Merry Almost Christmas!
My family has Christmas dinner on the 24th every year so it’s almost time for the festivities to start at my place. Things have been very hectic with shopping and prepping for dinner and guests the last couple days. Also, if you’re from Edmonton, you know that we have been hit with a ton of snow (again) so the roads have been awful. Regardless, while I was out running errands the last few days, I couldn’t help but notice how nice people have been – cars letting each other in, people offering for you to go in front of them in lineups, etc. It definitely put a smile on my face since that’s what Christmas should really be about. Also, we have raised over $2,500 for Mark in Ukraine! I have been very impressed with how kind and generous everyone has been this holiday season.
In the spirit of Christmas, I wanted to share another cookie recipe for the holidays. Sugar cookies are a staple for me. I think they’re great for this time of year (and any time of year) since they make excellent gifts if packaged up in a nice tin. Decorating them can also be really fun with a group of friends or even kids (just put icing in squeeze bottles which makes it easier to handle for kids). For now, I am posting a basic sugar cookie recipe that you can either cut out using the cookie cutter of your choice and bake or you can sandwich the cookies with good quality preserves. I will post a royal icing recipe and some tips on decorating soon, so stay tuned.
Enjoy the cookies and have a wonderful Christmas!
Finished sugar cookie hearts with strawberry jam
With it being a hectic couple of weeks, Christmas coming up (4 days!) and all the baking and fundraising we did, I sadly don’t have time to post the recipes for all the cookies we made last week. I promise I will be posting them over time though, and if you have a specific one you want me to share just let me know. I figured for now I would pick one to share with everyone. It was really hard narrowing it down to just one. I ended up picking the chocolate caramel thumbprints. I’ve been making these for years from a recipe I got from a Holiday Cooking magazine and they’re one of my favourite cookies. This year, as part of our Christmas baking, we made 4 times the recipe – that’s how good they are! They’re loaded with everything that makes a cookie great – chocolate, nuts and caramel. I’ve had many people ask for the recipe so I’m sure you will love these!
chocolate caramel thumbprints ready to eat
Macaron Eton Mess
If you’ve tried making macarons before, you probably know how finicky they can be. The smallest variation in temperature, a slight amount of under or over beating the egg whites, or using bowls which aren’t impeccably clean can result in cookies which are far from perfect.
Cracked macaron shells – often result from not piping out the batter into rounds immediately after it is ready
However, the good news is that while the product may look imperfect, the cookies will generally still taste delicious. As my friends know, I can be a perfectionist when it comes to baking and any cookies which I deem unacceptable for others to eat or see are classified as the “rejects” and generally do not leave my house – for fear that someone will see them or, god forbid, eat the second rate baking! However, I am also very against wasting food. Thus, since it is somewhat impractical for me to eat all of the imperfect macarons which have resulted during my experimentation with past recipes, I have come up with a delicious dessert which can be made with the left over macaron shells. (more…)
I love pastry cream and am always tempted to eat it in spoonfuls when I make it! It has the most delicate, sweet flavour and tastes absolutely perfect when made with real vanilla bean. I try and always use vanilla bean instead of extract – it truly makes a difference! The pastry cream can be used in cakes or tarts, to fill eclairs and of course for macarons!
Vanilla bean – scored with seeds removed
Pastry cream is a custard (made through the process of cooking together cream or milk and egg or yolk) and can take a few tries before you feel comfortable with the process. The mixture should be heated over gentle heat – it may clump up or curdle if heated too quickly. If you are worried about heating it too quickly, you can use a double boiler to make sure the heating is slow and even. Generally the pastry cream begins to thicken at about 70°C and should not get higher than about 80°C. A few degrees can really make the difference between perfect custard and a clumpy ruined one so this is definitely not a dessert you leave heating on the stove and walk away. (more…)
I thought it would be fitting to have my first post be about macarons since they are one of my favourite desserts. While the French have been making macarons for centuries, they have only become popular in Canada in the last few years. I became a little obsessed with them partially because they were one of the few things that I attempted numerous times and still did not get right. So naturally I decided that when I was in Paris this fall, it was a great opportunity to take a macaron course and learn from the experts how to perfect the cookie. The macaron recipe from the course is what I’m going to share.
There are two methods for making macaroons: the Italian and the French method. Both are used extensively by Parisian bakers and result in cookies which taste largely identical, but the Italian method yields more stable cookies. As macarons are very finicky, I opt for the more stable method. Regardless, macarons can be tricky to make and will likely require a few tries to perfect them. To help you succeed, read through the entire recipe and tips below before starting. (more…)