Sunday, June 12, 2011
For a hefty $9.95 at none other than DSW, I picked up this brilliantly garish, embroidered bronze pleather passport holder that will be perfect for a certain friend's birthday this summer. I was only there to look for shoes to wear with my bridesmaid dress but sometimes a second bird presents itself unexpectedly and you've got to be ready to make efficient use of your stone. Pop the champagne, as Fergie would say.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The title of this post is my Spanish major's interpretation of how the French pronounce macaron, the bite-size almond powder confections that crumble under the slightest pressure and whose customization is limitless. In a way, they have the allure and preciousness of porcelain...or something. I've been obsessed with macarons for some time now and it's certainly not my little secret. Macarons are everywhere. I purched several of the little gems by Pierre Herme at Selfridges last February (and took great, great care with them on the flight home, only to find that their tolerance for transatlantic flights is low). I'm now obsesses with Pierre Herme's packaging, too. Martha is on top of the trend. And I've been licking my chops over Lola's Room's photographs. There's even a war of integrity being fought over the macaron, with McDonald's challenging the very essence of French culture by offering them to the masses. I suggest McDonald's change their company motto to "Screw your elitism - we're just trying to pay our bills". If only the little dears knew what a stir they've caused. As for their taste, they're sweet but not too sweet. The flavors are limitless, though, in my opinion, rarely do you taste much other than almond and sugar since the filling is generally so stingy - but I'm okay with that. I decided a few months ago that macarons rolled in cellophane and cinched with ribbon like little hard candies would make divine wedding favors. Impatient to wait for my own wedding, I decided to move forward with the idea for my future sister-in-law's bridal shower favors. I considered making them myself but I required between 60 and 90 of them and the process is precarious - the whipping, the altitude, the fineness of the ingredients - so outsourcing quickly became the best option. I counted on getting them for 50 cents a piece (cheap!) through my local Wegman's bakery but inexplicably, the week before the shower, they told me they'd been directed not to make them anymore about a week before I called. Great. Last minute dash to find macarons, which frankly wasn't hard to do, these days. I quickly called Patisserie Poupon, whose owner (Laura?) and staffer Martin were extremely helpful in sending me a pic of their assortment, offering me little plastic bags gratis, and being so nice and responsive to my million questions about size, color, and flavor. I love wax paper. It's so milky and sweet and smooth and hides imperfections, like a veil. (Perhaps that's why brides wear them? Yikes.) Almond. And a peek of the chocolat. Precisely 60 macarons, 30 bags, and 30 bits of yellow ribbon later, we had our favors. Yum! Image 1 - Lola's Room
Friday, May 6, 2011
This is the wreath I made tonight as a donation to the Relay For Life silent auction--The Picture of Dorian Gray, part II (part I was a wreath for my friend's birthday). I decided not to fill the inner space with anything as I've seen some people do on Etsy. I rather like the unfinished look. The legs of the ribbon should be wider apart (that's what she said?) but otherwise it turned out just dandy (a bit like Mr. Wilde). It is an inexpensive and easy thing to make that I hope will raise some good $$$ to go toward delivering cancer a swift kick in the rear.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Today, upon Lent's end, I finally broke out my three-week-old but as yet unused Cuisinart ice cream maker. The inaugural flavor: Earl Grey. The result: Quite delicious but texturally off. I ended up doubling Mac & Cheese's recipe in order to fill my 2-quart maker. The recipe itself is easy as pie, though, frankly, almost any pie is going to be more complicated than this ice cream. I started out warming whole milk, half and half, and sugar in a saucepan until very warm and until the sugar had dissolved. Then I dunked in ten bags of decaf Earl Grey and let them steep for close to an hour. I was starting to get a little impatient as dessert was only a couple hours away but you do want to give the steeping process time. It ended up being just enough - the ice cream was aromatic and sweet with the taste of black tea and bergamot but still subtle and milky. The Earl Grey cream was ladled into a big mixing bowl in which I'd already whisked ten egg yolks. I returned the mixture to the saucepan and heated it on medium. By whisking nearly constantly, the mixture was supposed to turn custard-y. At this point I was even more impatient to get it off the burner and allow it to cool so it wasn't quite as viscose as custard but it had definitely thickened. Then I tapped my foot for about 45 minutes, waiting for the stuff to cool. This is where the process went slightly awry. Well, maybe not awry so much as curtailed to the point of regret. Though the recipe didn't call for it, I really should have chilled - not just cooled but chilled, like in the fridge - the custard (if you could even call it that) before pouring it into my faithfully chilled ice bucket. In any case, in it went, just above lukewarm in temperature, and on went the machine for about 30 minutes, at the end of which my ice cream had the consistency of a Wendy's Frosty. Despite putting the ice cream in the freezer until it was absolutely necessary to serve it, it starting to melt pretty quickly after spooning on top of my meringue nests. (I considered using the ten egg whites to make my own - an efficient way to make the vehicle for your ice cream - but I didn't have parchment paper or superfine sugar and I already had meringues from Balducci's so unfortunately the egg whites went to waste.) The end result was perfect in terms of color (it reminded me of tea-stained paper, Belgian linen, and the muted wood floors of that tea house in Prague) and taste (though next time I'd hold back a little bit on the sugar to make it even more understated). The texture most definitely wasn't like typical store-bought ice cream or even fresh gelato. The Wendy's Frosty is the perfect comparison. I'm confident that what's left of it will firm up in the freezer overnight and that next time chilling the custard will curb somewhat the defrosting that begins as soon as you take the ice bucket out of the freezer. I get the feeling that texture is a common issue with ice cream makers, especially for newcomers. In a way, that's part of the charm. With that, the Summer of Frozen Sweet Cream commences. Next up is cinnamon. Fresh strawberry and peach (individually) are definitely on the agenda, as are lavender and macha/green tea. I've lived and learned that patience and refrigeration are key virtues. My next question is how to make my ice cream healthier but as a diet foods hater I suspect that if I want to cut down on the cholesterol I'll have to turn to sorbet because healthy, tasty ice cream is an oxymoron.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Ruth Ann's, Columbus, GA. Occasion: Valentine's Day, 2011. Health Factor: None. Deliciousnous: Mmm. (That's a roger.) First and foremost, fried pickles. A little heavy for breakfast (well, brunch) but I have trouble denying myself when it comes to fried vegetables (or dough, or cheese, or poultry). Next up, red velvet pancakes, racked and stacked. Cream cheese drizzle - check. Whipped cream - as you can see. Chocolate chips - they're all there. The whole spread. Pickles and hotcakes. Country ham (solitary on a plate with jous on the side) and biscuits and sausage gravy. Sweet tea (unpictured) to refresh the palate. Amen. Image 1: www.ruthannsrestaurant.net
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Palmeritas (little palms, also known as elephant ears in the United States and palmiers in France) were a huge weakness of mine during my semester abroad en Espanya way back when (relatively). I used to pick up a dozen of the light, flaky, sweet, buttery cookies from the bakery at the Mas y Mas supermercado and hide them in the drawer of my nightstand so that the abuelita I lived with wouldn't know I was eating outside of the meals she cooked for me. Living abroad in someone else's home and being an imperfect Spanish speaker, I felt little control over my life and so I resorted to a sugary way to make and implement my own decisions. Galletas. Cookie upon cookie, day after day. By the end of my five months there, Donya Rosa told me my shirts had gotten quite tight around my chest and belly and advised me not to eat so much dessert (this was in the context of having a banana after lunch - hardly a postre to me - had she found my stash of sweets?). I returned home and shed the excess weight but my love of palmeritas stayed put. I've used the below recipe, adapted a bit (i.e., more sugar) from Epicurious, ever since I returned Stateside. Shall we begin?
First, thaw a package of square puff pastry sheets (generally two to a box). The dough needs to be room temp so it's pliable. Also, preheat your oven to 400F.
Sprinkle a thin, even-ish coating of granulated sugar (add a little cinnamon if you wish) over a flat surface. Lay down one of the pastry sheets; sprinkle sugar on top. Press the sugar into the dough a bit with your fingers to make sure it's embedded enough to stick.
Gently fold one side over to reach the midway point of the dough. Do the same with the other side to create a narrow vertical opening in the center. The dough should now be half as wide as when you started.
Repeat this process, folding each side into the center of the dough so that the width of the dough is a quarter of it's original size.
Roll the two sides together, along the same vertical crease, so that you have a log shape.
Carefully slice across the log in about 1/4-in. increments to create the individual cookies.
Press the palmeritas in a small pile of extra sugar so they're coated all around.
Arrange on a baking sheet, leaving enough room for them to puff peacefully.
Bake at 400F for 12 minutes, flip, and finish in the oven for about 5 minutes more.
Hay que lindas! The palmeritas will be half chewy, half crispy once they've cooled. Expect a little caramelization, which adds to the chewiness. Reduce the sugar if you don't enjoy this browning.