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Chocolate Nutella Macarons

11 Feb

Guys! I’ve missed you, I really have.

But after the immense success I had in my kitchen tonight, I had to share it with you. I’ve been wanting to try making macarons for a long time, but it seemed so intimidating. Instead, I’d pay out the nose for mediocre macarons from the French bakery. And then a few weeks ago, the only bakery near me that made reasonably priced and delicious macarons closed. It was tragic.

I asked for a couple things for Christmas so that I could finally try my hand at macarons. I got new air-bake baking sheets, I got a digital kitchen scale, and I got a piping bag. With supplies in hand, I knew it was my time.

Some people spend their Friday night out on the town…I went for an hour long jog down to the National Mall and back and then donned my Scripps sweatpants and sweatshirt and got down to business. I was fully prepared for complete failure.

After I had folded in the dry ingredients…things were looking funky. It seemed too thick, kind of lumpy…but I decided to just go with it. Amazingly, as I piped it out, it settled into perfectly smooth rounds. To get them the same size, I counted quickly to five while squeezing the piping bag. I let them sit while I heated up some frozen lasagna and watched Big Love. Then, it was the moment of truth.

When I opened the oven and pulled these out, I literally spent the next five minutes doing a really ridiculous dance around my kitchen. It went something like this “punch punch punch kick kick punch punch kick punch kick kick jump clap cap jump kick punch punch punch.” Pulling a sheet of macarons out of the oven and realizing they have perfect feet and look exactly like the pictures you see makes you feel LIKE A GOD.

Also, I’d like to state for the record that I did not age my egg whites ONE SECOND. I let them come to room temperature for about 10 minutes before using them. Seriously, don’t waste your time. I think the French just made up a bunch of unnecessary steps and rules for making macarons so that we Americans don’t realize that we, too, can have access to these delicious treats.

My boyfriend and I then proceeded to eat half the batch…(oh yeah…this blog’s name is no longer completely accurate…but I still mark “single” on tax forms, so roll with it). Happy early Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Nutella Macarons
Makes 16

Print this recipe!

Adapted from Live, Bake, Love and Cake & Allie

Macarons
1 cup (100g) powdered sugar
1/2 cup (50g) slivered, blanched almonds
3 Tbsp (25g) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large egg whites at room temp
5 Tbsp (65 g) granulated sugar

Use the weights! Macarons are about precision, so while there are cups and tablespoons listed, I HIGHLY recommend getting a kitchen scale for these.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and prepare your piping bag with a fairly large, plain tip.

In a food processor, grind the slivered almonds until they are are halfway to almond flour (you don’t want to go too far and accidentally end up with almond butter…). Add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder to the almonds in the food processor and grind until powdery. Set aside.

In an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until they are foamy. With the whisk still running, slowly SLOWLY add the granulated sugar. Continue to mix until your egg whites are glossy and stiff.

Add half your dry ingredients and fold in using a rubber spatula. You don’t have to worry as much about deflating your egg whites here, you want to really incorporate everything well. One the first half is mostly mixed in, add the second half and continue folding. Things are going to seem dicey, you’re going to worry if you’ve ruined everything, just keep folding. You’ll end up folding upwards of 40-50 times to get things fully incorporated.

As you’re folding, you want to keep looking to see if when you drop some of the batter on top of the rest, does is slowly melt back into the whole? That’s what you’re going for. Transfer the batter to your piping bag.

Pipe quarter-sized rounds onto your baking sheet, an inch apart. Bang your cookie sheets flat on the counter a couple times to help them settle.

Let sit for 30 minutes, or until you can lightly touch the tops of the macaron without it sticking to your finger. While they are resting, preheat oven to 300. Bake for 9-11 minutes.
Let cool completely and then pair up the macarons with a mate who is a similar size. (Unless you are perfect and all your macarons came out exactly the same size. Good for you. I’m not that talented.)

Nutella Ganache
½ cup whipping cream
2 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
3 Tbsp nutella

Place chocolate and nutella in a heat-proof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat whipping cream to a simmer.

Pour whipping cream over chocolate and nutella and let sit for 30 seconds to melt. Mix together until fully combined. Put ganache in the fridge to firm up (but it should still be pourable).

With an electic mixer, whip ganach for 1 minute until fluffy and lighter in color. You can use a piping bag for this step, but it’s not necessary. Spoon a small dollop of ganache onto middle of the bottom of one macaron and gently press the top down to squeeze ganache just to the edge of the cookies. Repeat with all your pairs.

Let macarons sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes for ganache to firm up. (Apparently they get better over 24 hours, but I wouldn’t know, mine didn’t last that long).

Store macarons in the fridge and let come to room temperature before devouring for best flavor and texture.

Bourbon Pumpkin Bars

20 Oct

It’s mid-October, guys. When did that happen? Summer can’t be over yet. I didn’t get in that one last trip to the beach I was hoping for. I never really evened out that awkward shorts tan line I got while kayaking. I still have some sweet tea vodka I need to drink. Wait. Strawberry season is over? Autumn, we need to talk. I love you and all, but I’m not okay with this.

We’ve moving into pumpkin season. I’m gonna try to embrace it full on. But I need to add a little bourbon to get me through this. Makers. Can’t go wrong. There’s a reason Rocky Votolato named an album after it. (A great album, BTW).

Autumn does involve some pretty great things. I went apple picking a few weekends ago in Maryland, there was a cow involved. And of course, whenever I told anyone I went apple picking, the first words out of their mouth were “are you going to make apple pie??” I resisted at first, but eventually caved. I made Joy the Baker’s amazing apple pie, and highly highly highly recommend it. It was phenomenal.

The leaves are starting to change colors here in the mid-Atlantic, so I’m planning to go hiking next weekend to admire the foliage. That was one thing I always missed while I was living in Southern California. The leaves would just one day kind of die and fall off the non-native tress on campus. Nothing like the brilliant reds and oranges and yellows you can get in places that actually have seasons.

Have you figured out what you’re going to be for Halloween? I’m going to put in my bets on top costume choices this year:

  1. Zombie bin Laden
  2. Occupy Wall Street protester
  3. The Arab Spring
  4. Hurricane Irene
  5. Lady Gaga (duh, who doesn’t want another excuse to wear that meat dress?)
How does one dress up like The Arab Spring, you ask? I don’t know. A turban and some flowers? It’s interpretive.

I’m pretty excited about my own costume choice this year. It was largely based around the haircut I got in June. Click here for a hint: (This isn’t me coming out. I’m still into dudes.) I’ve got some black skinny jeans, a purple hoodie, black jacket to go over the hoodie, and I need to procure some ridiculous looking sunglasses from the dude who sells them for $3 by the Metro.

But while we’re talking about Halloween, let’s talk pumpkin. More specifically, pumpkin and bourbon. This is a combination I hadn’t thought of until I made these bars, but it makes so much sense. Also, fancy a glass of Makers on the rocks while you bake? Then let’s be friends.

You’ll notice that I’ve added in a “Print this recipe!” button in the recipe. A reader asked, so I finally got around to figuring it out. It wasn’t really that hard! If you have any trouble with it, let me know in the comments. I’ll slowly be going back to add in the print option to older posts, but it might take me a bit. Bear with me!

Bourbon Pumpkin Bars

Makes 24

Inspired by Two Peas and Their Pod

Print this recipe!

2 cups flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp bourbon
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg, vanilla and bourbon and mix until combined. Add pumpkin and mix well. It will look kind of weird but just move on. Add dry ingredients and mix on low until just combined. Taste test. Taste test again. Using a wooden spoon, stir in chocolate chips.

Spread batter evenly in the pan and bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with crumbs. Cool bars in pan. When cool, cut into squares and enjoy!

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes

23 May

Sometimes working in a restaurant is great. Like the brunch shift this weekend: just busy enough so that the time goes by quickly, but not so crazy that the waiters get mad at me because they don’t want to take any more tables, and customers are angry because I said 30 minutes and it’s been 40… (Side note: maybe other restaurants have some magic formula for this, but mine does not. So, I’m pretty much just making an educated guess about how long your wait is going to be. If I say 30 minutes, but that table that paid an hour ago still hasn’t left, then, well, it might be more than 30 minutes. I can’t control that. So chill out.)

In the end, most of my shifts are fairly uneventful. Friday nights are usually pretty busy, but we’re prepared for that. There was, however, one fateful Wednesday night that did not go well. At all. Some combination of nice weather and an Open Table coupon that was about to expire led to a Friday-night-sized crowd showing up on a Wednesday night. At some point I had to stop seating people even though we had empty tables because the waiters and the kitchen couldn’t handle any more orders. But customers really don’t like being told there’s a wait when they can see empty tables. That night, there were a lot of comped drinks and desserts to make up for the hour-long waits for pide, or the forgotten shishes. Tips were non-existent. No one was happy.

At the end of the night, before I collapsed into bed, I told myself “Dear, you’ve had a rough day. You deserve pancakes for breakfast tomorrow. No, not just pancakes. Chocolate chip pancakes.”

And when I finally managed to drag myself out of bed the next day, feeling somewhat like I’d been hit by a bus, I treated myself to an absurd amount of these delicious pancakes.

I’ve started doing half whole wheat/half all-purpose flour in my pancakes, and I personally can’t really taste that much of a difference. And while it really doesn’t make these at all healthy, I feel slightly better about eating enough pancakes to feed two large men all by myself when there is some whole wheat involved.

And after eating about 12 of these, I spent the rest of the day in a pancake coma. Totally worth it.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Buttermilk Pancakes
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Serves 2

Print this recipe!

1 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cups buttermilk (or 1 cup milk plus 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice)
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ cup chocolate chips

½ cup whipping cream
1 Tbsp powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, beat egg. Add buttermilk, butter, and vanilla extract and mix well. Stir in flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mixing until mostly smooth (but there should be some lumps. Let the batter sit for a few minutes.

In the meantime, add vanilla and powdered sugar to whipping cream in a medium bowl and beat using an electric mixer until almost stiff.

Heat large skillet (you’ll know it’s ready when you flick some water droplets on it and they immediately sizzle and disappear).

Pour batter onto skillet, about 2-3 tablespoons per pancake. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. When bubbles begin to pop, flip pancakes. Cook another minute or two, checking to make sure they don’t get too brown. Transfer to a plate. Top with whipped cream and enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

19 Apr

So here’s what happened. I bought some bananas at the store over the weekend. But they were absurdly large bananas. Bananas of unusual size. I ended up only eating one of them (and even then, I ate half of it one day and half the next). I’m talking really big bananas, people. That means I had two very large bananas in my pantry that were quickly getting beyond ripe.

And when you have bananas that are beyond ripe, you make banana bread. It’s one of the principle laws of the universe.

Of course, my two very large bananas weren’t quite enough for my banana bread recipe, so I had to go out and buy some supplementary bananas. And I was amused to find that the ripest bananas they had at the store happened to be exceptionally small. I decided that two very large bananas + two very small bananas = 4 normal bananas. And that, my friends, is banana math.

For me, plain banana bread is nothing special. But if you add chocolate chips? Magic. I also decided to throw in a little whole wheat flour so I could pretend this is an acceptable breakfast food. (If you don’t have whole wheat flour on hand, just go ahead and use 2 cups of all-purpose flour.)

Oh yeah, and you may have noticed my counters are looking quite different. While I was in Illinois, my landlord ripped out the old counters and replaced them with nice granite ones. This would be way more exciting if I weren’t moving out in a month.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Makes 1 9×5 loaf

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate, chopped finely
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
4 large ripe bananas

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together flours, baking powder and salt. Stir in chopped chocolate.

In a large bowl, mash up the bananas. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla and stir until combined.

Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, being careful not to over mix.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

22 Mar

I’m officially apartment hunting. I’m bleary-eyed from searching craiglist for hours. But I’m relieved that I’ve made the decision to move to a new place.

It all started when my landlord informed me that our rent would go up if we renew our lease at the end of May. He also reminded me we have to tell him by the end of March whether or not we are going to stay. My initial reaction was that I have no choice in the matter, because I’m unemployed. No one is going to want to lease to me, so I need to stay put.

But a mere 24 hours later I had realized that I can’t stand to live another year with windows that fall open in the middle of the night, air conditioning that doesn’t reach my room, even though the bill comes to $400/month in the summer, and a broken shower door that the landlord just never got around to fixing, even though he broke it while “repairing” other things in the bathroom.

One of my current roommates and I have decided to look for a two bedroom we can share, or maybe a three bedroom and we could find a third roommate. At this point, there aren’t many listings out there for places available in June, but I’m excited to get a jump on it and hopefully find the best possible place. A slightly more recently renovated kitchen would just be fantastic. After all, I need a kitchen worthy of my KitchenAid mixer.

I took a break from worrying about apartments to bake a ton of these peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for a bake sale benefiting 826DC, an organization I’m just starting to volunteer with. I made about six dozen cookies, and then for good measure, two batches of puppy chow (or maybe you call them muddy buddies…). Making puppy chow always results in me being covered in powdered sugar and nursing a stomach ache, because I literally cannot control myself around the stuff. I’ll eat the entire batch if left alone with it.

 

Growing up in my house, chocolate chip cookies weren’t the standard. Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies were. I think the recipe was originally in one of those little pamphlets from Toll House, and it’s a real crowd pleaser. The addition of cinnamon is what really puts it over the top.

I also decided on these particular cookies because the other day, I ran out of peanut butter, went to the store, and they didn’t have my brand. So I went to a different store, and they also didn’t have it. So I ended up buying the generic Whole Foods brand, and it just didn’t measure up. I know, I’m picky. But this recipe was a good excuse to use up the remainder of mediocre peanut butter. Of course, when I went to the store today to get my peanut butter, they still didn’t have it, so now I’m trying yet another brand. Hopefully this one can fill the peanut butter void in my life until they stock back up on the good stuff.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe from Toll House (I think)
Makes 3 dozen

1 ¼ cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¾ cups butter (or half butter and half Crisco)
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cups packed brown sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in small bowl.

Beat butter (and Crisco), granulated sugar, brown sugar and peanut butter in large mixer bowl until creamy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 7-10 minutes.  Let stand for 4 minutes, then remove to wire racks or paper towels to cool completely.

Chocolate and Strawberries Cake

14 Mar

I ran my 8K yesterday! I was actually pretty nervous before it started. What if I hurt my ankle part way through? What if I couldn’t run the whole way? What if I tripped and fell and everyone behind me ran me over? What if I really had to pee during the race? I mean, I had to drink a bunch of water the 24 hours beforehand so that I’d stay hydrated. I have a small bladder. Do I just dart into a Starbucks? This was by far my biggest concern. Luckily, I made it all the way without any problems.

My final time was 49.36, which was pretty much exactly what I was expecting. I didn’t have any major goals since it was my first race, I just really wanted to be able to run the whole way. And that goal was achieved! My friend and I ran most of the way together, which really helped keep us both on pace. But the last mile she was feeling mostly spent, and I was getting a burst of energy, so I went ahead and was waiting to give her high fives at the finish line.

I used to hate running so much, but this was by far one of the most fun things I’ve done this year. It was just amazing. The route was gorgeous, we started right by the White House and ran down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capitol. Then we went up to Union Station, back south running right beside the Capitol, down into a less scenic part of the city, then back up and ran down the Mall, and then back onto Pennsylvania toward the White House to finish where we started. The crowd was huge, it was so much easier to run when surrounded by all that energy and excitement. And when you finish, there are lots of people lining the street cheering you on as you run under the big balloon arch. And then they give you free food to refuel!

I already excited to find another race to do. I’m thinking maybe a 5K, or I’d love to do 8 again, but I’m not sure I’m ready for 10 yet. I’d like to improve my pace at the shorter distance first. I think my goal will be to get down to a 9 minute mile next time.

For me, one of the best parts about running a race was that for the rest of the day, I felt totally justified in eating whatever I wanted. So I may have had two slices of this cake. And some pad thai, and a few cookies my roommate made, on top of the big brunch I had with my friends after we ran, at which mimosas were drunk.

Strawberries are my second favorite berry, right behind raspberries.

The idea for this cake came from a good friend from college, who was in DC this weekend to interview at a med school.

I said I’d make a cake while she was here, and she wanted something that was like a cheesecake brownie. So I settled on a rich chocolate cake, cream cheese frosting, and for good measure, some mashed up strawberries.

Because this is a chocolate cake with a white frosting, you pretty much have to do a crumb layer of icing, or risk a very speckled frosting. This is pretty much the ugly duckling of cakes right now. But it gets better, I promise.

Oh yeah, and because we are super classy, we had pink cocktails served in my Scripps martini glasses.

Chocolate and Strawberries Cake

Cake recipe from Bon Appetit, Frosting from Pioneer Woman

Cake:
½ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
½ cup boiling water
½ cup buttermilk
1 1/3 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Position rack in center of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease two 8” cake pans, lining the bottom of the pans with parchment paper and greasing that as well.

Combine cocoa powder and semisweet chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour ½ cup boiling water over cocoa powder and chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk in buttermilk. Set mixture aside.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in another medium bowl. In an electric mixer, beat brown sugar and butter in a large bowl until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until light and creamy. Beat in dry ingredients and chocolate mixture.

Transfer to prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake until a tester comes out clean 20-25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans for 15 minutes, then cut around pan sides to loosen cakes before turning out onto racks. Peel off parchment paper and cool completely.

Icing:
½ pound cream cheese, room temperature
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 ½ pounds powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
dash of salt

2 lbs strawberries
6 tbsp granulated sugar

Reserve a few strawberries for garnish if you’d like. Stem strawberries and slice them in half. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with 4 tbsp granulated sugar. Stir together and let sit for 30 minutes. Divide the strawberries in half and mash up with a fork (you don’t have to make it a pulp, you can leave some pieces mostly whole). Sprinkle each bowl with 1 tbsp sugar and let sit for another 30 minutes.

Combine cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and a dash of salt in a mixing bowl and mix until light and fluffy.

To assemble:
Place one layer of chocolate cake on serving platter or plate. Top with half of the mashed strawberries. Spread a little less than 1/3 of the icing over the strawberries. Place second layer on top. Put the rest of the strawberries on top of the cake. Add half of the remaining icing and spread over strawberries. Use the remaining frosting to ice the sides of the cake. If you kept some strawberries whole, you can slice them and use to garnish the cake.

Store cake in the fridge and serve slightly chilled.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

11 Mar

It’s been a big week around these parts. My 8k is this weekend, on Sunday morning, so I got in my last few runs before the big day. A good friend of mine from college is going to be in town this weekend, so I get to see her tonight for dinner. I had a great date with one of the guys I met at speed dating (and might be seeing him again next week, fingers crossed.) And I had a phone interview for a job that would require me to move away from DC. Who knows if I’ll get the job, but it’s been a week of wondering if I got the job, could make myself leave DC?

The job is in St. Louis, and I’ve been starting to think about moving back to the Midwest, so it could turn out to be a great opportunity. But I don’t want to put too much worry or hope into that yet. So instead, I’ll distract myself with my favorite cookies.

Whenever I go home to Illinois, I always try to make it to the Garlic Press Cafe for lunch. They have really great sandwiches (I always get the chicken caeser sandwich), and yummy side dishes that are more inventive than most of the food you can find in central Illinois. And then there are the chocolate crinkle cookies. So gooey and chocolatey. I could eat them all day, every day.

Since I only get home a few times a year, I needed to figure out how to make my own chocolate crinkle cookies. These guys here are a pretty good substitute, you just have to be sure not to overbake them so that you get that great fudgy center. They require a few more steps than your normal cookie recipe, but the end result is so pretty and delicious that it is definitely worth it.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 2 dozen

2/3 cup bittersweet baking chips
½ cup plus 2 tbsp flour
¼ cup dutch cocoa powder  *see note
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla
3 tbsp milk
½ cup confectioners sugar

*If you don’t have dutch process cocoa powder, just take 1/4 cup natural cocoa powder and mix in a pinch of baking soda (about 1/8 tsp).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put bittersweet baking chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave until glossy, then stir to finish melting. Set aside to cool.

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add melted chocolate.

With mixer on low speed, alternate adding dry ingredients and milk until just combined. Divide the dough in half, wrap in wax paper, and chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 2 hours.

On a clean countertop, roll each portion of dough into a log approximately 1 inch in diameter, using confectioners’ sugar on your hands and rolling surface to prevent sticking. Wrap logs in wax paper, and chill for 30 minutes. Cut each log into 1-inch pieces (you can get about 12 pieces per log), and toss in confectioners’ sugar, using your hands to roll the pieces into a ball shape. Toss in confectioners’ sugar once more to completely coat. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake until cookies have flattened and the sugar splits, 12 to 15 minutes.

Transfer from oven to a wire rack to let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.