Tag Archives: Recipe

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.

Heirloom Caprese with Balsamic Reduction

8 Sep

Things that have happened since my last post:

1. Earthquakepocalyspe. I knew it was an earthquake, but refused to believe it was actually happening in DC. But after the first few seconds, I got up from my desk and braced myself in the doorway of my colleague’s office. He ducked under a table. We looked pretty ridiculous.

2. Come on, Irene. I had a Living Social deal to go whitewater rafting the day Irene hit. They didn’t cancel the trip ahead of time, but I eventually decided that I didn’t want to risk being stuck on a bus in West Virginia should the hurricane prevent us from getting back to DC. My best friend was visiting me from CA, so we ventured out before it got too bad and stocked up on quesadilla-making supplies. All-in-all, it was a good excuse to sit around inside watching TV and playing Scrabble all day.

3. “We’ve got two specials tonight…” I am now officially a waitress instead of a hostess. I’m pretty thrilled about the change. It’s so much more fun, since hostessing gets pretty boring. On slow nights I make about what I made as a hostess, but I make way more on busier nights. (Except when that French table stiffs me $20 on the check. Jerks.) I’m still learning…I tend to forget to bring people bread, and I’m still memorizing which beers we carry. But I think for the most part I’m pretty good. And to make my mother proud, I constantly make an effort to talk slower.

4. I painted my nails with hot pink stripes. It just felt right. I blame Joy the Baker.

5. I had a love affair with heirloom tomatoes. It all started when I went to Graffiato and had the Burrata salad. Heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, and homemade burrata. Good golly, words cannot describe. So I started trying out different heirlooms at the farmers market. My favorite is that guy on the right in the above picture. It’s kind of got red and orange tiger stripes. So yummy.

I know I’m not very creative. Caprese salad? Been there. Done that. But you know, when I buy a gorgeous fresh tomato, this is the only way I want to eat it. I don’t want to cook it, I don’t want to mask it with too much other food. My dad has it right: he just eats plain slices of tomato with salt and pepper. Being a cheese fanatic, I need a little mozzarella thrown into the mix.

And my favorite part is sopping up the tomato juices at the end with a fresh loaf of bread. It’s a must.

Heirloom Caprese with Balsamic Reduction

Serves 1

Print this recipe!

1 small or medium sized heirloom tomato
4-5 slices fresh mozzarella
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
fresh basil
Balsamic Reduction:
Heat small sauce pan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup balsamic and allow to simmer until it begins to thicken. Whisk frequently to prevent burning. It’s done with the vinegar has reduced by about half.
Slice tomato. Lay alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella on a plate. Drizzle with balsamic reduction, and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve with slices of fresh crusty french bread.

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.

Zucchini and Ricotta Galette

8 Mar

Confession: I took A LOT of pictures while I was making this. But I didn’t actually take a picture when it was finished. Partially because I made it for a couple of my friends, and as soon as it came out of the oven we were devouring it. So for my sake, just pretend that crust is nice and golden brown from the egg wash I put on it, and the cheese is nice and bubbly, and the zucchinis are tender and delicious looking.

This is a great dinner party dish, or perfect for a potluck (in fact, I made it for an office potluck last year). Part of what makes it great is that you can assemble it ahead of time, throw it in the fridge, and then toss it in the oven before your guests start to arrive. Even better, it doesn’t have to be served fresh out of the oven, it still tastes great after you’ve let it cool for a while. So if your other dishes are taking a little longer, this guy can just chill out on the counter and will be great whenever you get around to eating it. You could even eat it chilled if you wanted. (But I like my cheese a little melty, personally).

This week I made it for two of my friends, who were coming over for dinner before we went to a concert. We went to see The Get Up Kids, whom I was obsessed with in high school. The show was awesome. We were all singing along, and it felt like I was back in central IL, driving home from school with the windows down, singing out my teenage angst.

Since pastry crusts can be intimidating sometimes, this is going to be a picture heavy, step-by-step post.

You’re going to start out making the crust. It’s not your standard pie crust, but it comes out amazing. So flaky, so rich, everyone will be very impressed. Of course, part of what makes it so rich is the whole stick of butter that goes into it.

Just cut the cold butter into your dry ingredients, and either use your pastry cutter or your hands to incorporate the butter. If you’re using your hands, just make sure you don’t over-work it and melt the butter. It helps if you have poor circulation and perpetually freezing hands like me. It should look something like this when the butter is incorporated:

Now instead of using just ice water, you use a combination of ice water, sour cream, and lemon juice. It really makes for a great, elastic dough that is fun to work with. Just pour half of the liquid in, give it a quick couple stirs, and then add the rest, with just another few stirs. Less is more here.

At this point, if it looks a little dry, I promise it’ll be okay. Just kind of mush it all together with your hands, wrap it up in wax paper, and throw it in the fridge for an hour. Once it comes back out of the fridge, give it a very quick knead. I’m talking two to three kneads and you’re done. Just enough to get the dough to stay together in one lump.

Now that your dough is chillin’ in the fridge, time to move on to the filling. You’ll want to slice your zucchinis, lay them out on a paper towel, and sprinkle with salt to pull out some of the liquid so that your galette doesn’t end up drowning when you cook it.

While the zucchini sweats it out, you can mix up those delicious cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan.

I’m a rebel, and I always put in more cheese than the recipe calls for. I don’t drink milk, so I have to get my calcium other ways, right?

Now you’ve got your zucchini, your cheese, and your garlic olive oil all ready to go. So it’s time to roll the dough out and assemble.

I like to roll this dough out pretty thin. It’s fairly sturdy so it won’t tear apart, and it’s so rich that if you keep it too thick it’s overwhelming.

You want to transfer it to your baking sheet before you start assembling, or else it will be all but impossible to move. Cheese goes on first. Spread it out leaving about an inch or so around the edge.

Then just layer on the zucchini in some sort of pretty fashion. I did alternating green and yellow, as you can see.

And then you just fold up the edges, and you’re ready to roll! Right before you put it in the oven, adding an egg wash will make it brown up just perfectly.

Zucchini and Ricotta Galette
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 6

Pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

Filling:
1 large or 2 small zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup (about 1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup (1 ounce) shredded mozzarella

Egg Wash:
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Mix the flour and salt together in a medium bowl, add cubes of cold butter and cut in using a pastry cutter or your freezing hands, until butter is about pea-sized.

In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, ice water and lemon juice. Add half of liquid to the flour and butter and give 1-2 gentle stirs. Add the rest of the liquid and gently stir another few times, until the dough is mostly in large lumps. Press into a ball and wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Slice zucchini and spread out in a single layer on a paper towels. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt and let sit for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, blot the zucchini with another paper towel to remove extra liquid.

In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil and garlic. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, and 1 teaspoon of the garlic olive oil mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out to about a 12 inch circle. Fold in half, and then in half again to make it easier to move. Unfold onto an ungreased baking sheet. (I’d suggest using one with sides, as there is sometimes a little liquid that comes out of the galette and that way you’ll avoid having the clean the bottom of your oven.)

Spread the cheese mixture over the pastry, leaving about an inch around the edge. Next, arrange the zucchini slices in circles on top of the ricotta. Drizzle the remaining garlic olive oil over the top. Fold the edges up around the filling, pleating to keep it in place. Brush the crust with egg wash. (If you aren’t baking it until later, wait and put the egg wash on immediately before putting in the oven).

Bake until the cheese is puffed and the zucchini is tender, 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate and enjoy!