Pretty In Pink.

Look...they have feet!!!
And it's all thanks to Tartelette. I have been using the same recipe for macarons since my mom and I took our class. I have probably made them about seven or eight times and every single time they would turn out the same. Delicious, but no feet. I couldn't help but shake the feeling that I just wasn't succeeding at making them. Multiple batches of green tea, chocolate, and raspberry macarons just weren't how they were supposed to be. Sure, everyone loved them, and I ate probably more than I should just 'cause they were that good, but isn't the presentation half of it?
So I had to make a change. I decided that if I kept using the same recipe and just hoping that they would magically turn out with feet, more than likely they would not, and I would still be dissapointed. I set myself on a mission to find a different go-to macaron recipe and try it out. So I went to, none other than Tartelette (The macaron queen), and searched for raspberry macarons. The ones that she made were just a plain macaron, and a raspberry filling, so I altered it a bit to what I was looking for.
This is probably my favorite macaron recipe. Mostly because I just love the raspberry flavor, it's fruity and sweet while not being too sugary. The other reason I loved these so much is because of the feet. I was so excited when I popped these out of the oven and the feet were still there when they cooled down. I knew that Tartelette wouldn't let me down. 

You can find the recipe for Tartelette's raspberry macarons here. I only made the cookie part and added a teaspoon of raspberry extract and a bit of pink gel food coloring to the egg whites before whipping them into stiff peaks.

Also, I didn't use a recipe for the raspberry buttercream. I did use 1 stick of butter, two tablespoons of raspberry jam, two tablespoons of milk, and then added powdered sugar by the spoonful until it was the right consistency.
These turned out marvelous. Of course, my family enjoyed them, and if I do say so myself, they were pretty darn good. So what have I learned? Change is good. If something isn't working, try something new...it could be for the best.

Until next time,


The Search for the Perfect Strawberry.

In my opinion, one of the most defining summer foods is the simple strawberry. It can be enjoyed in so many different ways; sprinkled with sugar, placed in a tart, or in this case, pureed and put into cupcakes. That is why I was extremely pleased when I found out that Martha Stewart's Cupcake Club's June assignment was strawberry cupcakes.
A few weeks ago, my friend Laura (who also writes the lovely blog Life. Laura Style.) turned me on to a recipe for strawberry cupcakes with lemon frosting. Let me tell you, they were quite tasty. So it was almost perfect timing that when the time came for me to decide which cupcakes to make for the MSCC, Laura's strawberry cupcakes were already in my mind.
So a couple of days ago, I decided it was time to make the cupcakes. On Tuesday, my mom and I went to the grocery store only to find about 5 cartons of strawberries. To top it off, all of them were rotten. Needless to say, we decided to wait to get the berries somewhere else. Then my mom told me that it would be fun to go to the farmer's market and find some on Wednesday morning. So the next day we both woke up at nine, brushed our teeth, and made the trip to the fairgrounds. It was then that we discovered that the market didn't open until 3pm on Wednesdays. After waiting 6 hours, we went back at three and guess what? No strawberries! Such bad luck.
After two more stores of finding flavorless, petite strawberries, I picked up some adequate ones at a local store and decided that they would have to do. I came right home and began to make the cupcakes. Were they worth it? You betcha, they were delicious. They were so moist and decadent. And the lemon buttercream? Probably one of the best frostings I have ever tried. So go ahead and make these. They are a perfect summer treat.

Strawberry Cupcakes (recipe adapted from Paula Deen)
-1 box white cake mix
-1 (3 oz) box strawberry gelatin
-15 oz fresh strawberries sprinkled with sugar; pureed
-4 large eggs
-1/2 cup vegetable oil
-1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 12-count cupcake pans.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix and gelatin. Add pureed strawberries, eggs, oil, and water; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.

Pour into cupcake pans, and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans to completely cool on wire racks.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting (adapted from Sprinkles Cupcakes)
-1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
-2 cups powdered sugar
-1 lemon, juice and zest
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine butter, sugar, and salt and beat till well combined.

Add lemon juice, zest, and vanilla and continue to beat for another 3-5 minutes or until creamy.
Until next time,


Sticky, Chewy, Goodness

One of the first cookbooks that I ever purchased was a delicious instruction manual on so many warm, gooey, yummy dessert items. To this day, it is still one of my favorite cookbooks and I will always treasure the recipes inside. This book is Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey. I think the first thing that I made from the book was the "All Grown Up S'more". There were two reasons I picked this particular one. First, because I ADORE s'mores, and second, it had a picture, the most tempting picture in fact. And that is when I fell in love. This had a thick, crisp graham cracker crust, a milk chocolate center, and a meringue top that was toasted in the broiler. The reason it was called All Grown Up though, was because it had liquor in it. I, being under 21 was not able to buy that, or drink it for that matter, so I just decided to omit it from the recipe. It turned out great, and I loved every bit of the s'morey goodness. After that, I tackled a few more recipes, including the Mascarpone Cheesecake Pots, which I could have done without, the Everything But the Kitchen Sink Cookies, and the New York Cheesecake Milkshake. Then I made what I believe is one of the most delicious desserts ever created, baklava. This was a long time ago, but before I made it this time around, just thinking about it made my mouth water and I could actually taste it. So I decided to make it again, this time to share with you.

Baklava is no easy task. It takes a bit of prep work and a serious sweet tooth. The nuts have to be finely chopped before hand, the puff pastry thawed, and the butter melted. Even though it probably took me close to an hour to make, and then baking time on top of that, it was well worth it. The entire pan was gone in less than a week. I found the puff pastry a little hard to work with at first, and I kept tearing it and flinging butter everywhere, but after the first layer, I got the hang of it, and it was pretty simple after that. The one thing to remember though is to always keep the puff pastry covered. I bought 2 pounds, but only needed 1.5 boxes, and I left them in the individual wrappings until I needed them. Once I unwrapped one package, I laid it on plastic wrap, covered it with a damp paper towel, and worked fast. Layer eight sheets of puff pastry together with butter in between all of them. Then one cup of nuts. This is pretty repetitive, and can get very boring. But I'll say it again, it is well worth it in the end.

Also, I didn't get a lot of "in process" pictures this time around because of the puff pastry. I didn't want to stop what I was doing, wash the butter off my hands, and risk drying it out just to snap a photo, so I decided that the before and after baking shots were enough. Well, enough of me rambling now, onto the recipe. Enjoy! 

Deep Dish Baklava---recipe by Jill O'Conner

For the Pastry:
3 cups finely chopped walnuts
2 cups finely chopped almonds
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
About 2 pounds of phyllo dough--I only used 1.5
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted

For The Syrup:
2 cups sugar
2 cups mild honey
2 cups water
one 6-inch strip lemon peel
1vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
1 cinnamon stick

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with melted butter

2. In a small bowl, stir together the walnuts, almonds, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.  Set aside.

3. On a clean work surface, lay 1 sheet of phyllo and brush it with melted butter.  Layer 7 more sheets of phyllo over the first, buttering each one.  Carefully lay this stack of buttered phyllo sheets in the prepared pan.  Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup of the nut mixture.  Layer 8 more sheets of phyllo, buttering each sheet, and lay this stack over the first layer of nuts.  Sprinkle the second stack of phyllo sheets with another 1 cup of the nut mixture.

4. Repeat this process until there are 5 stacks of buttered phyllo (8 sheets in each stack) separated by and ending with 1 cup of nut mixture (1 cup for each of the 5 layers).

5. Prepare the top of the pastry by layering together 35 sheets of phyllo dough, buttering each sheet.  Carefully place this stack of layered phyllo over the last layer of nuts in the pan.  The pan should be completely full of pastry.

6. With a sharp knife, score the baklava into square of diamond-shaped pieces by cutting through just the top layers of phyllo dough.

7. Bake until crisp throughout and the top layers are golden brown, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

8. While the baklava is baking, make the honey syrup.  Combine all the syrup ingredients in a large stockpot and bring the syrup to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the mixture is the consistency of thick maple syrup,about 10 minutes.  Remover syrup from the heat and let cool slightly.

9. As soon as the baklava comes out of the oven, spoon the slightly warm syrup over the pastry.  Let the baklava cool completely before cutting all the way through the scored pieces.  Don't be nervous if the baklava seems to be swimming in the syrup initially.  As the pastry cools, the syrup in absorbed into the layers.  It is very important to allow the baklava to cool completely - this gives the syrup plenty of time to ease into the pastry layers and give the baklava its wonderful gooey-crisp texture.  Baklava will keep uncovered for 2 days at room temperature or 4 days refrigerated.

Until next time,