Tag Archives: cookies

Crazy Baking Day #1: 160 Vanilla Latte Macarons

I think it’s been about two months since I’ve posted anything on the blog, but I think I’m back now that it’s after the holidays. November and December have always been crazy for me, since I love to bake and basically, Thanksgiving and Christmas are excuses to bake a lot and bake big!

So what’s been going on with me since my last post? Quite a bit has changed since then!

I am definitely a novice cake baker and decorator, but last month, I made 3 four-layer cakes for a Christmas party. They weren’t very pretty to look at, but they actually tasted decent. I wasn’t too happy with the appearance of them, but this bake did give me hope that maybe I can learn how to bake a good cake. I am hoping to take a cake decorating class sometime this year.

Josh made the mistake of buying me a Nordicware Bundt cake pan for Christmas. I am now addicted to them and want to collect all of them. I will try to post soon about my Bundt cakes… which are so much easier for me to make than a traditional layer cake.

I am slowly practicing as many new (and sometimes unusual) bakes as I can and trying to perfect them. I would eventually like to apply for a cottage food permit here in California and actually sell my baked goods. Where and how I would do this is still up in the air, but I would like to prepare for the possibility!

Last month, I was asked if I could make desserts for a fellowship at my church. I’ve been wanting to make macarons for an event like this for a while, so crazy me planned to make 80 macarons and 150 chocolate chip cookies for the fellowship.

Today was my planned day to bake and fill 80 coffee-flavored macarons with vanilla buttercream frosting. My wonderful MIL, who wasn’t feeling well, watched my kids for most of the day so that I could concentrate on baking the macarons. I wouldn’t have been able to do this bake without her help.

One mistake: For some reason, I thought my usual macaron recipe only made 24 macarons, but it actually makes closer to 40. Yesterday I had prepped my egg whites for 4 batches of the recipe. 40 times 4 equals yes 160 macarons. So I had been planning to make around 96 macarons (in case some of them weren’t pretty enough to go to the fellowship) but ended up making around 160 macarons instead because I couldn’t let those egg whites go to waste! Ok, in reality, I knew Josh would be ecstatic that there would be so many “extra” macarons.

Since I used an entire 18 count carton of extra-large eggs for this bake, I now have 18 egg yolks in the fridge. Lemon curd anyone?

In my previous macaron posts, I’ve mentioned trying to get the total prep, bake, and fill time to under 3 hours. And I’ve never been able to do it. Today was no exception! In fact, I started the bake at 9 AM this morning and didn’t finish until 5 PM. Admittedly, that whole time was not spent actually working on the macarons. I had to let the piped macarons crust for about an hour instead of only 30 minutes because it was raining outside and rain means humidity. Piped macarons don’t like humidity! I also had to stop around 1:30 PM so that I could go pick up my kids and did not get back until about 3 PM. I think that my second batch of macarons did need all that time though to develop their crust.

When I try a recipe and love it, I tend to use only that recipe and won’t usualy want to try another. This is the case with macarons. I love Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for macarons and can almost follow it from memory now!

Dorie Greenspan’s Parisian Macarons

I did discover on this bake that this recipe can be successfully doubled. You will probably wish you had more baking sheets like I did though!

The batter probably needed a few more stirs with the spatula though before piping. All the macarons kept their little “hats” through the bake in the oven.

I also found out that the macarons on the insulated baking sheet needed more than 12 minutes in the oven. A few of them ended up being soft instead of crispy after 12 minutes in the oven. That was okay though since I still had 120 others to choose from.

And another oddity, the macarons in the small cookie sheet had more of a macaron shape than the others. I wonder if the walls of the cookie sheet contributed to that.

For the coffee flavor in the shells, I used 4 teaspoons of coffee extract (homemade by Josh) in the heated sugar syrup then half a packet of Starbucks instant coffee in the almond/powdered sugar mixture.

For the filling, I made a simple vanilla butter cream frosting.

150 g of butter

450 g of powdered sugar

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

1-3 Tbsp of milk

First, I beat the butter until creamy in my stand mixer. Then, I added the vanilla extract. The powdered sugar goes in next a little bit at a time. Lastly, drizzle in the milk until the frosting is the consistency you are looking for. Even a little bit at a time, my mixer still ended up looking this

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after I was finished making two batches of frosting. It seems that it is just inevitable that when you work with powdered sugar, you will make a mess.

Two batches of frosting was enough to fill the 160 macarons and some leftover to eat out of the bowl.

This is an interesting pic and video of the heated sugar syrup portion of the recipe. It is so funny how the temperature of the sugar syrup just shoots up to about 210 degrees F and then creeps up to that 235 degrees to 245 degrees F so slowly! In the video, you can see the steam from the boiling sugar syrup. So so glad for a stand mixer! During this part, I stay away from it for about 10 minutes and let the mixer do its job. Side note: coffee-flavored Italian meringue is yummy!

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Also, Josh bought me a new oven for Christmas! I love it so much.

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Tomorrow is Crazy Baking Day #2, where I try to fill a 6 quart bucket full of chocolate chip cookie dough. Come back soon and thank you for reading!

-Lynn

Mocha Macarons

Of all the weeks for me to decide I wanted macarons, this week probably wasn’t the best! But with six egg whites sitting in the fridge begging to be turned into macarons (left over from Josh’s dragon fruit ice cream, which needed egg yolks only), I had to squeeze them in somehow. I originally wanted to make birthday cake macarons (with lots of sprinkles!), but Josh had made a coffee extract a few months ago that I hadn’t used yet in anything. So mocha macarons it is!

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Josh’s coffee extract, which I really need to separate out into extract bottles.

Usually it takes me about three hours to make macarons from prep to the last pan coming out of the oven, so today, I decided to see if I could make macarons in less than three hours. It didn’t happen. I took about 30 minutes to prep around 11:15 and then came back into the kitchen around 2 PM to finish. I wasn’t finished baking until 4:30 PM. So I guess it just isn’t possible to get 81 macaron shells baked in less than 3 hours. The only thing I can think of that would have helped is baking more than one pan at a time, which I would be afraid to do in my oven and the recipe does say to bake only one pan at a time.

I will say that splitting prep time (which consisted of tracing out the circles on 3 sheets of parchment paper, weighing out the ingredients that needed to be weighed, and setting out the egg whites to come to room temperature) and the baking time made the whole process a lot less stressful for me. I may have to make that my usual method.

As usual, I used my favorite recipe for macarons, using the Italian meringue method, and then adjusted the flavoring as I wanted.

After splitting the egg whites, I added 1 Tablespoon of Josh’s coffee extract to the egg whites that are mixed into the sifted confectioners’ sugar and almond flour. Later, during the mixing of the Italian meringue into the almond flour mixture, I felt like the batter needed more “coffee” flavor, mostly because of the scent. I couldn’t really smell the coffee, so I thought it might be difficult to taste if I could not smell it in the batter. Into the batter went a packet of Starbucks instant coffee.  I’m not sure yet if it helped any since the finished macarons are in the fridge and we shouldn’t eat any until tomorrow… shouldn’t. I’m not sure if I will be able to wait that long though!

Once I got the mixture to the “lava” stage, it was ready for piping. Piping is probably my favorite part. I am so glad for large baking sheets because otherwise, baking would have taken even longer than it did!

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Baked coffee macaron shells! I really liked the color they turned out. And strangely enough, these macarons smelled exactly like pancakes while they were baking. I don’t think macarons usually smell like that. My kids definitely enjoyed it!

For the filling, I made a simple chocolate ganache. I was tempted to add coffee extract to it, but I wanted to share the macarons with my kids. I also don’t want my kids jumping off the walls.

Is there anything yummier than chocolate chips melted with very hot heavy cream and then stirred together until it’s chocolatey goo?  For this ganache, I used 16 fluid ounces (according to the measuring cup) of semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 cup of heavy cream that I heated until steamy on the stovetop. Was it too much? No, I don’t think we will have any problems eating leftover ganache!

I had a little helper while I was assembling the macarons. My youngest, my baby girl, handed me macaron shells to fill. As a reward, she got to try the 1 shell  left that didn’t have a top. Of course, I smeared some ganache on it!  Since she wanted more, I guess they were good. I did notice a gap in the shell between the outer and inner layer. I don’t think that is usually there. I will see tomorrow if they all are like that.

All my kids were pretty excited that I was making macarons.  Fortunately, they are used to waiting a day to try them!

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And as usual, I had fun making these even though they take quite a while! I know that we will have even more fun eating them!

 

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P.S. I am sorry about the inconsistency of my pictures. I had to take my pictures at night and the lighting in our kitchen is not the greatest.

-Lynn

Update!  These macarons are a big hit, even with my kids. They ask me if they can have one after lunch ever since I made them. Most of them do have the gap between the shell and the interior, but they still taste great. I actually thought the shell might be a little too crispy. Since there is no complaining from anyone else, I’ll just count this as a macaron win. 🙂

Root Beer Float Macarons

A few weeks ago, we were able to sample some store-bought macarons. Buying four of them gave us sticker shock at $2.50 a piece! So, we didn’t share them with the kids. Our poor kids. I didn’t realize what an expensive treat they were getting when I make them at home!

Yesterday, I finally got to try baking root beer float macarons! I used my usual base recipe: Parisian Macarons.  I ended up winging the root beer flavor addition though. This is my third time making macarons. You can read about my first attempt and second attempt here on The Geek Homestead also.

These macarons didn’t turn out quite as pretty as my last two tries, but they still tasted great.

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Look at that poor misshapen one on the left…

This time, I made an appropriate filling for a root beer float macaron: vanilla bean buttercream. It is half-based on the vanilla buttercream filling for the Victoria Sponge Celebration Cake at Jane’s Patisserie. After visiting that link, I now want some cake!

I was aiming for a vanilla ice cream flavor for the filling and it was perfect.

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I used the seeds of a whole vanilla bean in the buttercream. I love the little flecks!

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I did make a bit of a mistake with the flavoring in the macaron shells though. I used 2½ teaspoons of root beer concentrate. I should have used about double that, maybe 4 to 5 teaspoons. I also added a half teaspoon of cocoa powder just to add more color. But the cocoa powder ended up being too strong in flavor. My son Matthias was able to taste the chocolate. I will have to think of another way to add color I think. Brown sugar? Molasses? Or maybe food coloring might have to be the way to go.

 

I also accidentally made a 2-inch diameter macaron and find that I kind of like that size. I will probably make my next batch that way. Josh has requested jasmine-flavored macarons, so those will be my next macaron experiment.

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Macarons make people happy!

I borrowed a book from the library all about French Patisserie and it has a whole chapter dedicated to macarons. I think I might be baking my way through that chapter!

-Lynn

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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. 🙂

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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

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