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Alma Chocolate Macaron Box Mix

(Note: Yes I’ve been absent for a few months, as culinary school and work consumed all of my time…I’m talking about 15-17 hour days! But now I’m on summer break from school, so I suddenly have my life back, albeit for a brief 2 months. I will try to take advantage of this time and update this blog more!)

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Recently I was given a box of chocolate macaron mix from France.  The fact that in France boxed macaron mix is available only increases my fondness for the country.  I have a dream that someday American grocery aisles will be home to such conveniences as boxed macaron mix, alongside our quick bread and cake mixes.

As macarons are one of my most beloved baked goods (that are gluten-free, THANK HEAVENS!!), I was excited to try it out. With my limited knowledge of the French language, I deciphered the instructions to the best of my ability, and set out to make macarons for the first time.

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Dirty Blonde Scookies

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The other day I had an incredible urge to bake.  Sometimes, if I have not cooked or baked in a week or so (and heating up frozen fish fillets or baking potatoes are not things I would consider to be “cooking”), I just have this urge to make something.  Part of it stems from baking being a form of entertainment–I enjoy putzing around the kitchen.  Also, I like creating something useful–everyone uses food.

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Nutella Sandwich Heart Cookies (Gluten-free)

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Well guys, I finally did it…I have been swept up by the mass hysteria and have outlawed gluten from my diet.  GASP!!!  How can this be?  (You may wonder.)  The simple thing of it is, I have long suffered various chronic digestive symptoms that typically were not crippling enough to warrant any serious evaluation.

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Tiramisu

INTRO

Ciao a tutti!

After short kitchen exile, I am back and ready to bake!  Just in time for the humid summer heat no less.  Also, I was spurred back into the kitchen because this last week at work two of my c0-workers had birthdays.  Though I sometimes lament the passage of time and the inevitable doom of aging, I do enjoy celebrating birthdays.  No reason to be down in the dumps about turning another year older, as most of us wouldn’t rather have the alternative…

Anyway let’s talk tiramisu

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Rainbow Cookies (a.k.a. 7 Layer Cookies/Neapolitan Cookies)

INTRO

When I was a little kid (and I still lived in the northeast), I remember going to various bakeries with my mom (Swiss, German, Italian bakeries all served rainbow cookies, only the French ones didn’t, as they offered petit-fours, which I guess is like a French rainbow cookie in a way).  And during every bakery visit, I always headed straight for the rainbow cookies.

As I stood surrounded by the dark wood-paneled (sometimes Bavarian stylized) bakery walls, admiring those colorful little rectangles behind the glittering glass pastry case, and smelling the aroma of warm sugar, all I could think about was how magical it all seemed.

It was through those early bakery trips that I came to fall in love with rainbow cookies.

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Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Double chocolate chip cookies cooling on the cooling rack. Some plain, others with toasted pecans.

INTRO

Okay, so as you can see I am experimenting with my headings!  I thought I’d see how I like the headings ULTRA BIG instead of just regular sized.  I will keep it up for this entry, then determine later if I shall keep it up…onto the cookies!

So I have tons of cocoa powder lying around, like I don’t even know why I have amassed so much in the first place.  I don’t really made hot chocolate or brownies all that much, and I have 3 containers of cocoa powder!  What is a girl to do?!

MAKE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE (DOUBLE) CHIP COOKIES!

RECIPE

I came up with this recipe on my own, just based on my experience making cookies, which is probably the one item I have baked the most. It’s pretty basic, no tricky tricks! Here is the stuff you’re gonna need to make these cookies:

STUFF YOU NEED:

  • 1/2 cup (a stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup (a stick) margarine
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Before you do ANYTHING, get your butter and margarine out and let it get to room temperature so it is soft.  This will make it easier to cream with the sugar.  If it is used right from the fridge, it’ll be too hard, and if you melt it, it will liquify and will not cream with the sugar properly.

So leave it out overnight, or for 3 to 4 hours.  Unwrap it first!  Allow it to soft outside of the paper, so it doesn’t stick to the paper.  And you can use the butter wrappers to cover the butter as it warms.

Also, it will soften faster if you chop or cut it up, as more surface area will be exposed.

Here is my butter and margarine:
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Here is the butter and margarine chopped up and soft:
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2. Beat butter/margarine, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy!

Below you can see me blending the sugar and the butter.  I prefer to blend the butter and sugar together before I incorporate the other ingredients.  This is just a personal preference, I don’t know how much of a difference it makes.

PhotobucketThen I added the eggs and vanilla…

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3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda.

Doesn’t it kind of look like the Yin Yang Mountain Range??  Haha.

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So then I took my spoon and destroyed the Yin Yang Mountains and created the surface of Mars…
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(I swear I’m not on drugs, I just have a very active imagination!!)

But really, you do want to make sure your dry ingredients are well-blended to ensure that everything has a fairly equal distribution in the batter.

4. Stir your dry mis into butter mixture until well-blended.  I must insist you do not add all of the dry mix at once into the butter mix, for when you go to stir it, it will be a big mess!!  Flour and cocoa powder flying everywhere!  Ugh!  Who wants that??

What you must do is add the dry ingredients in stages, this can be easily achieved by just blending a half or a quarter cup of the dry mix at a time.

Here is what it should look like when everything has been combined:

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5. Now it’s time to bust out those chocolate chips!  The are delicious in and of themselves, so you might want to sample a few or more before you mix all of them into the batter.  Man, I don’t know about you, but I just really love eating chocolate in tiny amounts in quick succession.

After you have eaten a few chips, STOP.  You need 2 cups for the cookies!!

Mix chocolate chips into the chocolate batter.

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6. So at this point your chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough is complete and you can bake your cookies.  Or you can add some extras to your batter, like coconut, chopped nuts, etc, depending on how adventurous you feel.

I happened to have less than half a small bag of pecans sitting neglected in my cupboard, and as an opened bag of nuts doesn’t last forever, I wanted to use them before they went bad.  But I didn’t want all the cookies to have pecans (not that there was that many), so I decided I’d break the pecans into really small pieces, toast them, ad sprinkle them on some of the cookies.

To reduce the pecans to a finer consistency, all I did was put them in a toaster oven save dish (in this case a foil pie dish) and smash them with the bottom of a plastic measuring cup.

PhotobucketSmashin’ nuts. LOL.

Next, I popped them in the toaster oven for an unknown amount of time.  I just told the oven to toast at ‘medium’, with the intention of watching the nuts and taking them out when they looked done.  The trouble with this technique is that is it possible to forget that you put the nuts in the toaster, especially if you start washing dishes/cleaning up the kitchen as you are waiting.

And nuts can burn super fast, and once they have they are not salvageable.

Thankfully, I got them out just in time!

PhotobucketPecans bits before toasting.

PhotobucketPecan bits after toasting.  Got them out before they burned!

6. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheets.  Many recipes say to grease your cookie sheet, and sometimes I do, hell sometime I even use parchment paper (don’t have a Silpat yet!!).  But when I am baking cookies that have 2 sticks of butter in the batter, it has never been necessary for me to provide additional grease to the pan.  Use your own judgement though.

Bake each tray for 10-13 minutes.  You could bake them shorter, like for only 8 minutes, if you like your cookies really doughy.  Keep in mind, you will not really be able to tell how browned this cookies get, as they are so dark brown to begin with.

Photobucket These cookies are ready to go into the oven. Note, these are the ones with the pecans.

It should also be noted that all ovens are different.  My oven at home is a gentle beast, and can be a bit slow-moving.  Meanwhile, my oven in my apartment when I was in college acted like it was on steroids!  I am not even kidding.  My roommates and I learned quickly to cook things in it for the minimal amount of time, least we should destroy our food.

CONCLUSION

After allowing the cookies to cool completely on my cooling racks, I stocked up the cookie jar with their chocolatey goodness.  Since moving back home (like so many college graduates trying to make it in this economy!) I have become my family’s official cookie supplier.  Whenever the jar becomes empty there is not even a conversation anymore, it is just assumed that I’ll make something to fill it with.  This doesn’t bother me, as I enjoy it.

But please, make sure the cookies are fully cooled before you put them in the jar and close the lid, otherwise moisture can build and become trapped in the jar as they cool, making them lose their crispness and stick to each other.

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I was pretty happy with how these turned out, very chocolatey, not insanely sweet, and they had a great consistency (just a tiny bit cake-like but not overly so).

And everyone who tried them agreed that while the pecan topping wasn’t bad, the cookie was actually better without it!  Good thing I made mostly plain ones!

Until next time…

The Hopeful Hestia