cookies

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!

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 :)!