Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Okay, so since I have to go back to work tomorrow (sniff), I decided that I have to try and cram in as many things as possible that I wanted to do over vacation but left until the last minute, including:

1. Visit my friend K—- and her new baby (which I wasn’t putting off, per se- but I had that nasty cold for so long and I didn’t want to spread it to a newborn.)

2. Actually step on an exercise machine at the new gym and burn a few calories (I did go pick up my keytag yesterday, so that’s a start.)

3. Tackle the French macaron.

I have been intrigued by macarons for a while now- they’ve been a staple in French bakeries forever, and they’re starting to eke out the cupcake as the new trendy bite size dessert in metropolitan areas. Up until recently, the macaron was not something that home bakers even attempted, but thanks to new cookbooks shedding light on the process of macaron making (and lots of online tutorials), they are getting made more and more at home.

By the way, they are still pronounced ‘macaroon’ but I think are generally spelled the French way to avoid any confusion with the coconut cookie that is a distinctly American creation. French macarons have nothing in them but sugar, almond flour and egg whites (oh, and a tiny bit of vanilla extract and food coloring.) If you read a recipe for them, it’s an extraordinarily fussy little cookie. Because you’re essentially working with a meringue, you can’t even think about making them on a humid day. The egg whites are supposed to be separated and then aged for 24 hours at room temperature to get rid of some of the moisture. After the ingredients are folded together, you pipe little uniform blobs of the batter onto parchment paper and then have to let it rest for 15 minutes so it will develop the trademark smooth top and ‘foot’ on the bottom.

I received a little macaron cookbook for Christmas and have been toying with the idea of making them for a while. The recipe was for a lot of cookies, though- and I didn’t want to separate 8 eggs and have the whole thing be a waste if it didn’t turn out right. I researched online about using Eggbeaters Just Whites- which is made only of egg whites but is pasteurized, so I wasn’t sure how that would affect the recipe. In the end, I actually used a recipe in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, only because it was for a smaller amount of cookies. Martha’s recipe didn’t mention anything about aging the egg whites or letting the cookies rest before baking. It also recommended baking for 20-22 minutes, whereas the macaron book suggested only 14.

So, I didn’t bother with the egg aging. I just separated my eggs and got to work.

Confectioners sugar mixed with almond flour. Almond flour is 10 dollars for 16 ounces. Damn!

Next I whipped up the egg whites, sugar and food coloring.

Fluffy pink meringue about to be folded into sugar/almond flour mixture.

Notice that I didn’t say I put in the vanilla.That is an important detail later. I piped them out onto the parchment and started to let them rest. Then I realized that I forgot the vanilla, which was only 1/4 of a teaspoon and could have probably been left out. Regardless, I scraped the macarons off of the parchment, back into the bowl and stirred in the vanilla. Now the whole mixture had lost most of its volume and I was sure I would be left with failed macarons. But I pressed on.

I re-piped them onto fresh parchment and put them in the oven. They didn’t seem to do much for a while (and I’m pretty sure I piped them too close together) but they were staying smooth! They were developing feet! It was a miracle!

Fresh from the oven.

I am fairly certain that they were a little underdone, but they looked so pretty! I filled them with Nutella because I didn’t feel like making ganache.

So pretty!

Then I got cocky and decided to try another batch, only this time I was going to use those questionable pasteurized egg whites. I don’t think that was a good idea. They did seem to form peaks when I whipped them, but for some reason they came out lumpy and gross looking. I also tried to make them purple, but they ended up looking more gray. So if you wanted to make a cookie for a theme party, say… rocks from the quarry for a Flintstones theme, or dryer lint for a Suzy Homemaker theme, or even hairballs for a cat theme, then pasteurized egg whites are the way to go:

Fugly macarons. They still taste good, though.

Since I wasn’t sure how successful this whole venture was, I also made a batch of sure-fire oatmeal cookies (also from Martha’s Baking Handbook, which happens to be an awesome book.)

I think the verdict on the macarons is that I would definitely attempt to make them again, but fresh eggs are the way to go. Maybe I’ll even take the time to ‘age’ them properly next time.


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So, I didn’t post yesterday because I was struck with a sudden and thankfully short bout of flu-like symptoms. I won’t go into the details, but I will say that all I ate for most of the day was Flav-R-ice and tea, and I spent the majority of the day in a cheetah print snuggie with another blanket on top (which negated the useful arm holes of the snuggie.) I did catch up on quite a few episodes of 30 Rock when I wasn’t asleep or convulsing in fever chills. Later in the evening, when I finally ventured into the kitchen to make myself some broth, I stepped in some marmalade I had unknowingly dropped on the floor, and tracked it all over the kitchen. I was such a pathetic sight… snuggie on, socks sticking to the floor, stirring a sad little pot of chicken stock.

Miraculously, I felt well enough this morning to go to work- which is a good thing because I had a ton of crap to do and I didn’t want my students to miss orchestra two weeks in a row (last week was Martin Luther King Jr. Day)

The low point of my day was when one of my bass players got his endpin stuck while trying to make it taller. I tried to push the thing back in and it wouldn’t budge. So I thought I would try to pull it out and see if there was anything wrong with it. Well, for whatever reason, it was just totally stuck and wouldn’t submit to my tugging on it. It was hurting my hands, and there were these three fifth grade boys standing there and I heard myself saying, “I don’t have the energy for this,” and I wasn’t exaggerating. I literally almost laid down on the floor and gave up. I made the kid hold onto the bass while I sat on the floor and alternatively pushed and pulled on this stubborn endpin.

By this time, the thing had inched its way out of the bass significantly, but still wouldn’t come all the way out… now I really had to do something because the endpin was out almost 2 feet (I think this bass had the longest endpin of all time) and there was no way the kid could play it with the bass that tall. As a last resort, I stood the bass up and started bouncing it up and down on the endpin, which finally yielded and went down to the right height. At this point I was sweaty, my hands were sore and red and I just wanted to take a nap… but I had to commence working on the totally boring bass part of the “William Tell Overture”.

By lunch, things were looking up- I had brought an instant Cream of Wheat packet to eat (playing it safe) but when I got to the lunch room saw that it was goody day (since we didn’t have school on Friday) so I caved and had a bagel. A pumpernickel one. The whole thing. I figured, I could make up for some of the calories I didn’t eat yesterday (which, coincidentally didn’t even affect my weigh-in this morning. Usually the only thing to get me through a stomach virus is the good weigh-in I get to bask in the following day. Didn’t happen. Oh well.)

After school I went to get my hair colored- and while it was processing, my hairdresser offered me a piece of homemade chocolate cake and a cup of tea, which I gladly accepted (my hairdresser has a salon room in her house, which is so nice because she only has one client at a time and it is totally relaxing. Also, you can benefit from things like freshly baked cake.) I was supposed to get it colored last week when she cut it, but she realized as she was mixing my color that she had run out of developer and I would have to come back. So, she felt she owed me at least a piece of cake.

Now I am home, and will probably watch a few more episodes of 30 Rock before bed. I also have to contemplate exactly what I will be baking for goody day on Friday. Hmm… cupcakes? cookies? cakeballs?


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