Monday, 24 December 2012

A Very Successful International Macaron Hunt.

If you happen to have read my last blog entry, you'll know that I recently made a trip to France and Belgium, two places that I have always wanted to visit. You may also like to know that I do indeed speak fluent French as I was raised in a French family and attended French Immersion for the entirety of my grade school education. It was convenient to be able to speak the language though I am certain that the excitement on my face every time I entered a bakery would have spoken clearly enough.

For two glorious weeks in November, we ate and drank our way through France, starting in the south and making our way north into Belgium. As glorious as that was, I will tell you that the trek through four airports and the long flight home would have been slightly less irritating if I had been able to fasten the button on my pants. But alas, I could not.

 As anticipated, we found macarons all over both countries. Some were creative and very pretty (the raspberry and Chantilly cream double-decker was delicious albeit quite hard to eat. I can't quite remember how I tackled it but I do remember walking down the street eating it and thinking that I must look very glamorous). Some were tres chic (though the picture doesn't show it very well, I am holding a white truffle macaron dusted in gold powder that I bought on a very chichi stretch of Champs Elysees. It was beautiful but sadly, it tasted terrible. So bad, in fact, that I tossed it in the trash despite the 5 euro price tag). Some were served alongside other sweets and a strong coffee for breakfast. Some were enormous (like the ones I found in Carcasonne) and others were done so perfectly that some strange, deep-down generous part of me felt the need to give one away to a man and woman from Chicago who had eaten very few perfect macarons. This perfection was found on one of the most perfect days of our trip. On our agenda that day was to wander aimlessly, which we did very thoroughly in a beautiful area of Paris called Monmartre, which felt quaint, authentic french and delightfully low on the tourist/tourist trap scale. We came a across the little macaron shop where the young lady working, a Paris native, was thrilled to talk to some Canadians and told us that she had lived in Toronto and was planning to move back as soon as possible. Nice touch.

Yes, it was a trip filled with eating some of the best pastries and breads I have ever sunken my greedy teeth into. For the record, we did do other things besides eat. I could easily bore you with all the pictures and details but told myself to stay focused since you, my readers, are interested in my baking, not my vacationing. So I'll wrap it up on a slightly somber note. 
Since returning home, inspired by my recent journey, I have made three batches of macarons. Of those three batches, I have thrown out a total of 9 pans full. I'm not entirely sure what the problem has been. My friend Laura, who's a professional baker, suggested that it might be the very cold, dry winter weather we have been experiencing this year. I think it may be that I have been using eggs that are too fresh and I have not let the whites age long enough. Whatever the problem, it has me thinking I should stick to eating them rather than making them since I was quite successful at that. Remember, my pants on the flight home were undone. Oh, yeah, I also broke a zipper on another pair while I was there. But I need to stay positive. I need to swing my leg (and pray I don't rip the crotch out of another pair of pants) back onto the horse and try again. Sigh.

First macarons! Late night on the street in Marseille.

Gold dusted.

Breakfast in Ghent, Belgium.
Breakfast in the metro in Paris.

A giant Pistachio macaron.

I would like them all.

A couple more crafty uses.

Best in France, I swear.

Time lapse between this picture and the one of me holding the same sleeve full: approximately 26 seconds.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Ultimate Macaron Hunt Abroad

My version of Perfection.
I'm in love.

I have a big, wonderful French family. Who better to make a (perfect) batch of French macarons for but them?
This past Sunday we had a family dinner as a bonne voyage for my grandparents heading off on their annual trip to the states. I made my favorite flavored (brown butter buttercream in cinnamon ginger shells) and favorite colored (pink!) macarons as my contribution to dinner.
I can say three things with complete certainty: One, making macarons is a noisy loud process, especially early on a Sunday morning when you have a very hungover friend trying to sleep in your spare bedroom adjacent to the kitchen. Two, my very petite and fit cousin made me proud when she ate 8. And three: I have mastered making shells. This is big news. I've become familiar with what the viscosity of the batter should be, I've gotten the hang of piping them perfectly and the most challenging part, the baking, I have finally gotten down to a perfect science. I feel confident, sure of my technique and ready to take on more challenging macaron feats now (some of the flavored shells take a bit more skill, namely chocolate shells). This all comes not a moment too early as tomorrow I am off to France on holiday where I will no doubt see and eat some of the world's most delish pastries. There are as many tales of of origin and variations of France's macarons as there are potato chip flavors (I know it's hard to believe that something French would involve a great deal of story telling and claiming credit. Must be my French background that makes it impossible for me to tell a story without embellishing at least at little and waving my arms about wildly). I plan on drinking some strong coffee, tasting some amazing wine and finding some authentic French macarons. Stay tuned....

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Life Lessons.

I have run out of space in two closets of my house and my blazers now reside in the broom closet in the hallway. I have a rather expensive (clears throat) shoe collection that if you asked me how much it's worth, I would never tell. I bet you're wondering why I'm telling you this being that this is a blog about baking.Well, I wanted to paint a picture for you: I am not the world's most practical gal. I tend to be on the frivolous side. I like cute things, to a fault. But when it came time to finally get a stand mixer, I suddenly became Mrs. Practical.
 See, I could either choose a cute, colored stand mixer (I was eying mint green), which were the models with less jam (that means power for those of you who aren't familiar with the rural Saskatchewan terminology) or, for just a little bit of extra money, I could get the very best there was. But there was a hitch: the best is only available in black or in silver. This harkens to the days of ugly=comfy footwear (see nursing shoes, circa 1800 through to.... present....) where cute had to be sacrificed for comfortable or vise versa. But hey, we're living in the future where computers are the size of a half an egg salad sandwich and porta-potties have mirrors, sinks and hand sanatizer dispensers and good looking footwear needn't be uncomfortable (refer to shoe picture: the pair in the bottom row, far right....They are mucho comfortable. No lie. I could live in them. And frankly, they look decent). So why, I wonder, does KitchenAid assume that practicality and cuteness are mutually exclusive? But the practical Ukrainian woman in me (my Baba would be so proud except she would HATE my always visible arm tattoos which would surely provoke a "tttch, that's just disgusting") won out and I purchased the flat black, Professional 5 Plus and it is actually pretty mean looking. And I fell in love. And, miracle of miracles, it inspired simplicity and practicality in me.

For the first time since I started this little adventure, I chose not to color my macaron shells or my buttercream. The macaons you see here are in the raw. And they are quite nice looking. There is something kind of soothing about them.
The other interesting thing is that this time I really thought about what I was doing. I mean, I really thought about it. One batch makes three pans full and every time I've done this, pan #1 turns out perfect, pan #2 turns out mediocre and pan #3 is always a write off. And here's why: the baking process that i've mastered is this:
400 degrees celcius for 3 minutes then 325 degrees celcius for 4.5 minutes and finish with 250 degrees celsius for 1.5 minutes.
This works well but it has frustrated me time and time again why I can't make all three pan fulls turns out beautifully when the first pan always does.
It seems so simple now....After each pan full, turn off the oven, leave the door opened then start from scratch each pan. AND guess what? All three pans turned out perfectly. This is a revelation! And what's more, I made flavored shells for the first time; cinnamon ginger shells. And what's what's what's more is that I also got brave and experimented with the buttercream. I browned butter and, along with freshly grated nutmeg and rum extract, added that as the flavoring for the buttercream. Each and every french macaron turned out beautifully and delicious with a delicate and disciplined simplicity that I have spent my life either avoiding or bypassing.
So here I am. My beautiful new stand mixer has proven to be all I had ever hoped and more. While making mes pettites macarons, I was calm, focused and thoughtful. And it payed off. I am really not surprised. Passion for something, whether it be a career which requires a great deal of practice and skill, as well as occasional disappointment in one's self, or a hobby that makes you feel whole, I need to remind myself that such things require patience, skill, practice and the willingness the forgive yourself for your mistakes and know that you're good enough to try again. Ira Glass, you said it well: "...It's only by going through a volume of work that you will close the gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I've ever met. It's gonna take a while. It's normal to take a while. You just gotta fight your way through".
That got pretty deep, didn't it? Who knew a stand mixer would evoke this kind of reaction. Life, you are a silly backyard goat.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Market, The Spa and The Gym

I think there might be a market theme....Last time I made a trip to the Farmer's Market to purchase French Macarons, I also had a gueule de bois (see "At The Market" entry for translation). No bother though, my raucous behaviour was rewarded: This past Saturday's trip was followed by a day at the spa with a lovely bunch of friends including a soon-to-be bride. 
The previous weekend I had been at the Market but arrived too late to get any macarons as they had been sold out for hours by the time I got there. This time around, knowing that I would not be rising at the crack of dawn since we had been out celebrating the upcoming wedding, I used my connections (my mother) to call her friend (who's sister has a vendor accross the way from my pastry dealer) to set aside a bunch to take to the spa (pastries and spa treatments? Yes please). The 16 multicolored little darlings came tucked cozily in a box, hugged by purple tissue paper. I picked them up and strolled proudly around the market checking out the other offerings. All the while, I'm certain people must have been looking enviously at me thinking "Ooo, I bet she's got something really special there". I did, damnit. I did.

Now, as I'm sure you all know, I continue to long a stand mixer. While typing this, I wandered onto a website that sells KitchenAid stand mixers in 26 different colors! I couldn't help but picture all of them nuzzled into a box surrounded by delicate tissue paper. Yeah, the box would certainly be heavier. Sure, it would have to be a pretty large box. And undoubtedly, I wouldn't need 26 stand mixers. But I couldn't help but think about the similarities between cute, dome shaped, smooth multicolored french macarons and cute, dome shaped, smooth multicolored (albeit larger) stand mixers. Sigh* 
Maybe if I hit the gym to pump up my arms so I could proudly carry that box of 26 stand mixers, the universe will reward me by letting me keep one. More likely though, the universe will send me a budget planner so I can just save up to buy one rather than continue to whine about wanting one. Double sigh*

Friday, 7 September 2012

Free Time to Have a Sip.

Oh just reading while the stand mixer does the work.
Getting in on the fun.

 Today I made a believer out of a skeptic. If you recall from my entry Macaron Hunting Abroad: Part Deux, I have a friend who's only macaron eating experience was less that magical.

On her recent trip out to my neck of the country, I made her some macarons, as I promised I would.
It didn't start out well. I didn't have enough almond flour and I spilled water into what I did have. But no bother, we just had to wait until later in the evening to get started when our almond flour request came from another town (where I live the grocery stores close early). Once we got going, there were two great things about making my macarons this time: For starters, I had been generously lent a stand mixer by another good friend, who, coincidentally is the Skeptic's sister. That's right folks, a stand mixer! How many times have I gone on about a stand mixer! I got to flip it on and walk away. It was mad! I had so much time on my hands I was able to drink wine with the Skeptic and the Stand Mixer Lender. It was just lovely.
The second great thing was that my friend the Skeptic enjoyed helping me out. She even wanted to pipe a few out but later said that she has no desire or patience to ever make these things on her own. Fair enough. Having the extra help was nice though. Thanks stand mixer and Skeptic. You both did well.
In the end, the macarons turned out beautifully, the stand mixer was all I ever hoped it would be and more and we all had stained lips and teeth from the neon blue butter cream and red wine. Once again I'm reminded that the best times in life are often spent in the kitchen surrounded by loved ones. And a little cocktail never hurts either. And yes, in case you're wondering, the Skeptic can steal a page from Prince's playbook and call herself the The Friend Formerly Known as a Skeptic.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Hunter Becomes the Hunted.

 While strolling through a really lovely hotel recently for work, looking out of place struggling with a large box full of male mannequin heads (who all look like stylish Jesuses), i was stopped in my tracks by one of the prettiest little pastry shops I've seen. This time the french macarons found me for I was not hunting for them on this trip being that it was for business (my clear and focused mind was obviously on business). They caught my eye when they winked at me. I swear to gods. Or better yet, I swear to my box full of stylish Jesuses.
I couldn't help myself. I set down the fellas and walked into Koko Patisserie, where I found some very creatively flavored, albeit dull colored french macarons. My favorite was the lemon basil. It was just tangy enough and sweet enough but with a perfect bit of peppery licorice flavor from the fresh basil.
They also had a chocolate covered macarons filled with strawberry cream (The white shell and pink filling looked a little like a ham sandwhich covered in chocolate. That would not taste good at all. These did). It was delish but a little hard to eat because the chocolate crumbled when you bit into it. They were cute enough but I really think the naked macarons are far too darling to be covered in chocolate. 
 But really, this joint had it all pretty spot on, as far as me and the Jesuses were concerned. Cute little shop, lovely display case (a far cry from the ghetto glass case pictured in my last entry from Las Vegas) and your pastries wrapped up to go in little boxes tied with blue ribbon by a good lookin' gal working the counter. And the most important part was that they tasted good! Definitely worth checking out if you're in Saskatchewan's capital city. If I get the chance to go again, I'm going to try to leave the stylish Jesuses at home. Amen.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Macaron Hunting Abroad: Part Trois. I'll be damned.

Fake boobs, false sense of glamor, artificial sense of wealth, hotels that are all designed to look like something else. The Las Vegas strip is the phoniest place I've ever visited and frankly, not my favorite place on earth. I don't really gamble but luckily I like to drink and people watch so I guess its not all bad. I hadn't expected to find any French Macarons while there on a recent business trip but thought I'd look anyways since macaron hunting abroad has become a fun part of my project.
Well imagine my surprise when not only did I find some (appropriately at hotel Paris) but that they were some of the best I've eaten (besides my own obviously. That's not saying that I'm a superstar but I make 'em with love, damnit). Though, the experience was altogether unauthentic: an angry black woman from New Jersey sold them to me out of a damp and somewhat clinical looking display cabinet in a hotel in a sleazy American city that was made to look like one of the most beautiful on earth. To make the experience authentic to Vegas, my friend and I sat down at a slot machine and sunk our teeth into perfection. My only complaint is that they were carelessly filled with plain old raspberry jam. Its a shame to get that far then crap out at the end. It would be like getting brand new fake boobs, healed and ready to show off for swimsuit season only to wear loose turtle neck sweaters.

Purple Shows Sweat.

I have a couple friends who get sweaty upper lips when they're really hot. I'm not one of those people. In general, I'm not a very sweaty person. Last week was an exception. We were experiencing a heat wave where I live and I loved it. It was so hot, in fact, that I experienced this sweaty upper lip phenomenon that I have often teased my saucy friends of having. So what better time then during a heat wave to bake! And even better yet, to bake French Macarons, which require that the oven be on for over an hour. Fun tidbit that is the basis of this entry: weather can effect the success or failure of macaron shells, especially humidity. We're lucky here because in general its a very dry climate so that's one thing we can all cross off our lists of variables that will muck with the success of this endeavor.
Except for last week. High humidity, high heat, an air conditioner that poo-pooed out this season and macarons that had to be made for a friend before I left town for a week meant that I became sweatier than I ever remember being before and apparently this didn't sit well with my meringues either. Small spots appeared on the shells the day after I baked them. I have no explanation for this nor could I find one. I guess dogs pant, humans sweat from their upper lips and macarons sweat out in little unsightly spots.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Welcome Summer!

Eagerly gathering to discuss their filling.
As it turns out, I'm nothing like a fast food restaurant! That's good news. I already suspected this was the case but it's now been confirmed!
A few months back, a dear friend asked me if I could make macarons for her wedding to which I enthusiastically agreed. I made two batches this past Wednesday evening (Summer Solstice!) and save for a few duds (okay about ten duds out of the approximate 100 I made) they were all nearly perfect! I couldn't believe it. Maybe it was the sun shinning outside. Maybe it was the cold beer by my side. Maybe it was the excitement to share in the wedding of two really super lovely people. Maybe it was that I was finally able to find a half inch piping tip rather than just piping from a cut open end. Who knows for sure but whatever it was, it proved that quality doesn't have to be sacrificed for quantity, even with something as finicky as mes petites macarons. If my next try goes this well, I might be ready to graduate on to flavored shells. Oh my.....

Saturday, 9 June 2012

3 Strikes You're Out? Hells No! Get me a new bat....

You know the old saying "When it rains, it pours"? This has never meant a whole lot to me until today, as I sit typing this entry with a BandAid on one of my typing fingers.
This morning started out grey and by 2pm it was full on raining outside and hasn't stopped in hours. With the rain has come some stormy weather in my kitchen as well and rain drops pouring from my frustrated eye balls.
Butter cream requires that you boil sugar until it reaches exactly 115 degrees Celsius. Boiling sugar with a candy thermometer that isn't working...blah. Cleaning rock hard, boiled sugar off of the pot, thermometer and beaters three times....double blah. Cutting yourself on hardened sugar (you bet there was blood)....triple blah.
What did all this teach me? Well for one, i need a new candy thermometer and secondly that sugar can be a real asshole sometimes (maybe the folks who avoid refined white sugar like the plague are on to something?). Despite this, the cupcakes I also made today (banana with peanut butter frosting) turned out beautifully. They'll go well with banana butter cream (that worked on the fourth try) filling for the macarons.
Notice I didn't even touch on the macaron shells themselves yet. They were okay. First batch was perfection, second and third I over macaroner-ed (over mixed) so they were somewhat unsuccessful. Frankly after this butter cream trouble, the shells are off the hook this time around.

It all made me long for simpler times when baking just required measuring with cups and spoons rather than scales. And meant turning on the oven, tossing the pans in and forgetting about it for 20 or so minutes. And knowing that as long as you didn't forget an important ingredient, things would turn out just fine.  Sigh*

Saturday, 2 June 2012

You can't spell "Bicycle" without "Cocky".

My human feet are nice enough but these feet are better.
 Well, it's been several weeks since i last baked; life has just been busy. But in my head I thought: "Ah it'll be like riding a bike!" Not the case.
Tomorrow I'm going to feed my macarons to people who aren't only family members/close friends. I would like to impress these folks but alas, a great deal of my macaron shells were jerks: many of them slid over and were a messy disaster. Obviously I'd also like to impress you, my readers, so the photos I've included only feature the best in show but rest assured, half of each of the four batches were f#@%*ed up. (Just as I'm only showing you all the few pretty ones, I will carefully place those same few on top of the rest tomorrow when I take them to meet their fate so that the other guests at the party will think they're all that lovely. Sneaky)
Not terribly surprisingly, the baking seemed to be a crap shoot yet again-some on each of the pans were actually perfect while others were a mess. But as usual (and here comes the cocky), they tasted great. Tonight I made Orange Cream (hello orange colored filling that tastes like Creamsicle) and Maple (hi there cute pink filling) butter cream fillings which, combined with the tasty macaron shells, made for some pretty badass tasting little pastries.

Hm, at least my hiatus from baking hasn't caused me to lose much ground as far as baking technique goes (things were the usual disaster there) nor have I lost any arrogance in terms of how tasty my pastries are: I'm strutting through Flavor Ville, y'all.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

A Mother's Love.

Purdy's, stick to the chocolates.

Ahhh, Mother's Day weekend. A time for moms everywhere to spoil their bratty adult daughters. Oh wait....

On a recent business trip to Vancouver BC, my lovely mother was thinking about me and bought me macarons from not one but two places. Who's heard of Purdy's Chocolates? They do decent chocolates. I've gorged myself on their dark chocolate with blueberries and almonds a couple times (although they did their version of an Easter Cream Egg this year. Don't even get me started there. You can't mess with perfection, Purdy's. Pfft). Anyways, over coffee and the Saturday morning news paper, I ate 6 bites of 6 different macarons. The two from Purdy's were weak. If i didn't know better, I'd say they were made of dry cake. I'm suspicious that perhaps Purdy's is trying to pass off something else as macarons. Imposters. Stick to the chocolatier-ing, yo.
The other 4, from a place called Stuart's Baked Goods in the Granville Public Market, were pretty damn good. Great texture, pretty colors. But here's what worries me: i think i might be a bitch. I felt pleased that theirs too had crooked feet. Also, the flavors were good but far too subtle to guess what they were without knowing. I mean, maybe it's 'cause I'm pretty much hollering from my roof and wearing a flashing sign that says what flavor mine are, but it seems to me that they are pretty obvious Maybe I'm delusional the way a mother is blinded by love for her child and thinks her's are the prettiest/most handsome and smartest even if they're ugly and stupid. Maybe I'm blinded by love for my little babies. Well at least I don't feel completely left out of the motherhood thing this Mother's Day.

Ba! Crooked feet here too!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Macaron Hunting Abroad: Part Deux

 On a recent trip to Toronto, I knew I would be successful at locating macarons for the portion of this project that I have been successful at from the very begining: eating them. If you recall, last time i tried to find macarons abroad, I was unsuccessful. This time, we decided the Saint Lawrence Market in downtown Toronto was the place to start.
Funny thing about that market: pretty much the whole upstairs is meat. Deli counters, sausage vendors, meat cabinets, sea food on ice... you get picture.  My friend and I had to laugh at this because all I wanted was French Pastry and all I (a long term herbivore) saw was meat. But as soon as we descended the staircase to the lower floor, the first thing we laid eyes on was a pastry cabinet filled with macarons. We bought six. But before we ate them, we had a full day of beer drinking, shopping and adventuring around  the city to get through. When we were finally ready to eat them, they were pretty sad looking. BUT, as we sunk our teeth into them, i understood immidiately why they held up so poorly: they were waaaaaay under baked. My friend, who had her macaron-tasting cherry popped that day in the back seat of a taxi cab after drinking beer all afternoon, said to me "Really? This is what all the fuss is about?".
How very sad that this was her first impression 'cause aren't first impressions everything? I immediately kicked into defense mode, trying to convince her that she'd have to try them again. Then it occurred to me that both times that I've purchased someone else's macarons, they have not been nearly as delicious as mine even though mine might not have looked as pretty. As I let the pride wash over me, I told my friend she'd just have to wait to taste the ones i make and that they were worth the 3000 kilometer trip across the country to do so, to which she happily agreed.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

PG-13 Buttercream Prep

Summer must nearly be upon us.
If you've ever made buttercream, you'll know that it takes a long time for the butter and the beaten egg whites to emulsify. In making both macarons and buttercream, a stand mixer would be mucho helpful. Since I don't have one, I do it all with electric hand beaters. I point out the looming arrival of summer because last night as I stood in my kitchen rotating the hand beaters for a total of 26 minutes, I got so warm and had to remove my shirt.  There I am, in my underwear, making buttercream and sweating. To add to the magic of it all, i managed to splatter green food coloring and buttercream all over my bare gut (the food coloring, of course, left stains). But let me tell you, the toasted pistacio vanilla buttercream was worth the sorry sight I was making it. Oh and I also have a blister on the tip of my tongue from a hot-out-of-the-oven pitascio. 
Maybe the April Showers will bring me a stand mixer instead of May Flowers.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Dr. French Rachelle

There is much to-do about bigger being better, how many inches in enough, and so on. Obviously I'm not referring to male anatomy folks. This is a blog about baking, for chrissakes. I am talking about macaron size: 1/2" miniatures, 1" smalls, or 2" larges. Save for one other time, I've only done larges (insert smutty joke: _________ ). Today I made smalls 'cause that way I get 3 pans full rather than 2 and therefor a chance to experiment more with baking temperatures and techniques. And get this- I actually think I might be starting to come to some solid conclusions about what is at root of all my problems. Oven Temperature Runs Too Low. Alternate Baking Instructions, page 256 of the Bible. Ovens that run low can cause all kinds of problems, all of which I've had, but believed to be caused by something else. For the first time since I started this baking adventure, I did not have a stupid perplexed look on my face when I opened the oven door. I was starting to think I'd need some botox to get rid of the confusion-induced forehead wrinkles.  
Un: My control group. Baked the conventional way: 200 degrees for 15 minutes. Increase heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 9 minutes. As expected, they didn't work out. Looked like they partied too hard and threw up on themselves.
Deux: Used alternate Baking Instructions for ovens that run low. 425 degrees for 3 minutes. Decrease heat to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 6 minutes. Obviously that was too much of a good thing. Looked like they were trying to be fried chicken but they were all level footed and even.
Trois: Alternate baking instructions used again but I raised the oven rack to the middle and went 3 minutes at 425 degrees and only 4 1/2 minutes at 325 degrees. They were starting to brown so I took them out of the oven. Every single one looked perfect! Every single one. Unfortunately they were a little bit gooey on the inside soooooo I think next time around, I'm going to play around with the temperature and timing of the alternate baking instructions because I really feel like I'm on to something here.
Grad students work on their thesis', they conduct experiments, draw conclusions, defend the thesis and get their PhD's. If you know me, you know that I would never have the patience or discipline to get a doctorate in anything too intellectual but I'm going to call this my version of grad studies. I'm getting closer to having my dissertation ready....

Saturday, 21 April 2012

At the market!

This morning, bright and early and despite my gueule de bois (translation: hangover), I got up and headed out to the farmer's market to see if the gal who started my little journey of intrigue and lust had any macarons. As I'm sure you deduced from the photo, she did! I bought one in each flavor she had. At 9$, it was money more wisely spent than last night at the saloon. I asked her how her macarons were lovely to which she told me she studied culinary arts in Paris. Shit. I need to be in one of those Mastercard commercials:
New oven for even baking: 2199.99$
Studying culinary arts in France: 50,000$
Mastering the French Macaron: Priceless
 There are some things money can't buy, for everything else you need to blow cash on, there's Mastercard.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Waste Not.

 I got up Saturday morning and glided into the kitchen ready to make some kind of filling for my purple macarons that i whipped up late Friday night. I was seduced by their fancy purple shells and had to eat one (meringues at 8 a.m. is probably bad for the waistline but a pretty bitchin' way to start the day). Well a perfect macaron should have a slightly crisp, very thin shell and a delightfully chewy interior. I'm going to quote my last post here: "the second batch looked nearly perfect". Looked being the operative word here. Well we all know looks can be deceiving. I bit down and mine were so thick shelled and dry that it crumbled all over the counter. Well, that won't do. I've come to the inconclusive conclusion that a lot of the problems are because of my oven. There are instructions for an alternate baking method that i think I'm going to try next time.

 Now I'm going to quote whoever the cheese-ball is who said this: "when life gives you lemons, make lemon-aid". That expression irritates me but i grudgingly admit it's fitting here. Since the meringues were too crumbly to fill and eat as planned but too delicious to waste, I made little deserts out of them. I made some lemon curd (eggs, eggs yolk, lemon and lime zest, lemon juice, butter, sugar and salt. It's very similar to lemon meringue pie fill and it's so good that I would be okay if I had to shower in it, drink it, eat it, marry it, dance with it, stand in it, etc, etc.), whipped some cream, crumbled up the little purple meringues and layered it all in mason jars. The lemon curd was really tart, the meringues really sweet, the whipped cream really whipped-creamy and the whole concoction really really goooood (*I take a deep bow). It was good thing that I didn't waste any of the meringues (almond flour is a little pricey i suppose) because after we ate, my dinner guests and I were off to spend thousands of dollars on a couple pies and a few pitchers of beer but that's a story for another day.

Lemon curd

Here's a slick tip: whenever you're storing puddings, custards or anything else in that family, put plastic wrap directly on the surface rather than over the bowl. This way, a disgusting skin won't form. Neato.