My love affair with French macarons... Cookie Dough & Cookie Butter Filling!

Monday, April 20, 2015


Ahh the perfect French macaron... 

I know that it may seem daunting, but with some practice and the right baking tools nearly ANYONE can make their own french macrons from scratch at home and I promise they will taste so much better than any macarons you can buy in a store. 

I started experimenting with baking macarons (the French method... not the Italian method which requires a candy melting thermometer and frankly just scares me) to prepare for my cousin's bridal shower. I planned on baking 120 of them the day before the shower after flying to Boston, but had to scrap the whole plan after many delays [detailed in my post 4/12/15].  I have to say that I honestly had two totally failed batches before I was able to get those glorious little "feet" that are the markings of a perfectly baked macaron. The first batch I over mixed the batter and got flat discs and the second batch I overcompensated and under-mixed the batter yielding cracked shells. Then finally, like Goldilocks the third one was just right and you're in luck because I'm here to share with you my macaron secrets to success! 

First of all you will need the correct baking tools and ingredients. I can not emphasize enough that if you try to "make do" with less superior tools/ingredients you will notice the difference. You will need:

Electric mixer (hand/stand mixer will do as long as you have a whisk and regular beater attachments)
Good heavy/thick baking sheets that won't warp in the oven
2-3 Silicone macaron baking sheets (I got these ones from Amazon and love them!)
Silicone spatula
Hand whisk
Kitchen scale
Set of mixing bowls
Sieve or flour sifter
Pastry bag and round tip with attachment



Shells Baking ingredients: 
100g Almond flour (I prefer Mama's Almond Flour Blend. It's much finer than other almond flours)
200g Powdered/confectioner's sugar
40g plain sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (optional)
3 egg whites at room temperature (approximately 100g)


Cookie Dough Buttercream and Cookie Butter filling:
1/4c room temperature butter
2T granulated plain white sugar
1/4c packed light brown sugar
3/8c all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/8t almond extract 
1/8t vanilla extract
1-2T heavy cream (I use hazelnut coffee creamer)
1 oz dark chocolate shavings
1/4c - 1/2c Trader Joe's Cookie Butter (to taste)

Okay so now you have everything you need, and it's time to start prepping. 

Most macaron recipes call for room temp eggs which means leaving them out overnight or all day... But who has time for that?! Instead, I put my 3 eggs in a tall glass of hot- warm tap water. I do this step first and by the time you're done measuring the dry ingredients they're usually good to go. 


Now, set your medium mixing bowl on your kitchen scale and tare it (reset so the screen says zero). Slowly begin pouring in the flour until it says 200g EXACTLY. If you over pour just remove small amounts with a spoon until you're there. Then tare the scale again and begin adding your powdered sugar until you reach 100g. Also in a small sauce bowl measure out 40g of plain sugar and set it aside for the eggs. Next, place your sifter in the large mixing bowl and scoop some of the dry ingredients into the sifter. 


If you don't have a flour sifter, I have found that using a kitchen sieve with a silicone spatula to push things through works remarkably well. Once you've sifted all of the dry ingredients together, you can sift in the cocoa powder. Lastly, I use my hand whisk to mix in the cocoa. 

At this point it's time to check on your eggs. They will feel warm to the touch when you take them out of their bath and just pat them dry with your towel. Now make sure that your largest mixing bowl is clean and dry. You're going to make the meringue in this bowl so it can't be dirty or moist (I've even used my hair dryer during this phase before if I can't get it dry in time). Now you can start separating your egg yolks in this bowl and discard the yolks or save them for something else if you wish. 

Once all three are separated, you can start your electric whisk and keep it on until you start to see a foamy texture. Stop the mixer and slowly add some of the 40g of plain sugar.  


Thoroughly whisk in each portion of the sugar before adding more. You'll know you're done and have your meringue when you have glossy white peaks. **Be careful here not to over beat the eggs or your shells may be too dry and crack**

Next you can start what is called the "macaronage" phase. To incorporate the dry mix into the meringue, you can put away your electric mixer, you will only need your silicone spatula. Add about 1/4 - 1/3 of the dry mix into your meringue bowl and begin to fold in the mixture. Scrape around the bowl and then press down, but be sure to make sweeping scrapes from the bottom up. You don't want to end up with a big dry glob on the bottom. Keep adding increments of the dry mixture and folding in between each addition. In the end, you should have a batter the texture of lava. **Again in this step it's important not to under-mix or over-mix the batter. It should be smooth with slow flowing ribbons when you pick up the spatula**

Once the lava texture is achieved, stop mixing and get your piping bag ready. I like to prop it up in the same glass that I warmed the eggs in and pour directly in. Honestly, at this point I usually will shout out to my hubby for an extra hand to hold the bag upright. 
Now it's time to practice your piping skills! Make sure you have the silicone macaron mats ready to go on your good baking sheets on a flat and level surface. You will see that is a smaller circle inside each circular mold. Start slowly filling each round with even pressure just past the inner ring. Then wait and watch as the batter slowly flows out to fill the mold. Tapping the sheet on the counter helps to spread it out so you can gauge if you pipped enough/too much batter. Continue to fill all of the molds and don't forget to tap the sheet on the counter when you're done. Don't be delicate about it either! You want all of those little air bubbles out so they don't ruin your pretty smooth shells. 


Now you let them rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. I usually will set a timer on my phone but still hang around them and watch as I clean up the kitchen. If you keep spying, you can catch the few molds that spill over. 

I correct this with a plastic straw and slowly suck up the excess batter. You can also use the other end of the straw and pinch it narrow to use as a tiny trowel to clean up in between the molds. 


Now onto the filling:

Beat the room temp butter and white & brown sugar until fluffy. Next, add in the flour and beat again until incorporated. Then add the wet ingredients (almond and vanilla extract and cream/creamer) and mix. Add in the Trader Joe's Cookie Butter and beat again until incorporated. **At this point you should check your timer. If it's almost been 30 minutes then turn on your oven to preheat to 325 degrees F.**


Lastly, you can add in the dark chocolate shavings. If you don't have shavings, you can make them yourself with a good quality bar of chocolate and a cheese grater, but watch your fingers!
Set the filling aside in a pastry bag or gallon Ziploc bag and leave at room temperature. 

By this time, your timer should have gone off and you should have your first sheet of shells in the oven. Each sheet should bake for about 8 - 10 minutes depending on your oven. Keep a close eye on them, but don't open and close the oven too much or you'll piss off the sensitive little buggers. If you do peek at them you should see these beautiful little feet forming!
(Please excuse my dirty old oven)

Once the new timer goes off, take them out and slide the silicone mat onto a cooling rack immediately. Don't touch them until they have cooled completely and put your next batch in. When you have a set that is completely cool the touch, you can carefully start working around the edges and peeling back the silicone mat. I prefer to do it this way to avoid pulling the tops off of the feet. 


You're almost there!

Then, all you have to do is pair up your shells and pipe the filling into half of them. 


Carefully press the two shells together and voila! C'est magnifique! 




Now technically, I should mention that you should store them in an airtight container in your fridge overnight, then let them come to room temperature for optimal texture and enjoyment. However, I have to admit that my husband and I always eat the rejects right away [not pictured here]. 

I hope you feel like you can try making these deliciously crunchy, chewy, and goey French treats on your own now. I can guarantee you that they won't taste anything like the ones you can buy frozen or even from a local bakery (unless you live in Paris of course), so I really encourage you all to give it a go. It's an experience your taste buds will thank you for!

Blissfully Ever Crafting,
jennifer lynn


Free printable from Chicfetti.com !


Jackie Fae Finally got "Carried Away" in Napa

Sunday, April 19, 2015


My dear friend Jackie has been one of my best friends since the first day of our freshman year at UC Santa Cruz. Since then, she has been dating her now husband, Sean, on and off for close to 10 years! No joke, that's a long time! During those years through the heart breaks and happy times we always had each other and we always had our disc set of Sex and the City. We loved indulging in our own personal marathon of episodes with Carrie and the girls that we identified with so well. Jackie was our Carrie. Cindy the Miranda, Angela the Charlotte, and somehow I was left with Samantha ;) So it seemed only fitting that since Jackie was Carrie and she was finally engaged to her Big that we owed it to her to send her off in style at her bachelorette. We had already traveled earlier that year to Cabo San Lucas for Cindy's bachelorette, so we all agreed to try to stay fairly local. Before we knew it someone suggested Napa and suddenly I was booking a beautiful condo on AirBnB for the four of us. Now in full planning mode, our theme set on SATC, I was on to the decor.

Going with the theme I found inexpensive martini glasses at my local BevMo and glass paint by Martha Stewart at Michael's. My fellow bridesmaids supplied the cosmopolitan ingredients and I made her this adorable permanent chalkboard sign. 




To make the welcome sign I bought an inexpensive framed cork board at Ross and used chalkboard paint to cover the cork. (This method worked, but if I could do it over again I would have just painted some foam poster-board with the chalkboard paint and removed the cork board. It ended up having a really rough texture that made writing beautiful looking letters challenging. ) Lastly, I got chalkboard markers on Amazon and started on the design. I googled several images of SATC movie posters and image searches and settled on a city skyline with the phrase above it, "Jackie Fae is getting 'CARRIED' away!" The best part is that the other girls thought I did a custom drawing of the Manila city skyline since Jackie's family is from the Philippines, but it's not! I started copying a basic skyline I found online, but ended up improvising most of it to fit the phrase. The random martini glass drawing was an afterthought in case you can't tell... 

My BIGGEST project for this event by far was the re-creation of the classic Carrie tutu. 

Now keep in mind that I am not a seamstress... but I did get a great little sewing machine from my wedding registry and have some basic sewing skills. I scoured the internet and found this tutorial on the Lauren Conrad  website. I gathered the materials suggested in the tutorial (silk slip, satin ribbon for a sash tie, and I bought a spool of white tulle at Michael's in the bridal section). The directions from that site were pretty basic and I had to learn a lot through trial and error based on how my sewing machine reacted to the tulle fabric, but what I learned the most was that it will take many MANY yards of tulle to really make this look full and bouncy like the one on Carrie.  This sweet little skirt took several evenings after work on my sewing machine before I reached the desired fullness. 


You may also notice that she is holding a giant martini glass that happens to be full of flaming hot Cheetos... Why you ask? Well I found the large martini glass at Michael's one day and bought it thinking it just HAD to be a part of the bachelorette weekend. Jackie's favorite snack food (aka drunk munchies) has always been these spicy Cheetos so we thought what else could be more perfect?!


Lastly to complete the Sex and the City themed bachelorette, we needed the perfect keepsake. Of course it didn't take long for me to find these adorable "Carrie Necklaces" on Etsy!!! We got one for each of us with our own custom names of course and we all still wear them to this day. The final surprise for her came when we got dressed to go out the first night. She of course wore white, but we wore our respective character colors from the SATC movie when Carrie gets married.


My only regret is that Cindy and Angela (pictured below on the left) switched places for this photo outside the resort, but c'est la vie! All in all we had a fantastic girls weekend getaway with delicious food at amazing restaurants and most of all the best of friends. 

Love you ladies!!!!

Blisffully Ever Crafting,
Jennifer Lynn


Karen's Bridal Shower: Black & White stripes with Pink Florals

Sunday, April 12, 2015

When my cousin asked me to be her matron of honor I was thrilled to accept the challenge. As little girls growing up together we pinky swore to be each other's "maid on honor" in our adult lives, and only a year and half ago at my wedding, my cousin Karen truly knocked it out of the park as my maid of honor. 


Luckily for me, since my wedding in 2013 I have been a bridesmaid three times and vastly expanded my crafting portfolio. The plan was to have handmade decor and favors that didn't look handmade... Sounds hard right? Well if you're interested I will show you how I made it all come together after my 32 hour travel disaster from San Francisco to Boston during a tornado storm in the middle of the country and a French Macaron planning fail (I'll get to that in a minute).  



First step for planning was to decide on a theme. Her beautiful save the date card inspired me to choose black and white stripes with pink floral accents. Mixing prints has been so on trend lately and I loved the classic color combo. After ordering the custom invites from MommiesInk on Etsy, I had them printed basically for nothing on SnapFish.com and mailed them out to all her guests. 




Next task was to make a custom banner for all the guests to know they had arrived. I found this adorable banner for free from PrintableWeddings.com that matched my theme perfectly: 


Here's Jim (the groom to be) being very handy and helping hang up the banner. In case you're wondering, I strung it together with left over white tulle I had from making a tutu for one of my bestie's Carrie Themed Bachelorette Party in Napa (don't worry I'll get to that post eventually).

Next I decided on the games. I found two easy free printable games from this amazing wedding site called Chicfetti.com with a pretty botanical theme. One is a "How well do you know the Bride?" Quiz and the other the classic "Purse Game." For the third game (and personally my fav) we played the "Clothespin Game." I used gold glitter spray paint from Michael's to cover the plain clothespins and created the following sign on my computer word processor and printed it on polka dotted vellum that I bought at Michael's as well. Then all I had to do was frame it layered in front of some pink card stock:



My favorite project was creating the cake topper for her bridal shower cake. To make this happen, I did have a little help from my amazing Silhouette Portrait machine (thanks to my hubby for the awesome Christmas gift). I downloaded the fonts I wanted from Pinterest and created my design with the Silhouette Design Studio software that comes free with the cutting machine. I cut the design twice- once with gold glitter card stock and once with black card stock and glued them together slightly askew to create the shadow effect. Lastly, I used my good old glue gun to attach toothpicks behind it horizontally for structure and then attached some vertically to hold it in the actual cake. Just about everyone thought it was professionally made or store bought, and I couldn't be happier with the final product!



Now back to those tricky little French macarons... I had the brilliant idea months ago to master the art of baking French macarons and create about 120 of them to package in pretty little boxes with black and white striped bows for favors. I literally spent six months baking about a batch nearly once a week to refine my macaron skills. My co-workers really enjoyed being my guinea pigs and I had everything all planned out:

My flight scheduled for me to arrive on Thursday evening... plenty of time to sleep one night and then spend the day Friday baking with my cousin to create the ten dozen cookies (in four different flavor combinations) and box them in time for the shower on Saturday.  Sadly, the one thing I didn't plan for was the string of tornado warnings that stretched across the middle of the country on April 9th. Every flight I took that day from San Francisco was either delayed or threatened to cancel and ultimately at 2am I ended up having my last connecting flight from Milwaukee to Boston cancel on the runway. We were waiting for our turn to take off for about 45 minutes and then the pilots announced that they had legally exceeded their hourly limit and we turned around and went back to the gate. I then had to scramble to find my own hotel room at 2am in a strange city DURING a storm. I found out later the next day that one plane in the air at the same time was struck by a lightning bolt and that one tornado touched down in a town west of Chicago. All in all, I didn't actually arrive in Boston until the next day around 9:30pm and it took me a total of 32 hours for me to travel from San Francisco to Boston. Phew!

Luckily, my luggage arrived with me and with that all of my hard work in decor and games, however my heart still broke a little that we didn't have my precious macarons to give away. My cousin, being the amazing friend that she is, agreed to spend Sunday morning baking a batch with me in her kitchen for fun. She even helped me stage a the shower over again including the adorable stripped table runners I ordered from Batesons Boutique on Etsy and took photos including the coffee macarons with nutella buttercream filling. What a sweetie!

All in all it was by far my most challenging bridal event to date, but everyone had a wonderful time.

Big thanks to my aunt (Karen's mom) for hosting the event at the restaurant and of course to my beautiful cousin and her groom to be, Karen and Jim. You guys have been amazing hosts to me this weekend and I can't wait to see you walk down the isle next month!

Blissfully Ever Crafting,
Jennifer Lynn

UPDATE!

I just finished designing a custom "Thank You" card for Karen to have printed and send to her friends and family. I discovered this awesome design website called PicMonkey that has a free trial! The site is super user friendly and way less intimidating than PhotoShop. Thanks to Hannah from WeLivedHappilyEverAfter for the awesome referral to their site and also the use of her adorable floral png graphics :)



 
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