Macarons

French Macarons are one of my son’s absolute favorite treats.  Whenever we travel to a ‘big city’ and visit a bakery he always begs for one of the cute, brightly colored little sandwich cookies.  I’ve read quite a bit about these and how difficult they are to make, so I never bothered to try at home until last week.  Fortunately for me, I have been practicing all the necessary skills to make macarons for years so my first two batches turned out great!

After realizing that I do not have a cookbook with this recipe (!??), I visited my most trusted blogger for French desserts,  David Lebovitz.  He offered great advice, links, and a well tested recipe for chocolate macarons.  After success with chocolate I tried Martha Stewarts recipe for plain almond flavor.

I was nervous about how these delicate cookies would come together, so I pulled out my baking scale for accuracy and set to work.  You can click through for the recipes I used, but I will share a few things I learned.  First of all, it’s important to pulverize the almonds into a fine dust with the confectioners sugar.  I used my Nutri Bullet for this and it worked great.  Secondly, my scale came in very handy.  It’s difficult to get accurate measurements without weighing ingredients.  The more I practice baking with a scale, the easier it becomes.  It’s very satisfying to achieve such precision.  Third, making macarons is all about whipping the egg whites and your folding technique.  If you’re not comfortable separating eggs, making meringue, and folding delicate batters, then this might be a frustrating recipe to attempt.  A good tip which I didn’t come across until after baking is that the batter should be like lava; on reflection mine was a bit too stiff and that’s why the tops were not perfectly flat and smooth.  I did not aim for perfectly uniform size with my cookies and instead went free hand with the piping bag.  I made smallish macarons and thought they were just the right size for sharing and having more than one.  Lastly, please keep an eye on the oven as they bake.  Both my chocolate and plain macarons baked more quickly than I anticipated and I came close to burning them!

I’ve mixed up the photos from the plain and chocolate batches, but you can get an idea of the process.  I was pleased that my macarons achieved that cute little ‘foot’ and a shiny top.  You can also see the sort of belly button lumps on top of most of my cookies which as I learned was a result of slightly stiff batter.  I attempted to smooth the tops of some of the plain cookies with a wet finger, but got overzealous and ended up with some ugly tops as seen below.  They still tasted wonderful!  I filled the chocolates with raspberry jam and the plain almonds with vanilla buttercream.

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Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes

I love baking special treats for birthdays and my son always asks for chocolate cake.  He loves a big layer cake with chocolate frosting and has had the same cake for the past three years.  This year he agreed to cupcakes for a small change.  I used the easiest chocolate cake recipe EVER – which also happens to be vegan.  These cupcakes were topped with rich fudge frosting and kit-kats for that extra chocolate touch.20160902_192930

I blogged about this recipe when my son was three years old, and he just turned nine.  Thank you to anyone out there who has followed my adventures in the kitchen!  Your kind words and enthusiasm keep me trying new things.  (My husband thanks you too.)20160902_191121

Here’s the link to Deadly Good Vegan Chocolate Cake.

The recipe for the frosting is completely brilliant and found on the awesome blog Smitten Kitchen.  It’s really a basic buttercream, but unsweetened baking chocolate is substituted for some of the butter which makes it super chocolately.  Here’s the link for that recipe – scroll down to the bottom of her post to find the frosting.