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Day 4: Imperfect Chocolate Macarons

I’ll admit that after yesterday’s excitement over making a cookie that I had only previously ventured to buy from a bakery may have gone to my head a little. I should have waited a bit before attempting one of the most challenging cookie recipes to get right: French Macarons.

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Oh, macarons, who do you have to so very delicious and beautiful and difficult to make? I have attempted this madness once before, several years ago at Christmastime and I vowed then that I would never try them again. They were lumpy. The batter was difficult to pipe evenly. And I had a sore arm for days from the effort of all the folding and piping. It would be better to just buy them when I wanted one.

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I wish I had remembered that, but this week, I think I may have lost my mind a little. This is only the fourth or fifth incident that has happened to me this week that began with hope, but ended only in disappointment. Apparently, hope really does spring eternal, personally and in the kitchen.

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Ah, well, what can a person do except try to learn from the situation and move on?

So, here’s what I learned.

1. Just because a professional pastry chef tells you that a recipe is full proof, does not mean that it actually is, especially if you don’t follow the directions exactly.

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2. Looks aren’t everything. I dreamed of a beautifully smooth cookie, but got mostly lumpy, cracked cookies. Still, they tasted really good, according to the husband.

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3. Macaron batter has to be piped, not scooped. I did remember having trouble with the piping last time, so I thought I would try to scoop them. After all, they would be more uniform, right? Well, yes, they are all the same size, but they are also lumpy and cracked. The last pan that I piped looked better; still not smooth and shiny, but better.

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4. It’s probably best to try the recipe as written once or twice before deciding to double, triple, or quadruple the recipe, like I did. Silly me.

My only consolation in all this is that they really did taste quite good. They are intensely chocolatey, the shells are crispy, and they are nice and chewy on the inside. I filled a few of these with some mocha buttercream that I had stashed away in the freezer.

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Everyone in the house who did not make them loved them. I am disapponted by the way they look, but I will say that these really are pretty easy, very tasty, and quite a treat. They have humbled me and it’s taken me about a day to come to terms with it, but I think in the end that it has been a good experience for me. So, if you get one in your cookie tin, please don’t judge it by its looks alone. Beauty is more than skin deep.

If you would like to try this recipe, you can find it here. Maybe it will work out better for you than it did for me, but if it doesn’t, don’t despair. They will be delicious anyway.

p.s. Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a tin of cookies! We got some wonderful snow yesterday. I love snow. I love how the whole world goes quiet when it snows. Do you like snow? What’s your favorite thing about snow?

Little Cakes of Gold

Finally! I am back on track today. The last few weeks were busier than usual with field trips, holidays, and other events of life. Not to mention the time sucking nature of teaching a ten year old how to write a research paper. I have discovered that teaching someone how to write takes up far more time than my own writing, hence the rather sparse blog posts that have been happening lately. Fortunately, we are on the countdown to the end of the school year, yay! Unfortunately, several of the following weeks will have some more intense writing assignments for the elder, so the blog may continue to suffer a bit longer.

But, today, today, I am back and happily baking in the kitchen again. Today, I am making the FFwD recipe, Financiers, from Dorie’s book, Around My French Table. Surprisingly, I have never made these little golden cakes before, probably because I don’t own the right pan. In any case, instead of golden bars of cake that are supposed to mimic bars of gold, I made the cakes in a mini muffin pan and got golden cake coins.

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The hardest part of the recipe is making the browned butter. You just have to watch it to make sure it doesn’t burn, but it was hard for me to see because of all the foam on the top. Then, I strained it twice to get the little bits out, even though the recipe doesn’t say to do that. I wasn’t sure what those little bits would do to my final results. I have to say, when I started stirring the butter into the batter, the smell was amazing!

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Another change I made, was to make these completely gluten free by using the Cup4Cup flour I told you about here. Since the cake batter has so much almond flour, it was already halfway to being gluten free, so I just decided to go whole hog and see how it turned out. Basically, I substituted an equal amount of C4C for the regular flour.

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My batter only rested in the fridge for an hour. Next time, I’ll try to think ahead more. At the last minute, I decided to put a blueberry in the middle of each cake. Dorie says she sometimes likes to put a piece of fruit in and I thought, why not?

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I tasted one while it was still warm from the oven. Oh my. These are tasty. It’s lightly crispy on the outside, buttery, soft and almondy on the inside. The blueberry adds a touch of moisture and lightness that compliments the cake very well. If I did not make these myself and know that they were totally gluten free, I would not be able to tell. They are just plain delicious, and unless some of my gf friends show up at my door soon, they will be all gone.

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These little cakes are really easy to make and possibly worth their weight in gold. I encourage you to go make them now and see for yourself. The recipe is right here.