Monday, May 27, 2013

Classic French: Macarons


Earl Grey Macarons

We had been wanting to go on a picnic recently, but the weather was not cooperating.  Finally, Brian had a day off that also promised nice weather. We jumped at the chance!

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As I’ve said before, picnics should be relaxing and fun, so keep it simple.*  I did want to make it a pretty picnic, so I went with a blue/white theme.  It was as easy as going through my linen closet and kitchen cabinets.  I have a lot of blue and white things, so this was no problem to put together.  I have to say it was genius of me to think of the coasters, they gave our cups a level-ish place to stand.  My 2 year old had absolutely no trouble keeping his cup upright this way. 

Since I knew that we were having our Classic French Macarons for dessert at this picnic, we decided to have something of a French picnic with a baguette, a selection of cheeses, deli ham and some gorgeous purple grapes, with lemonade to drink. Aside from the pre-chilled lemonade and macarons, everything else was picked up at the grocery store on the way to the park. Super easy prep!

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Sophie enjoying her bread.

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Daddy dressed Liam as a pirate, in hopes he would keep something on his head.  Great idea Dad!

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Our Earl Grey Macarons!  I packed them in a small metal loaf pan and kept them chilled with the lemonade during transportation.  I didn’t have to worry too much about melting because the filling is ganache, much more stable than buttercream in the heat.

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Liam kept reaching for these; he knows a good thing when he tastes it.

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Unplugging from the world and just spending time together as a family in nature is good for you.

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It brings calm and happiness.

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It makes memories.


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So, in keeping with my Classic French experience so far; here is my first time eating and making macarons.  I think, for my first time, they turned out pretty well.  I know they are not perfect, but they could be worse!  Anyway, they tasted fantastic, and that’s what they are for!

I followed the recipe and advice from Stella Parks of  She is a macaron master, and I learned so much from her posts about macarons.  You can find her basic recipe HERE!  I adapted her recipe by adding the contents of 3 Twining’s Earl Grey tea bags (1 Tablespoon of dry tea) to the dry ingredients.  Earl Grey has such a lovely fragrance!  For the filling, I made an Earl Grey infused chocolate ganache.  This ganache is crazy good!  It was actually the basis for this whole Earl Grey macaron concept.  I first encountered Earl Grey truffles at Claude’s Chocolates in St. Augustine, Florida.  And they are amazing!  I don’t know why it has taken me so long to try this. 

Earl Grey Ganache


8 ounces good quality milk chocolate chips

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional for normal truffles, but good for a smooth filling.)

1 Earl Grey Tea bag or 1 teaspoon of loose Earl Grey in a diffuser


Place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl.  Place the cream, butter and tea in a small saucepan.  Heat on medium low to allow the cream to slowly warm and the tea to infuse it.  Allow the tea to steep for about 5 minutes after the cream is good and warm (you should gently stir it often), then turn up the heat to medium and bring the cream just barely to a boil. Remove the tea and pour the cream over the chocolate.  Stir the mixture until it is smooth and shiny.  Allow it to cool to room temperature before piping into the macarons.

A note on macarons.  Stella Parks mentions that macarons get better with age.  You just stash them in the fridge.  I have to tell you that when I first made these, I had one to test the flavor.  They were too sweet!  Not the ganache, but the shells.  So sweet I didn’t think they were very good.  But I put them in the fridge and left them for 5 days until we could have our picnic.  Something magical happened during 5 days of refrigeration.  The sweetness mellowed somehow.  They are still sweet, of course, but just right.  And the Earl Grey really shines.  So, please, send your macarons on refrigerated vacation.  It’s the right thing to do.

*My philosophy of picnics is that they should be relaxing and stress-free.  Too much work will not allow that, so that’s why I keep things simple.  If you, however, can pay someone to do all the work for you, then you can throw an elaborate picnic like the olden days. BBC Food has an excellent article on picnics, and how you can enjoy a traditional picnic.  But, no matter how you picnic, make sure it is enjoyable, and spend time with people you love. 

Thanks to Jen at Blue Kitchen Bakes for giving us the Classic French Challenge and Victoria at A Kick At The Pantry Door for hosting this month.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Forever Nigella #25 Roundup



It was so fun to host Forever Nigella for April!  I loved seeing all the colorful entries.  I also enjoyed getting to see some blogs I haven’t visited before, and getting to virtually meet some of you on twitter and through comments.  Foodie bloggers are some of the best!  And we excel at trying new things, so these monthly events are exciting and fun. I hope some of you  that are not yet taking part will jump right in with the rest of us. 

Here are our lovely, colorful entries this month:

Naomi from It’s a fine, fine life adapted Mauritian Prawn Curry for the Slow Cooker, which she used daily for the month of April in her own Month of Slow Cooking.  Beautiful and a time saver!


Sally the Recipe Junkie (who has challenged herself to make everything in How to Be a Domestic Goddess) made this Raspberry Polenta Cake, loosely based on Nigella’s Rhubarb Cornmeal Cake.  And then she poured cream on it, which means we were destined to be friends.

Sally also made Chicken Under A Brick for her entry in a Random Recipe Challenge, so fun! 

Caroline from Caroline Makes…. made Nigella’s sauce for Yellow Spaghetti with gorgeous saffron.  So simple and pretty.

Elizabeth from Elizabeth’s Kitchen made this showstopper cake.  Flora's Famous Courgette Cake (Courgette = Zucchini if you didn’t know.)  Since it is made with a vegetable, it must be healthy, right?  Elizabeth’s lime curd is made with local eggs which gives the curd its sunny hue.


Speaking of sunny hues, here is Caroline from Cake, Crumbs and Cooking and her Sunrise “Rainbow” cake using Nigella’s Buttermilk Birthday Cake recipe.  I want to eat this cake!  This was also my 5 year old’s favorite entry.

Lastly, here is Risotto alla Milanese from Sam of Smart Cookie Sam.  Her risotto was something she just happened to pick up on an Italian holiday.  It looks delicious!

Many thanks to Sarah at Maison Cupcake for creating Forever Nigella and allowing me to host this last month.  Now on to Forever Nigella #26 with Mimi at Chef Mimi Blog.

Winners of the two drawings:

1) The winner of the Forever Nigella participants drawing is

Elizabeth from Elizabeth’s Kitchen

2) The winner of the Followers drawing is

Jenn Price