recipes

earl grey macarons with vanilla buttercream

Macarons are one of the few desserts every person…or at least every female…seems to be absolutely crazy about. Unfortunately, satisfying this desire can get quite expensive. In all fairness, I realized after trying to make them that the cost is not all THAT inflated. First of all, a key component of macarons is almond flour, which is really hard to make on your own at the consistency required for good looking macarons. Almond flour/meal by the pound is pretty expensive by itself. Plus, add the delicate flavorings, and the reputation of these cookies for being extremely temperamental, and you can see why these are a ‘delicacy’. BUT the good news is that many bloggers (and people in general) have tried recreating these cookies in their homes, to great success, and sharing them online 🙂 So making them yourself is totally and completely possible.

When I went to Canada to visit my cousin this weekend, he brought up the idea to make macarons. He had tried them once but failed to get ‘feet’ (the little puffed layer on the bottom of macarons), and was eager to try again. I can’t say no to making macarons! For the recipe, we used a combination of tips and ingredient proportions from Bake at 350Food Nouveau, and FN’s SUPER comprehensive troubleshooting guide to making macarons.

Things about macarons that make them so fickle all have to do with maximizing the potential of the cookies to puff up properly (form proper feet). These include the need to…

1. …maximize the potential of your egg whites to incorporate air. The classic way is to ‘age’ them, aka separate them in advance to allow moisture to leave, then allowing them to reach room temperature. The idea is that the less moisture in the eggs, the easier they will incorporate air when whipped. However, since we didn’t have time to age the egg whites this time, a 10 second zap in the microwave turned out to do the trick. (according to Bake at 350, you don’t need to age the egg whites at all!)

2. …sift the almond flour and powdered sugar, to eliminate clumps that will collapse air pockets within the egg whites and make for smoother cookies. This definitely helps.

sifting the almond flour with the powdered sugar...and adding ground earl grey tea leaves

sifting the almond flour with the powdered sugar…and adding ground earl grey tea leaves

3. …actually whip enough air into the egg whites. You need to first get them to be able to form soft peaks before adding granulated sugar a bit at a time, and then beat the eggs to the point where they form pretty stiff peaks. The volume of your egg whites should have doubled by the time you’ve finished whipping, and the mixture should be so stiff as to pass the ‘flip bowl over test’ — aka not budge even when you flip the bowl upside down. BUT as soon as you reach this spot, STOP. Don’t overmix!! (however, if you do overmix, Foodnouveau directs you to how to fix that :P)

your batter should be able to form 'stiff peaks', that look like this

your batter should be able to form ‘stiff peaks’, that look like this

4. …carefully NOT overmix when adding the almond/powdered sugar ‘flour to the egg white mixture. The key is to mix JUST enough so that the dry ingredients are JUST incorporated. The two recipe links explain the process quite well. I usually use anywhere from 10-20 strokes. Don’t worry about not mixing enough because as long as the ingredients are JUST incorporated, they will mix together in the pastry bag you end up using to pipe the cookies out (or, in my case, a gallon-sized ziplock bag with the corner cut off).

never fear! the flour and egg whites will mix in the pastry bag as you are piping them out

never fear! the flour and egg whites will mix in the pastry bag as you are piping them out

5. …leave cookies out for at least 20-30 min before baking them in the oven, so that they form a hard shell outside that will stay intact as the cookies puff on the bottom

shell-formation in progress. if you are a perfectionist, you can remove the residues of piping and smooth the shells, but we didn't really care that much haha

shell-formation in progress. if you are a perfectionist, you can remove the residues of piping and smooth the shells, but we didn’t really care that much haha

6. …be careful not to overbake! Usually as soon as the tops are hard and the feet have formed, the cookies are ready. When we made these, 11 min at 300 F was perfect.

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7. …make sure the cookies are cool COMPLETELY before trying to assemble them. Otherwise, they might collapse! Being patient is worth it 🙂 For the buttercream, we made a batch by combining 1 ½ cups softened unsalted butter with 2/3 cup icing / powder sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla. But honestly, you can fill the cookies with anything! (as long as the consistency is that of softened butter or jam…otherwise it can get runny)

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Finally, according to  Bake at 350, “macarons taste best after 24 hours, so place in a container between layers of wax paper and be patient. 🙂 After 24 hours, remove from the refrigerator and let the cookies come to room temperature, or close to it, before serving.”

If you find yourself with some food coloring and want to add some flair to your macarons, you can take a small paintbrush or rolled up piece of paper, dip it in food coloring, and then ‘paint’ the macarons to your desire!

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Doesn’t it add a nice touch? 🙂

Again, for full recipes and tips, check out Bake at 350Food Nouveau, and FN’s comprehensive troubleshooting guide to making macarons–they all are great guides with awesome comments and beautiful photos to  match!

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apple roses!

This is a very belated post (made these apple roses about 4 months ago, when apples were all the rage), but since Valentine’s day is reminiscent of roses, what better time to (finally) post up the recipe than now?

To make these apple roses, I followed the recipe from Catalina Kolker pretty much to a T, but here it is reproduced with pictures from yours truly 😉

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INGREDIENTS:

1 puff pastry sheet
3 apples
5 TBSP sugar or splenda
2 teaspoons cinnamon

4 cups water
3 TBSP sugar
2 TBSP lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

1. Wash the apples, cut in half, core, then slice in very thin slices, slightly smaller than 1/8 inch.

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2. In a saucepan, bring the 4 cups water, sugar and lemon juice to a boil and place the apple slices in. Boil for 2 minutes, or until the slices soften and you can easily bend them.

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3. Have a colander and a bowl close and when the time is up, fish the apple slices with a slotted spoon and let them cool, then dry in the colander. Optional: Arrange the apple slices on paper towels to cool down completely and also dry up a bit.

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If you are working with people and want to have fun, you can also make a sliced apple ‘cake’ haha:

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4. Prepare your work surface by lightly sprinkling it with some flour or just use a silicone mat and lay the puff pastry sheet down. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and evenly spread it over the pastry sheet; press down to secure.

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With a pastry cutter or knife, carefully cut long strips, approximately 1/2 inch wide, from the puff pastry.

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5. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

6. By now, your apples should be cool and almost dry. Take a few slices and place them on the strips, overlapping them so they do not fall out and also make the rose-like design (petals) of the finish product.

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Start rolling up the apples within the strips, making sure it is fairly tightly rolled. It should look like this in the end:

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7. Bake for 25 minutes, or until nicely golden. When you take them out, let them cool for about 5 minutes. Optional: sprinkle some cinnamon and powdered sugar on them before serving.

Enjoy ! 🙂

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red velvet white chocolate chip cookies

While making these cookies and crafting a blog post in my mind, I realized that all the cookie recipes I’ve posted on this blog have been white chocolate chip recipes…the white chocolate cranberry blood cell cookies, white chocolate peppermint cookies, and now red velvet white chocolate chip cookies. Ironically, I don’t even normally like white chocolate (on its own)! If I had a choice, I definitely prefer darker, more bitter and more complex chocolates…think dark chocolate with sea salt +/- caramel, or spicy, or fruit flavors.

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In all fairness, white chocolate in cookies does add a very good contrast to unique flavors, such as tart, mint or in this case, chocolate. Which is why I use it so much. And what better way to celebrate Valentines day than with gorgeous red velvet-themed desserts?? 🙂

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There is the more involved way to make red velvet cookies, and then there’s the lazy way…by using cake mix! The recipe I used for these cookies are a variation of the butter + egg + cake mix cookie magic that lies secretly in every baker’s kitchen. Most recipes using cake mix for cookies will ask you to get the cake mix for that cookie (i.e., red velvet cake mix for red velvet cookies, chocolate cake mix for chocolate cookies, etc) but since I had a lot of red food color and cocoa powder on hand, I decided to made the ‘red velvet’ portion from scratch. In the end, I think it worked quite well.

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Ladies and gentlemen alike, here’s an easy recipe to please that sweet tooth in time for Valentines day!  🙂

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RED VELVET WHITE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Recipe modified from: Buns in my oven
Yields: Approx 24 cookies

INGREDIENTS:
1 box Red Velvet cake mix*
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1.5 cup white chocolate chips
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
3. Add the cake mix and beat until well combined.
*In my case, I didn’t have red velvet cake mix so used 1 box butter yellow cake mix, 3 drops of red gel food coloring (more concentrated than regular food coloring) and 1/4 cup cocoa powder.
4. Stir in the white chocolate chips.
5. Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
6. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until the top is set, but the center is still gooey.
7. Let cool before consuming.Share with loved ones (or anyone you want to share with…haha!)

Stay posted for more Valentines-day themed desserts :)!

white chocolate peppermint cookies~!

I credit one of my best friends, J, to getting me to eat more of foods I otherwise wouldn’t really care for–being roommates and always sharing food helps 😛 On the savory side, there is cheese, and on the sweet side…enter white chocolate. I have always personally had more of a predilection towards dark chocolate, as I love the complexity in the combination of ‘bitter’ and ‘sweet’ and white chocolate alone is too sweet for me. However, when paired with something ELSE to contrast…something tart (re: white chocolate cranberry cookies), something spicy, or something minty (like in peppermint bark, something else J loves :)), I must agree it is divineee. While working on our gingerbread house for the contest, we bought a TON of candy canes and had a lot left over. Not wanting them to go to waste, but realizing how easy it is to get sick of JUST candy canes, I decided to grab some white chocolate chips and, reminiscent of the holiday spirit, make some white chocolate peppermint cookies! I pretty much followed the same recipe as for the white chocolate cranberry cookies (reproduced below), except substituting cranberries with crushed candy canes. Perfect treat just in time for all your holiday parties :)!

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Recipe: Soft-Baked White Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies
Modified from Sally’s Baking Addiction (check out her blog for more amazing recipes! :))
Makes 2.5 dozen cookies.

Ingredients
• 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
• 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1 large egg, at room temperature
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons cornstarch <–secret to amazing cookie chewiness!!!
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
• 1/2 cup crushed candy canes (about 6 regular sized candy canes, or 12 minis)

Instructions
1. Line an ungreased cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Set aside.
2. Crush your candy canes. What I did:  I put the candy canes within a ziplock bag on top of a cutting board (so it was easier to clean up afterwards), and crushed them using a hard metal coffee can (if you have a rolling pin, that works too!). The candy canes ended up ripping the ziplock bag about 2 minutes in, so I was glad I had a cutting board underneath. The ziplock bag is ok ripped –as long as you don’t get candy cane all over, the baggie just functions to keep the candy canes together in one place. When you have crushed them to small enough pieces (about the size of rice grains). Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy and light in color. Mix in egg and vanilla. Scrape down the sides as needed.
4. Mix in flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Stir in white chocolate chips & crushed candy canes. Optional: Chill dough (covered) for 30 minutes or up to 3 days.
5. Preheat oven to 350F. Drop balls of dough (1.5 tablespoons each) onto cookie sheet. Bake for about 9 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges. Do NOT cook them longer than 9 minutes. Remove and let cool for 5-10 minutes on the cookie sheet. Transfer to cooling rack.
6. Enjoy! Baked cookies freeze well – up to three months. Unbaked cookie dough balls freeze well – up to three months.

PS: Thanks M for letting me use your apartment :D!

salted caramel (on brownies)

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ooey gooey goodness P:

I’ve said this before, but I LOVE complex flavors. Contrasts, when they work, get extra bonuses, like sweet and tart, sweet and spicy, and anything with an herbal tone. When chocolate makers started adding salted caramel to their dark chocolate…omg…that stuff is dangerous.

Anyways, enter my first time making (salted) caramel!

I had some brownie mix (dark chocolate, nonetheless :)) lying around but didn’t want to just stick to the box, so decided add some homemade caramel sauce to spice it up! It took three tries to finally get it right (T__T), but the end result was definitely worth it.

The recipe I used for caramel sauce is adapted from the Bright-Eyed Baker — she’s very honest about the pitfalls that may come with caramel making HAHA. What I found worked was less milk (~3/4 cup). The recipe is sensitive not only to the ingredients, but also the  technique, so I would suggest just reading all her suggestions and tips!

In case you just wanted the ingredients, my final proportions were:

1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup milk (get 2% or higher; skim milk does NOT work well)
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

+a box of dark chocolate brownie mix for the brownies

Go and check out Alexandra from the Bright-Eyed Baker’s instructions to make your own caramel…caramel is sensitive!! Thank you Alexandra! The recipe makes a small jarful so once you got the caramel, feel free to heap it onto EVERYTHING (which is what I subsequently did) 🙂 Enjoy!

white blood cell (aka white chocolate cranberry) cookies!

eosinophil (leftmost cookie on the L image), lots of neutrophils and band cells (those were easy!) and an attempted malignant lymphocyte (the frontmost cookie on the R…it was hard making the cranberries look confluent together! oh well haha)

On my last day of my heme/onc rotation, I decided to bake some cookies for my team. I wanted to make it creatively medicine-related, but my rotation was on the liquid tumor service and it’s not really that easy to make a visual representation of leukemia or lymphoma…at least in an appetizing way. Luckily, heme malignancies are all about the white blood cells–perfect for cookies! Train of thought: Cells are round; COOKIES are round too! Cells have organelles, cookies have…stuff too! Totally makes sense…lets make white blood cell cookies!!

Cranberries make the perfect nuclei-like shapes, so I decided to use cranberries and white chocolate chips for my ‘stuff’ 🙂 I used this as my template for the cells:

white blood cell types!

And after a search online for white chocolate cranberry cookies, I settled on this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction (reproduced below…btw check out her blog for more amazing recipes! :)). This was my first time using cornstarch in cookies and as Sally testifies…it works WONDERS!! Makes the cookies super chewy and delicious… Totally adding this to all my other cookie endeavors in the future!

Needless to say, I (and my heme/onc) team were quite pleased with the results 🙂

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Recipe: Soft-Baked White Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Makes 2.5 dozen cookies.

Ingredients

• 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
• 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1 large egg, at room temperature
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons cornstarch <–secret to amazing cookie chewiness!!!
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
• 3/4 cup dried cranberries

Instructions

1. Line an ungreased cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy and light in color. Mix in egg and vanilla. Scrape down the sides as needed.
3. Mix in flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Stir in white chocolate chips & dried cranberries.
Optional: Chill dough (covered) for 30 minutes or up to 3 days.
4. Preheat oven to 350F. Drop balls of dough (1.5 tablespoons each) onto cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 9 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges. Do NOT cook them longer than 9 minutes. Remove and let cool for 5-10 minutes on the cookie sheet. Transfer to cooling rack.
5. Enjoy! Baked cookies freeze well – up to three months. Unbaked cookie dough balls freeze well – up to three months.