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!

 

Breakfast Casseroles: an Art not a Science

Let's talk breakfast casseroles for a moment... typically I just say throw together some eggs, breakfast meat, bread, cheese, maybe veggies? And BOOM! Delicious... then you find an actual breakfast casserole RECIPE (wha!?) and it changes your life.

Two disclaimers:

1. Don't attempt if you don't have access to GOOD bagels. I was spoiled my last three years in DC and lived a few blocks away from TWO quality bagel spots. Needless to say, I haven't recreated this recipe since leaving cause grocery store freezer bagels just won't cut it. 

2. This does require an overnight soaking. Trust me. I've tried to be "quick about it" and nah... no good. SHOULD you make this casserole you will understand.

This is the beauty of this beast, it is crunchy and toasted bagely on top and yummy eggy baked goodness on the bottom.

Before the baked deliciousness entered the oven! So much color and flavor for a breakfast casserole! 

Before the baked deliciousness entered the oven! So much color and flavor for a breakfast casserole! 

This recipe is from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. She is a blogger turned cookbook author, and you should cook everything she tells you to. 

Ingredients:

8 cups of bagels cut into 1-inch cubes (I use 6-7 bagels)

8 ounces of cream cheese COLD and cut into small bits (aka one block of cream cheese... and you can go lighter by using neufchatel cheese)

1/4 medium red onion, halved lengthwise, and SUPER thinly sliced into quarter moons

1 1/2 cups small tomatoes, preferably grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half OR quartered if they are on the larger size

8 eggs

2 1/3 cups milk OR half-and-half (I typically do a mix of the two)

1 tsp table salt

freshly ground pepper

Prepare the casserole!!

Spread a third of the bagel cubes into a 9x13 baking dish. Dot the bagels with a third of the cream cheese bits and 1/3 of the red onions + tomatoes. Repeat in two more alternating layers. Whisk the eggs with milk, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the bagel and cheese mixture... this is when you can turn the bagels to face up certain ways so they are pretty for a nice picture! Cover tightly with plastic wrap and REFRIGERATE OVERNIGHT!!!

The next morning, remove the casserole from the fridge then set your oven to 350 degrees. Once the oven is ready, pop it in and bake UNCOVERED in the middle rack. This will take about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes to cook through. The top should be golden brown, the casserole should have puffed up a little bit, and you should be able to insert a knife without any liquid (like when you make sure your cakes are cooked through). 

You can serve this as is, or with lox and sprinkle of capers. 

Y'all, this will be the hit of brunch parties or baby showers or you will just love yourself a little more for having prepared it. DELISH.

GO! Make haste! Find good bagels and let this bad boy rest overnight and have a yummy Christmas week/New Year's breakfast treat!

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!