Succulent Watercolor Macarons

This is the most annoyingly trendy post, I know. And when I set out to make this recipe, I really intended on only painting “watercolor” flowers, but succulents are so darn cute I couldn’t stop! Anyway- still got about 20 inches of snow on the ground here in DC. I know other cities get this amount of snow on the reg, but the nation’s capital was NOT prepared for this. First snow plow sighting was 72 hours after the snow started…72 HOURS! Needless to say, I got a lot done in the kitchen this weekend.

This post is really about edible watercolor painting technique, but with it comes more learnings about “macaronage”. Some tips:

  • Using food coloring (gel or liquid) in macaron shells requires the baking time to be almost doubled. Totally doable, but if it is your first time I recommend sticking to the basics.
  • You’ll find slightly different recipes everywhere, but they are all the same. Pick a recipe that requires a kitchen scale, and stick with it.
  • Bang the shit outta those pans! Getting all the air bubbles out is imperative.
  • Let macarons cool completely before removing from the sheet.
  • If all macarons have cracked tops: you over whipped the merengue, or overmixed the batter. If only some macarons have cracked tops: that was from inconsistency in batter. It may have been unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl that weren’t incorporated. Make good use of those 30 folds- get all contents off the sides of the bowl and into your batter!

With that, here’s my go-to recipe:
4 ounces (115g) blanched almonds or almond flour
8 ounces (230g) powdered sugar
5 ounces egg whites (144g), give two days to breathe in the fridge, then bring to room temperature before using them.
2 1/2 ounce (72g) sugar
the scrapings of 1 whole vanilla bean
1/2 tsp (2g) kosher salt

The Shells

1. Measure the almond flour and powdered sugar, and place together in the food processor. Pulse on and off for a minute, or until the mixture is homogenous in color and there is no almond flour stuck to the bottom of the bowl.

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2. Sift the mixture carefully and you should end up with about 2 teaspoons of these sneaky little pieces of almond. Too big to go through the sieve, too small to get chopped by the processor. Dispose of the extra almond nibs. Leave the sifted mixture in a bowl and set aside.

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3. Place the aged room temp egg whites, sugar, vanilla bean, and salt in the electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

It is VERY important there is no remnants of oil on the attachment or in your bowl. I’ve wasted dozens of eggs due to oil-in-the-merengue disease, so I actually bought a separate bowl and only use it for oil free recipes (a little bit crazy I know).

Whip according to the following steps-

SPEED 4 –> 3 minutes

SPEED 7 –> 3 minutes

SPEED 8 –> 3 minutes (after this step is when you add any food coloring or flavoring extracts)

SPEED 10 –> 1 minute

The mixture should look like a smooth, shiny marshmallow fluff consistency. If at any point you see the mixture start to break apart or get a bubble-bath-foam texture, stop right away and you may be able to salvage it. Foamy is okay, but when it starts to break apart instead of being a cohesive mixture… that ain’t good.

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hello, beautiful 🙂edited_12864. Unfortunately no pics of this step. Shake the merengue off of the whisk and pour ENTIRE dry mixture into the bowl at once. Now you are going to do the classic macaron fold. Fold for appx 30 strokes- alternating between folding the dry mixture with the egg mixture, and then mashing the mixture on the side of the bowl with your spatula. Fold, mash, fold, mash. Go slowly….check your mixture after every stroke…..and make sure to get every bit (even the edges of the bowl) mixed in.

The mixture shouldn’t be runny, but should be cohesive and smooth enough that when dolloped, the dollop takes 20 seconds to re-join the mixture.

5. Place in a piping bag fitted with a wide tip (I didn’t use one this time). If you’re not used to controlling a piping bag, I would fill halfway and do a few batches.

edited_12886. Pipe small symmetrical circles by keeping the piping bag still and pushing until your circle is a little less than 1/4 inch thick. Do not move the piping bag in a circle while you pipe or your macarons will look like snail shells. Your macarons will expand so give them space- I got a little impatient below.

7. Now the fun part- take your pans immediately and BANG them against the counter 4 or 5 times. You should see tiny little air bubbles escaping from the top.

8. Let sit for 30 minutes before baking.edited_1289

9. Bake at 300* (some ovens need 315*, know your oven!) for 18 minutes. LET COOL before you even try to touch these puppiesedited_1291

The Filling

I did a basic buttercream for the frosting and then used homemade blackberry jam that a co-worker made and canned this summer! Thanks Dave!

8 tbsp butter

4 cups powdered sugar

3 tbsp whipping cream

1/2 cup jam

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The watercolor- use small NEW paintbrushes and use drops of gel food coloring as your paint. Mix plenty of water with each color and experiment from there! At first, my colors were too vibrant so I continued to add water. Here’s my “canvas”:

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Roommate even helped paint some! She lived in Paris and has a deep love for three things- baseball, french macarons, and cheerios.

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I’ve made french macarons many a time and continue to learn new things/tips every time. I was super happy with these because they passed all of the french macaron criteria: the perfectly smooth top, exactly the same size (thanks to my new silpat), and they grew beautiful little feet at the bottom. Can’t wait to play with some valentines macarons!

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Bagel Bombs

Mother Dough (you’ll only use half this recipe- I save the rest for cinnamon rolls, pretzels, or extra baked bagels)

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 packet of yeast
  • 1 3/4 cup room temperature water

Bacon, Jalapeno, & Scallion Cream Cheese

  • 1 block 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup smoked and cooked bacon- chopped (save the grease!)
  • 1/4 cup scallions
  • 2 T diced jalepenos

Directions:

  1. Mix yeast, salt, and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix by hand with the dough hook as a stirrer, and then start to use the mixer on low.
  2. Slowly add water and let mix on low for 4 minutes
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  3. Pat into a nice velvety ball and place in a well greased glass bowl. I use the bacon grease to oil the bowl!
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  4. Cover and put somewhere dark and warm to rise for at least an hour (I preheat my oven, then turn it off, and place the covered bowl inside).
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  5. Pre-heat oven to 325*
  6. Mix cream cheese and fixin’s.
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  7. With slightly wet hands or a small ice cream scoop, form into 8 balls. Freeze on parchment paper.
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  8. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a long rectangle and cut into eight pieces.
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  9. Place a frozen cream cheese ball in the middle of each piece (I intentionally made one extra- not that bad at math!!)
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  10. Bring the corners and edges to the top middle of the cream cheese ball, pinch the edges together to ensure the dough doesn’t have any openings.
  11. Place seam-side down on a silpat mat and brush with egg/water mixture.
  12. Cover with everything bagel mix- roll the sides in the mix to get a big flavor with each bite!
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  13. Bake at 325 for 25 minutes or until the bagel bombs are golden brown
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  14. Serve warm and enjoy!!edited_1275

 

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Incredibly humbled and honored to be reviewed by DC’s finest chocolate chip cookie blog, Cookies With Stephen. Although I’ve never met him, Stephen clearly has an unparalleled palate for the craft of chocolate chip cookies.

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BROWNED BUTTER is the secret to this cookie. It’s what gives the dough a rich dark color, adds a little extra crunch to your bite, and leaves a sweet toffee-like taste in your mouth until you grab the next cookie!

So, the most important step to this recipe: brown the butter. Here are the five steps to browning butter. I don’t use exact times because its different depending on your stove, pan, and butter.

  • use good butter
  • melt on low, then turn heat to medium-low
  • ‘sautee’ the butter, stirring constantly while it simmers
  • as soon as you see the first sign of golden flakes at the bottom of the pan, remove from heat
  • if you’re feeling daring and think the butter needs a bit more darkening, put back on low heat. It’s better to remove the butter prematurely- as soon as one gold flake turns to black, the butter becomes burnt and you sadly have to throw it away.

Ingredients:

– 6 oz browned butter, cooled in the refrigerator

– 1 cup brown sugar

– 1/2 cup granulated sugar

– 2 eggs

– 1 teaspoon vanilla

-2 teaspoons cornstarch

-1 teaspoon baking soda

-2 1/4 cup flour

-1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Cream butter and sugars in a bowl with a fork or rubber spatula
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  2. Beat in eggs and vanilla
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  3. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined- do not over-mix.
  4. Add chocolate chips. At this point, I ditch the rubber spatula and mix with *clean* hands
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  5. Roll dough into a log, wrap in parchment paper, and refrigerate for 30 minutes
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  6. Scoop the dough into 1.5 inch balls. Flatten with the bottom of a measuring cup, and sprinkle sea salt on the top. If you want a rougher look to your cookie, rip pieces from the dough log rather than scooping, and don’t flatten.
  7. Bake at 325* for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned.edited_1241edited_1242edited_1219

 

Homemade Cheez-its

Take a break from holiday sweets and try out this 20 minute recipe!

I was recently talking with a co-worker about the types of food you’re embarrassed to say you love. Now, I’d normally say I have a fairly refined palate, I make an effort to try new foods, and I challenge myself with unique recipes in the kitchen. However the one exception to that rule is cheez-its. Freakin’ cheez-its. I’ve stopped buying them because they’re so mysteriously addictive.

After this conversation I decided to try homemade cheez-its. This way, if I’m eating them as a snack, I can control the ingredients [SALT!] and amount that I make. If anyone from Sunshine Foods is reading this: victory is mine.edited_1086

So, adventures of homemade Cheez-its:

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or cut thin
  • 4 oz seriously sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded or cut thin
  • 1/2 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to sprinkle on top
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp ice water

Directions:

1) cut or shred your cheeses

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2) Combine cheeses and butter. Beat with paddle attachment.

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3) Add salt and flouredited_10794) Slowly add ice wateredited_1080

5_ Combine into a ball. ONE BIG CHEESEBALL!

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6) Roll out (thickness doesn’t matter for this step) and refrigerate for an hour.edited_10827) Remove from the fridge and roll out to 1/8 inch edited_1083

8) The fun part! Cut into even squares and use a toothpick, straw, or end of a chopstick to poke a hole in each cracker. Note- the crackers grow, so the hole should look a little bigger than usual. The pastry cutter is not necessary, but definitely gives it the finishing touch to make it look just like the real thing!edited_1084

9) Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. edited_1085