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.)  :-)