Mastering Macarons

I think I’ve tried a total of 4 different times to make these really good cookies. Let me tell you something too, Bob’s Red Mill almond flour isn’t that cheap either. The one we found at the store was around 13.00 for about 4 cups of the flour. I’d love to be able to get them right and to fill the macarons with Nutella, Buttercream, jam, etc..

I’ve tried two different recipes. One recipe required boiling some sugar and water together. I had to try two times with that to get it right. The recipe said to boil the sugar and water until it gets to 235 degrees and then add it to the egg whites. I thought it was odd that the sugar started turning brown around 170 degrees and I’m thinking, I don’t want caramel sauce. That guys picture where I found the recipe on his site, didn’t look like caramel sauce. So, I had to make it again and that time it was better.

Then, I thought screw boiling the sugar and water together and just use sugar. That’s when I found this really good recipe at Not So Humble pie. I was watching the cookies rise in the oven and was very happy when the cookies started getting that famous bottom they’re known for. Then the cookies started cooling and I took them off the pan and they looked like they didn’t have a bottom or an inside. Bummer. You’ll see that in the pictures soon. The recipe is a really good find too, and I’m going to try cooking them longer the next time. I also want to pick up another silicon pad mat and try adding some color to them.

First you need egg whites. If you don’t have a food scale, I’d suggest buying one.This recipe calls for measuring the sugar, flour, and egg whites in grams.

You also need some ground almond flour and powdered sugar. Also some regular sugar.

These cookies didn’t turn out. They were hallow in the inside not cooked long enough.

Bad, very bad. I will get them right one day though. I’m not going to give up!

Ms. Humble’s Scatter Plot Macarons
yields 50 (100 shells) macarons (feel free to divide it for fewer cookies)
120g almond meal
200g powdered sugar
100g egg whites
30-35g granulated sugar
food coloring gel

Line 2-3 heavy gauge aluminum baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners (more on this below). Prep a piping bag with a round tip (I use a Ateco #11 for most of my macs, though I’ll occasionally use a #804 for larger macarons). I place the bag into a tall drinking glass (or stout glass) and cuff the bag’s opening over the top, this makes the bag easy to fill hands-free.

Weigh out almond meal and powdered sugar and sift together to remove any clumps. (If you own a food processor, I highly recommend blending the ingredients and then sifting.)

Weigh out the egg whites into a large mixing bowl (stainless steel or copper), if you’re using stainless feel free to add a pinch of salt, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or couple drops of lemon juice to help strengthen the whites. If you’re using copper you need not and should not add any additional acid (more on this below).

Weigh out the granulated sugar. (Often I’ll use homemade vanilla sugar for this.)

Begin beating the eggs on low speed. What you’re doing here is unraveling the egg white’s proteins (these are what will capture the air bubbles you whisk in), they’re bundled up and you need to gently unwind them. A light touch does this far better than scrambling them on high speed. Once the egg whites are very foamy, begin sprinkling in the sugar as you beat. Increase the speed to medium, if necessary, and beat the meringue to stiff glossy peaks. (If they start looking grainy, clumpy or dry… uh… you’ve gone too far.)

Add the food coloring (for the full recipe it usually takes 2-4 drops of gel, for a half batch 1-2 drops does the trick) and mix.

Add about 1/4 of the almond/sugar mixture and fold in until no streaks remain. Continue to add the almond mixture in quarters, folding until you reach the proper batter. (More on this below)

Pour the batter into your prepared piping bag and pipe rows of batter (dollops a little bigger than a quarter) onto the baking sheets, giving them space to spread.

Tap the pan on the counter to bring up any air bubbles and quickly pop them with a toothpick.

Allow the cookies to rest on a level surface for 30-60 minutes. Until they are no longer tacky to a light touch. If you have problems with burst shells, you may need to allow them to rest longer or double stack your baking sheets to provided better insulation from the bottom.

While they rest, place an oven rack in the lower 3rd of your oven and preheat to 275-310°F (I’ve had the most success with about 285-290°F). I do not use fan-forced (convection) heat. If your oven tends to brown the cookies, consider placing a rack in the top of the oven with a baking sheet on it to shield the cookies. Occasionally my top element in my spastic electric oven turns on and browns my cookies, upsetting me greatly.

Bake the cookies for 16-20 minutes.

 

Canned Biscuit Waffles

I had a can of low-fat biscuits and saw on pinterest that you could use canned biscuits to make waffles. I’ve been meaning to try this for awhile now and I finally got around to it, and let me just say, this is probably something I’d never do again. It just tasted too much like biscuits and I like homemade waffles better. You can also use cinnamon rolls to make waffles too and I’m thinking that would taste a little bit better.

For 5 points a biscuit this really isn’t worth it either. Go ahead and give it a try if you want. I’m not trying to scare you away from it or anything. :) The waffles were pretty tiny in the end and didn’t spread out much. Yes, I definitely think cinnamon rolls would work better here since they’re sweeter than a biscuit.

Pillsbury Grands Reduced Fat biscuits

170 Calories | 6.5 g fat | carbs 26 | Fiber 1 g | Protein 4 g

Weight Watcher Recipes – Red Velvet Cupcakes

I know, I’m not really a huge fan of red velvet cupcakes but I had one the last time I went to Minneapolis and it changed me. It was so huge and you could see the specs of vanilla bean in the cream cheese frosting. I wish I would have had my camera to take a picture. You can buy them at Macy’s for all places. They had them at this little cafeteria I went to and so I decided to get a red velvet cupcake. Man, was it good.

I have been trying to make my own baked goods using agave nectar and these actually turned out really good. The first time, I tried baking anything with agave nectar was when I tried making a batch of meringue cookies. Agave nectar and meringue cookies don’t work well together. I did a little research on agave nectar and the source I used had a nice little chart to go buy. From Herbs, Love to Know. This site also tells you how to reduce the amount of liquid when baking too. Pretty nifty site. The only sugar I’d like to learn more about replacing ingredients with is confectioner’s sugar. That still has a lot of carbs and it would be nice to find a substitute that works. I read that you can take Splenda and pulverize it in the food processor until it looks like confectioner’s sugar with some corn starch, but I don’t like splenda because it has a weird after taste. Wonder if you could do the same with Stevia?

Agave Nectar Conversion Chart for Baking
If the Recipe Calls for this Amount of Sugar… …Use this Much Agave
1 cup 2/3 cup of agave
3/4 cup of sugar 1/2 cup of agave
1/2 cup of sugar 1/3 cup of agave
1/4 cup of sugar 1/6 cup of agave

Anyways, these cupcakes only came out to 5 points plus a cupcake. Hurray! No cake mix boxes or diet soda used. It was a recipe I adapted from Paula Deen and had to change a lot of the ingredients. They kind of puffed up a bit in the oven but overall it was a good first try baking with agave nectar. I hope you try these and like them yourself!

Ingredients from Paula Deen

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk , room temperature
1 large egg , room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
1/8 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
2.In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
3.Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.
4.In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.
5.Garnish with chopped pecans and a fresh raspberry or strawberry.
6. Cook’s Note: Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip.

 

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp

Still looking for something to bring, to that last minute new year’s eve party? How bought some bacon wrapped shrimp? This is so easy to make all it requires is bacon, shrimp, and tooth picks. You can spice it up by adding some brown sugar on the bacon or some barbeque sauce. Someone on my facebook page told me that her dad marinades the shrimp and bacon in beer for awhile. Doesn’t that sound good?

I think if I were to do things differently the next time, I’d use thinly sliced bacon and larger pieces of shrimp. Thick cut bacon don’t work really well with medium sized shrimp and the bacon kind of over powered the shrimp. It still tasted good though. I served mine with some cocktail sauce. I calculated the nutrition info for these made with real bacon and turkey bacon.

What do you do on New Year’s Eve night? We don’t go out on New Year’s Eve, we stay in. We do however plan on making a gourmet-ish type dinner with lobster tails and steak. Last year, on New Year’s Eve Ben grilled some steak during a blizzard. Kind of crazy, since this year we don’t even have any snow on the ground yet. :)

(made with real bacon)

Calories 133.4 | 10.6 g | Carbohydrate 0.4 g | Fiber 0.0 g | Protein 8.3 g = 4 points Plus

(made with turkey bacon)
Calories 54.8 | Fat 3.1 g | Carbohydrate 0.4 g | Fiber 0.0 g | Protein 5.9 g = 1 points plus

Servings:  12

Ingredients

12 jumbo shrimp , 12-16 count per pound, peeled and deveined
12 slices thin bacon
kosher salt

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2.If your shrimp are not deveined when you buy them, use kitchen shears to cut down the back of the shrimp (the top or longer side) and remove the shell. You can leave the tail on or off, your preference (I remove it). With a pairing knife, slice into the shrimp along the backside and remove the vein if you see one.
3.Also do not forget to remove the second vein along the bottom of the shrimp! You won’t have to make a very deep cut there, just a slight score and you can scrape that smaller vein out. Note that if your shrimp did come deveined from the market, it will still have this smaller vein everytime so do remove it. Then rinse the shrimp under cold running water and pat dry with a paper towel.
4.Lay a slice of bacon out on your cutting board and start wrapping the tail end of the shrimp at the small end of the bacon. As you tightly wrap, overlap each layer of the bacon until you get to the end. If you get to the end of the shrimp when you’re halfway through the bacon, you’re wrapping it too wide, try again.
5. I like to sprinkle a tiny bit of kosher salt on each side, but that is my preference.
6.Heat a heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. If you use a cast iron skillet, you won’t need any oil as the shrimp will not stick, otherwise add just enough to coat the bottom. Sear the shrimp on each side for maybe 30 seconds and then finish them in the oven for about 6-8 minutes.