Macarons with Silpat!

Vanilla and Lemon Macarons with Silpat

Baking is the collision of precision and accident. I think that's why I love it so much. I feel the same way about myself. I'm full of opportunity, but I never seemed to have gotten it right. And that's okay. I'm learning to be okay with that.

The small bumps on the tops of the macarons make me smile. I've got a few, too. And I think about the beauty of these imperfections and the small cherry moles that creep on my arm and the crooked teeth of our dogs and I love these small details that make them so much more worth savoring.

I've never made macarons before. I wasn't scared, but I was unsure. My best friend got me a kit maybe four years ago and it sat, unused. I used to be afraid of failure, so I think that's why I never opened it. But when Silpat asked me to use their mats to try again, I held off until I had the time. I thought it would take hours, maybe a day even. But it took maybe 60 minutes from start to finish. And they were perfect in their airy way, brittle and fragile and broken around the edges. It made it so much more worth savoring that way.

Macarons!

Vanilla and Lemon Macarons with Silpat

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1 cup fine-ground almond meal
  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • Extracts and dye of your choice (see notes)

Directions:

  1. Prepare a 13"x18" cookie sheet with your Silpat Macaron Mat or parchment paper
  2. Sift together confectioner's sugar and almond meal 4 times until well aerated
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, rub your lemon wedge on the inside
  4. Whisk eggs on high until peaks begin to poke up
  5. Add salt and sugar and mix until stiff peaks form
  6. Add extracts and dye, mix for 15 or so seconds until fully incorporated
  7. Using a rubber spatula, fold meringue into dry mixture (make sure to be gentle so not to deflate the mixture more than you have to)
  8. Transfer batter to a piping bag and pipe into center of the circles (if using macaron mat). Keep bag straight up and apply an even amount of pressure. Leave about a centimeter perimeter, as batter will expand as it settles and as it bakes
  9. Allow batter to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature
  10. Preheat oven to 300*F
  11. Bake for 25 minutes, opening at the 15 minute mark to release a little steam and to check on edges
  12. When done, tops will be hard and a little glossy and bottoms will have a crust
  13. Let rest on mats before transferring for a couple minutes
  14. Allow to cool completely before assembling with your filling (see notes)
  15. Enjoy!

Notes:

  1. Extract and dye amounts will vary a lot based on the potency of both products. I used 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract for one batch below, and a 1 teaspoon of lemon extract. Play around a bit, but be on the conservative side if you're nervous! I've also read that gel dyes incorporate better, so I opted for that in the batches below.
  2. For my filling, as you can see from my photos, I used a very simple buttercream made with 1:1:8 ratio of shortening, softened butter, and confectioner's sugar (this made enough for 2 batches with some to spare!), and then a little salt, extract, and a touch of milk to thin it out
  3. I think these macarons were a great size for guests or an event, but for me, I also eyeballed them and made smaller ones (about half the size) with some extra batter we had and they were wonderful, too. This recipe is very versatile, but just cut the baking time down a couple minutes for smaller ones!

Giveaway! Head on over to my Instagram for your chance to enter to win a macaron mat, too!

Vanilla and Lemon Macarons with Silpat
Vanilla and Lemon Macarons with Silpat
Vanilla and Lemon Macarons with Silpat
Vanilla and Lemon Macarons with Silpat
Vanilla and Lemon Macarons with Silpat
Vanilla and Lemon Macarons with Silpat

Caramel Cherry Upside Down Cake

Caramel Cherry Upside Down Cake

This week, Nolan housesat for his parents while they were in Mexico. For me, I stayed home with the dogs and chickens and did the usual chores. I pulled the couchbed out in the living room and sprawled my books and writings and computer and bags of chips across the flannel sheets and sat in silence, save for the dogs snoring and the rain gutters overflowing.

There's a routine to the way we live now. The way we argue. The way we spend our Sundays. The way I do the chickens and the way I play with the dogs. It's not mechanical, but it is familiar. I like it. I myself am a frenetic ball of stress, so the calmness of monotony is good for me.

And when I am home alone, I don't eat that great. I pick like a bird. I graze on candy and yogurt and forget to eat. I'm too wrapped up in the small luxury of expansive hours of reading to care. And when I wanted to bake this weekend, I did it in the simple way--thrown together with leftovers from the fridge.

Caramel Cherry Upside Down Cake

Caramel Cherry Upside Down Cake

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz frozen cherries
  • 1/4 cup caramel sauce
  • 10 TB unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg white
  • Zest and Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or buttermilk
  • 1/2 TB vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cup AP flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375*F
  2. Heavily grease and line the bottom of a 12-inch cast iron skillet
  3. Pour cherries and caramel sauce onto parchment and evenly distribute with a rubber spatula
  4. In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar
  5. Add eggs, zest, juice, milk, and vanilla
  6. Sift together your dry ingredients
  7. With mixer on low, slowly add in flour mixture a 1/2 cup or so at a time
  8. Mix on high for one minute
  9. Pour over top of cherries and caramel
  10. Bake for 40 minutes. Because of the moisture of the cherries, it may not be done at this time, so keep checking every five minutes until middle is tanned and set
  11. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before turning onto a plate
Caramel Cherry Upside Down Cake
Caramel Cherry Upside Down Cake
Caramel Cherry Upside Down Cake

How I Spent Superbowl Sunday: Golden Pistachio Oreos

Golden Pistachio Oreos

It's no secret that I'm still learning. It's no secret that it's been a jagged line to get to where I am today. I called my mother yesterday, I said we need to bake more. She said, "Absolutely" then changed the subject. It's no secret that there is more silence than I'd like but it's not really a secret why that is, either.

I keep thinking about memories. Not remembering things in the actual sense, the active sense, but the intangible nouns that occupy my time. How hard we try to recreate the past. And it's no secret that it's the hardest thing to do. And still we try. Like when my sister wanted to go to New York for Christmas and how we watched a movie we both liked when I was 9 and she was 13. And it all felt like pebbles to me, worn down and soft to the touch. Idly, we skipped them for a month or two and counted the times they skidded across the surface and felt happy for the moment. It wasn't until later when the pond looked expansive and deep and it wasn't worth the effort to remember the years between us from 9 and 13 to 26 and 30.

    Golden Pistachio Oreos

    And it's no secret I've grown up. Especially the last few years. Especially with Nolan. Especially in California. Especially now, in this moment, with dogs and chickens and a fiance relying on me. And this weekend we watched the Super Bowl and I read when I was bored. And we got some takeout, like we did the last time we watched the game together in 2011. And we took a nap, like the last time we watched the game together in 2011. And we laughed at the commercials and we cuddled the dogs and we did the dishes and I made cookies to keep busy. And it was then I realized that it wasn't recreating all the things that made us smile, the intangible things that felt so comfortable in the moment we created them, but memories are things to improve upon. To adjust to the new lives we have. To be grateful for the handful of pebbles still in my pocket and to look at them all with possibility. And it's no secret I've fucked up at doing this for years and years and years, but it's different now and I'm not so sad to talk about old memories anymore.

      Ingredients for the Cookies:

      • 10 TB unsalted butter, softened
      • 2 TB shortening
      • 1/4 cup white sugar
      • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
      • 2 TB honey
      • 1 egg + 1 yolk
      • 1/2 TB vanilla extract
      • 1/4 teaspoon salt
      • 2 cups AP flour
      • 2 TB ground pistachios

      Ingredients for Filling:

      • 1/8 cup shortening
      • 2 TB unsalted butter, softened
      • 1/4 TB vanilla extract
      • 1/2 TB milk powder
      • Pinch of salt
      • 1-2 TB whole milk or heavy cream

       

        Directions:

        1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, shortening, sugars, and honey until light and fluffy
        2. Add egg and yolk with mixer on low until fully incorporated. Add vanilla
        3. With mixer on low, add dry ingredients. When just mixed, complete mixing with a rubber spatula and fold in pistachios
        4. Turn out onto a floured work surface and shape into a disc
        5. Refrigerate for at least half an hour
        6. While dough is resting, prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350*F
        7. When dough is done resting, turn back out onto your work surface and roll disc to about 1/3 inch thick
        8. Cut out 2-inch rounds and place on baking sheet
        9. Bake for 15 minutes or until edges are browned
        10. Allow to cool
        11. While cookies are cooling, whip together your shortening, butter, vanilla, and milk powder
        12. With mixer on low, add your confectioner's sugar slowly
        13. Add milk and salt to desired taste and consistency
        14. Transfer to piping bag and pipe onto top of one cookie
        15. Place second cookie on top to make a sandwich
        16. Repeat with remaining cookies
        Golden Pistachio Oreos
        Golden Pistachio Oreos
        Golden Pistachio Oreos
        Golden Pistachio Oreos
        Catherine Tate
        Pistachio Golden Oreos-7.jpg
        Golden Pistachio Oreos
        Golden Pistachio Oreos
        Golden Pistachio Oreos
        Golden Pistachio Oreos
        Golden Pistachio Oreos
        Golden Pistachio Oreos
        Golden Pistachio Oreos
        Golden Pistachio Oreos

        The Farm's First Christmas!

        IMG_4936.jpg

        It's really beginning to feel like the holidays for me now. It never did before. In college, I felt that being home was a burden, a hazy one that either ended with me moping in my room, or texting my college friends with small details of how "annoying" my family was. In California, as I've talked about before, it never felt like Christmas, wearing shorts and driving the interstate to find fast food restaurants that would stay open for us. Or, some years, we split the burden--one of us would stay with the dogs while the other spent Christmas with family back in Pennsylvania. Lonely is all I remember for three years then.

        I didn't keep up with the traditions; I never bothered to try. Maybe it was too painful, or maybe I just didn't really care that much. Those in-between years of settling and resettling, in rented houses and backyards that were too small, I never thought I had anything to celebrate. And, as always, I was wrong. And, as always, I'm learning.

        IMG_4939.jpg

        We moved into our house just after the holidays last year, so this is the first time we're really experiencing it all. The tree, the fir, the snow-packed dog paws that melt on the hardwood floors. Old ornaments from second-hand stores and our mothers' attics. Wooden ones, broken ones, ones that hang on paperclips instead of hooks. Things we've never done before, experiences that I've been wanting to create.

        IMG_4945.jpg

        And it was good. Rushed, but good. Haphazard, but good, to look back at a year of questions and answers and understand that sometimes the most fun we're going to have in a week is doing the mindless, repetitive tasks that we used to hate as kids.

        And the same goes for cookies. It used to be a tradition, one that I seemed to forget about until I'm hungry for something sweet. But this year, as I shared with Modern Farmer, it's turned into something I love doing. Decorating, baking, cutting shapes and dipping them in coffee. I can't wait to give them out as gifts this year. And below this recipe is a special surprise for your pup as well!

         

         

         

         

        Iced Sugar Cookies

        Modern Farmer - Christmas Tree Cookies

        Ingredients:

        • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
        • 1/2 cup white sugar
        • 1 egg (of course, we used our girls' fresh eggs!)
        • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
        • 1 1/4 cup AP flour
        • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
        • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

        Directions:

        1. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy
        2. Add egg and vanilla and mix together
        3. Sift together dry ingredients and gently stir into your butter mixture
        4. Turn out onto a floured work surface and pat into a disc. Wrap and chill for 1 hour
        5. Preheat oven to 400*F
        6. Roll out and cut dough into desired shapes (about 3/4 inch thickness worked best for me)
        7. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes, or until edges are just browned

        For decorating: Use dyed royal icing (my ratio is 1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar for each 1 egg white, plus a 1/4 teaspoon of water or so, mixed with your dyes) and a bit of patience for the decorating. I always remind myself that the more handmade it looks, the more love I put into it--so I never stress too much about perfection!
         

        Modern Farmer - Christmas Tree Cookies
        Modern Farmer - Christmas Tree Cookies
        Modern Farmer - Christmas Tree Cookies

        And here is an alternative for your best pal! Make these dog treats (recipe was shared here) and give them away to all your dog loving friends!

        Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Dog Biscuits
        Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Dog Biscuits
        Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Dog Biscuits
        IMG_4960.jpg

        More gardening! More picking! And radish scones!

        It used to be too hard for me to look back on a year and see how it changed me. It was weird, to think that the pebble that skipped between one spot and another could create either too many ripples or not enough. In California, between ages 20 and 24, I grew up; but it was in a fractious way that I still have a limp from nowadays. I'm learning from that, though.

        Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones

        But now I look back at a year and see where I am and it is both humbling and terrifying and satisfying all in one. A year ago, I was living at home and Nolan was living at his parents', too, and we would see each other once in a while and drink and fall asleep. A year ago, I was sequestered to my old childhood bedroom while I saved up and figured out what I wanted out of life and a relationship and if we were buying a house or moving somewhere new again. A year ago, there was a lot more silence in my life and a lot less to do during the day. A year ago, everything was different and uncomfortable and I wasn't ready to move forward.

        Now--now we have a house and the dogs and the chickens and the land. I have room to stretch in bed and still be cuddled by the person I am going to marry. My hair is grown out and curled and I tend to wear old flannel shirts and there's usually dirt under my nails. We garden now, picking from our little bed the lettuce and radishes and onions we'll have for dinner. Nolan's dad planted them when we first moved in. We throw our scraps to the chickens and eat the rest. Just another thing we take care of, just another responsibility we have for our land.

        Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones

        We have only the smallest recollection of How It Used to Be. And we savor the mornings with cups of coffee and the nights with a beer and everything in between is working towards a goal now--whether that goal is painting or fencing or just pulling out the sofa bed and watching movies for three days. It's all there to make us happy; to make others happy, too. The only part of us that still exists from a year ago is that Nolan still smokes the same brand of cigarettes and I still have a flair for dramatics. Everything else is different.

        A year can really change a person or two. 

        And each year it seems like we take a small vacation in the summer for something with food. Last year, we spent a couple days in Charleston, WV to tour the JQ Dickinson Salt Works. This year, we are heading to Vermont on Friday to go see Vermont Creamery, so i thought what better way to begin celebrating than with a goat cheese scone. And to commemorate our growth in a year, to look at how a year can change two people, I added radishes from our garden. Spicy and plump and terribly beautiful, they added an element to the scones that naturally flavored them beyond the usual salt and pepper of my upbringing.

        Enjoy. 

        Dill, Goat Cheese, and Radish Scones

        Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones

        This recipe is a riff on last week's post for my shortcake scone. This is a savory version, so either you can really use as a base and just swap out the flavorings with whatever your heart desires.

        Ingredients:

        • 2  cup AP flour
        • 1 TB baking powder
        • 3/4 teaspoon salt
        • 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
        • 1 egg + 1 yolk (for egg wash)
        • 1/3 cup heavy cream
        • 1/4 cup goat cheese 
        • 1/2 TB dill, chopped
        • 3 large radishes, rough and finely chopped + 1 or 2 sliced for topping

        Directions:

        1. Preheat oven to 400*F and prepare a sheet pan with a Silpat or parchment paper
        2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt
        3. With clean hands, roll the butter into the flour with your fingers, creating flakes. Continue to crumble butter until fat is the size of peas
        4. In a measuring cup, whisk together your egg, cream, and cheese
        5. Create a well in your dry ingredients and with a wooden spoon slowly mix while you pour your wet ingredients in
        6. Continue to mix until fully incorporated and a dough comes together
        7. Add dill and chopped radishes and fold to incorporate into dough
        8. Pat out onto a floured work surface and shape into a rectangle
        9. Cut into 9 pieces and transfer onto your prepared sheet
        10. Make an egg wash (1 yolk + 1 TB water) and brush onto your scones
        11. Top each with a radish slice
        12. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden
        Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
        Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
        Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
        Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
        Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
        Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
        Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
        Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
        Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
        Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones
        Radish Dill Goat Cheese Scones