. Be sure not to underbake them or they will not be crisp enough. Scoring the lattice pattern on the top takes a bit of time, but it's easy to do and the end result is well worth the effort.

So honestly, these look pretty damn simple. The lattice work does look like a pain in the ass, but not difficult. If they taste anything like shortbread I will be quite happy. Who doesn't like shortbread?? I am thinking about making these this weekend and bringing them with me to book club for the ladies (and gents) to sample. As usual, I will keep you updated ;)


In other, related, news. I made a lemon meringue pie this morning. It was baked and in the fridge cooling by 10 a.m. This either means that I am a baking rockstar, or I am insane. I haven't yet decided. What really matters is that this pie tastes like pure lemony heaven. Wanna see my stiff peaks?

Please stop looking at my dirty stove in the background.