Like No Other Boss in the World


Those who know where I work will know why this post is titled the way it is, and those who don’t will have to have a great knowledge of company slogans to figure out that this is a play on the slogan of the company I work for.  It’s not really a big deal for me to disclose where I work (it’s not like I work for the CIA), and I’ve probably already mentioned it in a much, much earlier post from years ago, but oh well.  I don’t feel like saying today.

It’s been a weird week because my boss, who has been my boss for the last 10 years, is retiring and today is his last day.  Yesterday I brought in cupcakes — the best cupcakes I have made since the Yankees cupcakes I made years ago — in honor of his retirement.  Change is difficult enough, but change on this scale to me feels monumental.  I’m saying goodbye (for now) to someone who has been my mentor for the last 10 years (I wasn’t even 30 when I first started working here!), a person I considered my “work dad”/friend, someone who gave me guidance in matters both work-related and personal.  I’ve been lucky to have had him as my supervisor, because he always saw us as people first and his direct reports next.  And that’s a very rare quality to find in someone you work for.  So to me, he’s truly “like no other boss in the world.”  And now he no longer my boss/friend, but my friend.

This post is really about cupcakes, but this occasion was the reason I created these cupcakes in the first place.  And it led me to the best chocolate cupcake recipe I’ve ever made to date and will probably now be my “go-to” chocolate cupcake recipe.  Also the best chocolate buttercream I’ve ever made/had (which will also now be a “go-to”).  I found the recipe on Brown Eyed Baker’s blog and here it is below (copied and pasted from her blog):


yield: 12 cupcakes

prep time: 30 minutes

cook time: 17-19 minutes

total time: 1 hour 15 minutes

These cupcakes are a chocolate-lover’s dream!


For the Ganache Filling:
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

For the Cupcakes:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
⅓ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¾ cup hot coffee
¾ cup bread flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting:
1¼ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
¾ cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces chocolate (milk, semisweet or dark), melted and cooled


1. Make the Ganache Filling: Place the chopped chocolate, heavy cream and powdered sugar in a small bowl. Heat in the microwave on high power until the mixture is warm to the touch, 20 to 30 seconds. Whisk until smooth, then refrigerate until just barely chilled, no longer than 30 minutes.

2. Make the Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard-size muffin pan with liners. Place the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Pour the hot coffee over the mixture and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate mixture for 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside.

4. Whisk the oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla extract into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Add the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin pan cups. Place one slightly rounded teaspoon of ganache filling on top of each cupcake. Bake until the cupcakes are set and just firm to the touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pan and place on the wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.

6. Make the Frosting: In a food processor, process the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the corn syrup and vanilla extract and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl, then add the chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 one-second pulses. Frost the cupcakes as desired. The frosted cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.


  • The ganache filling can be omitted it if you’d like a more traditional chocolate cupcake.
  • The frosting can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 hours before using, or refrigerated for up to 3 days. If refrigerated, let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before using.
  • I used the Ateco #823 decorating tip for piping the frosting.

I left out the ganache filling and the cupcakes were just as moist and chocolatey without it.  Also, I used my KitchenAid for the frosting instead of a food processor.

As for the chocolates on top with his picture on them, they came from, this amazing company in California that puts your pictures on chocolates.  Not only do the pictures come out looking pretty sharp and detailed, they are also very good because they use Guittard chocolate for their bars.  I will definitely be giving them repeat business in the future!  Word to the wise though, you will need to order the chocolates probably a week in advance of the day you need them to give time for processing and shipping!  I was freaking out because I didn’t realize this and ordered maybe 3 or 4 days before I needed them, but Rae the owner of the company was very helpful when I needed to rush the order and change my method of shipping.  A great product and great customer service!

I put a lot of time and effort and love into the cupcakes and they were absolutely amazing! This is definitely one of my most memorable projects and it’s fitting that it was for the retirement of one of the most memorable people I have come across in my life so far.



Macaron Musings

Some of my macaron endeavors.

Macarons are a perfectionist’s nightmare.  When making macarons, a lot of things can go wrong, especially when you make them for the first time.  Technique makes all the difference and repetition (the trial and error way) is the only way to get it right.  But despite the annoyance of imperfect macarons, I find the process itself calming, everything from the precise measurement of the ingredients, patiently whipping the meringue, folding the dry ingredients into the meringue, looking out for the right consistency, piping the batter out onto the baking sheets to resting the piped batter before baking to anxiously waiting to see how it’s going to turn out once they’ve finished baking.  And then there’s the infinite variety of fillings and colors!  I’m geeking out about macarons, and only those who have journeyed down the macaron paved road will understand.

There are many many different techniques out there that work for different people, and it can get very overwhelming.  My Pinterest account has a board dedicated to French Macarons and all the blog posts I’ve read about making them.  After all my reading, I’ve found that Not So Humble Pie and BraveTart are two very exhaustive sources for all things macaron.

My main issue with macarons is preventing hollow shells.  While researching this problem, I came across a post on BraveTart’s blog that said:

If you want to understand why your macarons turn out hollow, skip the flavoring and food dye. To get to the bottom of hollows, you have to divorce the problem of ingredients from the problem of technique.

This made a lot of sense.  It’s best to start with the basics.  This way if anything goes wrong, you have less variables to consider when troubleshooting your macarons.  I think following this tip is good for anyone starting out with making macarons, not just those looking to prevent hollows.

I’m still working to get my macarons sans-hollows, still reading different posts on technique, etc.  Right now I’m focusing on working with Not So Humble Pie’s macaron recipe and getting the baking time right for my temperamental oven.  In the meantime, here are some thoughts…

  • Making macarons is not stressful if you are organized.  My routine goes like this:
    • Weigh out confectioners’ sugar, dump into bowl of Cuisinart chopper.
    • Weigh out almond flour, dump into bowl of Cuisinart chopper.
    • Add coloring if powdered and also dump into bowl of Cuisinart chopper.
    • Pulse the whole thing several times until the mixture is pretty fine.
    • Sift the mixture through a sieve into a bowl and set aside.
    • Prepare piping bag with piping tip, put a clip right before the piping tip (to prevent the batter from oozing out when you fill the bag) and put the whole thing inside one of those round takeout containers that usually contain liquids, opening the bag so the rim of the container is covered with the bag (like you’re lining the container with the piping bag).
    • Make meringue, do the macaronnage, pipe onto half sheet baking sheets lined with silicone baking mats.
  • There are hundreds of different macaron recipes out there, and they all have different baking temperatures and times.  Sometimes, even if you follow a recipe to the letter, you will still get bad macarons.  This is because every oven is different, and the only way you can really tell the true temperature of your oven is to get an oven thermometer.  Oven temperature and length of baking time greatly affects the outcome of macaron making.  Find what temperature and baking time works for you through trial and error and stick with it.
  • Aging egg whites — some say egg whites must be aged at least 24 hours before using, some say you don’t need to age the egg whites at all.  Supposedly, aged egg whites whip up better meringues, but I don’t think aged egg whites are really a must.  I age my egg whites, but not because they make better meringue, but because when egg whites are aged, they have more of a watery consistency and are easier to pour and weigh accurately without too many blobs of egg whites falling into the bowl, ruining my measurement and requiring me to start over.
  • As far as the consistency of the batter, the following video from The Macaron Diaries was very helpful to me in determining the right consistency, and my macaronnage technique is also very similar to hers…

This is another video that’s supposed to help with preventing hollows, which I         have not yet tried:

  • Resting the piped macaron batter for at least half an hour, or until the batter forms a thin skin and is no longer sticking to your finger if you lightly touch its surface is important.  This is how you get the “feet” that macarons are known for.  There are some recipes that don’t require resting the batter, but I find that it’s just good insurance to rest the batter to ensure the formation of feet.  From my readings, feet are formed because the skin at the top of the macaron prevents air from escaping through the top and so it must escape through the bottom.
  • Overbaking the macarons slightly is fine, because moisture from the fillings will get absorbed into the shells and bring the macs to the right consistency of having chewy insides and crisp outsides.  In fact, macarons are best when they’ve been left to “mature” in the fridge for 24-48 hours.
  • Once you find a method/recipe that works for you, keep it as your go-to method and recipe.  Experimentation is also good, but make sure you have a “home base” recipe that you can always go back to that is tried and true.

That about sums up everything I’ve learned so far from making macarons.  It’s very easy to get obsessed with making them and feel disappointed when after the 10th try you’re still getting imperfect macarons, but Stella (aka BraveTart) said it best when she wrote,

Have fun. Enjoy the process of making them and learning. Share them with friends and family; they’re not judging you. And if they are? They don’t deserve your delicious macarons (jerks). Because with or without hollows, macarons will always be delicious.

Bearing that in mind, it’s actually not so bad that I get air pockets/hollows in my macs.  I find that the shells actually get less hollow as the macarons mature.  And I’m sure no one minds the hollows once they bite into them.

The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake

This past week, we said farewell at work to my boss’s boss who retired after 40 years of service to the company.  For a farewell breakfast gathering on her last day, I decided to contribute by baking cupcakes.  With macarons on top because I’ve been obsessed with macarons ever since I decided to try making them again and was actually met with some degree of success.


Mini macarons filled with chocolate ganache that I made a couple of days ahead.
Mini macarons filled with chocolate ganache that I made a couple of days ahead.

I wanted to go all-out for this occassion so I went about searching for a really good chocolate cupcake recipe.  My googling led me to The Cupcake Project’s Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake, which is also copied here:

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake (from The Cupcake Project)

Yield: about 16 cupcakes


  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 2 ounces of your favorite chocolate (You can use any plain chocolate that you like except white chocolate or candy melts. The chocolate doesn’t have to be one typically earmarked for baking – any chocolate bar that isn’t flavored and doesn’t contain mix-ins like nuts, Rice Krispies, nougat, etc. will work.)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 fluid ounces) vegetable or canola oil, measured in a liquid measuring cup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (2 3/4 ounce) full-fat sour cream
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) cocoa powder (natural or dutched will both work with this recipe)
  • 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) room temperature water, measured in a liquid measuring cup


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix butter and sugar until fully combined. The end result should look like wet sand.
  3. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler.
  4. Once the melted chocolate is cool enough to touch, add it to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until just combined.
  5. Mix in eggs and egg yolks one at a time until just combined.
  6. Mix in oil, vanilla, and sour cream until just combined.
  7. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder into a separate medium-sized bowl. Use a fork or a whisk to ensure that the ingredients are mixed well after sifting.
  8. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in three additions, mixing until just combined after each addition.
  9. Mix in water until just combined.
  10. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and put in the oven.
  11. Check for doneness at 18 minutes – a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake should come out clean. If they are not done, check again every three minutes until they are done.
  12. Immediately remove cupcakes from the cupcake tin and place on a cooling rack or on the counter to cool to room temperature. Although they are really good when they are hot, be sure to wait until they are room temperature to give your evaluation.


If you would like to add coffee to the recipe, either add 1 teaspoon espresso powder or instant coffee granules along with the sifted dry ingredients, or replace the water with room temperature brewed coffee.

This recipe is interesting because it’s not really about the ingredients but about the method and technique.  It takes a “Choose Your Own Adventure” (remember those books???) approach with respect to the following:

  1. Choose your own cocoa powder (it can be either natural unsweetened or Dutch-processed)
  2. Choose your own chocolate (but it must be plain and not white chocolate, and no candy melts and must not have any mix-ins like nuts, etc.).
  3. Choose whether or not to add coffee.

If you don’t know where to start or have difficulty choosing, you can visit the post which I’ve linked to and see her suggestions.  As for me, I knew I was going to go high-end on my cocoa powder.  I was originally going to go with Scharffen Berger (which I love and is also the cocoa powder responsible for taking me away from Hershey’s cocoa), but decided to go for something new when the Italian Pernigotti cocoa powder came to my attention while I was browsing Amazon for Scharffen Berger cocoa (since I was all out).  Fortunately, I was able to pick some up from Williams-Sonoma during my break from work because I needed the cocoa ASAP.

The image below shows the progression from package to package opening to batter making to finished product:

a. Pernigotti cocoa packaging (12 oz.); b. The cocoa has a deep reddish-brown color. c. My cupcake batter made with this luxe cocoa. d. The resulting cupcakes, cooling from the oven.
a. Pernigotti cocoa packaging (12 oz.); b. The cocoa has a deep reddish-brown color. c. My cupcake batter made with this luxe cocoa. d. The resulting cupcakes, cooling from the oven.

The batter was so delicious that it made me want to lick the bowl clean before washing it, but I restrained myself.  It even had that deep chocolate aroma of a rich, moist batter that you just know will turn out great cupcakes.  It was quite promising, but one look at how rich and thick and gooey that batter was had me worrying for the state of my cupcake liners, which in the past have had the tendency to peel away from the cupcakes whenever the batter I was working with was super moist like this one.  So before I even filled my liners, I googled for how to prevent this problem and I came across a couple of blogs where they blamed the quality of cupcake liners.  Some swore by grease-proof cupcake liners that never peeled away, but then there were others who said they were using grease-proof, quality liners yet they were still having the problem.  And then I came across a couple of other blogs where they realized that the problem is caused by underbaked cupcakes.  I thought to my past cupcake bakes and realized that yes, I had been baking my cupcakes just short of being completely done because I feared overbaked, dry cupcakes.  Anyway, the advice worked.  I baked my cupcakes at the instructed 18 minutes, then made sure that the toothpick came out clean before deciding to pull out the batch, indicating that my cupcakes were completely done.  I then set them out to cool and nervously waited for the papers to peel away, and lo and behold, they did not!  So before you shell out for more expensive cupcake liners, try this solution first!

So after all that, how were the cupcakes?  The cupcakes, my friends, were amazing.  Everyone was impressed and they loved them.  The taste was deeply chocolaty, moist and not too sweet (I cut down the amount of sugar to 3/4 cup and also cut the vanilla to 3/4 teaspoon since the cocoa powder I used has hints of vanilla in it, and I also opted to add coffee by substituting a cup of brewed coffee for the water). They also keep well in the fridge and seem to get more moist as they sit.  I just had one now without frosting (by the way, I frosted the ones I brought to work with Swiss meringue buttercream, one chocolate/espresso and the other almond).

I’m sure that if you use different ingredient choices from me, you will end up with a different experience, but supposedly, there is no wrong way to do these cupcakes.  It’s a recipe meant to please most if not everyone by catering to their particular tastes in ingredients.  So give it a try and see if the results are to your liking!  As for me, I may have found a go-to chocolate cupcake recipe.

(Edit: I forgot to mention that my chocolate bar of choice for this recipe was Godiva 72% dark chocolate!)

Galaktoboureko Cupcakes


Ok so they’re not literally cupcakes.  They are round little parcels of flaky, buttery, syrupy, custardy goodness.  My history with galaktoboureko began about five years ago, which was the first time I ever had it.  My friend Geoff is the one I credit for introducing me to it.  My first bite of it was a revelation…up until that point, I hadn’t known of any Greek desserts besides baklava.

I’m not sure what made me want to do a cupcake shaped version of the dessert, but it had been on my mind lately and I wanted to see if I could make it work.  It turns out I could.  But before I tried, I googled to see if anyone’s done it before and surprisingly, I couldn’t find any posts about anyone doing this with galaktoboureko.  I’m sure I’m not the first one though.  Google, expansive though it may seem, is not the authority on whether or not anyone has ever made galaktoboureko in the shape of cupcakes so I’m not going to get all smug and claim to be the first.  I’m just the first that I know of.

The recipe and instructions are as follows:

Galaktoboureko Cupcakes
(recipe adapted from Iron Chef Cat Cora’s original, halved to make a dozen standard size galaktoboureko cupcakes)


For the galaktoboureko:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup fine semolina
  • 1 /2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter (5 1/3 tbsp)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 sheets thick, commercial filo dough (if you come across a brand that shows the number, I used a #7)
  • 2/3 cup clarified butter, to brush on filo sheets

For the syrup:

  • 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 lemon


Custard:  In a heavy pot, bring the milk to a boil. Sprinkle in the semolina, whisking constantly over very low heat. Add the sugar, then simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring from time to time. Remove from the heat and add the butter and the eggs, 1 by 1, stirring. Blend in the vanilla. The mixture will be thick but pourable, like a sauce.

Preheat the oven to 375F.


But first, a word about filo that is commercially available…

For those unfamiliar, some brands of filo (like Apollo, the brand I used) tell you the number of the type of filo pastry it is.  The higher the number, the thicker each sheet, therefore the easier to work with.  I worked with #7 filo sheets.  It was either that or the #4, the only other option available in the store, and previous experience with filo has taught me that I do not want to work with a thinner sheet.

Getting on with the instructions…

Before cutting up my filo into squares the size I needed, I needed to know how big the squares should be.  I practiced with a sheet of Kleenex (a clean one), that I cut into a 6″ x 6″ piece and working it into one of the cups of my muffin tin to see how it would work.  Turned out to be a good size.

As mentioned on the package, each filo sheet was 14″ x 18″.  I decided I would make my cups 4 sheets of filo thick.  Each sheet would give me 6 smaller squares when cut.  I counted out 8 sheets (because each muffin tin has 12 cups and I would need two sets of 6 squares 4 sheets deep) and cut them lengthwise, and then cut each half into thirds (little did I know when I was a little girl how much fractions would come in handy someday!).  I now had a stack of 48 squares to work with (the squares were roughly 6″ x 6″, not exact because I didn’t want to cut off 2 inches of filo from the width of the sheets just for the sake of precision…it would’ve been unnecessary waste!)

To assemble the cups, I layered 4 squares of filo with brushes of butter in between, also brushing butter on the top square.  I then pressed this into one of the cups in the muffin tin, arranging it so there was as much room for custard as possible (there will be filo overhang, but this is necessary).  Then with a ladle, I filled the cup with custard all the way to the rim, then folded down the overhanging flaps of filo sticking up to create a protective cover over the custard.  After folding them down, I brushed the tops with butter to seal and weigh down the flaps.  See below:

My muffin tin after assembling my galaktoboureko cupcakes.

Between pressing the filo sheets into the muffin tin and brushing the sheets before they go in, you end up with very buttery fingers and a buttery pastry brush handle, but I don’t mind getting my hands dirty.  It also takes quite some time to assemble the little darlings, but if you want good results, you must be patient and do things with care.

When done assembling the muffin tin, I baked it at 375F for 30 minutes, checking to see how golden brown the filo was getting.  Once they achieved the shade of golden brown in the picture below, I removed from the oven.

I freaked out a little when I saw that the tops of the cupcakes were puffing up, thinking they would puff up all the way and expose the custard, but was extremely pleased when they came out looking like this:


I made the syrup while the cupcakes were baking and when they came out, I spooned a bit of syrup into each cupcake’s opening at the top.  Then I took them out of the pan and brushed the tops and sides of the cupcakes with the syrup for good measure.

I let them sit out for a couple of hours before enjoying one —


And it tasted every bit as good as it looked.  Took a long time, but it was worth it!

Macarons Revisited

Macarons.  Those colorful, round discs made of meringue and filled with some kind of buttercream or ganache or other…so pretty to look at, so delicious to stick in your mouth and chew, so difficult to get right the first time.  With so many techniques and what-to-do’s and what-not-to-do’s, should-I-age-my-egg-whites, should-I-let-them-rest-before-baking…It’s enough to drive the average baker crazy!  You can easily spend hours reading on the right technique and end up psyching yourself out in favor of baking the safe, reliable, hard-to-mess-up chocolate chip cookies instead…

But not me.  I want to join the ranks of the baking elite who can master the macaron.  So today I made another attempt, three years after my last attempt.  If you care to read about my past attempts, read here —,  but who wants to dwell on the past?

Today’s attempt brought me this:


My first few attempts were based on the Swiss meringue method, a method I learned from a workshop I attended a few years back.  Today I made these coffee flavored macarons using a French meringue method.  I didn’t want to fuss with boiling sugar, getting the right temp (as is required when you use the Swiss or Italian meringue methods), and all that.

They look okay on the outside, could be prettier, but this is the attempt I am most proud of to date.  I may have undermixed my batter because the shells were hollow.  I’ve already done the obsessive research required to try to prevent this next time, and will try to employ those changes on my next attempt.

They’re delicious, by the way.  The coffee flavor is distinct and the chocolate ganache filling complements it very nicely.  I got the recipe from The Spice Train, but I will copy it here:

Coffee Macarons (from The Spice Train blog)

*This recipe is only for the macarons, not the filling.  You can get the complete recipe here — The Spice Train.  My notes on this recipe are in parentheses.


  • This recipe makes about 28 macaron shells (14 macarons). (It actually makes way more if you keep your piping to about 1″ diameter shells.)
  • 200 grams powdered sugar
  • 110 grams almond flour
  • ¾ teaspoon instant espresso powder (I increased this to a full teaspoon)
  • 90 grams egg whites (about 3 eggs)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 25 grams granulated sugar
  1. Pulse powdered sugar, almond flour and espresso powder in a food processor until well combined. Set aside. (I just used a sieve to sift the almond flour and powdered sugar)
  2. Whip egg whites and vanilla to a nice bubbly foam.
  3. Gradually add the granulated sugar to the egg whites, continuing to beat until you have a glossy meringue that just barely holds stiff peaks.
  4. Fold the almond mix into the whipped egg whites until combined. (It’ll be a sticky, very slow-flowing, thick mass).
  5. Using a large round tip pipe the macaron onto two baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  6. If your macarons keep a little tip in the center, get your finger wet with a little bit of cold water and push the tip down.
  7. Let the macarons sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  8. Heat the oven to 280 degrees F. (I baked at 300F)
  9. Bake the macarons for 15 to 20 minutes, switching positions of the baking sheets halfway through. (I didn’t bother switching positions since I only had one baking sheet in at a time…I have a tiny oven)
  10. Once baked, leave the macarons in the oven, turn the oven off and open the oven door. After 15 minutes, take the macarons out. (didn’t bother with this since I had multiple batches)

Things I did this time around that were not mentioned in the instructions:

  • I aged my egg whites about 24 hours (for this recipe I used 3 egg whites).
  • I added two drops of brown food coloring to the whites along with the vanilla, pre-whipping.  Upon further research, I think maybe I should add it and the vanilla later, once the stiff peaks have formed, because that’s what all the sources I’ve checked out say.
  • I beat the meringue on high until the stiff peaks formed.  Next time I will beat on medium and wait a little longer, since the following video mentioned that beating on medium results in a sturdier meringue:
  • I added the dry ingredients to the meringue in two batches.  Next time I will add the meringue to the dry ingredients in three batches, like the video suggests.
  • My batter was blob-like in consistency, but still a little on the fluffy side.  Next time I will deflate it a little more, because I think this contributed to the shells being hollow.  Too much air.
  • I rested my macarons before baking for about 45 minutes.  I’m not sure if this was too much, but maybe next time I’ll try a little less.  I don’t know if resting time was a factor in the shells being hollow.
  • I baked a batch for 13 minutes at 300F and it seems to have had the best feet and were the most stable (meaning they weren’t still a bit raw…).  Next time I’ll try 15 minutes.
Baked at 300F for 13 minutes.
Baked at 300F for 13 minutes.
  • The ganache was a 1-1 ratio of chocolate to heavy cream.  3 oz. dark chocolate, 3 oz. heavy cream.  Let stand for a few hours until it’s stable enough to pipe onto the shells.  I will probably use this same filling next time.

You can go cross-eyed reading all the tips and tricks to get your macarons right and go mad in the process.  It’s such a finicky thing, the macaron, that techniques that work for one baker may not work for another.  Rather than drive myself nuts reading too many tips and tricks, I will take a little bit of this and a little bit of that, add those to my own common sense and experience, and find my own way.  It’s the closest thing to a scientific pursuit that I’ve come to in my baking journey.  Making macarons is not just baking…it’s pretty much a science that requires plenty of experimentation, note taking, adjusting and trial and error.  I’m probably going to make notes in a little notebook every time I make an attempt now.  And oh yes, I’m loving the opportunity to geek out here.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the way these turned out.  The next mission is to eliminate hollow shells.  Stay tuned.

The Great British Bake Off

Once upon a time, I had a love of baking.  And then, life happened and I suddenly lost that love of baking.  Three years later, a show called The Great British Bake Off came along and suddenly…I want to bake again!

Though now deeply addicted to the show, it was not easy getting me to watch it in the first place.  Co-workers whose fond memories of my baking refused to leave them would tell me about the show, thinking that it would interest me because well…I used to bake all the time.  I would thank them and make empty replies of how I’d check it out, it sounds good, bla bla bla, but never really watch the show (I had the same reaction when people told me about Cupcake Wars on Food Network).

Then one day, someone from another group at work saw me in the kitchen and remarked on how I’m probably a good cook, after seeing the food I was heating up.  Then she remembered my interest in baking and became the second person to tell me about The Great British Bake Off (The Great British Baking Show here in America…I don’t know why we needed to mess with a good title!).

Anyway, long story short, the way she told me about the show made me curious and so I ended up binge-watching the show one Saturday, finishing the first season in one day and starting the next the following Sunday.  An addiction was born.

Charmed by the lovely, non-catty, non-bitchy personalities of the baketestants, the histories of various pastries and other baked goodies presented on the show — Clootie dumplings? What are clootie dumplings?  And what in the hell is THIS?!?

Turns out it’s a Charlotte royale!  Which I’ve never heard of nor seen before!  But it’s damn hard to make!  Ahem, as I was saying…Charmed by the lovely, non-catty, non-bitchy personalities of the baketestants, the histories of various pastries and other baked goodies presented on the show, not to mention the lovably funny presenters Mel and Sue, judges Paul Hollywood (that’s seriously his last name and he’s not even American!) and Mary Berry (yup, that’s really her name too!), and the unassuming venue of a great big white tent in which the bakers do all their baking in the middle of some random English country estate, I couldn’t help the urge to break out my KitchenAid named Matilda.  Sometimes I even bake along to the show.  I’m completely smitten and inspired to bake again, this time with flavors I have never tried before but have seen on the show (chai spice tea loaf, anyone?).  I’m even planning to attempt and practice until I get macarons right again!

Great British Bake-off

So thank you, Great British Bake Off, you have restored my love of baking.  Thank you.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes

I’ve been slowly but surely getting on the vegan/gluten-free bandwagon, and this is my latest foray into the world of vegan/gluten-free baking.  I made these cupcakes for my yoga teachers, whose one-year anniversary teaching at the studio where I practice was yesterday…

I apologize for the poor quality of the image, but I promise, these cupcakes got great reviews from the people who ate them (my teacher told me that another student even asked for the recipe!).  Looking at them you wouldn’t even think that they were vegan/gluten-free and even if you did get to taste them, the only giveaway would be the texture, which was ever so slightly grainy due to the gluten-free flour blend that I use, which so far has NEVER failed me in any recipe as  substitute for regular flour.

This recipe was adapted from a vegan chocolate cake recipe that I got from a vegan baking class I attended at Haven’s Kitchen months ago.  The original recipe did not provide for gluten-free restrictions, but I simply used a 1-1 substitution of gluten-free flour blend for all purpose flour.  I also tweaked the flour measurement from the original 1 1/4 cup and made it 1 3/4 cup (it was actually an accident, but one that worked out anyway!)

Recipe as follows:

Vegan, Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes (makes about 16 standard sized cupcakes)
 1 3/4 cup gluten free flour blend (click the link for the recipe)
 1 cup sugar (I used vegan cane sugar from Whole Foods)
 1/3 cup cocoa
 1 tsp. baking soda
 ½ tsp. baking powder
 1 cup warm water
 1 tsp. vanilla extract
 1/3 cup vegetable oil
 1 tsp. distilled white or apple cider vinegar

Combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately. Pour liquids into the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon until combined.
Fill cupcake cups about 2/3 full with batter and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes, testing with a toothpick for doneness.
Vegan Ganache (for frosting cupcakes) — make this ahead of time

12 oz. vegan chocolate chips
6 oz almond milk
1 tablespoon vegan butter substitute (I used Earth Balance in stick form)

Place vegan chocolate chips and vegan butter substitute into a bowl
Heat almond milk in small sauce pan until it starts to simmer.
Pour into bowl with chocolate chips and vegan butter substitute and stir until the chocolate is completely melted along with the vegan butter substitute.
You can let it chill at room temperature for a few hours until it reaches desired consistency for frosting
OR chill in the refrigerator for about 20 – 30 minutes, constantly checking if it has reached your desired consistency for frosting.  I just kept checking it every 10 minutes or so to make sure it didn’t get too thick.

A note about sugar.  In the recipe I used vegan cane sugar from Whole Foods (as pictured below).  The reason for this is that regular table sugar is processed from the raw form by using bone char, which comes from animal bone, making the sugar technically no longer vegan.  I don’t know the specifics of how sugar is processed, just that bone char is used by a majority of companies that produce sugar.