What started my love of macarons was a quirky romance novella I wrote called Sweet Dreams. The main character is a romance author/baker. Although the macarons aren’t mentioned at the beginning of the story, those tempting petite cookies 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 tried some from various bakeries. They ranged from mediocre to heavenly.
It was a tough job, but I gutted [pun intended!] my way through it.
After writing and making the recipes for Kitchen Soap for Chefs: 4 Easy Melt & Pour Soap Recipes, I came up with yet another cool soap idea that I hadn’t published before. In fact, I used to sell it when I had my Everything Shea business, but it went by another name. I changed two of the ingredients, but it’s pretty similar and it’s now called Vanilla Bean soap. I have my almost year-long baking binge to thank for this recipe, too. So if you’re looking for a fun and easy soap recipe to make for the holidays or just because, here it is…
Vanilla Bean Melt & Pour Soap Recipe
Learn how easy it is to make this creamy melt and pour soap with natural vanilla beans. This type of soap is wonderful for all skin types and would make an excellent addition to any bath & body gift basket!
It’s almost a month until The Walking Dead returns for a seventh season. There are six seasons where no one’s seen Daryl bathe or shower. Of course, when we left him back in April in the episode “Last Day on Earth”, he wasn’t thinking about cleaning up. In fact, with the introduction of Neagan and Lucille, Daryl wasn’t looking too good.
While I’m looking forward to the return of the show on October 23, there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to know who Lucille’s going to meet up close and personal. Yes, I’ve read the rumors and have visited some sites that have leaked photos and other news. However, I’ve been too busy making soap [and French macarons] to do more than glance at the information. I’ll find out for sure next month. I’ve waited this long, what’s another four weeks?
I received a wonderful gift from a friend who’s also a fan of the show and of the Daryl Dixon character. I was so pleased with how appropriate it was that I used it in this photo:
As many chefs know, coffee removes strong odors such as onions, garlic, fish, and meat. It’d probably be great for a guy like Daryl after some run-ins with zombies…and maybe a few of Neagan’s unpleasant companions. People who probably don’t have access to hot and cold running water and soap. If they did, I have a hunch they’d all like some Espresso Coffee Kitchen Soap.
So, I’d like to introduce my latest soap crafting eBook. Naturally, I made all the soaps and took photos of them. I was running low on soap. Now, my soap dishes and soap cabinet are full again.
Kitchen Soap for Chefs: 4 Easy Melt & Pour Soap Recipes
It’s easy to create chef’s soap in your kitchen. Quickly cook up a batch of soap that will wash away strong kitchen odors. Now you can make excellent smelling and deodorizing soaps with four classic and carefully tested recipes.
For less than the price of a cup of coffee you’ll get:
You’ve heard of lemon curd and lemon butter, right? In fact, there are two types of lemon butter, one edible, the other that can be spread on your skin as it’s made with lemon peel and lemon oil, sweet almond oil, and hydrogenated vegetable oil. How do I know this? I’ve spent 10+ years in the kitchen formulating the perfect whipped shea body butter and I’ve tried all kinds of butters and oils. But I digress, this is about real dairy butter that goes inside those lovely macaron shells.
This time when I made my lemon buttercream filling, I didn’t use any cream. I blended room temperature butter with the powdered sugar [a/k/a confectioners’ sugar or icing sugar]. I looked in the fridge and saw that the heavy whipping cream was a day away from expiring. Not wanting to take a chance, I decided to add the lemon curd. I added just the right amount to make it much tarter than in the past. Before, it was a sweet lemon. Now, it was a sweet and tart lemon and the vanilla bean paste helped perk up the flavor even more. So it was still a curd and there was that lovely fresh Plugra butter so why not call it butter curd? I also enhanced the color with yellow gel colorant.
Admittedly, I have problems with hollow macaron shells. While some people might not like to bite into a big air pocket, others aren’t as fussy. I’m a perfectionist and didn’t like them, although I’d rather they were hollow than footless! But this time I had fewer hollows. Here’s the proof:
Since July, there have been a couple of baking changes. The first is that the oven maintains an even temperature. Secondly, I’m using powdered colorants which means I mix the batter well, but not too well.
I’m also adding the powdered colorant to the triple-sifted almond flour/sugar mixture just before it goes into the meringue. For this lemony batch, I went au naturel and used turmeric. The resulting color wasn’t a bright yellow and the photos make it look tanner than it actually was. The truest color is that seen with the almost hollow-free macaron just above.
I’m working on a new eBook that will contain macaron recipes along with LOTS of helpful tips for making your own French macarons. Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to baking another batch of minty macarons this week.
On Tuesday, I baked my twentieth batch of macarons! Again, I used a natural powdered colorant and the pictures will show you how they turned out.
I’m calling them decadent because they contain both blackberry buttercream filling and blackberry jam. Yes, I used fresh blackberries. Summer is berry season and I believe in celebrating that fun fact!
Using my new silicone mats saves time, as I don’t have to cut parchment paper to fit the baking sheets.
Macarons only contain a few ingredients yet they require some advance preparation from preparing the fillings to separating and aging the eggs to sifting and mixing the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar together. It sounds very precise but by doing this I end up saving time when baking the macaron shells.
I’m adjusting to my new used oven and I’ve found that 300 degrees is the best temperature and the oven rack being one level below center prevents browning. This is why an oven thermometer is a great [and inexpensive] investment.
I added the powdered colorant to the meringue just before adding the flour/sugar mixture. It worked out so well. This is the first time that the powdered color was the same color before and after baking!
There was a sale on fresh organic raspberries so I got ambitious and decided to bake raspberry chocolate cupcakes AND raspberry macarons.
This is the first time I’ve used fresh fruit instead of jam. And you know what—it won’t be the last! Wow, I could really taste the difference, hence the name Really Raspberry!
First, I made raspberry jam, which took about five minutes. All I did was smash up those fresh raspberries with a potato masher—why mess up a food processor–add a lot of granulated sugar and some liquid pectin. The result: 2 jars filled with fresh raspberry jam. I also left in the seeds as I wanted it to be all natural. I was also too lazy to strain them! Once cooled, I added the contents of one jar into a pastry bag, put that into a Ziploc bag and stored it in the fridge where it’d be ready for the macarons that would be made on Monday.
I’ve made the chocolate cupcakes a few times and prefer them to any other because I pour the batter into the liners rather than scoop it, so it’s a lot easier. Plus, I love chocolate!
Making the fresh raspberry buttercream frosting for the cupcakes was as easy as it was when I made it with jam. I even added the raspberries last. Oh, and the amount of vanilla bean paste was very small.
On Monday, I made the macarons. I had not one but two fillings – raspberry jam and some leftover raspberry buttercream frosting. I left it in the pastry bag with the large star tip, as I was too lazy to change it. Now I’d have super fancy looking macarons.
The natural red powdered food coloring was added to the almond/sugar mixture the night before. That’s one thing I’ve learned about making macarons – do as much preparation as possible the night before they’re made. I separate the eggs and leave them on the counter in a bowl covered with a paper towel. I weigh the dry ingredients. And since I was using new silicone baking mats, I even made a template for them.
Making macarons on a Monday is a fine way to start the week! I began the meringue at noon and by 2:18; the third and last batch was done. I didn’t make a record number as only 48 shells were deemed acceptable. I made more, but some were thrown out as they stuck to the mat. I was trying out another oven that was fairly true to the oven thermometer. I used the middle rack, which I won’t do next time, and will lower the temperature. While many of the shells were hollow, at least they had feet.
I had fun deciding to add the buttercream filling and jam—sometimes both! I’d seen macarons with the fancy filling before but hadn’t gotten around to trying it. It’s very simple to do.
Soon I’m going to be baking another batch of macarons with a new powdered color that I haven’t yet used.
I baked two batches of blueberry macarons last month and achieved different results. This was the first time I used a natural powdered colorant. With this type of color, you’ll need to use a bit more of it if you want a vibrant color.
The powdered colorant can be added during the meringue process or can be blended in advance with the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture.
Recipe #1 contained blueberry ganache filling. Even adding more cooked blueberries didn’t help as it still tasted like white chocolate. The color was a medium shade of blue.
Another change was the oven. I baked the macarons in a smaller counter top model. The oven reached the temperature in a short time, and it was properly calibrated. The problem was there were only 2 racks and 2 levels. That meant the tray levels were either too close to the top or lower heating elements. I put my first tray on the bottom level and shielded it with an empty cookie sheet to prevent further browning. Also, all shells were baked on parchment paper covered trays.
The results of blueberry batch #1 featured browner than blue shells. The color of the blueberry ganache was lovely but only adding a fresh blueberry in the center gave the macaron any real blueberry flavor.
For batch #2, I used the quick ‘n’ easy method for making preserves. I pulverized 8 ounces of fresh blueberries with a potato masher as I didn’t want to get the food processer dirty and have to wash it. Then I added more than a cup of granulated sugar, stirred at a rolling boil and preserved it with liquid pectin. I followed a recipe in a book for baking cupcakes and the amount of pectin was far too much. I’ll be making this batch again with less pectin and see how it works. Too much pectin makes it more difficult to pipe.
More of the powdered blue colorant was used and I mixed it into the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture. The standard oven was used so the results were slightly better because I used the middle rack. However, I shielded each batch by putting an empty a cookie sheet in the rack above it. That meant the temperature never reached 350—instead it averaged 335. So, while the macarons have feet and aren’t burned, they are as hollow as most of my other batches.
I also used only silicone mats to see if there was any difference. I prefer them because it’s usually easier to remove the macaron shells.
The second batch tasted better, more like a true blueberry macaron.
Stay tuned for another macaron baking adventure soon!