Monthly Archives: March 2017

Learning to make Macarons…

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In February, I decided all of a sudden that I wanted to make Macarons.  You know, trying to expand my skills in cakes and cookies aren’t enough.  But this little cookie sandwich’s reputation for being finicky, yet delicious intrigued me.  What really put this need over the edge was my 6 year old niece went to a children’s macaron class.  I was totally jealous.  So off I went!

Now most people, when they start something new, try a basic recipe first.  You know, get the hang of it. Well not me.  I wish I thought with such logic as it would save me a few failures along the way.  But my over confidence in my ability to follow directions and the thought that if someone else can do it, surely I can too, makes me start with whatever catches my eye.  Macarons were no different.  So when I saw on Pinterest a recipe for cookie dough macarons, I had to start with that recipe!

Well, I will save you the suspense, the first batch FAILED.  The macaron shells looked fine, but the feet had gotten large and deflated out, the center of the cookie was hollow, and the cookie was under-cooked.  They looked pretty good, but I couldn’t even get them off the silpat.

I was totally disappointed, but I tried again the next day.  This time, I cooked them a little longer and experimented with some different sizes. They turned out a little better.  They had only a small hollow pocket, the I could get them off the silpat, and could pick them up and fill them without them crumbling.  The feet were still all over the place, but I was excited at the progress.

When both my sister-in-law and my niece took some more baking classes, I decided I wanted to go to one too.  And the macaron one was my first choice.  There is a pasty shop in Broad Ripple called the Gallery Pastry Shop.  If you are in central Indiana and want to take a baking class, this is the place.  Chef Ben is super nice and very patient with his students.  My mom signed up for the class with me and we went at the beginning of March.

Outside of going and physically learning how to make macarons, we learned so much more.  Those little tips and tricks of the trade that increase your success that you usually can’t get from a recipe.  And really, there is nothing better than making something with a chef by your side to tell you want to look for and if you are on the right track.  As for our macarons, I think Mom and I had the best ones in the class! I did the purple ones and she did the peach ones.  We of course then mixed and matched!

Now that I was schooled in some macaron making, I couldn’t wait to try our my new skills at home.   I had to wait a few weeks as I had my son’s birthday party to get through and a kitchen remodel going on, but I finally got to it this week.

I first made the fillings.  Chef Ben told us that they thicken up nicely overnight and it was best to make the filling a day ahead of time.  We learned in the class to make a chocolate ganache. I knew that it was only cream and chocolate, yet again, seeing it in person and have portions, made it easy to recreate.  Also, Chef Ben went into talking about the different kinds of chocolate, the percentages cocoa, and some of the science of cooking with different chocolates… super helpful!  While in the class, we also asked if he would give us the recipe for the salted caramel. Chef Ben wrote it down and we all took a picture. I had never made caramel, but it proved to be easy enough and I avoided burning myself, so that is a plus.

Macaron filling

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ganache Filling

After I made the filling, I went ahead and made the macaron shells.  My plan was to put them in the fridge and fill the next day, which ended up working out nicely.   I followed the basic recipe and made sure to read through my notes from the class.  The end result was they turned out!!!  They got a little brown on top, but I think that will be solved by moving my rack down a little bit.  There was no hollowness, no sticking to the parchment, and they had the right texture.  PUMPED. Of course I had to fill one just so I could test them out.

The next day, I filled half with the salted caramel and half with the chocolate ganache.

Needless to say, I had to try one of each again (twice).  I left a few at home and brought the rest to work to ensure I didn’t eat the whole batch.  I am excited to be on the right path and can’t wait to make more.

Clara

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Avengers Cupcakes

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Hello!  So today my oldest is turning five…..FIVE!  I can’t believe it.  This past weekend we had his birthday parties (yes, plural).  We have had a pretty hectic couple weeks leading up to this weekend and making anything has been a challenge.  The day before my son’s birthday, my kitchen was getting new granite, sink, faucet, and stove top.  While I had high hopes for at least my sink to be hooked back up, it didn’t happen.  Luckily I had prepared for that and got started earlier in the week on my cupcakes.  They turned out wonderful and no one complained about being at a party in a mid-renovation kitchen!

Since I had to plan for a kid party and the family party (and keeping in mind the kitchen), I went the with all cupcakes.  It was less stress and easier to plan out so that they remained fresh.  Earlier in the week, I printed off the templates that I had been saving and got to work making icing.  Royal icing only takes a second to whip up, but getting the colors and consistency right takes FOREVER.  So my goal on night one was just making the colors and having my templates ready.  The next day, I was ready to get started.  I wasn’t exactly sure how I wanted to tackle each design, and as it turns out, I changed the way I did each one after the first one.  I started with Iron Man and the Hulk fist.

For Iron Man, I started with the eyes.  This is not how the eyes ended up, but it was more to make sure I had the right placement and spacing.  While the eyes dried, I outlined and filled in the red icing.  After letting the red icing sit for a bit, I filled in the yellow mask. For the Hulk fists, I did pieces of the hand that didn’t touch first. Once they dry a little bit, maybe 20 minutes, I did other parts of the hand.  The drying time allows for the lines in the hand to hold and show the details of the hand and gives it some dimension.  I let these ones be for the night before adding anymore.

For the Captain America shield, I started with the red rings.  After some drying time, I then added the white ring.  While those dried, I started prepping for the center.  Since I didn’t want to freehand the white star on the blue, I used another template to just do the stars.  I let everything dry overnight to make sure it was nice and firm.

 

The next day, I was able to finish everything off.  For the Captain America shields, I carefully pealed off the stars from the template.  I added the blue icing to the center of the shields and then immediately dropped a white star in the center. They were done and left to dry.

Captain America Cupcake Toppers

Captain America Shield Royal Icing Toppers

For the Iron Man and Hulk toppers, I piped black icing to complete the design using a tip-less bag cut with a small hole.  After that dried, I was able to go back and add the white eyes to Iron Man.

Avenger Cupcake Toppers

Avenger Royal Icing Toppers

I baked the cupcakes the night before my kitchen was to be ripped apart.  I waited to make the buttercream the morning of the parties since I like fresh buttercream and I would only be dirtying my kitchen-aid mixer.  I put together the cupcakes right before each party, the kid party in the morning and the adult party in the afternoon.  The royal icing soaks up the moisture from the buttercream and I like them to be as sturdy as possible.

Avenger Cupcakes 2

Avengers Cupcakes

They really turned out adorable and my son was thanking me before they were even finished.  This was our second year having an Avengers party, so I was happy we got to try something a little different than last year.

Avenger Cupcakes 3

Avengers Cupcakes

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Clara