Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This was a cute video of funny guys making macarons. (I only wish they'd pronounce macaron correctly--it's like macaroni without the "i" at the end.)

Anyway, notice that they didn't use AGED egg whites. I do think it's important to use eggs at room temperature, but I've set egg whites on the counter at bedtime and used them the next afternoon with perfect success. I'm pretty sure I've set them on the counter for a few hours and had perfect success, so I'm beginning to think this idea of aged egg whites is not such a big deal. (Just to be fair, last week I made macarons from egg whites that had been separated for four days, but saw no difference in egg whites that had set out for a few hours.)

I have been incorporating the best things from several different recipes. I like to whisk one tablespoon of dried egg white with the granulated sugar in a bowl, then pour in the egg whites, then put under a stand mixer for eleven minutes. Add any food coloring and/or flavor at this point if you intend for this batch to be all one color/flavor.

When the egg whites are stiff, then I add the stiff mixture to the almond flour and powdered sugar--carefully folding it in until it begins to "run" off the spatula. Then I quit immediately and put the mixture into a piping bag. Pipe onto baking trays, sprinkle with any nutty bits, glitter, or other adornment, then thump the trays to help the macarons settle and burst any air bubbles. Then bake at 315 degrees (any higher and they browned, ruining my pretty colors) for about 14 minutes. (But this will depend, of course, on how big your macarons are.) Then pull off onto cooling racks and slip the next tray into the oven.

I made a tiramasu batch the other day that was wonderful. Now I just need to find a place to serve them. :-)

Happy baking!


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Baking thru the Holidays . . .

To make PB&J, first bake PB cupcakes, then carve out a little hole. 
Pipe a little jam into the hole. 

Plug the jam-filled hole back up. 
And top with a chocolate buttercream rosette! 

Mint chocolate cupcakes. :-) Yum! 

The book that started the latest baking binge . . .
I've spent the last couple of days baking!  (Surprise!)  My friend Terri Blackstock sent me a book called "500 Cupcakes" for my birthday, so of course I've been busy making cupcakes!  I made delicious chocolate mint cupcakes the first day, peanut-butter-and-jelly cupcakes last night, and banana chocolate this morning!  Plus, I think I made my best batch of macarons ever--Tiramasu!  :-)  

I really love the 500 cupcakes cookbook because not only are their great (from scratch, of course) recipes, but the author gives you practical variations of each recipe, in case you want to try something different or if you don't happen to have a certain exotic ingredient on hand.

Last night the peanut butter cupcakes were supposed to stand alone, but I got the idea to scoop out a plug at the top of the cupcake, fill it with about a teaspoon of raspberry preserves, plug it back up, and then frost with chocolate buttercream.  It's almost like a gigantic Reese's cup!  I took some across the street to my neighbors, then today I sent the hubby out with little gift boxes to several other family friends.  I figured it was after lunch so they were bound to be ready for some homemade  Christmas cupcakes.  :-)

So all is well here in the Hunt kitchen.  I did some re-organizing over the holiday--marked some dishes and things for the Daughter, some to sell on eBay, and some to use more often.  Picked up a few kitchen gadgets and exotic ingredients  at a Sur La Table store in Miami--fun!  Spent way too much time trying to track down kirsch--apparently it's a cherry brandy that you cook with.  My grocery didn't have it, and neither did the nearby liquor store, so I had to order it online.   It had better make my desserts heavenly!

I spent most of today baking while watching "The Greatest Story Ever Told."  Love that old film. And last night I saw a new British movie called "Nativity!" Simple and sweet and quite different.

And it's back to work soon, so I'm trying to get a lot of my baking out of my system.  Though I don't think that will every be completely possible, hmmm?  Plus, there are those extra pounds I packed on over the holiday.  Time to start counting the calories and putting in time on the treadmill . . .

Hope your holiday was heavenly!



Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Open House!

Since when does Santa wear glasses? With the Grand Baby. 
Yesterday the hubby and I threw open our doors and invited in a lot of friends--a steady stream of them, and we had a ball.  So nice to spend a little time with folks we see throughout the year but don't always have time to visit.  So I spread out the fruits of more than three days of baking, people came, and they ate--but not nearly enough.  :-)   I'm boxing up the leftovers and taking many of them to my daughter, as we're leaving to go see the Grand Baby this afternoon.

But I wanted to share one baking experience with you.  I hope you realize that in writing this blog, I'm not attempting to be an expert on anything--far from it.  But if my experiments, successes, and failures can spur your enjoyment of baking, so much the better.

The unfortunate cake. Ugh. 
Because it occurs to me that we bake because we love.  And nothing pleases us better than to see the recipients of our endeavors take a bit, close their eyes, and sigh happily.  I tell you, that just lights the burners of my heart.  ;-)

Anyway--I sent aside most of Friday afternoon to bake a three layer sweet 'n salty cake.  I'd made one before, for my book club, and it came off without a hitch.  In fact, it was absolutely delicious, attractive, and not too hard to make, so I thought I'd replicate the effort for the open house.

LOL!  All went well until I began to assemble the cooled cake layers.  Layer one went on the platter without mishap, but layer two cracked right down the middle.  Uh oh.  I tried to "glue" it together with the caramel that goes on top of each layer, but when layer three cracked as well, I knew I was in trouble.  I glued and stuck it in the fridge, hoping the glue would harden, but when I pulled it out the the fridge, I found that the broken layer had spilled into the platter.

Into a pretty Christmas bowl, sprinkled with chips. 
Oh, dear.  The more I tried to glue and frost with caramel and the chocolate ganache frosting, the bigger my mess became.  My cake finally looked like the photo, and of course, I couldn't serve that.  (Thought for a moment about cutting it in half and serving HALF a cake, but not even my halves looked good).  So finally I scooped up layers of the cake, tossed them into a big bowl (too bad I don't have a trifle bowl), sprinkled the chocolate with chocolate chips, covered with whipped cream, then piped big chocolate rosettes atop the entire thing.  The cling wrap sort of squashed the rosettes, but no one minded after the first spoonful.

Toward the end of the party, my across the street neighbor mentioned that the "sweet and salty trifle" was her favorite thing, so I promptly handed her the bowl and told her to enjoy the rest of it.  :-0  

Add a topping of cool whip. 
And so . . . part of the art of baking, me thinks, is being creative enough to come up with an alternative when everything goes wrong.

Happy baking at your house!

And voila! A sweet and salty trifle. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Baking . . . whew!

The hubby and I are having some friends over on Saturday, so I have been baking and baking and baking--something besides macarons!  (Though I'm still baking those, too!  And I tried a new technique--piping on a squiggle of different-colored batter . . . but my squiggles aren't exactly artistic.)

This year my grand ambition was to bake a Yule Log, and so I pulled out a couple of recipes last night and gave it a go.  The first recipe fell flat . . . the sponge cake bubbled up out of the pan and ended up being a bit leathery and thin.  It's still edible, though, and after rolling it up and chopping off the end, I ate the end pieces and found that it tastes a bit like flour less cake . . . not exactly terrible.

But the second recipe, which called the separate beating of egg whites and egg yolks, worked like a charm.  The cake was fluffy, spongy, and didn't spread out at all.  Furthermore, it rolled beautifully and came with a buttercream frosting recipe that was generous enough to coat both logs.

So, remembering what I learned from watching Julia Child on The French Chef, I made meringue mushrooms, coated the log, then sprinkled the log with cocoa (for color on the mushrooms) and powdered sugar (to give the effect of a light snow).

And so--ta da!  I know how to make a Yule Log.  :-)   My baking repertoire is growing steadily larger. How about yours?

Happy holiday baking!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Macaron Magic

I bought this book, MACARON MAGIC, and was truly excited about trying the author's method for making macarons--always in search of the perfect method. :-) So I made these exactly according to her recipe, and they were absolutely the worst macarons I've ever made. No feet at all. No shiny surface. And they cracked easily.

They're edible, of course (they even taste good), but they are more like meringues, and not at all what a macaron should be. Of course the fault could be entirely mine--I either over stirred or under stirred the macaron mixture, but in all the other methods I've used, this has never been a problem.

This book does have some DARLING and unique ideas for decorating macarons--and it was worth getting the book just to see this technique. I haven't tried the filling recipes yet, but they look delicious as well, though some are a little exotic for my tastes.

I will give this master recipe one more try . . . maybe I didn't stir it long enough. Watching the video is helpful, because I can see that my "ribbons" weren't nearly as fluid as hers.

Ah, macarons. The quest for the perfect method is more complicated than it appears. But it is so worth it! Everyone loves these little cookies.


Monday, December 12, 2011

'Tis the Season

Please overlook the messy kitchen. :-) 
I don't know about you, but these days I find myself humming Christmas songs and doing almost anything but sitting at my desk and working. Christmas has filled the air--and the house--and I love living in the season.


Last night our neighborhood had its annual progressive dinner, and hubby and I were the "dessert house."  I know you've probably been wondering what in the world I was going to do with all those macaroons, and I'm happy to say that I've found mouths for almost all of them.  I made dessert plates for my family, I made the same plates for the volunteers who work in my husband's ministry, and I gave gift bags of macarons to the ladies in my book club.  Last night I made a small tray of them as part of the dessert at the progressive dinner, but because most people looked at this with a raised brow ("what are those, funky little hamburgers?"), I made gift bags for my neighbors to take home. And on each little bag I attached a little note printed on cardstock--a lovely snippet of a Madeline L'Engle poem immortalized in song by Carolyn Arends.  (Unfortunately, I couldn't get Carolyn's voice on the card, but I hope the poem sufficed.)
Click to enlarge. 

Aren't they adorable? So much fun!
My neighborhood is filled with all kinds of people, and hubby and I have simply made it a practice to love each of them where they are.  So our home is open to all, and I was happy to give them little bags of macarons, joking that my new goal was to one day be able to make them all the same size.  :-)

On Saturday--backtracking a day--two of my young friends (Christal and I study the Bible together) came to the house for baking.  I thought it'd be fun for them, and I was eager to share some of the recipes I'd gathered from my cookie class.  We had a great time, but we baked all afternoon.  I can't speak for them, but I was pretty well worn out by the time they carried their portion of the haul out the door.  Lots of delicious treats--I don't think I'll have to make another cookie during this entire Christmas season!

But we are planning an open house for next Saturday . . . and my ambition is to create a Buche de Noel, or a Yule log.  I watched Julia Child do it on The French Chef (those old videos are available to watch via, and she made it look so easy I think I might be able to pull it off.  I've never made a sponge cake in a jelly roll pan, though, and since she started with the rolled cake, I'm pretty much on my own.

How about you?  Have you ever made a Yule log?  Any tricks I should know?  And what is the one thing you're eager to bake this holiday season?


P.S.  A whoop and a holler of thanks to SANDY in Navasota, TX who sent me PECANS just when I'd run out after my baking session with the girls.  My favorite nut!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  :-)
(And pecans are my favorite nut.  Sandy is no more nutty than I am.)  :-)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Oh.My.Macarons. Visit Kevin and Amanda today.

If you think I'm nuts for going so crazy over macarons, consider this:

I served them at my neighborhood Christmas party and everyone loved them.

A friend of ours who often comes for dinner ate some and said they were the best thing I've ever made.

The middle school volunteers who got them last night loved them.

My neighbors across the street love them.

So I'm going to keep on making them.

And just to prove I'm not the only one bitten by the macaroon bug, you have to visit Kevin and Amanda's website--and a big thank you to Tamera Alexander for passing it on to me!  Ooo la la!

Happy baking!  (I actually have to make sugar cookies today for my son--he's a purist.  No ornamentation, no frosting, no fillings--just simple sugar cookie.)  :-)


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More Macarons and a few tips

I'm still baking macarons--at least a couple of batches a day.  Trying new things with each batch.  

And while it's not easy to work on macarons AND hold a phone video camera, I attempted to grab a few seconds during the process to illustrate a couple of techniques.  Enjoy! 

A macaron gift mug I put together for a friend. 

Purple macarons sprinkled with pulverized white chocolate chips. Pretty! 

The "bottoms" for the white chocolate chip macarons, fresh out of the oven. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Still Not Bored with Macarons

Top: a row of chocolate-loaded "bottoms" waiting for their "tops.
Bottom: The finished macarons. 
This is why I love macarons--because they are never the same twice!  I've had several brilliant (to me, anyway) insights over the last few days.

1. Don't bake them on a silicone sheet.  Those tend to buckle and result in lop-sided macarons.
2. When you remove them from the parchment paper and they're still warm, press in the center of the bottom of the cookie, creating a little "well" for the filling to nestle in.  :-)
3.  Chocolate-based fillings won't spoil if you leave them out.  This makes it possible to MAIL MACARONS TO FRIENDS!  :-)   Yea!
4.  Gel and powder food colors work best, as the liquid ones can water things down. But I've been using liquid flavorings, and they're not too watery.
Before baking. Aren't they pretty? 
5.  You can make two-toned macarons by putting two piping bags (one color per bag) into a large bag with a tip.  See today's photos to see what I mean.  (Divide batter in half; use 2 colors).
6.  I don't like licorice, but anise tastes slightly like licorice (but better), and was really great in today's offering.  :-)

These photos are of anise-flavored, black and white, chocolate filled macarons.   :-)

Fresh out of the oven. See those pretty feet? 

Three trays ready to be baked. They should sit for at least 30 minutes. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A new method!

Yesterday my friend and I made a batch of macarons each, then after she left, I decided to try another batch using another method. I had been using the two-temperature method (put shells in oven at 200, then after 15 minutes, increase temp to 350), but I thought I'd try the one temp method (leave shells out on the counter for at least 20 minutes, then bake about 12 minutes at 320).

Ooo la la! The second method made such better cookies! The feet were more pronounced, and the batter was more pliable, meaning that I didn't have as many "points" as I had before. So I am hereby going with the new method, demonstrated in this video and fully explained in the book MAD ABOUT MACARONS.

My husband has decided to give his lay leaders plates of macarons for Christmas, so guess who'll be busy baking? :-) Actually, I'm grateful to have someone to give my macarons to. I've filled two five gallon buckets, a tupperware container, and a plastic shoe box with my little creations, and they keep getting prettier and--hopefully--better tasting.

Oh! And I've also been experimenting with flours. Almond flour is the standard, but I've made two batches with pecan flour (yummy!) and today I made a batch using coconut flour. I was supposed to use UNsweetened coconut, but since I couldn't find any, I used sweetened. To compensate for the extra sweetness, I filled the macaron shells with popcorn buttercream--delicious and not too sweet. :-) That recipe is in the book LES PETITES MACARONS.

I hope you are having fun in your home and in your kitchen! Please chime in and tell us what you're baking, or share photos on the Lovin' Oven Facebook page!

PS--I also bought several flavor oils made by LorAnn--blueberry, pralines and cream, walnut, vanilla, etc., and they really do a great job of adding flavor to a macaron.  For instance, yesterday I used blueberry flavoring and colored the macarons blue--what fun!  Then I did banana.  :-) Those oils are wonderful, and a little dab works just great!



Friday, November 25, 2011

Macaron Tower? Who's up for it?

The Day After

LOL!  Time to relax and bake for fun.  A friend of mine is coming over later today for Bible study and baking (what a great combination), and I think I'm going to teach her how to make macarons.  I'll post pictures later if it all pans out.

And would you believe it--yesterday I loaded my husband's car with the pumpkin/chocolate chip cake, four plates of macarons, a homemade loaf of bread, and a basketful of cornbread blueberry muffins.  We drove two hours, I set everything out on the food tables, and then it hit me--I'd gone off and left my cheesecake-pumpkin-pecan pie in the fridge!  Oh, no!

Well, it wasn't like the dessert table needed another pie--there were lots of beautiful desserts on display. But how were my hubby and I ever going to eat all that leftover food?

So when we got home, I froze half of the pumpkin cake, and I think we may have company for dinner this Tuesday.  If so, I'll bring the pie out then.

I only hope the crust isn't completely soggy by then.  Don't some things get better with age?


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Over the River and Through the Woods

Happy Thanksgiving!

I set out my buckets of frozen macarons and pretty plates--with paper doilies. 
The hubby and I are traveling over to our family reunion this morning, where I'll see my mom and my sisters (and the aunts, uncles, and cousins), so I thought I'd do up some little Christmas gifts of macaroons.  I piled one tray with them to set out on the reunion dessert table, then made individual gift plates for my mom and sisters.

They look wonderful, and they taste fantastic (I know, because I ate several of them for breakfast.)  I'm grateful that macarons freeze beautifully, because I made some of these weeks ago and they defrost quickly and are still crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and just wonderful.

Arranging a sampling of colors on each plate--and the tray in the b'ground
My mind is buzzing--last night I cleaned out my closet and found lots of adorable little gift bags and gift boxes--I'm always collecting things that are too cute to throw away.  So this year I'll fill them with macarons and use them for gift giving.  How cool is that?  I love it when bits of a plan come together.  :-)

Oh!  I just remembered that I have beautiful red ribbons that say "baked with love from Angie's kitchen."  Need to wrap those around the plates!

Wherever you are, wherever you travel, I pray that you will be safe and content and grateful for all that God has blessed us with.
I will cover with cling wrap and tie with my login' oven ribbons--ta da! 

Happy Thanksgiving.  And if you're lucky enough to be in the kitchen, happy baking!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This is the method I use. :-)

I'm officially addicted . . .

I'm addicted to making macarons, that is.  I've made a batch almost every night, except for the one day when I made two different fillings.

My pecan macaron shells, upside down and waiting for filling. 
Why are they so much fun to bake?  First, because they're a bit of a challenge.  Not the easiest thing in the world, but not the hardest, either.  It's a skill you can definitely learn.

Second, they taste wonderful.  Truly.  Crunchy, chewy, sweet, but not too sweet--and nutty.  And I love nuts.

Third, they make great gifts and they freeze beautifully (if you use a nice buttercream or ganache frosting). So I've been storing them up for holiday gift trays to give.

Fourth, you can flavor them any way you want--sweet or savory, fruity or nutty or spicy.  So every night you create something that tastes different!

Fifth, you can color them, and a collection of them looks like a pretty jewel box.

The Oatmeal raisin buttercream I chose for the filling. 
Sixth, you don't have to use almond flour (which can be hard to find--I ordered mine online).  Tonight I ground 1 1/2 cups of pecans in my food processor and made a batch out of pecan flour, and they were to die for.  Did I mention that pecans are my favorite kind of nut?

Seventh, the filling can be anything from jam/jelly to frosting to whatever you want to use.  So the flavor combinations are limitless.

My first complete pecan macaron! I promptly ate it. :-) 
You can type "macaroni" into the YouTube search engine and find all kinds of instructional videos on how to make macarons, and there are all sorts of recipes online.  You really should give it a try when you have a couple of hours to experiment in the kitchen!

P.S.  Tomorrow I'm baking for my family Thanksgiving reunion.  Tamara Alexander and I are continuing our bake-off, so I can't wait to see what she has planned!


A little army of pecan macarons, ready for the freezer, intended for gift-giving. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My First Macarons . . . and I hope they won't be my last. :-)

Who knew making French cookies could be so much fun?  Marie Antoinette loved macaroons, and so do a lot of Americans, as the little cookie sandwiches are rapidly gaining in popularity. Haven't you heard?  Cupcakes are now passé, replaced by whoopee pies and/or macarons.

The little cookies are famous for being light, gluten-free, and delicious. They consist of two shells that have "feet" and a thin, delicate crust covering a chewy inside.  They are a little labor-intensive, but I think they're worth the work . . . plus, they're fun to make.

My finished macarons. Aren't they cute?

The chief ingredients: almond flour, sugar, egg whites
First step: mix sugar and almond flour in a food processor; sift onto waxed paper. You want a SMOOTH shell.
Next, you make a meringue by your chosen method. Then you fold the flour mixture into the meringue; add any food color. 
Next, fill a pastry bag and pipe small circles onto a silicon sheet or parchment paper. I  used a template beneath my silicone sheet. :-) 
I tried to get them all the same size . . . 
After piping, you do the macaroni slam.  You slam the trays to the counter several times so the little air bubbles (see them?) come to the surface. Then you bake--see recipe for times.  
After baking, pull silicone sheets onto baking rack to cool.  I made a mistake here--I should have pulled one off to see if it came off easily. If it didn't, it needed more baking time.  
See the little "feet"--the rough edge--around the bottom of each shell?  Yea! They're supposed to look like that! 
Uh oh.  The brownish ones (we're looking at the bottoms) were done.  The "torn" ones weren't.  Needed a few more minutes in the oven, but at least they're not goopy. 
I decided to fill these with a vanilla buttercream. Chief ingredients?  Butter, egg whites, and the seeds from a vanilla bean. Cut in half lengthwise and scrape out all the teeny, tiny seeds. 
Pipe your favorite filling onto one shell, then sandwich together. Ta da! 

I was using the book LES PETITS MACARONS, by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E. McBride, but you can also find a section on macarons in MIETTE, another lovely new cookbook.  Different books prescribe different methods, but I like Gordon's and McBride's method as it seems a little more time-efficient.

A macaron consists of four main ingredients: almond flour, powdered sugar, regular sugar, and egg whites.  And the egg whites need to be "aged"--in other words, separate four of them three or four days before baking, keep them covered in the fridge, and set them out a couple of hours before you start the mixing so they can come to room temperature.  It's all about the meringue, and meringue, as you may know, can be tricky.

There is a basic macaron (what I made today), but macarons can be made in all sorts of flavors and colors, so they are truly beautiful little desserts.  And then there are the fillings--sweet or savory, in dozens of varieties.

I bought some macarons on eBay so I could know what I was aiming for, and though my first batch didn't come out picture-perfect (well, some of them did), they don't look half bad, either.

In any case, I know I'll be making these again.  I've just spotted a "popcorn pastry cream" filling that's made from real popped popcorn, and I can't wait to try it!

Spread some lovin' with your oven!


Monday, November 14, 2011


All right, baking friends, I am finally ready to jump in and take the challenge of making French macarons! No, not macaroons, but mah-kah-rons, said with a French accent, of course.

The best thing about these is that they are DELICIOUS! I ordered some off eBay just so I'd know what I'm trying to achieve. The second-best thing about these delicacies is that they are naturally gluten-free!

So in honor of my pal Terri Blackstock and others who need gluten-free foods in their diet, Tammy Alexander and I have decided to make our next bake-off round a gluten-free event! So pray for me as I attempt these wonderful goodies! My hubby and I are planning an open house next month, so I plan to bake lots of jewel-colored macaroons . . . if I don't eat them all first!

(40 Calories each, if you're interested.) :-)


Wednesday, November 9, 2011


My, my--how did the Grand Baby get in here?
I haven't forgotten that I'm supposed to be baking my way through Sur la Table's book, THE ART AND SOUL OF BAKING.  It's just taken me some time to get around to the next dish because it's pizza!

This was really a simple recipe to make--the dough took an hour to rise, but it was no trouble to mix it up in the stand mixer and let it sit.  I let it rise in an oiled bread bucket, and it grew from one inch to four inches, so it was a lively loaf. :-)

I divided the dough and froze half for another day.  My friend Christal came over to help me bake, and half the dough was more than enough for two.

The pizza recipe. 

We had a good time trying to spin the dough around to get it nice and thin--we're not spinners, but we managed to get it spread out in the peel.  Then we spread it with pizza sauce (from a jar), turkey pepperoni, pineapple, and some shredded cheeses.  Then we slid it into the oven (takes practice to master the art of sliding a pizza from a peel onto a baking stone), and let it bake for about 16 minutes, or until it was nice and brown.

Kneading is done with a mixer. 

Semolina on a baking stone. Don't spread it too early. 

Note:  one thing I'd do differently.  You have to spread semolina flour on the baking stone so the pizza won't stick to it, and the book suggested that we preheat the oven to 500 an HOUR before baking.  So I did both--trouble was, the semolina on the  preheated baking stone burned, filling my house with the aroma of burning . . . something.  I was able to put on a pot hit and brush the brunt semolina off the hot stone, but still . . . next time, I'll sprinkle the stone with semolina right before we slide the pizza on.

Verdict?  Delicious and easy.  Definitely worth a repeat.  :-)

The pizza, she's a-baking. 

Christal displays our finished product. :-)