Macarons: Well Worth the Effort

Macarons

 

Macarons are everybody’s darling at the moment and I wanted to make them too. I am so glad I did.

There are two different methods making them: French or Italian. The French method beats all the egg whites with the sugar until stiff peaks form. Then you combine it with almond meal and powdered sugar mixture. The Italian method is a lot more work. You add half the egg whites to the almond meal and powdered sugar mix. Then you cook the sugar to a syrup, beat the egg whites to soft peaks and add the syrup slowly. After that you beat it until stiff peaks form and combine it with the almond meal mix.

I have tried both methods, but had more success with the Italian method; by more success I mean no cracked shells. Here I used the recipe from the Bouchon Bakery book.

I have filled them with a dark chocolate ganache or Nutella in a pinch. I like the ganache better, because the slight bitterness of the chocolate offers a nice contrast to the sweetness of the Macaron.

Anyway, Macarons taste amazing. I love the crunchy texture with the soft centre. I highly recommend you give them a try.

Here you can find detailed instructions and the recipe for the Italian method.

And here for the French method. Good luck and enjoy!

 

Chicklets and Macaron

A Little Treat

Tulips

I have been working on adding activities to my daily life that make me happy. The theory is that if you spice up your day with things you find pleasant, you will have an easier time when you are stressed.

For me this is a two-part challenge. My daily to-do list is very long, plus I get often interrupted. Until recently I found it very satisfying to get things done, not allowing myself to sit down for half an hour reading a book.

The second challenge of enjoying what you do is recognizing it. Am I always running around with my thoughts about the next thing I need to be doing without paying attention to what I am doing at the moment? I have been trying to apply more mindfulness to my daily life. When I am taking a shower, I try to focus on how the hot water feels on my skin. When I am drinking my favourite cup of tea, I savour the taste, inhale the scent. It is about recognizing that special moment after dinner, when we all sit together and talk about our day.

I also promised myself I would always have flowers in my house, especially in the dark season. Recently I bought the tulips in the photo. They were so pretty and made me smile every time I walked by.

These last months have been very stressful for me. Several times I have been pushed beyond the point of exhaustion and had to go on. I have realized I needed to learn new skills to cope better. This is part of my journey.

P.s.: If you want to get the most out of eating chocolate I challenge you to try the chocolate meditation. It is a lot of fun.

Expats Celebrating Fasching

Berliner

This time of year people in Germany celebrate carnival, also called Fasching depending on the region. It is where you dress in costumes, have parades, give more or less funny speeches, drink a lot and eat very greasy food. This is the big party before lent.

While I have never been a great fan of Fasching I love the deep fried jelly doughnuts that come with it. I don’t eat them any other time, but once every year I make a batch of Berliner as they are called in Germany. A fresh doughnut, still warm from deep frying is absolutely delicious. This year I was especially successful because I made them smaller and used a top-notch thermometer.

Today we had our moment of Fasching, all of us at the dining table, eating the jam dripping Berliner and listening to a carnival speech on Youtube. I think that was it until next year.

Speaking of Berliner, many years ago I met an American student in Germany who asked me if John F. Kennedy really said he was a jelly doughnut when he came to West Berlin in 1963 and declared: “Ich bin ein Berliner.” I was very astonished. That thought had never occurred to me and I assured her it was not true. Her relief was intense, so acute had been her embarrassment.  You can read more about the historic event in this article.

If you want to celebrate as well, here is the recipe:
(pdf Version)

Berliner

500g flour

2 tsp instant yeast

30g sugar

20g vanilla sugar ( or 50g sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract)

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

1/2 cup of milk

100g melted butter

**********************

1 egg white

1 cup jam or jelly

sugar

Makes about 18 small Berliner

Make a yeast dough with all the ingredients except the last three. Let it rise once, roll out the dough to about 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thickness. Use a circular cookie cutter with a circumference of 7cm ( about 3 inches) and cut out the dough. Spread one circle with egg white and top it with another. Repeat until all the dough is used up. Let them rise in a warm place.

In the meantime heat frying oil to 170 to 190 C ( 340 to 375 F). Take a baking sheet, set a cooling rack over it and top it with paper towels. Use this to drain the fat off the Berliner when they are done frying. Attach a 1/4 tip to a piping bag, fill bag with the jelly. Pour some sugar onto a plate, set aside.

Deep fry the Berliner in small batches, until they are golden brown on both sides. Drain and let them cool down a bit, fill each with about 1 Tbsp of jelly and dip them in the sugar.

Enjoy!

Catching Butterflies

Catching Butterflies I

This morning there was frost on the grass and I felt pretty good about myself. Why? Not only was I prepared with a new warm coat and a pair of boots for my daughter, but incredibly enough I have knit her a pair of fingerless gloves and I finished them just in time! Shocking, right? I have been spending a lot of time sitting around waiting lately and making lemonade out of lemons I have put the time to good use and have been knitting.

Knitting these gloves was quite a journey. Choosing the yarn was easy. I knew I wanted to use the Merino Cashmere blend yarn and she liked it right away, but which colour? My youngest daughter knows her mind and on the third (!) try I finally go the colour she wanted. Picking the pattern was easy too. When I showed her the pattern by Tiny Owl she was hooked.

Knitting the pattern was not so straight forward. The yarn I used is very similar to the one in the pattern so I cast-on with my usual long-tail cast-on and knit away. I knew fairly soon that I was in trouble, but she was in school and I had time to knit. The thing is, these gloves are tiny. So I suggest you knit them for someone with slender arms and small hands, knit it with a DK weight yarn or cast on more stitches.

When my 13 y/o daughter tried the first glove on it did fit, but the cast-on was uncomfortably tight. She bravely told me she could manage it.  At that point I was well into the glove and did not want to start over, so I soldiered on. As a bind-off I used the sewn bind off for more elasticity. I left the thumbs for last and started on the second glove, for which I used the backwards-loop cast-on. Much better!

While I was knitting the second glove I was thinking about how I could fix the too tight cast-on and after finding this video I decided to cut off the whole cuff and re-knit it again this time in the other direction. It was fairly easy and worked really well. I finished the the gloves and gave them to my daughter to try them on. She was very pleased about the cuff, but now we had a new problem: In one glove she could not get her thumb into it and on the other one the thumb turned bright red right away. It was cutting off her circulation! At that point we both started laughing.

I unraveled the thumbs, re-knit them with added stitches and started on the butterflies. It turns out that it is quite difficult to get even tension on mohair boucle yarn, so that the butterflies looked a bit lopsided. Still, being so close to the finish line I attached them and proudly handed the gloves to my daughter. I was happy until I saw her face. She said that the butterflies did not look like butterflies and the “bodies” looked weird. She’d rather have no butterflies than these. Ouch!

Catching Butterflies III

OK, I wanted her to have butterflies on her gloves, so I re-knit one butterfly, embroidered the body with a running stitch and discovered I could improve the other butterflies’ shapes by running a thread through them and tightening it a bit without it being noticeable. Finally success!

Catching Butterflies II

 

The pattern  for the Catching Butterflies gloves by Tiny Owl Knits can also be found on Ravelry.

Happy Halloween

Image

This year we are hosting Tim the Enchanter, the Greek goddess Artemis, a skeleton and are celebrating with homemade caramel apples.

The caramel recipe is from the book Bouchon Bakery, about which I have talked before. The secret ingredient is Creme Fraiche. I have recently bought a digital candy thermometer and used it today for the first time. It works great! The display is easy to read and it an alarm goes off when the right temperature is reached.

Unfortunately the chocolate chips slipped down the apples as soon as my back was turned, but the apples taste great anyway.



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