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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.

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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 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.