Tuesday, October 27, 2009

October Daring Bakers-- Macarons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

This month's challenge started off as what I thought would be my favorite challenge (besides the Cheesecake Pops; nothing will ever top my first DB challenge!) not only because I love coconut, but because the recipe was so short! It fit on one page! Usually I go through a quarter of a ream of paper just printing the Daring Bakers recipes!

Sadly, this month's challenge recipe landed itself right at the end of my list of favorites. In fact, it probably is leading the list of not-favorites. Who knew that French Macaroons weren't macaroons at all? They actually are macarons (which I am not about to try to pronounce). And who knew they don't have coconut in them?

I was thrilled to see that they had almond; that is another favorite of mine. I didn't find almond flour so I just ground my own almonds and mixed it with 1 cup of the powdered sugar to yield 3 cups total (2 cups of almond flour and 1 cup of the powdered sugar). I loved the taste of the batter before being baked however, I should have just eaten it all raw because it wasn't until it was baked that my likings soured. It was far too sweet and I'm not at all fond of sandwich cookies. I filled them with a basic chocolate ganache made from 1 part heavy whipping cream and two-parts chocolate.

I was able to get my cookies to grow "feet", which apparently is one of the tell-tale signs of a true French Macaron, however, I think having feetless cookies would have resulted in a prettier cookie. The feet made the cookie look messy-- it's like it needed some slippers or feetie pajamas to cover up those ugly toes or something.

The recipe itself was simple and I thank my mother for lending me her silicon baking mat. I made some on parchment paper but they mostly burned on the bottom but weren't set enough on the top. I probably threw out more cookies than I harvested.

I won't be making French macarons again but I'm holding out hope that I will someday make coconut macaroons! I've never been one for the original true foods that recipes are derived from anyway. Give me the knock-offs!


Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups
Almond flour: 2 cups
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)


1. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.

4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.

5. Pipe one-inch-sized mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).

6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F. Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.

7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Variations allowed: Fleming’s recipe calls for almond flour, but you can grind the nuts yourself if you are feeling ambitious or can’t get a hold of almond flour. (It is available at many online sources, however.) If you do grind the nuts yourself, be sure to add at least a cup of the powdered sugar with the nuts before grinding. This keeps them from turning into almond butter. Grind the nuts as fine as possible in your food processor. Maida Heatter suggests grinding nuts for at least 60 seconds, or longer than you think you need. They need to be extremely fine—powdery, in fact, like flour. If using almonds, try and hunt down blanched or skinned almonds. This helps with the texture and color. You might also consider toasting your nuts ahead of time and rubbing off the skins in some clean toweling.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Halloween Mummy Candy Pot

My daughter is going to a Halloween Costume Party tonight and this Mummy Head will be holding the yummy Halloween treats that she will be bringing with her. Here is how you can make the cute container:

What You Need:

Glue gun
12 1-x-36-inch strips of muslin
Terracotta pot (6 1/2 inches in diameter and 5 1/2 inches tall)
2 round black beads
Paint brush brush
Fluorescent acrylic paint: hot green or orange
Paper towel
Candy or treat (my recipe below)


Spot-glue the end of a muslin strip to the rim of the terracotta pot. Wrap the strip around the pot, spot-gluing in place as needed.

Continue covering the pot with muslin strips, gluing the beginning of each new strip to the end of the previous one. Occasionally twist the muslin during the wrapping process to add dimension, and spot-glue the twist to the pot.

When the pot is completely covered (leave the bottom unwrapped), make a brow by wrapping more strips around the top of the pot. Wrap additional strips around the bottom of the face to give the mummy the appearance of a concealed nose and mouth. Add back beads for eyes.

Dip a paint brush into the fluorescent paint. Dab the brush on a paper towel to remove any excess paint, and lightly brush back and forth on the muslin until the pot is covered. Allow paint to dry.

Fill the finished mummy pot with candy.

I filled my mummy head with these treats (click here for recipe)

using these simple ingredients:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

House O Lantern

How cute is this idea from Family Fun Magazine? My sister just sent me an email with this picture of her house; she and my 11 year old niece, Lauren, and 8 year old niece, Delaney, made this tonight!

In the words of my sister, when asked how they made it, "it's a huge piece of cardboard - we cut it down to fit the window - cut out the face - taped some orange tissue paper to the face "pieces" - stuck a lamp in the window and voila!!!!!"

I think it turned out really cute!

Here are the actual instructions from Family Fun magazine:

What you need:

Corrugated cardboard
Pencils or markers
Craft knife
Glue stick
Orange tissue paper
Painter's or masking tape


Measure the inside of an appropriate window and cut corrugated cardboard to fit tightly. Draw a face on the cardboard, then cut out the pieces with a craft knife (a parent's job).

On the interior side of the cardboard, use a glue stick to cover the openings with orange tissue paper.

Set the cardboard in the window and use painter's or masking tape to hold it in place. Place a lamp near the window to light your house-o'-lantern.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thin and Crisp Oatmeal Cookies

The other day, my aunt Peggy (hi Aunt Peggy!) sent me a recipe for delicous oatmeal cookies. I can't resist anything with oatmeal baked into it. This recipe results in the most perfectly round cookies I've ever seen; every single cookie was uniformly shaped! And she was right about the taste- delicious! I'm more of a chewy cookie eater, but I must say, these crisp cookies had enough chew to them to satisfy my chewy-factor and a crisp that satisfies crispy lovers crispy-factor! (Clear as mud?)

Here is the yummy recipe: Enjoy!

Thin and Crisp Oatmeal Cookies with Sea Salt


1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, but still cool (65 degrees)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
sea salt

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F. Line 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt in medium bowl.

In standing mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter and sugars at medium-low speed, about 20 seconds. Increase speed to medium and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute longer. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. Add egg and vanilla and beat on medium low until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl again. With mixer running at low speed, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated and smooth, 10 seconds. With mixer still running on low, gradually add oats and mix until well incorporated, 20 seconds. Give dough final stir with spatula to ensure no flour pockets remain.

Divide dough into 24 portions, each about 2 tablespoons, then roll between palms into balls (I admit, I didn't measure mine into 2 tbsp portions- I got about 38 cookies total).

Place cookies on prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart, 8 dough balls per sheet. Using fingertips, gently press ball to 3/4 inch thickness. Sprinkle the tops with a few flakes of sea salt.

Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are deep golden brown, edges are crisp, and centers yield to slight pressure when touched, 13 to 16 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely on sheet.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fall and Halloween Ideas- take 2

Because I feel like I'll never get a chance to make anything fun again and because I don't have the time to blog about anything fun that I do get a chance to do, I thought I'd repost some of the Fall/Halloween stuff I did last year. I have some blog followers that are new this year, so perhaps these ideas won't be repeats for them! Just click on the title of the photo and it will bring you to the original posting.

Candy Corn Clay Pot

Pumpkin Jar Candle

Salty Bones Breadsticks

Crispy Ghosts

Spirit Jugs

Pop Up Pumpkin Card

Witches Hats

Mummy Dogs

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Decorative Plates

Fall Centerpiece

Fall Placemats

Fall Sun Catchers

Pumpkin Cookies


Pumpkin Bread