Macaron Class {recap and supply list}

Y'all, the first cooking class of 2018 hosted by CounterspaceBR was a SUCCESS! I opened up my mostly renovated kitchen to five classmates and our instructor, Ruby Bloch of Salt & Light Pastry Co. We walked through Ruby's preferred method and perfected recipe for macaron... She instructed us step by step in the process and everyone had the chance to ask questions and take notes along the way!

Ruby Piping

A highlight for me was Ruby's detail in textures to look for, consistency clues, and the stories and tips of figuring out different recipes while on her culinary journey!

We will definitely plan to host Ruby again SOON! In the meanwhile, here are some of the tools we used for the class along with some tips on WHY they are important!

First: a scale! This is the one we used in class. It is a digital scale with the ability to go back and forth between measuring units and a very reliable tare feature! Precise measurement is key in preparing this delicate dessert!

Candy Thermometer is next. This is something that I use for a bunch of different treats, including marshmallows! I use this polder version. But Ruby likes the Taylor brand with a digital read! I might be adding that one to my collection!! A candy thermometer is important so that you have the right temperature of heated sugar to make a proper meringue. 

Meringue

Another important factor in the baking, is a sturdy flat sheet pan. I have 6 of the Nordic Ware half sheet pans and could probably add another half dozen to my collection for good measure :) Having a flat surface ensures the macaron will cook evenly and not end up "tilted."

Ruby

In that vein... it's also important to have super flat parchment paper. I accidentally bought full sheet pan size, but those are easy enough to cut in half OR you can purchase half sheet pan size here! It comes with 200 sheets, so maybe a good investment to split with another baking buddy!

Piping bags are also on the list. We used 18" disposable bags. I use these for much much more than just piping macaron, and these are easy to find at local craft supply stores (Michael's or Hobby Lobby). 

spatula

And for the piping bag... a piping tip! We used the Ateco 806 tip.  Wilton has a comparable tip as well! This tip is 1/2" in diameter and allows for proper control in piping and size to get uniform macaron.

The best part about all of the equipment we discussed is that NONE of the items are macaron specific, and most all of them will be very useful if you are looking to learn and explore baking a bit more! For me, purchasing the scale and thermometer opened up a pandora's box of possibility!!

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Homemade Funfetti Cake {and other reasons to purchase "Molly on the Range"}

Let me lay it out for you in simple terms: if you like to cook or bake you should purchase "Molly on the Range" by Molly Yeh (pronounced Yay!). If not for her name alone... seriously. 

This cookbook really hosts a massive array of culinary opportunities! From challah to cookies to homemade crackers to amazing hot dish recipes to soups to... the piece de resistance... HOMEMADE FUNFETTI CAKE!

This cake graces the cover of the book and is probably 97% of why I wanted it so badly. That, and every recipe from her blog that I have made has been utterly amazing. In fact, Molly's tahini buttercream oreos are a staple of my cookie repertoire. I digress, back to the cake.

This cake would be described by Mary Poppins as practically perfect in every way. And, I was so nervous to bake it. Like, I've had this cookbook since Christmas and haven't even read the recipe all the way through nervous. Then a few weeks ago, I was stressed and on edge and had absolutely no required baking on my agenda and I went for it. I had no reason whatsoever to bake it, but who needs an excuse for cake?!

Here are a few notes: it's amazing. You will want to eat it all. It calls for corn starch which gives it unreal texture. You only use egg whites, no yolks... which is kinda weird for cake. AND of most importance, you MUST you jimmies (long skinny sprinkles) NOT round tiny ones or flat ones or any other kind.

Then, if you follow her directions closely, you will produce this:

 

It took a heck of a lotta constraint to not eat all of it myself. At every turn that I could find an excuse to give some away, I did. It'll be fun to add it into the mix of cakes I can cater out for birthday parties PLUS you can convert it to cupcakes! And, I'm not gonna lie, it was a great opportunity for me to practice icing. I could really REALLY use some work on decorating cakes... but am excited for the challenge that brings!

 

So, y'all, if I have shared anything of value with you ever... it is this book. Buy it. Love it. Cook from it. Share it with others!

 

Banana Bread {aka browned butter can even make rotting fruit delicious}

A long long time ago (really just a decade ago), I worked for a campus ministry; and I was broke. Some of my best friends were also working for campus ministries and also broke.  During this time we honed many skills, most them involved cooking SUPER cheap meals and watching cable at other people’s houses.

We each had our go to for entertaining college students over coffee or dinner. Mine was baked ziti (and if I never make that dish again, I’ll be OK). My friend Allison pretty much owned banana bread. Think about it, cheap fruit + pantry staples = a delicious loaf of otherwise rotten fruit… and we were in no place to be throwing away food.

Over the years, her recipe has been my go to… but just recently I started to play with it, and well… browned butter later, here we are.

I almost always make two loaves at a time. Once I see bananas starting to turn south faster than I can eat them, I either freeze them or put them in the fridge if bread making is nigh! So here is a nice blend of Allison’s classic recipe with a few fancy twists and turns.

Chocolate Chip, Brown Butter Banana Bread (two loaves and very easy to half)

6-8 bananas (for me 7 is the magic number)

1 ½ cups butter

2 cups sugar (you can skimp a little on sugar if you want… but who would want to?!)

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

3 cups all purpose flour

1-2 cups chocolate chips (however many float your boat)

1.     Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and grease two 9x4 loaf pans (butter, pam, coconut oil spray, whatevs... we just don't want it to stick!!).

2.     Put the butter in a sauce pan on the stove to melt down and brown. This removes a lot of the water from the butter so there is crackling and popping and it takes a minute to get it browning then BAM watch out or it’ll burn before you know it (kind of like a roux). Then pour the browned butter into a separate bowl to cool off while you mash up the peeled bananas. I almost left out the detail of PEELING the bananas then I realized some people might need that note, so it’s there. I’m not assuming anyone here is an idiot… just attempting to be thorough!

3.    Mix in the sugar with the bananas then add the brown butter. Stir thoroughly (but don't OVER stir). Add the eggs and vanilla and fully incorporate.

4.     Then mix in the baking soda and salt.

5.     Fold in all the flour till it’s fully incorporated and there are no pockets of flour hanging out.

6.     Mix in the chocolate chips!

7.     Bake at 350 for 55ish minutes. I say that because every oven is a little different. I have an electric oven and this recipe takes about 5 minutes less than Allison originally noted… Basically at the 55 minute mark I use my cake testing stick to see if the stick can go in and come out dry. If it’s still not done, bake it in 5 minute increments till it is ready!

I typically cool the banana bread IN the pans for a good long while… maybe 30 minutes or so? THEN flip them onto a baking rack to cool the rest of the way. I’m not gonna lie, the smell alone makes waiting hard. Be warned.

I store it wrapped in aluminum foil and have never had to wonder how long it will last… cause we can finish a loaf within about 2-3 days. Don’t judge my life.

So, when you have the urge to bake and you don’t want to waste those almost gross bananas… there is a way out! What is your cheap and easy entertaining staple? Is banana bread a go to for you? Tell me! I always enjoying discovering new things, and what better way than asking an internet full of imaginary friends!

How We Redeemed 2016 {all it took was pie}

2016. Dumpster. Fire. Amirite? Hell, leave the election out of the picture and it was still a pretty bleak year... the massive flooding, kidney stones 3x over, getting stuck in a hurricane while on Disney vacation... it's been a bit of letdown.

But today might have undone all of the sad/weird/unfun bits of 2016 in a short 5 hour baking class. Today I had the pure delight of taking a class from one of my favorite cookbook authors/bloggers: Joy the Baker. Joy moved to New Orleans a couple of years ago to continue to expand her work as a novice baker turned fo' real baker (btw, I would love details on that transition so I have something to work towards). Today she opened her home, for the first time ever, to teach some of her skills to me and five others. When the opportunity to take the class appeared, I didn't doubt anything for one second. I signed up immediately, paid for a ticket, and THEN considered what I would do with my toddler for five hours....

Boy was it worth it! Not only was Joy lovely and one of the best hostesses I have ever encountered, my classmates were equally delightful! There was even another event planner in the mix!! The class started with quick intros then we dove right in! Joy taught by example then we would follow suit with each step, and it was hugely helpful! Like having an interactive cookbook... and lemme tell ya, I took every chance I could to ask questions of Joy and her helpers! 

She communicated details of crust and butter and pie liquid with such ease and grace (and humility!!), and I swear to you I produced the best pie crust I ever have in MAH LIFE. No cracks AND it was a large enough circle for the pie plate NOR did it rip when pouring in the filling. ALL kinds of victories today!

While the pies baked, we had the chance to interrogate her more, er, I mean, sit with her and eat lunch and have casual conversation... We covered a host of topics from how to raise good little humans, the joy of receiving cards in the mail, and all of the undergrad majors that had little to nothing to do with our current career. FYI, Joy studied broadcast journalism, so there could be hope for me to make a leap into fo' real baking with my communications degree!

Lunch ended with a most lovely surprise of hot chocolate in espresso cups and topped with homemade curry marshmallows that she featured in a facebook live tutorial yesterday! What. A. Treat. She then lead us through some tips on staging so we could get some profesh looking shots of our handy work before we all left to finish out our days. 

This class was not only educational, but it reminded me of so many things that I love outside of baking! It was an opportunity to be with a small group of people who have one shared interest, but otherwise diverse backgrounds and opinions and life stories. Friendships were made today, and a little bit of my faith in our ability as a community to be neighborly and uplifting was restored! Y'all, we really can get along. And one bad year doesn't have to define anything. Let pie define things. Ya heard?! Pie, y'all!

And now I want to thank, not only Joy for providing the opportunity and opening her home, but to all of the kind folks who enabled this! First, my dear friend who entertained my child so I could take the class; King Arthur Flour and Bellegarde Bakery for providing amazingly WONDERFUL ingredients; Jon and Britt who managed to make me feel like I was on the set of a real live cooking show by making things appear and disappear without ever being in the way; and to my classmates who encouraged me to pursue my creative side a little extra!

2016, you had some rough moments that I easily let define the whole year, but I'm excited to point to this fun day before throwing ALL 365 days out the window as a loss!