simply local: french baking

IMG_8061It was a quiet Saturday morning in Sur La Table, except for the whirring of a food processor and the clanking of the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer as dozens of macarons were being prepared in the kitchen.

Connor and I signed up for our first baking class together, and we had such a great experience. We were lucky to be two of five members of the early morning Valentine’s Day-themed macaron-making class. Our chef for the day welcomed us and showed us a demonstration of exactly how to prepare our macarons, and then we were on our own to re-create the recipe.

The instruction was informational and thorough, and our chef was standing by in case we had any questions. We learned the proper way and order in which to mix our ingredients to create our macaron shells, how to properly pipe the macarons and how to make our own fillings — champagne buttercream and chocolate ganache with strawberry jam!

IMG_8062The macarons were absolutely delicious, and it was such a fun date for Connor and I! We loved trying something new together, and we are excited to try making them again on our own!

If you are interested in making your own macarons, combine these five simple ingredients to make 35 sandwich cookies, and fill them with your favorite type of filling!

  • 4 oz of almond flour
  • 7 oz of confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 oz of egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp of cream of tartar
  • 3 1/2 oz of granulated sugar

Preheat your oven to 300º.

Combine the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar until blended (either in a food processor or mixed in a large bowl). Sift the mixture and separate it into thirds.

Using a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, pour in your egg whites and add the cream of tartar directly in the middle to start making your meringue. On a medium speed, start to slowly add in your granulated sugar. Continue to whip until you reach a stiff peak. Note: If you are going to add food coloring into your mixture for your macarons, add it in between medium and stiff peak of the meringue.

Then, take a third of the flour mixture and fold it into the meringue mixture. Once it has been combined, pour in the rest of the flour mixture and continue to fold it into the meringue. Combine until it is glossy and the batter reaches the consistency of a brownie batter.

Pour your mixture into piping bags and pipe with a plain, round tip onto your baking sheet. These cookies should be about the size of the bottom of a shot glass. Be sure to keep your piping bag straight up, at 90º.

Let the macarons sit out for about 30 minutes or so, until a firm skin forms on them. To make sure they are ready to be baked, lightly graze the tops with your fingers. If there are no dents, they are ready!

Bake for about 16 minutes, rotating halfway through. Let sit and cool before removing from the pan and adding filling.

Happy baking!

valentine’s day gifts: procrastinator’s edition

0abd7fcd-af06-41ae-81a1-e9e309abad30.jpgValentine’s Day is just three days away, love is in the air and chocolate is everywhere you go. If you have procrastinated getting your significant other a gift, or are just looking for something small to add onto what you have already purchased, you can thank Amazon Prime for getting you out of a pinch. Check out the gifts below that are guaranteed to arrive by Valentine’s Day and put a smile on your S.O.’s face — it’s a win-win!

For Him:

Beard Grooming & Trimming Kit for Men Care: This six-piece kit contains a brush, comb, oil, conditioner, wax and scissors — everything a man needs to maintain a soft, well-kept, full beard!

Mahogany Row Italian Tie Collection: This collection of five ties and two tie clips are the perfect gift for any guy who needs an assortment of ties for work. The high-quality design coupled with a neutral color pattern is extremely versatile no matter what the occasion!

Travel Duffel Bag: Whether your man travels for work or for pleasure, this canvas duffel bag with leather trim can be used as a carry-on or a weekender bag!

For Her:

Michael Kors Jet Set Large Crossbody Bag: I own this bag in Gold, and it is my go-to choice whenever I am running out to the store, going out for the night or jumping on a plane. There is plenty of room inside, and with so many color options, it is sure to match any girl’s style!

Bath Bomb Gift Set: This gift set by LifeAround2Angels contains 12 bath bombs with therapeutic and moisturizing effects. Plus it has a five-star rating with thousands of reviews!

Tarteist PRO Palette (PRODUCT) RED: This matte eyeshadow palette includes 16 long-lasting shades that are perfect for transitioning from the winter months into the spring.

For Both of You:

Cravings: For your next date night, take a page out of Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook! Whether you want to try making hearty dinners or delicious breakfasts together, the recipes in Cravings can certainly help you get there!

Red Wine Glass Set: This set of red wine glasses is a perfect pairing with the cookbook mentioned above! Who doesn’t love a night in of being wined and dined? Don’t forget a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon or your favorite red wine to pair with this gift!

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera: Any time you and your significant other take a trip or have a date-night-in, snap a photo with this mini instant camera. The pictures will be fun to look at in years to come!

If you are like Connor and I, gifts may not be something you do for Valentine’s Day. Instead of giving each other gifts, we typically choose an activity or a trip for the day or weekend. This year, we will be taking a cooking class over the weekend, where we will be learning how to make macaroons! More on that next week, but for more ideas of what you can do for Valentine’s Day (or Galentine’s Day for the BFFs out there!), check out my post, love is in the air.

 

love is in the air

Love is in the air, as Galentine’s Day (thank you, Leslie Knope) and Valentine’s Day are fast approaching. Whether you are spending these holidays with your best friends or your significant other, there are plenty of ways to celebrate! Instead of going out for a night of dinner and drinks, consider these options to help you celebrate love, friendship or togetherness this month!

  • Take a class: Do something that is outside of your comfort zone by trying something new with your partner or friends. Whether there is a dish you have always wanted to learn to make or a SoulCycle class you have been dying to try, take the leap and sign up! Look up local classes in your area for some ideas.
  • Cook a three-course meal: Getting wined and dined at a restaurant is great, but it can be even better at home. Plan out a menu to cook together that includes an appetizer, main course and dessert. Pour the wine and get to cooking!
  • Travel somewhere new: Sometimes last-minute trips are the best trips. Hit the open road and plan a quick weekend trip to somewhere you have never been before. Exploring a new city, whether it is in your home state or a neighboring state, is bound to bring you a weekend of adventures!
  • Host a party: Who doesn’t love a good excuse for a themed party?! Have your guests come dressed in red or pink, throw on some classic love songs, serve some festive drinks and let everyone mix and mingle! Spread the love by asking guests to bring red or pink sweets for all to enjoy!
  • Simply Local recommendation: Bury the Hatchet: If celebrating Valentine’s Day isn’t exactly your thing, try a different take on the day. Grab your friends and head to Bury the Hatchet for some good, old-fashioned axe throwing. Bury the Hatchet has locations in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Kansas.

No matter what you choose to do or who you spend the day with, I hope you have a great Valentine’s Day filled with love, laughter and fun memories!