Macarons – two recipes, one flopped, one passed!

Back in March my friend and I did a class on how to make Macarons. Not macaroons (the chewy, coconut-heavy treats) but rather macarons (a French treat that looks like a little sandwich cookie but is meringue like with ground almonds and no flour.) So when Love & Olive Oil made Macarons the April Kitchen Challenge, I figured I was ready!

Salted Caramel Macarons

Pretty  much every recipe you come across claims that you have to weigh each ingredient very accurately. I had come across this recipe for Simple Macarons before that used normal kitchen measurements and did not require a kitchen scale, I figured it was worth a try. I made them just before Easter but I hadn’t expected them to work so I didn’t take any pictures. I was making them alongside my Nutella trifle  and had a few other things to do so I cheated on the filling and just used a lemon spread that I had in the fridge. They were decent. They were chewy & tasty enough. But not exceptional. Then again I slightly over baked them and the filling wasn’t anything special.

But then Friday night I had the most amazing ones that someone brought to a party I was at. They were so delicious. The texture was perfect. The fillings (my favs were the salted caramel and the vanilla white chocolate) were intense and flavourful. It made me want to master the treats and made me realize that the filling was the key for flavour while the outside was the key for texture.

Wikipedia claims “the confection is characterised by smooth, squared top, ruffled circumference (referred to as the “foot” or “pied”), and flat base. It is mildly moist and easily melts in the mouth.” This was the goal.

So last night, my friend (that I had done the class with) and I decided to try two recipes: the one we had learned in class (my friend has a kitchen scale for accurate measurements), and the one that I had just used that required no scale.

The bad batch of macaronsConclusion: no need for weighing your ingredients. The ones that we did that way flopped -BADLY! We are not really sure what happened. They developed the desired ‘foot’ but it flattened and spread and the tops just collapsed rather than rising well. We aren’t sure if we over mixed the ‘macaronage’ or under mixed it (the macaronage is what the batter is called after mixing everything together). And since my friend did one recipe and I did the other, we didn’t make any direct comparison of the two macaronages. So who knows??

salted caramel macaronsBut these “Simple Macarons” that do NOT require accurate weight measurements turned out pretty good for a second time. They could have a taller foot or a slightly shinier top but otherwise, I think they look pretty good. And after aging them for 24hrs, they were “mildly moist and easily melted in the mouth” as we want! Actually the texture was really quite good. We filled them with a salted caramel buttercream. I am not including the recipe here because I wasn’t really paying attention to what my friend was doing. This looks like a decent recipe though.

Here are the basic steps:

Beat 2 egg whites on medium until frothy (as shown on the left) and then add 3 1/2 Tb sugar. Continue beating on medium-high until stiff peaks form (about 5 minutes total). The egg whites should form a ball in the whisk when you pull it out (as shown on the right). You can add food colouring if you like at this time. We didn’t.

Frothy egg whites

Fully whipped egg whites for macarons

In a separate bowl, sift together 2/3 cup icing sugar and 3/4 cup ground almonds. Stir this in to the egg whites, half at a time. This is where you make the macaronage. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pics of this most-important step. Unlike what you would normally do, you don’t have to be careful with the egg whites: you are trying to deflate them. So with a rubber spatula, mix in half the sugar-almond mixture, then the 2nd half. Keep stirring rather harshly until the batter becomes thinner and will fall as a ‘ribbon’ off of the spatula when you lift it out of the bowl. The ribbon should reincorporate into the batter after about 20-30 seconds (in other words, it shouldm’t remain as a big dollop or anything).

Spoon the batter into a piping bag with tip #1 (Wilton) attached. I have a template that I put under the parchment paper (as seen in the pic) to know how big to pipe the circles. I am pretty sure they are 1.5inch circles but the person made them for us in the macaron class. Once they are piped, bang the sheet on the counter 2 or 3 times to get the air pockets out. Then allow the macarons to dry for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350F at the end of this.

Piping

Piped and ready

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Don’t let them overbrown and rotate them if you need to. They should darken a little and be firm but shouldn’t darken too much. We overbaked ours a tiny bit but they were still fine. They should also form the little frilly feet at the bottom. Note: mid-baking you may or may not be able to tell how successful your macarons will be. The ones on the left below eventually were the VERY FAILED batch. They looked decent at this point and we were excited. Compared to the ones on the right though that worked well, they are flatter.

They looked so great mid-baking! Batch #2: baking

Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet before removing them. Once they are cooled, you can fill them with your desired filling. On the right is a picture of the bad ones, which we still filled, compared to the good ones. Wow, those are some ugly Macarons!

Baked macaron shellsThe good and the bad

Once your Macarons are filled, you can eat them BUT it is better to let them ripen/age at least 24 hours. This will soften in the macaron and give it that perfectly chewy, melty texture!

So don’t be afraid of Macarons! They don’t need to be weighed and they can still turn out well! But if you need to know what went wrong, don’t ask me! I don’t know why the other ones failed. I just know which recipe I will stick to! The easy one!

salted caramel macarons


Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies #fbcookieswap

I have been part of cookie exchanges every year for at least the last 5 Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondiesyears but this is my first year doing an International Cookie Exchange! I took part in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap this year. Essentially everyone that takes part is matched with 3 bloggers within their country and then they ship one dozen cookies to each of their matches. In turn, you get one dozen cookies from three bloggers that had you as a match. So essentially a huge cookie exchange! I think there were over 600 bloggers involved this year!

I had been looking at this recipe for years – literally! I thought it sounded like an interesting combination but I kept not making it. Finally I did in October and I LOVED it! Gingerbread and white chocolate are perfect together. I don’t know why more sweets don’t use this combination. There is something about the spicy gingerbread that pairs perfectly with the creamy sweetness of the white chocolate. I have now made two other desserts using this combination as well as making this recipe again! And I knew it kept quite well and didn’t crumble so I figured it should work well for an across Canada trek!Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies

The blondies are the perfect chewy texture that is expected of blondies. (For those unfamiliar with blondies, they are essentially brownies without the chocolate – so expect the dense, chewy texture of brownies!) And like I said, the flavour combination is amazing. So in other words,  everyone should make these a regular on their “cookie baking list”. It is definitely on mine. And I don’t mean just for Christmas!

Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies

from Martha Stewart’s Cookies; makes about 4 dozen

Delicious Spices!

  • 2 3/4 cup plus 1 Tb flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 1/4 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tb white sugar
  • 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolkSpread Evenly
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 2 to 3 cups chopped white chocolate
  1. Line a 12 by 17inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a regular bowl and use a hand mixer), beat butter and sugars until creamy and pale, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs andPrepared Dough yolk one at a time. Add the vanilla and molasses and beat until well combined.
  4. Add the flour mix slowly on low speed until mixed. Stir in the white chocolate.
  5. Spread batter in the prepared pan and bake about 25 minutes – the edges should look slightly cracked and golden.
  6. Allow to cool and then cut!

I found these fun boxes at Winners and they worked perfectly for 12 of the blondies! I hope they shipped ok! The recipe says that the blondies can be stored, air-tight, for up to 1 week at room temperature.

Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies

Packed and Ready to go


Super Vanilla Cookies

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the new cookbook from Shauna Sever called Pure Vanilla to review. It is a beautiful cookbook with elegant recipes and superb pictures. And it is all dedicated to the lovely aromatic-ness (new word there for you!) and deliciousness of vanilla!

The first few pages are all about vanilla – the history, varieties and some “FAQs” and then there are chapters dedicated to breakfasts, cakes and pies, cookies and bars, candies and confections, custards and creams, and drinks. The recipes all look amazing and I can’t wait to try more!

I started with what is called the “Heirloom Vanilla Sugar Cookies”. They are described to be “sandy textured but tender with a gorgeous pale-golden hue” and that seems pretty accurate! I love the tenderness of the cookie with the delicious “super-vanilla” taste of vanilla. They are definitely worth making again and although there is no reason you can’t make them regularly throughout the year, they would work beautifully as a new addition to your Holiday baking!

Super Vanilla Cookies

adapted slightly from Pure Vanilla, makes about 3 dozen cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup icing/confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or another 1 tsp of vanilla)
  • about 1/4 cup Vanilla sugar (I have some as shown in the picture but you can make your own by putting a vanilla bean – even an empty one that you have scraped the bits out of – into 2 cups of white sugar and leaving it for about a week)
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.
  3. In a small measuring cup, measure the oil and then add the egg and whisk.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar (regular sugar & icing sugar) and butter together until fluffy and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add the oil and egg mixture. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
  5. Scoop dough (I used both a 4Tb and a 1.5Tb cookie scoop to get both big and small cookies) onto the cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass, dip the glass into the vanilla sugar to coat it and then press it onto the ball of cookie dough to flatten it. The first one won’t pick up a lot of sugar but the moistness of the cookie will provide the moisture to pick up enough sugar for each cookie after (you can re-sugar the first one of course!) You can then sprinkle the cookies with decorative sugar if you want a more festive cookie.
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes until pale golden and just slightly browned on the edges. Allow the cookie to cool on the baking sheet 2-3 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

 


Cranberry Burst Pumpkin Cookies

It is time for some fall recipes! Pumpkin & spice and other delicious goodness! I recently made some oatmeal cookies with fresh blueberries in them, which got me thinking about putting other fresh fruits in cookies. Why do the rules say “dried fruit only in cookies”? There is no reason to not put some freshness into them! So just before Thanksgiving (at least the Canadian Thanksgiving), I realized that pumpkin cranberry cookies would be perfect for the season and a great opportunity to try  fresh cranberries in cookies!

Sure they are tart, but the fun ‘burstness’ of these cookies make for a perfect fall cookie! Yes, a new word was required for these cookies. The cranberries added such a bright punch of flavour and colour that it could only be described as ‘burstness’! Anyways, between the burstness, the tartness, the pumpkin’y softness and the spice, these cookies turned out delicious!

Cranberry Burst Pumpkin Cookies

adapted from Best-loved Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon chips (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer or with a hand mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla and beat until well mixed.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to the wet ingredients while mixing.
  4. Stir in cranberries & cinnamon chips.
  5. Scoop with a cookie scoop or use a spoon and drop onto prepared cookie sheets. I like to do both big cookies (about 4 Tb) and small cookies (1.5 Tb). The bigger ones take about 16 minutes to bake while the small ones take about 12 minutes. The should be set in the middle but they will still be soft.

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Loved-Cookies-Nestle-Toll-House/dp/0696205548


Biscoff Ice Cream

It is one of the questions that I have never liked: what is the best gift you have ever recieved. I hate it because I never really had a good answer. I really loved this one doll I got when I was 5 or 6. She was a bigger doll that was more supposed to resemble a toddler than a baby. She was pretty great but this year, I got something better. And I now have an answer to the troubling question.

I got the Ice Cream Maker Attachment for my Kitchenaid!!

A couple of my close friends went together and bought it for my birthday. One of them bought it just after Boxing Day last year. My birthday was in July. Not only did she keep it a secret from me for over 6 months but she also had to trust her instinct that I would wait for it to go on sale again & not buy it myself before then! Amazon.ca has it for a great deal for the week after Christmas (it was $58) but the rest of the year it is around $90 (most places in Canada sell it for around $120). I had been saving the free Amazon cards I sometimes get at work for doing surveys to get it but was only at $45 so far. I figured I would be waiting until Boxing Day this year in order to get it but I didn’t have to wait!!!! They bought it for me!!! Best gift ever!

My first batch of ‘ice cream’ was Raspberry Frozen Yogurt. It was quite good but it isn’t the recipe I want to share as my first homemade ice cream! The one I want to share is the Biscoff spread Ice Cream. AMAZING. Beyond amazing really. I first heard about this Biscoff spread around the blogging world but immediately realized that it was definitely not something I could get in Canada. That is ok because I go to the States frequently. But I couldn’t find it still! Finally I found the Trader Joe’s version (Cookie Butter) and loved it immediately. I don’t think I used that first jar for anything besides eating it by the spoonful. I might have put some on pancakes. Otherwise, it was all by the spoonful. This stuff is amazing. Basically it is just a spice cookie pulverized to crumbs and mixed with a little coconut oil to make it into the texture of peanut butter (but there are no nuts in it). I don’t know how to emphasize how perfect this stuff is. Seriously. It is perfection. I did eventually find the original Biscoff version. It is also delicious (and what I used for the ice cream) but I think I like the TJ’s version best.

Ok, so I made ice cream with it. It was delicious. Creamy. Spicy. Perfection. If you have an ice cream maker, you need to try it. You will love it. My only regret is that I didn’t take pictures until it was almost gone so it had been in the freezer already a few days (homemade ice cream is really best the first few days… then it gets ice crystals. Maybe I just need a better container to store it in.)

Biscoff Speculoos (Cookie Butter) Ice Cream (adapted from here)

  • 1 cup Biscoff Spread + 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 cup White Sugar
  • 3-1/4 cups cold Half & Half (or 1 1/4 whole milk + 2 cups whipping cream)
  1. Using either your stand mixer or a bowl and beaters, cream together 1 cup Biscoff spread and sugar.
  2. With the mixer on low, start to add the half & half SLOWLY. I did it too quick and it didn’t blend as well as it could have.
  3. Pour the Biscoff mix into your ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions. I churned my ice cream about 20 minutes on low.
  4. Scoop the ice cream into a airtight container and spoon the extra 2 Tb of Biscoff spread onto the top. Stir it up but don’t actually mix it fully in. The swirl is the BEST part!
  5. Freeze for 4-6 hours. My friend and I ate it within about 2 hours and it was still pretty soft. Still delicious though!

Chocolate-dipped Rolled Sugar Cookies

Well it is time for the Hallmark-made holiday! Valentine’s Day yet again, or as I like to call it – Single’s Night at the Gym! I realize that there are many people who don’t celebrate V-day that are in committed relationships still at the gym on Feb 14 but I like to believe it is single’s night. And if it isn’t, why aren’t there single’s nights at the gym??

When I switched from an all women’s gym to a co-ed gym I thought that I would have more opportunities to meet people but instead I think the guys just get more annoyed because I use their equipment rather than staying on the women’s-only side. (They don’t realize that not only do we not have a proper power/squat rack but our free weights only go up to 30lbs.) So for ‘freaks’ like me that like to lift heavy, we are ‘stuck’ sharing the equipment with the meatheads or the groups of guys that seem to spend more time gossiping than actually working out. There are of course some that don’t fall in either of those categories but I just assume they also don’t fall into the ‘single’ category either so then my time spent in their area of the gym goes to waste for meeting purposes (of course it isn’t wasted entirely – I still get a great workout!)

Anyways, back to these cookies. I have made these cookies for years any time that I have wanted cutout cookies and the recipe always works out. They are soft and buttery and tasty without being overly sweet. It comes from allrecipes.com and it is simply called “The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies” and that it is!

Rolled Sugar Cookies (from allrecipes)

  • 3/4 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. In the bowl of a mixer (or with a hand mixer) beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Bead in eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and then add this to the butter/sugar/eggs mix.
  3. Wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate at least one hour or overnight
  4. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Roll dough out on a WELL-FLOURED surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut with desired cookie cutters and place on prepared baking sheets. Reroll dough when necessary.
  6. Bake 6-8 min (careful – if they are thin they will cook fast). Cool a few minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a rack to cool completely.
  7. Once cooled, you can either dip them in melted chocolate as I did or you could decorate them with royal icing or you could just eat them plain!

Chewy Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies: the pictures really don't do them justice

I have started making cookies for a department wide weekly seminar at work. After people have complained for years that the cookies are not to their liking (first they were too sweet and somewhat nauseating on an empty stomach then the next ones were too hard), I finally convinced them to let me make them. To me it was a great opportunity to test out the MANY cookie recipes that I have been wanting to try for years but have not out of fear of eating entire batches of cookies to myself.

So the person that helped me organize this is obsessed with peanut butter cookies. I don’t know a lot of people that would choose a plain peanut butter cookie as their favourite one but he would. Of course that meant that I had to find a perfect peanut butter recipe immediately. This recipe is delicious. Even as a lover of peanut butter I usually prefer my cookies with a little more to them but these are definitely the exception. They are super thick and chewy and have the perfect peanut butter’y richness to make them truly delicious! I need to make them again soon.

The 2nd week I didn’t make any peanut butter cookies – and I was warned.

So with my peanut butter cookie recipes nailed on the first try, now I just have to figure out how to not eat so much dough every week… it is a bad situation. Three batches of cookies each week = 3 times too much dough. Even worse is when I make ginger molasses cookies and the dough needs to sit overnight in the fridge. I ended up making the dough on Sunday and baking the cookies on Wednesday… so that meant the delicious dough sat in my fridge for 3 days… and was munched on somewhat regularly for 3 days. Bad situation. I admit it, I love ginger molasses cookies cookie dough. Shockingly I love it more than chocolate chip cookie dough.

Oh, wait this post was supposed to be about the peanut butter cookies, the dough talk got me thinking about how much I loved having that dough in the fridge. And how bad I may do on my upcoming half marathon because of the junk I have been eating! Coming back to peanut butter but related to the ginger molasses cookies – how many people would think that peanut butter ginger molasses cookies would be good? I have made them before and I think they are fabulous but I am not sure if they appeal to too many others…

Anyways, if you happen to notice a few extra cookie recipes on here in the next few months, now you know why!

Chewy Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies (uh oh, I don’t remember who’s blog I got these from! Sorry!)

  • Butter & Peanut Butter: Creamy & Dreamy

    1 cup peanut butter

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  •  3 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Cream together peanut butter and butter with mixer. Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time and then add vanilla while continuing to beat.
  5. Add the flour mix while continuing to beat.
  6. Spoon/scoop out desired sized cookies. Dip a fork in cool water and use tines to add the familiar cross-hatched pattern.
  7. Bake 10-12 minutes (depends on the size of your cookies!). Allow to cool at least 3 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring them to the cooling rack. Then ENJOY!!!