Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pretty Pink Macarons w/ Chocolate Ganache

Pink Macarons 
w/ Chocolate Ganache
In case you haven't read my first macaron attempt post, check it out here for the basic recipe.

The only thing different with these cookies is the addition of the pink dye and the different filling.

Pink Macarons 
w/ Chocolate Ganache
Makes about 18

1 c powder sugar, sifted
3/4 c almond flour, sifted
2 large egg whites, room temp
1/4 c granulated sugar

Chocolate ganache:
1/4 c heavy cream, bring to simmer in a small sauce pan
1/4 c dark chocolate morsels
In a small glass bowl, pour heavy cream onto chocolate morsels, mix and set aside to cool.

For baking directions, I followed Martha Stewart's directions seen here. And I found a great video with great tips here.

Tip: The consistency and appearance of the cookies greatly depend on how well the batter is mixed. Under-mixing the batter will result in cracked cookies. Which in this case, I did under-mix, so I have quite a few that were cracked, but thankfully, many were okay. Your batter is perfect when it looks and has a "lava-like" consistency. Not too stiff and not to runny. 
Although some of the cookies did crack, they still will taste exactly the same, but since these cookies are 50% based on presentation, I hated seeing cracked cookies. But practice is what makes you a better baker!

Have a great day!!!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

French Macarons!!!

So I have quickly been obsessing over these cute little French cookies!!!
I first heard about these a couple of years ago when I first tried them from Bottega Louie in LA. They didn't really spark my interest back then, but recently I have been seeing more and more of these guys on Instagram and Pinterest, and also at local tea and coffee bars, so I thought I'd give them a go!!!

Before I got started baking, I did some research first. I looked on YouTube and various baking blogs to find out some tips and tricks to making perfect macarons since I didn't want to make a mess on my first try. I narrowed it down to Martha Stewart's French Macaron recipe and I've been using it ever since I've started making macarons. The only difference from her recipe and mine is that I skip the cream of tartar, which I don't always have readily at the kitchen anyway...

So without further blabber... Here's my very first attempt at French Macarons...

French Macaron 
Makes about 18

1 c powder sugar, sifted
3/4 c almond flour, sifted
2 large egg whites, room temp
1/4 c granulated sugar

Any favorite chocolate buttercream you like...

For the direction, I literally followed Martha Stewart's directions to the tee. Click here. Just so I don't mess up. And I found a great beginners video found here. Those tips are perfect and I came up with pretty good looking cookies, so just keep practicing =)

Tip: The meringue should have soft to stiff peaks, but not dry. It should still look glossy.
Tip: When you are ready to pipe them out, give them enough space in between each cookie because they will spread a bit right after piping.
FYI: These cookies look almost white before baking, but once they bake, they will turn somewhat brownish, which I didn't mind at all, but just keep that in mind with other colors...
 Once your cookies have cooled, you can fill them with pretty much your heart's desire. These ones I filled with a simple chocolate buttercream I whipped up in a few minutes. But you can do whatever you want!!!
Then, I just decorated the cookie shells with extra chocolate and white nonpareil sprinkles =)

But if you want something more simple, just brush on a bit of cocoa powder on top of pre-baked cookies, like the cookies below, which were filled with chocolate-peanut butter cream. YUM!
Nowadays, I've made batches and batches of macarons, and am interested in coming up with different flavors. But if you are just starting off like I was, I would stick to the simple recipe first, because coloring and food dyes are a little bit trickier and need different baking times, because they somewhat can change the consistency of the cookie batter...

In the mean time, simple is beautiful!
Not bad for my first macaron attempt! But all those YouTube videos helped ;)

I can't wait to show you guys the others I've made, stay tuned...


Baby Shower Cake Pops!

This month is one of my favorite months! Everywhere you shop, you will see reds, pinks, and pretty things. Speaking of pretty things, I wanted to share these cake pops I made for a baby shower! 
I love how these cake pops turned out. I love the soft combination of the pink with the white stripes. It's super easy too!

Just combine a little of pink candy melts with white ones to get the "baby pink" shade you want to have.
Then you just dip all the cake pops in them and let each of them set. Then later, cover the whole cake pop with the chocolate.

To decorate: Prepare a small piping bag containing white candy melt. Make sure the opening to the bag is quite small and tiny so you can achieve thin white stripes. Hold the cake pop in one hand, and the piping bag in the dominant hand and while twisting the cake pop stick from side to side, pipe out the white candy melt onto the cake pops. Before the chocolate sets, sprinkle some white nonpareils onto it. 

It does take some practice and technique, but I promise it will be fun! And when you're done, you should be able to whip up dozens of these things!!!
 And they don't have to be perfect on the first few tries, but just keep practicing....
Since these were orders, I wanted to make them look even prettier and presentable though. So I eventually put them onto mini cupcake liners and tied them each in little baggies...
 Super fun and festive for that special addition to the family!!!


Pink Velvet Cake!

I call this Pink Velvet Cake!

I thought it would be an appropriate cake to share this month, being the love month and all... But actually, I made this cake a few months ago to sample out another red velvet cake recipe I found.

The recipe called for 2 Tbsp of liquid red food coloring, but since I ran out, I only had 1 Tbsp left to put. So that is why this cake looks more pink than red. Hence, "Pink Velvet Cake."

Pink Velvet Cake!
Recipes adapted here and here

If you want to make this in cupcake form, read more here.

I love how this cake turned out! It's not how I originally intended it to look, but after I finished decorating it, I ended up really liking it a lot.

Between this pink velvet cake recipe, which is really my second attempt at a red velvet cake, I like the taste of the first one better, the Red Velvet Birthday Cake I made my mom for her birthday >>
I initially couldn't decide between the two different red velvet recipes, but after trying the second cake, I think the first one was just moister. To read more about my red velvet cake venture, read here and here. Finding a good red velvet cake recipe is a lot harder than I anticipated. So far, I've tried two and I'm already tired.

Enough with the blabber... on to the recipe!

Pink Velvet Cake!
Recipe found here

2 1/2 c cake flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp cocoa powder, sifted (I used Ghirardelli unsweetened)
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
1 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 c buttermilk
1 Tbsp red liquid food coloring (For a brighter red, use 2 Tbsp)
1 tsp white distilled vinegar
1 tsp baking soda

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese frosting, room temp (I used Philadelphia Original)
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
1 c powder sugar, sifted
1 c heavy whipping cream, cold
1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Prepare and line two 6-inch round cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and cocoa powder, and set aside.
  3. In a glass measuring cup, mix the buttermilk and food color, set aside.
  4. In a stand mixer, beat the butter until soft and fluffy, about 1 minute.
  5. Add sugar to butter, mix until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add eggs, one at time, to butter mixture. And add vanilla. Incorporate well.
  7. In alternating portions, add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, until well incorporated. Do not over mix. 
  8. In a small cup, mix vinegar and baking soda and allow to fizz. Then quickly fold it into the batter.
  9. Divide batter evenly between cake pans. 
  10. Bake 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes. Check done-ness with toothpick inserted in the center of cupcake.Tip: Wet toothpick means the cake is still raw, continue to bake for another 1-2 minutes. Clean toothpick means the cake is going to be dry. Moist crumbs means the cake is perfect!
  11. Remove from oven, remove from pan, and allow cakes to continue cooling directly onto wire racks. 
  12. Let cool. Then cover tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze until ready to frost.
Filling time! I used a good layer of cream cheese frosting and white chocolate chips!
Then, on to stacking!
Crumb coat time, baby!!! After making a few cakes, I finally got this crumb coating thing down!
Then in to the fridge before I can decide how to decorate it.
Once I finally decided on how to finish the cake, it was on to ganache time! 
I poured ganache all over the top of the cake and allowed it to drip down the sides a bit. Then with a small offset spatula, I just spread the ganache to cover the whole cake, similar to how I would frost a cake. 
This technique is very similar to the technique I used with the first cake here. But I just didn't distort the white frosting as much on this cake to keep it as dark as I can get it. But with some white peeking through still. It looks like a darker wood grain effect than the first cake. 

Then, I prepare pink-tinged cream cheese frosting to pipe around the edge of the top of the cake. 
I used a Wilton's 1M piping tip to create the florets. 
Last, I layered chocolate sprinkles in the center like so...
Doesn't she look preeetty!
Don't mind the over ripe bananas in the back. Those are going to make for great banana bread!
Back to the cake, did I mention how tall this thing is!
I didn't want to cut her, I swear! 
But it had to be done. 
I had to taste it.
I like the frosting of this cake, but the cake itself was just not as moist as the first red velvet cake recipe I tried. But that just means I still gotta keep making more of these "practice" cakes.

Oh well, she still looks good though.