Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: Bulk Barn French Macaroon Mix

In the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed at least five or more people have ended up at this blog by searching Google for some variation of “Bulk Barn macaroon mix”. When I searched it myself, I can only figure that they found me because of this post on macarons and because I’ve mentioned Bulk barn before. Since people are ending up here looking for information on the mix I decided to give it a try.

I got 24 pieces out of half the recipe
The little recipe card on the bulk bin called for 500 g of mix to be mixed with 100 mL of water. It seemed like that was going to make quite a big batch so I decided to go with half of that. Considering I had no idea what I was going to end up with at the end of the process that seemed like the practical option.

I wanted to make these a little more interesting that just plain macarons so I substituted one tablespoon (15 mL) of the water with strawberry puree. The total amount of liquid was added to the mix in the mixer and set to high for four minutes. At the end of the suggested mixing time the batter was looking a wee bit slumpy (I think I just made up that word) so I put it back on high for another couple of minutes to see if I could firm it up a bit. I finally just gave up and piped the batter onto a parchment lined pan. I was worried they were just going to spread all over the place but they actually help up ok and smoothed out really well.

Fresh Ontario strawberry puree

After the first few minutes in the oven I was super impressed. The tops of the macarons smoothed out beautifully and they started to rise. I was cautiously optimistic that they were actually going to work out. And then everything went downhill. The tops all started to crack and ended up looking like a huge mess. Not one of them came out smooth in the end. Some of them also had big air bubbles in them that broke the surface. I tried one for flavor even though they looked horrible and it wasn’t bad except they were baked for way too long. There was an overdone shell around the outside of the macaron while the middle stayed light pink and fluffy looking. They ended up tasting slightly burnt (even though they weren't) and were very chewy.

Aren't they beautiful?

This batch was most definitely a disaster but I’d be willing to try it out again. There are a few things I would change:

·         The recipe suggests baking for 20-22 minutes. This was definitely too long. I think I would start watching them after 10 and see how it went. There really shouldn’t have been any color on the outside.
·         I would try using less water and more mix. The consistency just didn’t seem right. Using a little less water would probably mean I could mix the batter for a shorter time and might help alleviate some of the cracking.
·         I forgot to smack the baking sheet on the counter top. This is a crucial step for getting out the air bubbles and I totally forgot to do it. Hence, the giant air bubbles were totally my own fault.
·         I might let them sit before going in the oven. One of the key steps in making macarons is to let them air dry for a bit before putting them in the oven. It creates a bit of a crust on the top and helps prevent cracks. I was so worried they were going to spread into a flattened puddle of batter that I threw them in the oven as soon as they were piped.

The mix was definitely easier (and cheaper) than the full on traditional method so I’d really like to see it work out. I will give these another try on a day when I have more time and patience.

Have any of you tried this for yourselves? Any picture perfect results to share?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins

This weekend, when I was trying to figure out what to bake, I decided I just felt like making myself something hearty to take to work for breakfast during the week. I also had a whole lot of buttermilk that I needed to use. These muffins ticked both boxes - a portable breakfast recipe that called for buttermilk. Perfect. I originally made these a couple of months ago to bring to a friend's Easter potluck brunch (hi Janelle!). They got rave reviews at the time. Unfortunately, I never actually got a chance to taste them. The leftovers from brunch went straight to the office and they disappeared before I got a chance to give them a try.

An actual recipe from a printed cookbook!
This recipe comes from the Complete Canadian Living Cookbook. It's a great cookbook for the basics. This is a basic muffin recipe with a bunch of different suggestions for variations on mix-ins and ingredients. There are a ton of recipes like that in this book. I chose to go with the raspberry lemon muffins, substituted the raspberries for frozen cranberries, and left out the lemon zest. There's just something about the tartness of a cranberry that I love for breakfast.

The last time I made these I topped them with a more streusel-like topping made of butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, and chopped almonds. This time I tried to be slightly healthier and stuck with a few extra cranberries and half a pecan. The only thing I would change about this recipe is the yield. I easily could have gotten 18 muffins out of this recipe instead of the suggested 12. Otherwise, I'm impressed. I've been storing them in the freezer at work and popping one in the microwave each day when I need a mid-morning snack. They freeze really well and actually seem to be getting tastier as time goes on. 

Do you have any favorite "basic" recipes that you like to switch up from time to time?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ice Cream Sandwiches

My Friday night was spent hanging out with some great friends enjoying time with their new baby, testing out new deck furniture, and barbecuing our first hot dogs of the season. I was tasked with bringing the hot dogs and buns, a salty snack, and limes and mint (from my own balcony garden!) for some delicious mojitos. Peggy (hi Pegs!) was in charge of salads and something sweet to finish off our first summer meal. And what she came up with was genius...homemade (or home assembled) ice cream sandwiches. 

I thought a hot and sunny day like today was the perfect time to share this treat with all of you. The decision to document our dessert was an impromptu one, so please excuse the pictures. Trying to sort out the settings on an unfamiliar camera resulted in less than stellar photography. 

You might as well start with the good stuff

Chocolate chip pecan cookies from Metro

That is a perfect looking scoop


Put on the top and squish

Peggy thought it looked like a tongue : )
Cookie dough ice cream + chewy chocolate chip pecan cookies = an easy and delicious treat. I would not hesitate to eat these, or some variation thereof, again. Thanks again Peggy. You choice was an excellent one. Maybe for the next BBQ we'll have to try a different combo.

Do you have a go-to assemble at home dessert you like to serve when you're short on time or it's too hot to make something from scratch? 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Bake Sale: Cupcakes

And so begins the final chapter of the bake sale saga. We've already covered the loaves and cookies. Now on to the star of the show - the cupcakes!

The original plan was to make chocolate/chocolate, vanilla/vanilla, and coconut lime. All three are tried and true recipes for me so I figured the whole thing would be a breeze. Then I started thinking. This is a problem I have. I think, and I think, and I think some more. Before you know it, I'm totally off my original course. A co-worker, and fellow cupcake connoisseur, (hi Caitlyn!) suggested that I switch up the frostings I was already making in order to create some more variety. The result of this genius idea (that never even crossed my mind) was the addition of chocolate/vanilla and vanilla/chocolate to the mix. At this point I had five distinct cupcake/frosting combinations and thought that was plenty. 

The chocolate and vanilla cupcakes were my go-to recipes. Martha's chocolate buttermilk and Paula Deen's 1-2-3-4 cake. The frostings were the decadent chocolate concoction from the Cupcake Camp award winners and a vanilla bean icing sugar and butter frosting from Martha's cupcake book. Mmm...



Vanilla/vanilla (you can see the vanilla seeds!)

The coconut lime cupcakes have been described here before. They are the same ones I used for the fun Peeps cupcakes I made at Easter using the great recipe from the Coconut & Lime blog. I also discovered they were a judges favorite at Cupcake Camp Ottawa when I read judge Lynne Frappier's post on the event. Totally off topic but, if you enjoy this blog at all, you should also check out hers!
Coconut, lime, and buttermilk
Now, at this point, you'd think I would have left well enough alone. I'd been baking for over five hours. I had about 100 good looking cupcakes ready to go. I was ready to crawl into my bed. But no. I had a brainstorm. "There's leftover rhubarb in the fridge. I have a block of cream cheese. Why not make those delicious rhubarb cupcakes again and top them with cream cheese icing?" So I did. And they were amazing. By far my favorite cupcake of the day. Martha's rhubarb recipe topped with some random standard cream cheese icing recipe I pulled up on the internet. 

And this brings us to the end of my tale of the front stoop bake sale. It was a lot of work for decent reward. I had fun, which is probably the most important thing. I had lots of friend stop by and keep me company through the day. Would I do it again? That I'm not so sure about but never say never!

Now that I've finished baking because I have to what would you like to see me feature on the blog?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Bake Sale: Cookies

I made two kinds of delicious cookies for my bake sale last week. I started off planning to make just a classic chocolate chip cookie. Then, after thinking about it more, I added an oatmeal cranberry. Kind of along the same lines as adding the loaves. I figured an oatmeal cookie might be more appealing at 7am than a cupcake (no matter how delicious they look). 

My favorite chocolate chip cookie comes from the Joy of Baking site. I'm not sure what it is about this one that makes it different compared to other classics like the famous Tollhouse recipe but I like this one best. It's got good flavor and the cookies stay chewy which is very important to me.

The cookie scoop was a good investment

I had a harder time finding the recipe for the oatmeal cranberry cookies. I knew I wanted to use the classic Quaker recipe but I couldn't find the one I thought I was looking for. The one on the Quaker site just didn't seem quite right. This is actually one of the first cookies I ever remember making. The recipe used to be on the back of the cardboard oatmeal container that we always had in the house. I checked around on a few blogs and I finally found a link back to the Quaker site to the Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin cookie recipe. Since I don't really love raisins, I opted for the more universally appealing dried cranberries instead. 

I'm happy to report that both of these cookies freeze really, really well. I made both batches almost a week before the sale and kept them "fresh" in the freezer until the weekend. Since I had quite a few left I threw them back in the freezer and hoped for the best. They were delicious that day and still delicious today, even after they were refrozen. I might have to take some of them in to the office soon. Now that I've remembered they're there, I might have a hard time keeping my hand out of the freezer. 

Do you have a favorite recipe that freezes (and maybe refreezes) well?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lots of Loaves

I've been a bad blogger. I posted last week about the big bake sale I prepped for and pulled off and promised to post more about what I made, and I haven't yet. But here I am! Last week was absolutely insane and I just wasn't able to get it done. Hopefully I didn't keep you waiting too long. 

Let's start off with the loaves. When I decided on this whole bake sale endeavor I was only planning on making cupcakes. Then I remembered this thing was going to start off early in the morning and maybe it would be a good idea to add some sort of baked good that was a little more breakfasty. Hence, the addition of the loaves.

The first recipe that came to mind was another one that I used to make for my roommates in Australia, Burt Wolf's banana bread. My decision was made for me when my coworker, Karen, offered me some bananas from the stash in her freezer. I thought about branching out and trying a new recipe instead of my tried and true. It just felt a little boring. I checked out a bunch of blogs and all of my cookbooks but, after a very thorough search I decided to go with what I knew instead. I probably hadn't made the recipe in at least seven or eight years but a recipe stays the same, right? I doubled the recipe to suit the number of bananas I had and added chocolate chips to half. I'm wild and crazy, I know. Breakfast doesn't have to be totally healthy, right?


They look like they turned out pretty well. I have to be honest though, I never actually tried them, so I have absolutely no idea what they tasted like! No complaints from the customers though so I'm hoping for the best.

A couple of days after the banana donation, Karen brought me a big bunch of rhubarb from her garden. We'd been talking about my love of it for weeks and I was pretty excited when it was finally ready to eat. Since I had more ingredients, I decided to make another loaf. Why not? I decided to try out a Canadian Living recipe for rhubarb loaf. Three factors played into that decision - 1. it used buttermilk and I had lots to use up, 2. it didn't call for butter and I was afraid I wasn't going to have enough, and 3. it made two loaves which meant I could take one in to work and share it. 

Before - I forgot to take a picture of the after
These I did taste and they were delicious. Moist and tasty. I will most definitely be using this recipe again. Minimal ingredients for maximum results. The only change I made was to the topping. I threw in some oats and 1/4 cup of flour to make it a little more crunchy and to make it go a little further. 

I think the loaves were a good decision. They were pretty popular and the first things to go. If I ever do this again, I'll be sure to make more!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bake Sale

How was your weekend? In a word, mine was busy. This past Saturday was the second annual Hintonburg Neighborhood Garage Sale. When I heard about the sale I somehow had the brilliant idea to join in the festivities with a sale of my own...a bake sale. I welcomed the opportunity to make some extra money and figured it was a good time to get out, enjoy the weather, and get to know some of my neighbors. 

Can I interest you in a cupcake?
Some people were super keen on the whole thing. A few of my neighbors asked if this was going to be a regular occurrence. A surprising number of them thought I was just hanging out selling my wares for the heck of it and had no idea about the event going on. While I'm keen to put some cash in my pocket, even I'm not shameless enough to just randomly set up shop on the sidewalk! A few other people were not so keen on my endeavor. One couple asked which charity the proceeds were going towards and, when I said "none", they rolled their eyes with a disgusted "oh" and walked away. While I can appreciate their asking, I figured I had as much right to sell my product and profit from it as any of the people down the street trying to ditch their old coat hangers and VHS tapes.

In preparation, I spent a lot of last week in the kitchen. Since I made so many different things I'll be sharing what I made with you over the next week or two. In the meantime I just wanted to give you a taste of what I've been up to. 

Ever wonder what 10 dozen cupcakes looks like?

My humble little stand

All in all, I'd say the whole thing was a success, thanks in large part to my friends and co-workers who stopped by to keep me company and support the cause. While I may not choose to spend another 6 hours baking cupcakes any time soon, I think the effort was worth it. 

Did you do anything different this weekend?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...