To start off, this was supposed to be my entry for Jamie (of Life’s a Feast) and Deeba’s (of Passionate About Baking) MacTweets MacAttack last week. Now that it’s 10 days late, and pretty much null and void, I’m turning this post into a holiday baking post with several recipes for amazing holiday cookies, along with the now orphaned macarons meant for the MacTweets challenge.
Plus, a kind of weird tripod phobia story.
So, the obvious; I LOVE cooking and baking. It’s a passion that oozes from my pores; but let’s face it, eventually you realize you can’t give enough away and end up eating it all or throwing a lot of it out so you don’t eat it all. I’m actually looking forward to the day I have a hungry brood to feed.
That said, I baked all of these goodies in one week. Fortunately, most were given away in holiday cookie baskets, because I most certainly could have finished them off in less than a week!
Fleur de Sel Cinnamon Caramel Apple Macarons. Notice the oozing caramel in some of them? The caramel for those was cooked to about 230-235 F. I cooked it up to 240ish for the next batch of filling – so no more oozing, although I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing!
OK, one more diatribe before I get to the macarons. I must admit something to you all, and it’s weird, really weird.
I’m afraid of my tripod.
For those who don’t know me or haven’t followed this blog, you’re probably thinking “This girl is afraid of a piece of equipment that holds a camera steady? What a freak!”. For those who do know me and/or my blog, you know I annihilated my knee trying to save my camera when I knocked against THE TRIPOD atop a staircase as I was setting up for photos for the Daring Bakers Lavash challenge.
Because of this little phobia, my photos suffer. It’s bad enough I have no natural light, which is all the more reason I MUST use a tripod, but one look at this piece of equipment, and I shudder. Memories of my leg flopping all over the place as I tried to crawl to the phone, and the year I’ve spent rehabilitating that leg, are pretty much the reason. I need a much sturdier tripod since mine possesses legs that even a modeling agency would call too skinny, and what looks to be balls instead of feet (My father gave it to me. He found it in the attic of an abandoned estate, along with other antique camera equipment a few years before I was born).
As I look below at the blurry spinach and peppers in my Beef Wellington post, and know this freaky phobia is partially the cause, I have to laugh..really. If I don’t, I just might scream!!
Now that I’ve vented my weird phobia to you all, on to the macarons. I made two kinds, since I couldn’t decide on one; fleur de sel-cinnamon macaron shells filled with spiced apple cider caramel, and a pure, fresh roasted maple pumpkin filling between two pumpkin pie spiced macaron shells topped with spicy toasted Jack Be Little pumpkin seeds (You know, the baby pumpkins you can hold in your hand. The seeds are light and tiny, perfect to top a macaron shell without any craters forming, but next time I think I’ll use pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds).
Salted Apple Cider Caramels – UPDATE: 2/13 – I made these with fresh, juiced peaches instead of apple cider, last summer. Simply AMAZING!
The best part of this macaron endeavor was the spiced apple cider caramel filling. This is because once I cooked it to spreadable filling temp, about 235 – 40 degrees on a candy thermometer, I took out what I needed to fill the macarons and cooked the rest to the ‘soft -medium’ ball stage, about 250-60, to make buttery soft salted apple cider caramel candies. You can’t beat one recipe that results in cookies AND candy.
I found the recipe for the apple cider caramels HERE, but after the first batch, to test, I realized they were way too buttery, which is usually a good thing, but when it borders on greasy, it is NOT.
I cut down the butter on batch number two to 6 tablespoons rather than the 8 tablespoons in the recipe, added ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a bit of cardamom, and finally achieved what I felt was just right.
‘The Whole Pumpkin’ Macarons. I gave them a spritz of orange spray food color for photos – so no, nothing ‘cool’ here.
Haviing said all that, I was extremely flattered last month when Kitty of Fahrenheit 350° asked me to participate in her Blogiversary giveaway. This meant baking something and sending it to the winner, along with a few other bloggers she’d chosen. The winner, Heather of Utah (no last names here) made out like a bandit. You should see the loot she hauled in from me!
You can see my spotlight HERE and the other bloggers too if you skim through the posts before and after mine. Every day of the week, for one week, leading up to her Blogiversary, a new blogger was in the spotlight along with the goodies to be sent to the winner. Isn’t that a great idea? Naturally, as I always do, I went overboard..wayy overboard, and started experimenting with recipes I’d never tried before. I wanted to blow the winner away with goodies she wasn’t expecting along with the two cookies I offered up.
‘Best Ever’ Brownies and Minty Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies
One of the cookies I baked was a Tiramisu cookie I got from the Domino’s Sugar site. Domino’s Sugar sent me a $20.00 gift card for my holiday baking and wanted me to bake something from their recipe page, or just use their sugar in my holiday baking in general. Well, no need to ask, since I use Domino’s sugar in all of my baking, and have been doing so since I was in high school. I’m never, ever without it, brown, dark brown, granulated, powdered etc..so, in retrospect, it was like them asking me to brush my teeth every day.
Apparently this gift card was to help with ingredients for whatever cookie(s), cakes, pies I was going to bake, but the thing is, I’m NEVER without every baking essential possible. I have everything, at all times, always on hand (until I run out, in which it’s immediately replaced), unless it’s a rare ingredient that a particular recipe calls for. When I received this gift card, there was nothing I needed, so I bought lobsters. Thank you for my awesome lobster dinner, Domino’s Sugar and Hilary from Domino’s Sugar!
The aforementioned Tiramisu cookies
In any event, I didn’t particularly like the cookie part of this Tiramisu cookie recipe, so I used THIS COOKIE, minus the chocolate chips and nuts, BUT, used the fillings from the Domino’s sugar recipe. Fudgy, creamy, drippy, gooey. Enough said.
Well, I think I covered every corner as far as my cookie baking went. Please be sure to stop back December 27th to see my Daring Bakers Gingerbread House (HINT: it won’t be a house). I have never, ever built one before, so you just might get some laughs. I have less than 5 days to knock this one out, and I haven’t even made the gingerbread yet. Wish me luck, because I’ll need it!
Brown Butter-Milk Chocolate Chunk Thins
Holiday Cookie Baking
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
- ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2½ teaspoons peppermint or spearmint extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups dark chocolate chips (milk or white chocolate is nice too, or a combo of two or all three)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cream the butter and sugars. Add eggs, peppermint extract and vanilla extract.
- Sift together flour, salt and baking soda and then add to the egg mix and beat until just combined.
- Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Form the dough into 2-inch balls. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake until golden, about 9 minutes for chewy and 12 for crunchy. Repeat with second baking sheet. Cool on rack. Store in an airtight container.
- 90 grams of egg white (about 3 - but do weigh them!)
- 30 grams of plain white granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
- 200 grams of icing or powdered sugar (1½ cups)
- 110 grams of finely ground blanched almonds (1 cup + 4 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons)
Add 1 tablespoon cinnamon to batter above for caramel apple macarons
Add 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice to batter above for whole pumpkin macarons. I add either to almost beaten egg whites along with the sugar.
- 1 cup fresh roasted pumpkin puree. If using canned, let drain in a colander overnight prior to making filling.
- 1 tabelspoon pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- The seeds from one Jack Be Little pumpkin or pepitas
- 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- In a food processor, run the nuts and powdered sugar until the nuts are finely ground. Run through a sieve if needed.
- Whip the egg whites until foamy, slowly add the granulated sugar, until they are glossy and stiff.
- Slowly sift in and fold the nut/sugar mixture into the whites with a wide spatula, in several increments. The mixture should remain shiny and flow easily (like lava/magma).
- Fill a pastry bag with the batter and pipe small rounds (about 1 to 1.5 inches - an Ateco #807 tip works well for this) onto parchment lined baking sheets.
- Let the macarons dry for anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 300F.
- When they are dry (touch one lightly, a dry shell will have formed - but do NOT push in), bake them for 12-15 minutes.
- Let cool, remove from the paper and fill 2 shells with filling of your choice.
- Add 1 tablespoon of cinnamon to the batter (I add it to almost beaten egg whites with the sugar), then sprinkle half of the piped mounds with coarse sea salt (preferably fleur de sel), and a little extra cinnamon, prior to drying and baking.
- Add about 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg and ⅛ teaspoon of cloves to the hot caramel (linked above) prior to setting. For filling consistency, only cook the caramel to about 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Let cool, then fill a pastry or ziplock bag (end snipped off once filled) with caramel and pipe onto bottom shells, topping each one with salted shells. For caramel candies, follow the directions linked above.
- Add 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice to the batter (I add it to the almost beaten egg whites with the sugar) and gently top half of the macaron batter mounds on baking sheet with three spicy, toasted baby pumpkin seeds.
- Cut the pumpkin open and remove the seeds. Rinse to remove all the pulp then let air dry. Preheat oven to 250 F.
- Combine the seeds with oil and the next 6 ingredients. Spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Spread the seeds on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Bake until dry, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Let cool.
- Beat all of the ingredients together until smooth. In a saucepan, cook down the mixture until dark and thickened. Let cool. Spoon into pastry bag and pipe onto macaron shell bottoms. Top each macaron shell bottom with a seed coated macaron shell, then sandwich gently.
Age the egg whites in a covered container at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours. I sometimes age them longer, uncovering the container for the last few hours.
I like to dry my tant pour tant (the almond meal-confectioner's sugar amalgamation) prior to making macarons. I let it sit out uncovered at room temperature the night before making them. I get super smooth shells that way for some reason.
Double baking sheets for better 'feet'.
- 1¼ cups sifted all-purpose flour — measure after sifting
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces unsalted butter
- 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups sugar (divided use)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- Line a 9-inch square pan with foil or parchment paper Bottom and up the sides, making sure you have some overlapping over the sides of the pan to use as handles to lift the whole square of brownies out once baked. . Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Stir the sifted flour and salt together in a small bowl; set aside.
- Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. When melted, reduce heat to low and add chopped chocolate, stirring often until completely melted. Add 1 cup of the sugar to the butter-chocolate mixture and stir for about a minute. Remove pan from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Stir in the vanilla.
- Whisk the remaining 1 cup sugar and the 4 eggs in a second bowl – only until combined – do NOT over-whisk. Gradually pour half of the sugar-egg mixture into the bowl with the chocolate mixture, stirring quickly so that eggs don’t cook/scramble from the heat of the chocolate mixture.
- Using a hand-held or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the remaining sugar-egg mixture on high speed until it turns light in color, thick and doubles in volume - about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Carefully fold the beaten egg-sugar mixture into the chocolate, sugar, egg mixture. When everything is almost completely incorporated, gently fold in the dry ingredients. I like to sift the dry ingredients over the mixture, then fold.
- Scrape the batter into the lined 9-inch square pan and bake on the middle rack for 25 to 28 minutes. They will rise and the top will turn shiny.
- Cut into the center of the brownies after 22-23 minutes to see how they are baking. They should be barely set and gooey, which means you're on the right track. In fact - you can take them out now, since they will set up more while cooling, OR continue to bake another 2 to 5 minutes until a little more set. A matter of preference.
- Let the brownies cool for 10 minutes..then lift them out of the pan using the edges of the foil or parchment paper, Cool completely on a wire rack, then cut into squares and enjoy!
- 1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8¾ ounces)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 14 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1½ cups milk chocolate chunks
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (12 x 17-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
- Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
- Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in milk chocolate chunks.
- Divide dough into about 20 balls, each about 1½ tablespoons. Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
- Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 12 (for slightly underbaked like in photo) minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.