Happy Easter

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Macarons! Mais Oui!

When is a macaroon not a macarons?  When it looks like this:

April 15, 2014 Macarons 008

Macarons can be tricky to prepare, so one needs to pay attention to the details.  I attempted to make them about a year or so ago and it didn’t go so well.  I ended up munching on a few and then throwing them out.  I had a photo, I thought I had deleted it, but here it is:

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They looked good on the cookie sheet, but after they baked, well, um, they looked pretty bad and I didn’t add any food coloring.  It helps if the weather is good, and not rainy or foggy, as it can cause the egg whites to deflate a little.

 

 

This time around, I wasn’t disappointed at all!

I finally had all of the necessary ingredients for making these delicate mounds.  The ingredients are pretty simple and basic, except for the almond meal, which is a specialty grain where I buy ingredients.  I found it in the health-food section, but it can also be found in the baking section in some stores.  Macarons can be made in all kinds of colors and flavors.  Some recipes call for a pinch of salt – I found I didn’t need it.

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  • 3/4 c. almond meal, finely ground
  • 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar (icing sugar)
  • 3 large egg whites (not freshly laid, better to be 5 days old or more), at room temperature
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar (Castor sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Food coloring paste or powdered colors (not liquid)

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The egg whites need to be several days old, preferably 5 days to a week (in the shell, that is).  Let the eggs sit out and come to room temperature a few hours before you make them.  The almond meal absolutely needs to be finely ground.  If you need to, grind it finer.  The package I bought was very well ground and fine.  Measure out all the ingredients into separate little bowls so they are ready at hand.

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Prepare your baking sheet and parchment paper ahead of time too, as you’ll need to move quickly from prepared batter to piping on the parchment paper.  Draw 1″ circles in rows, about 1 1/2″ apart, using pencil.  I used a soda pop bottle cap, as it was just the right size.  You can draw your circles bigger, it depends on how big you want the macarons to be.  I ended up piping mine out bigger than the 1″ circles.  Also, once you draw all those circles, be sure to turn the paper over so you don’t have circles on the bottoms of all those macarons!  Did I do this?  Haha, um, I’m not telling.

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Mix the powdered sugar and the almond meal together, until well blended.  Set aside.

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Start beating the egg whites, and when they become foamy, slowly start adding the 2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar, and then add the vanilla extract, and your food coloring at this time, continuing to beat until the egg whites form a stiff peak.

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Remove the bowl and fold in the powdered sugar/almond meal mixture, carefully, slowly adding and folding so that the egg whites do not deflate. This is where I must have gone wrong the first time I made them.

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Then fold 2 or 3 times with a little more pressure until the egg whites are like a blob of lava.  At this point, oops, I realized I forgot to add the coloring, so I slowly folded it in here:

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Now, you’re ready to pipe onto the parchment paper. Using a piping bag (I used a 16″ Wilton bag) or a Ziplock bag with the corner cut off, spoon the mixture carefully into the bag.  You can also fit a 1/2″ tip into your bag to aid in piping.  After filling the bag, twist the top and rest the twisted portion in your palm, gripping it with your thumb, a position which helps you control the piping evenly.  I found that if I held the point in the middle of each circle and just apply pressure, the circle would fill out evenly.  Once you have piped onto all the circles on the parchment paper, take the pan (carefully) and bang it 2 or 3 times on the counter top.  This gives the bottom of the macarons that characteristic lip that you see in the photos.  Then, let the sheet of macarons sit out on the counter for 15 minutes to an hour, in order to form a skin.  If you touch them, and your finger is sticky, then let them sit out longer.

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In order to bake the macarons evenly without browning, the oven needs to be at a low temperature (280 degrees F).  My oven was a little too warm at this temperature and the macarons wanted to brown a little, which changed the color to a peach, instead of a rose.  I would lower it to 250 next time.  Adjust your oven to what you think would be best.

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Baking takes about an hour, after a couple of minutes, crack the door a little to let any steam out and continue baking, turning the sheets occasionally and moving them around so they bake evenly and basically, dry out into crispy wafers.  Don’t overcook or brown them, as they will lose their color.  I lightly touch them to see if they are dried solidly.  See, here, they are peachy colored and my shapes aren’t perfect, but hey, it’s my second attempt!

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When the macarons are done, remove from the oven and cool them.  They should pop off the parchment easily.  Once they are cooled completely, you can pipe or spoon on butter cream frosting or any flavored cream filling that you fancy.  Even Nutella would be great!

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I had on hand an edible glitter in a soft pink color, so I brushed it onto the surface of each of them, returning the cookies to the pink color I originally tinted them with.  They turned out so pretty and lustrous.

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Voila! ………….

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Daily Prompt – Make Me Smile

When I am feeling blah, what one thing makes me smile? New born babies, spring flowers, a walk in the woods and travelling but I have to say, it’s this fairly new video:  “Happy” by Pharrell Williams :-)

 

 

It gets a big smile out of me every time I watch it! http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/daily-prompt-make-me-smile/

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

This was a flooring project I single-handedly took on a few years ago.  While preparing the floor, I removed the floor molding and found this threshold, buried under the wall.  To the left of it, is a very old return air vent with a handmade wooden grill made to match the floor.  When I removed the cover it I found it has a cement opening leading down into the basement.  Creepy, huh?

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How many people long long ago walked through this door, young and old?  The house is quite old, dating back into the 1800′s.  How many seasons of rain and snow fell just outside and children played on the porch or sat on the porch swing waiting for supper?

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As you can see, a new larger threshold was made opening onto the porch and the porch was enclosed, some years later.

Food for thought…

 

 

 

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/photo-challenge-threshold/

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Baby Baby, La Baby Quilt Est Fini!

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Finally finished up the baby quilt yesterday and got it washed & pressed, ready to deliver.  Surprisingly, the baby came a whole month early.  I think she will be pleased! Spent last week working on the binding, pressing, sewing and … Continue reading

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Daily Prompt – The Great Pretender – Say what?

When I first read this prompt, I must admit to having a little confusion.  To me, a pretender is a fake.  But, I dug a little deeper and clicked on the links to other folks’ take on this prompt and I started to understand, I think.   I got to thinking about my talents as a child and growing up, the ones that came easily without too much practise, which I think were inherited talents in a way, and did I live up to those inherited talents?  Such as my ability to create, whether it be art or sewing or needlework or even cake decorating, gardening and cooking.  Because I tended towards introversion, things like great speeches and leadership seemed beyond my capabilities at that time, though, in reality, they were not.

But then, I dug a little deeper and clicked on the link provided.  This link takes us to a Wikipedia article discussion about a psychological classification called Imposter Syndrome.  After reading that discussion, I see a different train of thought.  According to the psychological field, there are a group of men or women who are high achievers in the academic and business world who do not see themselves as having achieved anything at all and they consider themselves imposters.  They poo poo their abilities.  I’m not sure I could put myself in that classification.  If anything, I can honestly say I don’t live up to my potential at times, yes, and sometimes I do, but I also don’t worry about it too much.  Years of day in and day out going to work, coming home, going to work the next day can nearly drive the creativeness out of a person.  Hence, my recent burst of creative pursuits have made my days so much richer now.

Photo credit: manitou2121 / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: manitou2121 / Foter / CC BY

When I was younger, I had dreams and aspirations.  Some of which came to pass, some of which did not.  And my younger self probably was disappointed at times in the turn out and elated when success was attained.  Not sure I pretended to be anything but myself.

One thing that bothered me in the past, since I was such a creative soul, was when I was working on a project, some people would exclaim that they were disgusted with me that I could be so creative and they could never accomplish so much.  To me, they were the great pretenders, because I knew they were fully capable of great things themselves.

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/prompt-the-great-pretender/

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The Doves Have Returned

Perhaps some of you remember that last year I posted a Momma Dove nesting in one of my hanging planters.  She had returned from the year before.  I had not noticed her until the Spring had warmed up some.  But two weekends ago, while I went out to my car, I heard her cooing and knew she had returned.  So, every day after work for the past 2 weeks, when I returned home, I could hear her saying hello or calling to her mate.

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Last weekend I was sitting at my desk, sewing on a baby quilt for quite some time and happened to look out the window to my left, and there they were, Mom & Dad sitting on my water garden pot, watching me.  What a pleasant surprise!  I will look forward to seeing them raise more children in my hanging pot this summer.  This is the 3rd year in a row that they have returned to my backyard.

To be continued …..

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