I've been obsessed with trying to make the PERFECT Macarons ever since I read all about it on Ms. Humble's very macaron-informative blog (I'll post the link below). I've gotten some macawrongs as she puts it, but in my opinion (as someone who hasn't, mind you, tasted a macaron from a reputable macaronagerie-is that a word?? It almost sounds like it could be) I think they are pretty good. They are a tad bit chewy; they are not supposed to be chewy. They have rumpled wave-like tops with an occasional crack; they should be smooth and reminiscent of egg-shells. I was VERY psyched to see, however, that they do have feet!! Not perfect, proud feet, but stout and somewhat ruffled feet. Feet nonetheless, and if you know anything about anything about macarons, it's that they must not be feetless. This increased my overall satisfaction with my batch of macaron misfits a bit. They taste really good though because I subbed some of the almond flour-icing sugar mix for high quality, ruddy red cocoa powder, and filled it with a dark chocolate ganache. I used some red gel food colouring from Americolor to tint them red, and while I was at it, dusted some red sugar over top, all in the spirit of St. Valentine.
All in all, not as bad as I initially anticipated. I'm going to take a look at Ms. Humble's troubleshooting guide and try to improve them. If you want the recipe you can find it on her page, along with an entire guide on French and Italian meringue; I highly recommend it before you embark into the world of macaronaging-again, a word? Thanks Ms. Humble! http://notsohumblepie.blogspot.com/2010/04/macarons-101-french-meringue.html
My 2nd batch of French meringue macarons!
(The first ones weren't really.. uh... picture worthy)
The next thing I decided to make was Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Hearts. Do they sound delicious? They most certainly were! These were first and foremost inspired by a piece of leftover chocolate cake I discovered when cleaning out the freezer. Many people actually swear by freezing their cakes as they say that it improves the texture. I think I may now be falling into that crowd. I really think that it does improve the texture of the cake, not to mention how much easier it is to work with! Now, I probably won't bake a cake and then freeze it if I need to use it the next day for a client cake. I usually bake my cakes at night and wait for them to cool, then wrap them tight in some Glad and let them sit on the counter top, sometimes in the fridge. They are a lot easier to work with that way. Anyways, let's not get too distracted now. So I started thinking.. chocolate slab cake, whipped cream, white chocolate, raspberry jam, gelatin.....RASPBERRY MOUSSE HEARTS! It just all came together in my head like that, I swear that's exactly how it happened. So, I grabbed some heart cutters and cut out hearts from the cake, whipped up a quick mousse (actually I did this first.. it had to set up in the fridge for a while) then put the two together! Then I covered them in a thin chocolate ganache glaze, and finally drizzled with white chocolate. The result? Tender, chocolatey, raspberry mousse-ey deliciousness.
Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Hearts (YUM!)
Now I was on a roll. What next..? Cupcakes seemed like a good idea because I was craving white cupcakes. Always go with what you're craving, that's my new philosophy. This was a fairly simple process. I started making a couple of small toppers, some red flowers and some hearts, and as I was equipped with a large container of newly acquired dragees that I had gotten at a great price, those were going to go everywhere that my little hearts and flowers missed. Then I made a simple (but delicious) white cake (sponge?) whipped up some regular old frosting and assembled. Now, usually I love my meringue buttercreams. Italian, to be exact. I've even started using a whole-egg buttercream and it is divine; SO smooth and airy and creamy... however, oftentimes people don't like biting into so much creaminess, (why not??) so I opted for a confectioner's sugar based frosting. The results were still great! and very tasty!
Vanilla LURVE cupcakes
I couldn't stop here..could I? Nope. another freezer-find inspired my next creation. Cookie dough that I had made and then didn't care for, and just wrapped it up and stuffed into the depths of my freezer, only to be unearthed and turned into something delectable. It's almost Disney. Again, armed with my heart cutters, I selected the largest of the hearts and got out about 10. Later, I dipped one half first in melted white chocolate, then even later, the other half in dark chocolate. And, voila! Black and White Hearts. (The dough wasn't old, I know what some of you are thinking. I remembered putting it in there a week before. Same with the chocolate cake; it had been frozen for little under three weeks, I did date that one.)
Black & White Hearts
Ok, perhaps these look a bit more rustic than I intended, but still delish!
I also made some Valentine's chocolate roses and such, not much to tell there. Basically involves melting chocolate and painting it in, then pouring it in, then inserting sticks and unmolding. It really is as easy as the package says!
Chocolate Roses and some 'Love' and 'Kiss' pops too
I think that about wraps up this post. Just for the record, I'm NOT a photographer so please don't comment on my lack of photography skills. I'll leave you with this recipe for Sugar Cookies from Allrecipes.com just because I think it's great!
The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies
- 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
- 2 cups white sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
- Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.