Too Much Shortbread?

Today, we are overrun by cookies! I don’t think this is completely a bad thing, but it certainly isn’t good for our health!

Yesterday, Corran helped me make Polish Tea Cookies.¬† I realized that we never put up a good picture of the cookies after they were baked! So here is a picture. I think Corran was happy that I was taking pictures of his cookies this morning. ūüôā

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Now, I don’t usually make more than one type of cookie at a time, but Josh had been wanting to make maple bacon shortbread cookies since Tuesday. We had breakfast (Pancakes!) for dinner that day and somehow, we ended up making too much bacon! Is it possible to have too much bacon? Probably not. There are plenty of ways to use up leftover bacon!

I was a little iffy about using bacon in cookies though. Josh convinced me that it would taste good. So after dinner last night, we set out to make these cookies, kind of winging it in the process.

He found a recipe that used a box cookie mix as the base for bacon cookies, but we don’t want to use box mixes if we can help it and we didn’t have any anyway. I asked him what he thought of using shortbread as the base. Josh LOVES shortbread, so he jumped on this idea right away.

Since this was going to be a base, I was looking for a simple recipe. I ended up using a recipe from Food.com for Traditional Scottish shortbread. It only had 3 ingredients, sugar, flour, and butter.

I seriously think I went through about 2 pounds of butter when I was baking yesterday. I didn’t make just shortbread, but also baked Hawaiian sweet bread and an angel food cake loaf.

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I used a 9 x 13 jelly roll pan. I wanted these to be pretty thick so they would hold together. I think they were 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick.

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I kept an eagle-eye on these while they were baking. I didn’t want them to brown too much. They ended up being the perfect color after 25 minutes. I cut the sheet of shortbread in half so it would be easier to get out of the jelly roll pan.

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For a chocolate topping, I just melted a bag of bittersweet Nestle chocolate chips in a large glass measuring cup in the microwave. If I had had more time, I might have attempted to temper the chocolate. But, since these were chocolate chips, I wasn’t sure if it was even worth trying to temper. Someday, I will learn how to temper chocolate. It is on my list! I am curious now though, can storebought chocolate chips even be tempered?

Why would we want to temper? Josh and I were kind of looking for a snap to the chocolate topping, not the softness of this chocolate once it had cooled. Tempered chocolate would be shiny (not dull like these ended up) and have a snap to it when it broke.

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Before the chocolate cooled, I sprinkled on some candied bacon that Josh had made earlier.  Most of the recipes he found for candied bacon used uncooked bacon, so he had to tweak one of them a bit to use the cooked bacon we had left over.

 

Candied Bacon

6 cooked bacon strips
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon maple sugar
Pepper to taste

Cut up bacon into pieces. Cook in skillet over medium heat until crisp. Stir in sugar and pepper until bacon is coated. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Can put on wax paper if you like. Once cool, crush the bacon into bits.

Josh used a combination of maple sugar and maple pepper that we have in the spice cabinet. We love our spices and tend to have some rather exotic ones in there.

After I sprinkled on the bacon, Josh put the pan in the fridge so that the chocolate could cool.

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I think the verdict is that these are really good! A lot better than I thought they would be. All my kids liked them, so it’s even kid-approved! I think Josh might be a little sad to come home from work and find some of them gone from the container… Ooops!

-Lynn

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Polish Tea Cookies and Spring Vegetables

Today our 11 year old had a home school assignment to make something related to a book he read. ¬†The name of the book is ¬†The Father’s Promise. He chose to make Polish Tea Cookies because “he didn’t want to do any of the other ones.”

 

 

He asked Lynn to help him make the cookies.  I figured he would do little of the work, and leave it up to Mommy.  He ended up surprising me and helped quite a bit.  He helped with the mixing of the dough, forming the cookies, and putting jelly on the cookies.

 

They used 3 kinds of jelly on the cookies: grape, red raspberry, and lemon curd.  All of the cookies turned out well and taste good.

I was impressed that my son helped to make the cookies.  I think he is learning well, and I think some of the things we are doing with self-sufficiency and making our own things are rubbing off on him.

 

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This afternoon I pulled up all the carrots and beets I had planted. ¬†The raised bed they were in had been dug up by an animal, my guess is an opossum or raccoon. ¬†I think the animal was looking for the beetle grubs that like to live in there. ¬†I am trying to get rid of the grubs, so I guess the critter is helping me somewhat. ¬†After I took out the plants, I dug up the bed some too and pulled out all the grubs I found. ¬†Hopefully, there are not many more left because I am going to put peppers in that bed and don’t want those dug up.

We look forward to eating the carrots and beet tops. I look forward to eating the beets.  Everybody else will eat the beets only because I make them.

-Joshua

Happy Leap Day: Let’s Talk Macarons!

This past Friday’s bake was macarons! It went a lot smoother than the first time I made them and they turned out just as pretty too. They also disappeared just as fast. It’s such a shame I can only make about 25 of these at a time. I think my family might be macaron addicts now.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures the first time I made macarons because my household was crazy that day. This past Friday though was a day off from homeschool so in the morning, I took my time making macarons and taking pictures! This blog post will have a LOT of pictures.

Since the recipe I used the first time worked well for me, I decided to stick with that recipe. I still have Baking Chez Moi around because I am so reluctant to return it to the library!¬† So I just keep renewing it and renewing it. I’m glad that no one else has wanted to borrow it! I think I will eventually be buying this cookbook.

If you want to take a look at the recipe I used, it is here.

This might be the most tedious part of making macarons. Drawing out the circles and spacing them so that they are 2 inches apart. If I start making macarons regularly, I will probably be investing in some reusable silpat just for macarons.

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For some reason, I find weighing my ingredients fun! Must be the numbers girl in me. 200 grams of almond flour and 200 grams of confectioner’s sugar equals 400 grams.

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This is how I sifted the almond flour and confectioner’s sugar. Pushing the mixture through a sieve using a spoon.

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Oops! I was off by 1 gram on my white sugar for the sugar syrup.

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This time, I decided that it would be nice to color my macarons a light pink, since I was using a raspberry jam for the filling for half of them. This is about 75 ml of egg whites with 6 drops of red and 1 drop of blue. The other 75 ml of egg whites went in the stand mixer bowl to be turned into Italian meringue.

Mashing the egg white/food coloring mixture into the almond flour/confectioner’s sugar mixture and watching the color change was neat. Guess there will always be a little bit of kid in me! The color of the batter at this point is pretty dark but it lightens up once the Italian meringue is added.

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This is probably the trickiest part of making Italian meringue. Timing whipping the egg whites to medium firm peaks to the same time that the sugar syrup gets up to 245 degrees Fahrenheit. I did not try to hold the bowl over my head to see if the meringue was firm enough. I’m not brave enough to try that yet!

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Here is the meringue after 10 minutes of whipping with the sugar syrup. Honestly, I could probably have eaten this whole bowl by myself. I satisfied myself with licking the beaters, the spatula, and um… yes, the bowl too. No, I didn’t share with my kids. Someday, I am going to use Italian meringue in a cake frosting and probably have a fight with my husband over the bowl.

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Another fun part! Mashing the Italian meringue into the almond flour mixture.

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This was a bit of a tricky part for me. I could not remember what the batter was supposed to look like once it was ready to be piped. I did remember that it was supposed to drop like lava off of the spatula in a V-shape. I just couldn’t remember if it was supposed to be this grainy-looking. I was a little worried that I had ruined the texture, but once they were piped out, the texture looked fine.

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My “piping bag.” This is a decorating tool from Wilton. This was a lot neater for me to use than a pastry bag. Not as much wasted batter.

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This is the way the batter is supposed to look after piping. Nice and smooth.

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4 pans of macaron shells and it still didn’t seem like enough! Some of them ended up bigger than others. I let the pans sit for about 30 minutes to form a crust. Once I could touch the tops of the shells without having any batter stick to my finger, they were ready to go in the oven.

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I love watching these cuties bake! 6 minutes at 350 degrees, rotate the pan, and then bake for another 6 minutes.

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I made a white chocolate ganache to fill half of the macarons. I mixed in some mini chocolate chips once it was cool just so that I could tell Josh I had tried to make a chocolate chip filling. I had said earlier in the day that I was going to make chocolate chip cookies. Nope, I ended up making macarons instead! The ganache was too liquidy to use right away so I put it in the fridge to thicken up enough to use as a filling.

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Here are the raspberry jam macarons. I used some jam from one of our favorite orchards back east, Catoctin Mountain Orchard in Maryland. They used to have an online store but that doesn’t seem to be up right now.

The macarons turned out so pretty! I couldn’t resist trying one right away, but macarons really do need a day or two in the fridge before serving. The difference in texture between the interior and exterior becomes more defined. It is definitely worth the wait!

-Lynn

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Adventure into Macarons

I had never heard of macarons before I watched the Great British Bake-off. I only knew once I saw them that I HAD to try making them. I am not a big fan of macaroons (mostly because I can’t take the texture of shredded coconut) but these seemed different! Crunchy shell with a chewy interior? Almond flour? Pretty colors and fun fillings?

Of course, I went on to search for a recipe. Right now, I have two of Dorie Greenspan’s cookbooks and one of them, Baking Chez Moi, I still have around from the library. And I found her recipe for macarons!

This site has the exact recipe I used: Parisian Macarons.

First thing, I would not recommend trying to make these when you have 5 children running around the house. Every few minutes I had to stop what I was doing to help a child. In those few minutes, I would often forget where I was in the recipe! I found my way back quickly but it still would have been disastrous to skip a step!

I was able to concentrate better once I had the two youngest children down for their afternoon naps though.

flourThis was my first step. Sifting the flour. I did this while feeding the kids their lunch. They thought I was cutting something. No, I was just sifting confectioner’s sugar and almond flour through a mesh colander. It just sounded exciting I guess!

sugarsyrupI waited until after the littlest kids were napping to make the meringue. I’m glad because this sugar syrup had to get up to 245 degrees F!

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I forgot to take a picture of the meringue when it was done getting whipped into shape. I think I am in love with Italian meringue though. It was like eating really, really awesome marshmallow creme without all the artificial flavorings! I looked at my jar of marshmallow creme and it actually has many of the same ingredients as Italian meringue. You mean to tell me I’ve been eating the inferior version of Italian meringue this whole time?

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All piped out into their cozy little circles, ready to sit for 30 minutes to form their crust. My circles weren’t very neat, but maybe I will do better next time.

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Macarons rising in the oven. My son Matthias was completely fascinated by these. He kept coming into the kitchen to watch me while he was supposed to be working on an English worktext. I let him hang out with me for a little bit and watch the oven.

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I don’t think they are quite as poofy as they should be. And they might have been in the oven too long. At least they have the “foot” and the smooth top!

macaronI used strawberry jam and lemon cream for the filling in some of them. I ended up making some with just strawberry jam too. The boys and I shared one strawberry  macaron. They all really liked it (even my picky eater, Matthias) and of course, each one wanted his own macaron. I was a little surprised that they liked it. My sample lived up to expectation though!  Crunchy shell and a chewy cookie interior along with the tart jam? I wanted one just for me too! Well,  I told my boys they had to wait until tomorrow. Not very nice am I? I think they were still holding out hope for one because they kept coming into the kitchen to see what I was doing with the macarons.

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I also had some frozen chocolate peanut butter balls made from chocolate ganache. So I pulled out a few and melted them in the microwave to get a spreadable frosting for a filling. I didn’t get to try one of these macarons. Tomorrow, I definitely will!

The recipe said to wait 24 hours before eating the macarons and let them sit in the fridge. Um… why? I don’t really know why, but I figured I’d better follow the recipe. Hopefully, it will be worth the wait!

-Lynn

 

 

Hibiscus Cookies

One of the things I want to do in my yard is grow mostly edible plants.  I still want to have some flowers and plants that will look nice in addition to being edible.  This year I planted Thai Red Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, it is a type of hibiscus plant with edible flowers.  The part I planned to use is the calyces, that is the part of the flower that the petals come out of.  The calyces are often used in teas like Red Zinger, and provided a tart citrus taste.

hibiscus plant

To harvest the calyces I wait until the the petals have dried, pull the petals out, and then take off the calyces.  Then I put the calyces on a paper towel until they are fully dried out.

I didn’t want to plant to many of them the first year since I didn’t know how many flowers I would get, so I ended up not planting enough. ¬†I needed something to use the flowers I had and found this cookie recipe.

To make the hibiscus tea that was used in the cookies and frosting, I put the dried calyces in some cheese cloth and put them in boiling water.

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The tea was a dark red color and was very tart since I allowed it to brew for quite some time.

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The cookies didn’t take on the tart taste of the hibiscus tea, but did have a hint of the taste. ¬†The frosting ended up a nice pink color that Lynn wants to use when frosting our daughter’s birthday cake.

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-Joshua