From the book THE GREAT BROWNIE TASTE-OFF (THE YOLANDA’S YUMMERY SERIES, BOOK 1).
I haven’t made these brownies in a couple of years, so when I followed the recipe, I rediscovered the joy of a very rich and decadent buttery brownie. I took a lot of photos of the process and have turned them into a cool video that shows you the various steps.
Even if you’ve only made brownies from a mix, this is an easy recipe to make.
Here are some tips to make your buttery brownies taste even better!
♥ Your butter should be a good quality and unsalted is recommended. For the record, I used Plugra.
♥ Use eggs from chickens that are free to roam around, as they taste better.
♥ I used an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish. You can use a 9″ x 9″ glass or metal baking dish if you prefer but the brownies will be slightly flatter. Instead of using cooking spray, just use the butter wrapper to grease your baking dish.
1/2 cup [1 stick] butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs [room temperature]
1/4 cup [2 ounces] dark chocolate, melted, cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Grease your pan with either cooking spray or butter.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until combined.
Add an egg, mix in well, then add the second egg and mix well.
Stir in melted chocolate and vanilla.
Gently fold in flour, until combined.
Pour mixture into pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the brownies cool completely. Cut into squares. Enjoy.
You can get a copy of THE GREAT BROWNIE TASTE-OFF (THE YOLANDA’S YUMMERY SERIES, BOOK 1). Best of all, the eBook version is FREE!
I didn’t think it would take 3 tries to bake lemon macarons but it did, thanks to some brain blips! If you’re trying to make lemon, orange, lime or any other type of citrus macaron which calls for zest, please carefully read this blog and avoid my mistakes!
The first try had nothing to do with the flavor and everything to do with thinking I could add more confectioners’ sugar for a higher yield. Nope, I just ended up tossing the batter in the compost heap.
Attempt #2 failed because I added a heaping tablespoon of lemon zest to the mixture. I’d grated a couple of lemons the day before and put the zest in a glass bowl to dry. The problem was twofold: too much lemon zest and it wasn’t 100% dry. It should have gone in the oven for a few minutes. The zest was pulverized in a food processor but I neglected to sift it as I thought it wasn’t fine enough. Another brain blip!
I added a lot of gel food coloring [in dropper bottle] and still only got a pale yellow color rather than the daffodil yellow I was hoping to achieve. The macaronage went well and I was able to pipe 68 shells on 3 different trays. At 12:40 I’d piped the first two parchment-lined trays. I wasn’t able to put one in the oven until 2:28—and the day was warm and sunny with average humidity. 90 minutes of drying time was highly unusual. The problem became apparent when the first tray emerged from the oven with yellow-brown macarons with NO feet. Ugh! I shouldn’t have used the center rack, either.
While I managed to put together 34 macarons, none of them looked good, especially the last tray with the freehand piped macs on the silpat. They were as flat as Oreo cookies and the next day when I bit into one, the filling spewed out onto the plate. Compost heap for those macs.
My third batch of lemon macarons behaved nicely! Drying time took 30 minutes, I didn’t add any lemon zest and when I peeked into the oven after 9 minutes I saw pretty yellow shells with feet!
78 shells, none cracked, all with feet, and even the silpat freehanded macs had smooth undersides—no visible hollows. Easily plucking them off the mat was the highlight to a successful macaron baking afternoon.
TIME SAVING TIP! Mix the almond flour and the confectioners’ sugar together the night before. This should be the fourth time you sift the almond flour but only the first time for the powdered sugar. They should be sifted into a large bowl so that it’s easy to combine them with either a whisk or a fork. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and when you make the macarons the next day, that step is already taken care of. I discovered this time saving method when I was separating the egg whites. I tend to age the eggs overnight rather than for several days. My theory is that as long as the eggs are at room temperature the meringue will turn out fine.
The following recipe is in grams as weighing ingredients is more precise. While similar to my pink lemonade macarons, the main differences are weighing the amounts and using 3 egg whites. For the filling, weighing isn’t necessary, but an increased amount of lemon curd gives it a tangy taste. I also recommend vanilla bean paste in the filling for its rich flavor.
Lemon Macaron Shells
100 grams almond flour
200 grams powdered sugar
3 large egg whites [room temperature]
50 grams granulated sugar
Yellow gel food coloring
Pinch of salt
Oven Temperature: 300 degrees
Time: Approximately 16 minutes
* Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats. If the sheets are thin, double them up. You’ll also need a pastry/piping bag with a large round tip ready before you begin.
* Sift powdered sugar with the almond flour. Large grains that don’t make it through can be thrown away or used as a skin exfoliator.
* Whisk the sugar and flour to make sure it’s fully blended.
* In a stainless steel or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy like a bubble bath before adding the salt. Then add granulated sugar in 3 batches. Start at a low speed and gradually increase the speed. When finished, the mixture should have stiff peaks. Add color last, but only whip for the briefest amount of time to mix in the color.
* Add dry ingredients to the meringue in 2 batches using a spatula. Fold until the mixture comes together, scraping the sides and flip batter over. When the sugar/flour mixture is blended, the batter will be easier to mix and will look shiny. Lift the spatula and see how quickly batter falls in “ribbons” from the spatula. A ribbon of batter dropped into the bowl should merge with the rest of the batter in 20-30 seconds. Another test is to “write” the number 8 with the batter.
* Add tip to piping bag and then twist near the bottom to prevent any mixture from escaping. The tip should face upwards and that also helps keep the mixture in the piping bag as you place it in a cup and form a cuff over the rim so it’s easy to add the batter.
* Pour batter into piping bag. Twist the top of the bag and untwist the bottom, gently pushing the just-poured batter toward the bottom. You’ll remove any excess air that way.
* Pipe the batter onto the parchment or silicone mat. With parchment, you can use a template.
* Pipe batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1.5-inch circles. Keep the batter inside circles if using a template.
* Rap baking sheet several times on the counter. This will further flatten the macarons, and remove air bubbles. Place a towel on the counter to lessen the noise!
* Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
* Allow macarons to sit for 30-60 minutes until a film forms. Lightly touch a macaron and if no batter clings to your finger then it’s dry and ready to be baked.
* Bake for approximately 16 minutes. Use either the center rack or the one just below it. The tops should be firm and glossy and the bottoms of the shells should have formed “feet” or frills at the bottom. The risen macarons should be firm with the slightest amount of give. When done, the cookies can easily be removed from the parchment or silpat.
* Remove from oven, place cookie sheet on a wire rack or flat surface and let cool completely.
Lemon Curd Buttercream Filling
1/4 cup butter, softened [President, Plugra and Kerrygold are all excellent brands]
1.5 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons lemon curd
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Blend the softened butter with half of the powdered sugar. Add the cream, lemon curd and vanilla. Gradually add the remaining powdered sugar until the filling is the desired consistency. The filling should be stiff enough to remain on the cookie but not so hard as to crush the shells. Spoon or pipe the filling onto the row of macaron bottoms and cover with a top.
Yolanda Carter is preparing for Valentine’s Day as romance and macarons are baking in Yolanda’s Yummery. But things take a dark turn when the body of someone she knows is found dead in a nearby dumpster.
Teaming up with Detective Winston Churchill to find the killer, some employees are suspects, including Yolanda’s boyfriend, Nigel Garvey.
A February 14 appearance on the TV show, America’s Best Bakeries, and the yummery’s upcoming first anniversary are overshadowed as she strives to run her business and help the detective.
Macarons of Love also contains recipes for French macarons and cupcakes.
As the sun had finally shown its rays and brightened the day, she was about to return to the kitchen when the front door opened. There stood a handsome young man in his mid-twenties wearing an elegant hunter green jacket and tan corduroys. He beamed upon seeing her and she noticed that he was the one to initiate the first move by rushing across the store and behind the counter, where he greeted her with a big hug and kissed her gently on the lips. She felt the strong attraction and stared into his penetrating dark eyes. Beneath the light of the shelving units filled with bagged and boxed sweets, she saw that his natural golden brown wavy hair had more gold than brown. He had been in Miami for three days, which explained the difference.
“I missed you, Nigel,” she said as a way of greeting her boyfriend.
“Darlin’, you know I missed you. But I can’t wait to spend tomorrow night with you. There’s something very important I want to discuss with you—after we see ourselves on America’s Best Bakeries, of course!”
Making a pound cake from scratch is the most advanced baking I’ve ever done. This dessert contains the most basic ingredients found in your pantry and fridge: eggs, butter, flour, sugar, vanilla extract and baking powder. As long as you have a hand or stand mixer and measure your ingredients correctly, it’s not difficult to mix and bake.
Macarons also require few ingredients: two types of sugar, egg whites, almond flour, and color. That’s it as far as the cookies, a/k/a shells go. The fillings can be diverse: readymade jams or jellies, caramel, Nutella, butterscotch, lemon or lime curd, etc. You can make your own whether it’s buttercream, chocolate ganache, or a jam/fruit spread.
I’d tasted macarons a few times and loved them. They were decadently sweet and rich. From an Etsy store, I ordered an array of pastel colored macarons that were photographed for the cover of my novella, Sweet Dreams.
I needed a picture for the cover of my forthcoming sweet romance/cozy mystery, Macarons of Love, #4 in the Yolanda’s Yummery series. So I bought macarons in various colors and flavors. Average price: $2.25 each. I took 300+ pictures and they were good, not great. I cherished each macaron and decided that having these delicacies handy whenever I wanted them was a very appealing idea. Even if they didn’t turn out looking great, I’d get a better education about the art of baking macarons and would understand my characters even more. I had most of the ingredients and equipment, I reasoned. Well, not almond flour, but sugar was in the cupboard and fresh eggs in the fridge. I’d watched more than a dozen how-to videos on YouTube. I read numerous blogs, many of them showing step-by-step directions. Some bakers claimed they were easy to make; other bloggers despaired of ever being able to create them. One confessed that several batches never even made it to the oven.
I spent $12 for one pound of almond flour! This is one of the reasons why macarons aren’t cheap. I also learned that almond meal, almond powder, and almond flour are the same thing. Only when making macarons, you needed to sift or sieve it. The more you sift, the finer it gets, the better lookin’ those macarons.
Macarons weren’t spooned onto a baking sheet—they were piped on. Piped with one of those piping or pastry bags? I thought that was for decorating cakes or cupcakes. My experience with a piping bag? Zip. I couldn’t just neatly spoon them on? Nope.
Separating eggs and whipping the whites into a meringue didn’t seem too difficult to someone who’s whipped thousands of gallons of shea butter. But there’s a difference between the two ingredients: shea butter can’t be overwhipped, egg whites can. I also had a major oopsie that first day after picking up the egg and instead of separating it the entire egg splatted into the bowl. Great, I’d have to wait another 24 hours so the egg would be aged enough for high quality macarons. At least that’s what many of the bakers suggested.
Since I knew my piping skills were nonexistent, I had some foresight: I made a template the size of the baking sheet and had 1.5” circles neatly spaced on the back of the paper that was adhered to the baking sheets.
I put the required amount of almond flour [Bob’s Red Mill] through a small sieve. Correction: I attempted to sieve the flour. Thirty minutes later, I’d managed to get about 1/8 of a cup from sieve to mixing bowl. I grumbled about how time consuming it was, recalling people on videos doing it in seconds. I tried smacking the sieve and just spilled more flour. The spatula didn’t work. My fist, wanting to punch it through… nope, that sieve was too small.
I interrupted my macaron making “festivities” and drove to the store to buy a larger sieve. Finally, the almond flour was able to make it through the larger size mesh, as did the powdered sugar.
Meanwhile, I had no difficulty whipping the egg whites, granulated sugar, and adding the magenta gel color.
Folding the flour and sugar meant the dry ingredients had to be sifted again. Good thing I didn’t have to use that mini sieve. The egg whites would’ve deflated or whatever happens to old egg whites. Macaronnage is the term for gently folding the dry ingredients into the egg whites which results in a batter that’s not too stiff and not too runny. There are ways of determining when it’s done such as counting the number of strokes to testing the batter to see how it falls from the spatula—the term molten lava is frequently used. Well, I guessed it was like molten lava because my arm was starting to feel like it with all that mixing, um, folding.
Before I encountered my first run-in with the pastry bag with the plastic nozzle that I’d hopefully inserted correctly, I had to get the pink batter from bowl to bag. Those baking experts showed how easy it was—the same people who could probably pipe blindfolded—insert piping bag in a glass, fold the top over like a cuff, and make sure the nozzle was pointing up rather than down. Also, twist the bottom of the bag a few times so the batter won’t escape. Okay…
Theoretically, easy. I plopped the pastry bag into the glass and added the first scoop of batter with my spatula…but I’d forgotten to make the cuff so the batter got stuck on top and some of it fell on the counter. Way to go, wasting batter and making a mess. Eventually, I got most of it into the bag and the batter started escaping from the bottom, too. I’d be lucky if I managed to make one macaron shell!
I won’t describe the horror of piping except that part of my face was pink from batter oozing out the top as I tensely gripped it. Some dropped onto my hand. Good thing it wasn’t red! Each of the discs was a different size with only a few of them being round. Getting the batter onto the parchment paper was a messy feat but in the end I managed to get 24 various sized discs onto each tray.
I baked each tray separately and used the bottom oven rack after reading and watching the tales of staying away from the middle rack.
The result can be seen to your left.
Itsy bitsy feet on some, a single mega cracked shell, but the taste of the shell was sweet. I added jam rather than attempt to do a buttercream filling which would need to be piped—I really didn’t fancy that word!
Macarons and sweet dreams? Yes, the two go together quite well. Macarons are sweet and somewhat crispy little cookies that can be filled with butter cream or chocolate ganache or various types of jams. They’re usually made with almond flour and are gluten-free. Macarons are often quite colorful, as you know if you’ve seen them. My opinion is that they’re the best kind of dessert—small and delicate. Fancy but not outrageously so. Yes, I’m so fond of macarons that I’m including mention of them in my sweet romance/cozy mystery,Macarons of Love: The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Book 4.
But what started it all was a romance novella I wrote called Sweet Dreams. Brenda Nevins, the main character, is a romance author/baker. Although the macarons part isn’t at the beginning of the story, these tempting little cookies do have a costarring role. During the writing of the ebook, I got obsessed with macarons. I read several cookbooks on how to make them, visited numerous websites, and sampled quite a few tasty macarons. I bought some online and even tried the Trader Joe’s version[s] which were easy to store as they went from frozen to just right in about 30 minutes.
It was a tough job, but I gutted [pun intended!] my way through it.
And now, I’ll be revisiting macaron-land for the next few months while I write my book. But that’s fine with me. I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to these fine sweet treats. This board has 5000+ pictures and recipes. Check it out!http://www.pinterest.com/lisamaliga/sweet-macarons
I wish I could write a book as fast as I read one, but that’s just not possible. Today, I’m launching the third book in the Yolanda’s Yummery series. Be prepared for sweet romance, pies, and a cold case dating back to the 1960s. Here’s the official blurb:
Yolanda Carter is gearing up for a hectic holiday season at her bakery, Yolanda’s Yummery.
The adjoining Beverage Bar is thriving due to owner Nigel Garvey’s expertise along with that of shift manager Quinn Hendrickson, a barista and a baker.
Visiting her grandmother’s gravesite, Yolanda is surprised to see a woman putting pies into an old-fashioned station wagon. Her parents mention an unsolved murder of her grandmother’s best friend who was an amazing pie baker. The story of the 1960s crime touches Yolanda, along with her new friend, Detective Winston Churchill. Her growing sleuthing skills lead her to search for the killer.
In between investigating and baking batches of pies in time for her latest product launch, Yolanda discovers more about the sweetness of love. And who is heating up the kitchen with Yolanda?
Includes the recipe for Yolanda’sChewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies!
CHAPTER 5 Excerpt
That morning Nick was helping one of the older appreciated guests who was taken with both him and the Fancy Vanilla cupcakes. “Sonny, can I have that a cinnamon coffee Bundt cake with vanilla icing?” The woman with the white hair worn in a pageboy paused, then sneezed loudly. “No wait, how about butterscotch icing?”
Nick’s grimace almost passed for a grin. Jeannie noticed it and shook her head slightly, not wanting the young man to insult the older woman. “I’m afraid we don’t have butterscotch but we have caramel.”
“Oh goodie, I’ll have that.” The woman smiled broadly, focusing all her attention on Nick.
After she shuffled out of the yummery, Nick shook his head and stared at the almost empty tips jar. “The least she could’ve done was leave me a tip.”
Jeannie smiled. “Show her more attentiveness next time. Tell her how pretty her blouse is or something.”
“Jeannie, I don’t want to encourage her. Geez, she’s old enough to be my grandmother.”
“I’ll have you know that she’s the widow of one of the wealthiest real estate moguls in the city.”
“So? That means she could afford to leave a big tip.”
“Not necessarily. She’s frugal. She told me she frequents every 99 Cents Only store she drives by and hangs out at Big Lots in Culver City. She’ll drive out of her way to save money…” Jeannie helped herself to a fudge sample. “Just the way some folks are, I guess. Oh, and you didn’t offer her a sample. Next time make sure you offer every appreciated guest a sample – even the older ones who have a crush on you.”
“I forgot to change the tips jar sign today,” he said.
“That could be another reason, though I doubt it. Old widows are lonely, so just make her feel a little less lonely and you’ll get more tips.”
It all began when I was working on the second book of the Yolanda’s Yummery series, Magical Cakes of Love. Initially, I’d planned to give out some recipes for cakes in the form of either personal sized magical cakes of love, cupcakes or at least a cookie recipe. But it was the middle of summer and I just didn’t feel like baking. I was also immersed in writing and creating original recipes for another soap crafting book and needed to concentrate on that. So I was still in the kitchen, just in front of the stove—not the oven.
Around July 4, I took an afternoon off from soaping to try making a batch of energy bars. My main character introduces some healthy energy bars to her yummery, so I found a recipe online. It was an odd recipe because it contained butter but not real eggs – it called for either a flax or chia egg. Well, I used a regular egg. Unfortunately, that recipe didn’t turn out anything like the original as I was able to pour it rather than use a spatula or my hands to pat the mixture into the pan like the recipe described.
So the squirrels benefited from the leftovers of that mess.
In September, I had a little time to bake and thought I’d try a variation of the energy bar recipe that uses Kamut Khorosan flour, a special non-GMO wheat product that is higher in protein and minerals than ordinary whole wheat flour. It’s a lovely pale yellow color, is stone ground, and has a more buttery flavor than most other flours. According to Bob’s Red Mill, which is the brand I used: “Bob’s Red Mill Organic Kamut® Flour is made from Kamut® Khorasan Wheat, an ancient relative of modern day wheat that has a buttery flavor. On average this flour has 40% more protein than does regular wheat flour, and most people find it more satisfying and filling in baked goods than those made with wheat because of its higher lipid to carbohydrate ratio. It’s healthier in many other ways, and its taste is sweeter.” Being able to concentrate fully on the recipe, I made this version easily enough.
Lemon Coconut Oats Energy Bar Recipe
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole-grain Kamut Khorosan flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons almond milk
1 cup lemon curd
4 Tablespoons shredded coconut [unsweetened]
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Line a square pan (8×8) with parchment paper and oil sides and base with butter.
In a large bowl, mix the oat base dry ingredients: oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt.
In a small bowl, mix the melted butter, maple syrup, almond milk, and egg. Stir well.
Add the wet mixture to the dry and mix well.
Set aside about a cup of the oat base for the topping.
Scoop the oat mixture onto the pan and press down with a spatula [I prefer the silicone kind] or use your hands. Pour on lemon curd and smooth out. Now sprinkle on the reserved 1 cup oat mixture. Top with coconut.
Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for approximately 30 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing into squares or bars and removing from pan. Store in a container in the fridge to keep firm.
I used the entire 10 ounce jar of Dickenson’s lemon curd because the flavor is such a wonderful blend of tart and sweet and it goes so well with coconut. This brand can often be found in most supermarkets and discount stores. Of course, there are other brands and you can also make it yourself if so inclined.
Butter melting methods:
Cut the butter into little chunks rather than melt a whole stick. I recommend melting the butter in a double boiler or in a heavy pan on the stove top using a LOW setting. With the pan method, you don’t get a messy microwave and you can even walk away from it as it’s melting while you’re mixing your dry ingredients.
I baked this recipe for exactly 30 minutes because I prefer a softer, chewier type of bar. However, it could’ve been baked another 2 or 3 minutes without compromising the texture.
Filling tips: Consider using about 8 ounces of the lemon curd unless you want a lot of oozing filling!
The Kamut Khorosan and oats batter after being scooped into the pan
After adding the lemon curd and shredded coconut topping
Right out of the oven. Bottom right shows a small missing area because I had to sample it right away!