Archive for ‘Baking’

November 25, 2011

Trial and Error: Macarons!

So maybe it was a bit overzealous to try macarons after just learning how to bake cookies last week, but what’s Thanksgiving without a bit of a challenge, no? I must say though, it was quite a humbling experience. The results of Take 1 are laughable:

Check out the monster on the left. (And that would be take 3 on the right…) Oh, and never underestimate the power of food coloring! Same filling in both cookies. No joke.

This recipe is the result of intense research and recipe combining! Props to my little researcher/photographer, Angeline. (:

Feel free to do your own research and come up with your own recipe. Trial and error is the best way to learn what works for you and your oven. There are a plethora of blog posts out there on troubleshooting and tips. Also, feel free to use those creative juices to come up with flavors combos. Things I want to try in the future: cardamom with orange white chocolate filling, macha green tea and red bean filling, classic pistachio with buttercream filling, coffee and chocolate, mint and chocolate, the list goes on…

MACARON SHELLS (makes ~20 sandwiches)

  • 3/4 cups almond flour
  • 1 cup icing sugar (aka confectioner’s, icing, etc)
  • 1/4 cup fine granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup egg whites (about 2 eggs)
  •  baking sheets and a pencil


  1. Preheat oven to 315F (too low heat = cracks, too high heat = bottoms will burn)
  2. On the paper side of the baking sheet, trace out 1 inch diameter circles, 2 inches apart. Flip over in a baking pan, waxy side up.
  3. Sift and measure out almond flour and powdered sugar into a separate bowl.
  4. In a stand mixer, beat egg whites on medium until foamy. Increase to high, and beat in granulated sugar slowly. Keep whipping until the mixture turns white, thickens, and forms stiff shiny peaks. Add food coloring while you whip.
  5. Remove bowl from stand mixer and SLOWLY fold in flour mixture into meringue. Sift in some flour mixture, and fold, sift in more flour, then fold, etc. Do NOT overmix. Should be about 50 folds total. Resulting mixture will be shiny, magma-like, and drop off spatula in a slow, viscous manner. Over beating will create a thinner consistency. Under beating will be too thick and paste-y. To be honest, I actually didn’t use all the flour. I simply added most of it until it reached the consistency I liked.
  6. Spoon into a plastic bag and cut off the tip, ~1/2 inch diameter. When piping, the mixture should flow out on its own without pressure.
  7. Bake for 11 minutes, rotating after 5 min, and occasionally propping the oven door open just a crack to let out any steam. Err on the side of a tad overcooked instead of undercooked. A crisp macaron shell will soften the next day as it melds with the filling.
  8. Set aside to cool, then fill. Now LEAVE THEM ALONE! Eat it the next day. I promise. It’s 10x better. Keep them in an airtight container at room temperature. Preferably somewhere out of sight. (:

(Berry + White Chocolate Ganache) 

  • 4 oz white chocolate
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 tsp jam (strawberry, mixed berry, raspberry, what have you.)

Place chocolate piece in a small glass or metal and place over a small sauce pan of water. Heat water slowly up to a simmer and melt chocolate. Add cream slowly as it melts and mix in jam. Optional: add 1 drop of red food coloring for aesthetic effect. Set aside until shells are ready to be filled.

(Salted Caramel) 

  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 stick of butter
  • 1 pinch of salt

You will need two small sauce pans. In one pan, heat milk over medium low heat, just before it boils. In another pan, add sugar and melt over medium high heat. Let sugar caramelize into a deep brown color tehn remove from heat. Slowly pour in hot milk while mixing continuously. Let it cool a bit, then add butter in pieces while still mixing. Place in fridge and let it cool a bit. Remove from fridge then beat until mixture is smooth and creamy. Set aside until macaron shells are ready to be filled. Don’t re-refrigerate fillings. They get too cold and hard to use…

Props to Angeline the researcher/photographer, Gloria the architect, and Rich the dish-washer (and stand mixer contributor?)

November 17, 2011

Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies

I love Martha Stewart.

This is my first batch of cookies since high school. That was the first and only time I tried to make cookies. They came out as chocolate chip biscuits. I never attempted cookies again after that.

Cookies take two?

(Look, Ma! Homemade frosting!)

Much more successful. The cookies are light and cakey with a very distinctive carrot cake spice. I had some trouble with the cream cheese frosting and it came out a bit lumpy (didn’t wait for everything to come to room temperature) and liquidy. Ok. I probably could’ve avoided those problems easily, but I was lazy. I used granulated sugar instead of powdered, and simply blasted it in a food processor to make it into a powder. Sounds like a reasonable substitute, right? HOWEVER,… I realized too late that I had measured 1 cup before I processed it. The resulting powder was actually less than a cup, and I was too lazy to measure more out.

In all honesty, sandwiched between two jumbo cookies, no one will notice what the frosting looks liked. Although next time, I’ll just listen to Martha and follow the damn recipe.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart:


  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 whole clove, ground
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots, (about 3 large carrots)
  • 3/4 cups raisins
  • 3/4 cups chopped walnuts


  • 16oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 sticks of butter, room temperature, cut in pieces
  • 2 cup confectioner’s/powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Grate carrots. Set aside in a large bowl with measured out oats, raisins, walnuts.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugars and butter; beat until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until well combined.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger; stir to combine.
  4. Gradually add flour to butter mixture; mix on a low speed until just blended.
  5. Mix in oats, carrots, walnuts, and raisins. Chill dough in refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour. This is important to prevent runny dough and flat cookies.
  6. Make frosting:
    1. Beat cream cheese gently until softened.
    2. Add butter and vanilla extract and mix on medium speed until well incorporated (no more lumps).
    3. Slowly add powdered sugar until all two cups are in, adding more if frosting is still too runny.
  7. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment paper, and set aside. (use the butter wrappers to grease up the parchment paper. Quick trick.)
  8. Using a 1/2-ounce ice-cream scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies. A 1tbs measuring spoon makes a good substitute. (***important! If you make the scoops too big or too close, you will get a sheet cookie. Trust me. I learned the hard way.) Transfer to oven, and bake until edges are JUST browned and crisped, 12 to 15 minutes. (Cookie will continue to cook and darken in color once removed.)
  9. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat baking process with remaining dough. Once cooled completely, use an offset spatula to spread cream-cheese filling onto a cookie. Sandwich together with a second cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Some tips:

  1. Between batches, cool the baking pan completely by running it under some water in the sink. This keeps the dough from deflating upon contact on a hot pan…
  2. If you don’t have an ice cream scooper (I do not), use a 1tbs measuring spoon. 1 heaping spoonful will do. Just be consistent as you want the cookies to fit together for the sandwich.
  3. Chilling the dough is paramount. The dough is actually rather runny. Put the dough back in the fridge between baking batches to keep it firm.
  4. If the icing is too runny, add more powdered sugar! You may need more sugar than the icing recipe calls for.

EDIT: 3 years later, I’m getting pretty good at this recipe. Here’s the new and improved version. Smaller cookies, thicker and creamier frosting.

carrot cake

I also wasn’t instagram-ing 3 years ago. I’m sure that makes a difference in the photo quality. (: carrot cake2

November 12, 2011

Fudgy Toffee Brownies w/ a Pretzel Crumble Crust

I’ve never even made brownies from a box before. But this recipe is so detailed and fail proof, that all those new friends you’ll get when they get a whiff of this won’t even know it. “Oh yea, I’ve been baking for YEARS…”

And if you’re type A like me and need some more research, this article has GREAT tips and troubleshooting ideas:

Conquering my fear of baking, take 1: 

Adapted from this amazing recipe.


  • 12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 16 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 bags heath toffee bits
Pretzel Crust
  • ~3-4 cups salted pretzels
  • 3/4 – 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

2. Line the inside of an 9×13 pan with foil. Lightly butter the bottom of the pan.

3. Melt butter in a large metal or glass mixing bowl, placed over a saucepan of water on low heat. Add the chocolate and stir by hand until it is melted and smooth.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla until combined. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the flour and stir energetically for 1 full minute—time yourself—until the batter loses its graininess, becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the saucepan. Stir in add-ins (toffee bits, toasted nuts, etc).

5. Crust: Melt butter. In a food processor, pulse pretzels until it becomes a coarse sandy texture. Add pretzel crumbs and sugar to melted butter. Mix until it forms a crumbly texture. Pack pretzel mixture into the bottom of the pan.

6. Scrape the brownie batter (it will be thick and difficult to spread) over the pretzel crumble and set in fridge for an hour or two. This supposedly helps create a crisp crust on top and a soft gooey center when baked. I like this combo in a brownie. feel free to skip the fridge step if you like.

7. Bake until the center feels almost set, about 30 minutes. Do not overbake. Toothpick should NOT come out clean from the center.

7. Let the brownie cool COMPLETELY in the pan. Lift the foil or parchment and the block of brownie out of the pan. Cut the brownie into squares. (The brownies will keep well for up to 4 days and can be frozen for 1 month.). Tastes better the next day! If you’re making this at night, tightly seal pan with aluminum foil and leave it on the counter over night and cut in the morning.

November 6, 2011

happy birthday to me.

That is all I have to say.

October 12, 2011

Vegetable Pot Pie + Sweet Potato Cheddar Biscuits

Adapted from Food and Wine. A great recipe to try out new vegetables! I’ve never had celery root before, and after seeing the ugly things at the super market, I had my doubts. But it turned out to be my favorite veggie in the dish! It has the texture of a starchy tuber (kind of like yucca) but has all the lovely flavors of celery. (For how to prep celery root, watch this video on youtube.) I’ve also never had parsnips before. They look like pale carrots but have a nice sweet and spicy kick. Add some sage and nutmeg = a great earthy combo of flavors. Perfect for autumn (which does not exist in Texas, btw).

Note: I may leave out brussel sprouts in the future. I find they leave a slightly bitter aftertaste. Not a fan. Maybe regular cabbage? To be honest any vegetables would work in this recipe…


  • 1 lb parsnips, diced
  • 1 lb brussel sprouts, halved/quartered
  • 1 large celery root (1.5 lb), diced
  • 1 small head of cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1 tsp dried sage (very strong herb! don’t abuse)
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • salt
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • pinch of sage
  • ~3 tbs white wine


  1. Preheat oven to 425F
  2. Chop celery root, brussel sprouts, parsnips, cauliflower, and dice HALF the onions.
  3. Spread veggies on a LARGE baking pan, lined with aluminum foil. Coat generously with olive oil. Mix sage and thyme and salt/pepper.
  4. Roast veggies for ~40min or until veggies are cooked through and golden brown.
  1. Roughly chop remaining onion.
  2. In a small sauce pan, add milk, onion, a pinch more sage and thyme. Bring to a simmer on low heat. Cover and turn off heat and let it stand ~10-15 min. Strain milk and set aside.
  3. In a large sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat until just bubbling and stir in flour slowly ~2 min.
  4. Whisk in milk slowly, a bit at a time, and let sauce thicken ~10 min. . Mix slowly to avoid lumps.
  5. Add a pinch of nutmeg. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Fold in veggies, or if sauce pan is not large enough, pour veggies into a large baking dish or individual ramekins, and mix in sauce.
  7. Salt and pepper to taste if needed.
  8. Top with unbaked biscuits (see below for recipe) and return to oven for 15min on 425F until golden brown and filling is bubbling.


  • 1 small sweet potato (3/4 cup mashed)
  • 1 3/4 cups AP flour
  • 1/3 cup grated sharp chedder
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7 tbs cold unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk*
  • 1 medium egg for egg wash

*I use powdered butter milk. I don’t really bake all that much, and I find fresh buttermilk always goes to waste.


  1. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder/soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. (If using powdered buttermilk, add that here.)
  2. Cut 7 tbs butter into small pieces. Toss in a bit of flour mixture from first step to avoid sticking. Put in freezer.
  3. Dice sweet potato and cover with wet paper towel. Microwave for 4-5 min or until soft.
  4. Mash sweet potato and reserve 3/4 cups.
  5. Add cheese and butter milk (or if using powdered butter milk, add equivalent amount of plain water to potatoes). Mix well.  Set aside in refrigerator to cool.
  6. When potatoes are cool, take butter out of freezer and add to flour. Mix with hands or food processor until it resembles coarse sand. Do NOT over mix or butter will melt. Work fast!
  7. Fold in sweet potato mixture or pulse in food processor until dough just comes together.
  8. Lightly knead dough on heavily floured surface until just smooth. Roll out into 1/4inch thick sheet. Cut into small rounds (or squares to minimize scraps).
  9. Place on top of pot pies and apply egg wash. Bake ~15 min until filling is bubbling and biscuits are golden brown.

October 2, 2011

Spiced Zucchini Bread

Adapted from

Zucchini bread

I’ve discovered turbinado sugar! Similar to brown sugar, turbinado sugar is less processed and ‘healthier’ than refined white sugar. It’s commonly seen in restaurants in packages under the name of “Sugar in the Raw”.  It’s a very course grain, so you’ll actually be using less sugar compared to an equal serving of refined white.  Another interesting fact about turbinado sugar is that it tends to retain more water, so baked goods come out super moist. For this recipe, make sure you drain your zucchini gratings to prevent sogginess! Also, if I was using normal brown sugar for this recipe, I’d cut it by half a cup, ’cause even with turbinado, this bread came out plenty sweet!


  • 3 cups grated unpeeled zucchini, drained
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups turbinado sugar*
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 whole clove, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce (2 4oz cups)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup crushed walnuts

*feel free to use 2 cups of brown sugar instead!


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease one 9×13 inch pan, or two bread pans.
  2. Place grated zucchini in a colander and set aside to drain. Press to get as much water out as you can!! You don’t want soggy zucchini bread.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl until well blended.
  4. Beat the eggs, applesauce, oil, and vanilla in a separate bowl until smooth.
  5. Fold in the flour mixture, then stir in the zucchini and walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. It’ll be pretty liquid-y. That’s ok. It’s a very moist cake.
  6. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, ~50 minutes, 1 hour if using bread pans. Allow to cool completely before cutting!

mmm… tastes like carrot cake.