Hazlenut Macarons with Chocolate Ganache + Mastrad Kit Review

First of all, happy new year to everyone! I appreciate all the support I received from all of you in 2013 and hope to give you an even better blogging experience in the coming year.

I’ve got to be honest about the past few weeks. I’ve missed some prime blog posting time by not blogging about Thanksgiving or Christmas. Thinking about all the pie and cookie opportunities I have passed up is saddening. But I hope that these little, heavenly, sweet and delicious New Year’s beauties might make up for some of it.

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Instead of doing Thanksgiving this year, I went to Paris to visit the boy and fell in love with all the food. One of my favorite parts of the trip was the macarons—light and yet moist, sweet and yet not overly so, these cookies are what is served in baker heaven. Because I loved them so much, my family gave me a macaron kit for Christmas. Secretly, I think they wanted in on some of the delicious fun, too! It turns out that the secret that makes these cookies so extravagantly delicious also makes them wicked difficult to make.

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I’m sure most of you already know that macarons are a hard cookie to master. I had heard this before, but it didn’t really hit home until I started to make them. The cookbook that came with the kit basically told you to mix the batter thoroughly, but not too thoroughly! Bake them until done, but not too done! Everyone’s oven is different and only experimentation will tell you how is best to cook your macarons! There is even an entire page dedicated to what you can do with your “imperfect” cookies.

Again, I had heard this, but I am the kind of person to think that because I am resourceful if not sort of experienced, things will turn out differently for me. I even decided to up the ante by adding ground hazlenuts to the cookies. This time, I proved myself right. With what may have been a severe dose of beginner’s luck, I ended up with a good number of cookies that are not cracked, are cooked well, and that taste delicious.

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To make these guys, I followed the basic French Merengue recipe in the Mastrad French Macarons cookbook. I added 1 tablespoon of ground hazelnuts and filled the cookies with a simple chocolate ganache. Before baking and before the cookies set, I topped some of them with clear decorative sugar crystals.

I am not being paid to write a review of the Mastrad Macaron Kit, so I can say with a good conscience that it is flippin’ awesome. It comes with a silicon macaron baking sheet with little wells that help keep your cookies looking fly (and, well, circular), a reusable silicon pastry bag that is lovely to use, a pastry bag stand, and a variety of shaped piping tips. The kit also comes with the cookbook. Really, the only extra tools you will need are a flat metal baking sheet on which to put the silicon mat and the mixing bowls for your ingredients. I have only two small complaints: one is that the silicon baking mat is slightly too large for a standard baking sheet. The second is that I haven’t yet figured out how to fill the pastry bag without whatever I’m filling it with oozing out the bottom. There very well may be a way to stop this, but I haven’t yet figured it out. If anyone has tips, I would very much appreciate them.

Overall, I am extremely happy with the kit and I look forward to using it to continue perfecting my macaron skills. Given how happy my family and the boy were to sample my new skill, I think I will have some willing taste testers!

Foodie Confession + Quiche Bliss

Okay, I have a very important confession to make to you all.

I know I bill myself as an adventurous eater. It’s true– I love food, and I will try almost anything at least once. But I feel like I would by lying to you all if I didn’t come one hundred percent squeaky clean:

There is one food that I absolutely cannot stand. It is my food nemesis. If this food were a villain, it would be the most evil of all villains and the thwarter of all my plans.

My food nemesis is eggs.

Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of weird reactions from people when I tell them this. “Eggs?? You don’t like eggs??” is the most usual one, but it’s ranged from incredulity all the way to unadulterated disgust. Most people just don’t understand it. I don’t eat them for breakfast, I don’t eat them for lunch, I don’t even eat them green with ham. Unlike the Dr Seuss character I have tried eggs before making up my mind; my mom tells me that when I was a kid I used to eat an egg sandwich every morning for breakfast. I was way too young to remember this, and sometime between then and my first memories some great change came over my body to make it rebel against all things eggy. I can’t eat french toast that has been soaking for too long because I can taste the egg in it. Breakfast sandwiches are off limits, and even egg drop soup is sometimes too much for me. Hell, I can’t even stand the smell of eggs cooking. It makes me want to hurl.

It might come as a huge surprise to you, then, that one of my favorite foods is quiche. That’s right. I can’t stand eggs but I love a food that’s essentially egg pie. In reality, though, quiche is so much more than that. It’s veggie-filled, cheese-gushing goodness that’s been poured into the mother of all baked things– a pie crust. There is so much deliciousness that radiates from quiche that not even eggs could taint it. Really, what more could you ask for from a food?

 

Seriously. Is it not the most delicious-looking thing you’ve ever seen?

 

I have been going absolutely crazy with my internship this summer (which finally ended yesterday, by the way, and while it was a great experience I’m also glad it’s over), but I did have time recently to have a fun cooking day. And– you’ve probably guessed it by now– I made a quiche.

The recipe I used was (highly) adapted from the McCall’s recipe for Quiche Lorraine, but considering I had a ton of spinach and onions in my fridge I decided to do something completely different from what the recipe said. I ended up putting so much filling into the quiche that I had  bunch of the extra egg/cream mixture left over (whoops), so the measurements that I used are in the recipe below with what I guess would be better measurements in parenthesis.

So, without further ado:

Spinach and Onion Quiche

(Crust secret: I had some time to be in the kitchen, but not a lot of time. So I cheated and used a store-bought pie crust. Shhh. I recommend Trader Joe’s but the Pillsbury ones are also good!)

6 eggs with 1 white separated (4 would probably be better)

3 cups light cream (I used a mixture of cream and skim milk, and 2 cups would probably be better)

1/2 lb gruyere, shredded

1 1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

dash of red pepper flakes

1 large onion

1lb spinach, washed and chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Saute the spinach until wilted, then let it cool.

3. Slice the onions, then throw them in a pan with a little oil. When they’re close to being finished, add a little white wine and let it reduce.

4. Place your pie crust in a sprayed or buttered pie plate and brush the entire surface with the egg white. Throw the leftover egg white into the bowl in the next step.

5. Combine eggs and dry ingredients in a bowl, and beat together.

Ahh, my nemesis. You are so delicious when baked in a quiche.

6. Beat the cream in slowly until just combined– don’t let it get frothy.

7. Layer about half the cheese evenly onto the bottom of the pie crust.

8. Drain your spinach. Seriously, you want to get it really, really dry– I recommend actually wringing the water out with your hands. Get your spinach as dry as you can. Drain your onions, too!

9. Layer the veggies into the pie crust, then coat evenly with the rest of the cheese.

10. Pour the egg mixture in.

11. Cook for 50-55 minutes, or until the center of the quiche is firm.

12. Let sit for 10 minutes to set, then enjoy!

Bon appetit, everyone!