My love affair with macarons began last year on a work trip to New York. I had an afternoon to myself, so I strolled through Central Park, down 5th Avenue, had a lovely lunch at Alice’s Tea Cup, and then visited Laduree. Laduree is a French luxury bakery known for making macarons for over 150 years. They started out in Paris but have a shop in Manhattan, as well as some other choice locations around the world. I had heard great things about Laduree, and being the consummate sweet tooth, I decided to pop in.
Hoo boy. Those babies were delicious. And they come in so many flavors! My favorites were chocolate (duh), salted caramel, strawberry, vanilla, and lemon. if you’re ever in New York (or Paris), make it a point to stop in.
One interesting fact I feel the need to share: The McDonald’s in France sell macarons! A lot of the advertising liken them to hamburgers. Weird.
Anyway, my love for macarons has led me on a chase through Seattle to find any approximation of Laduree’s loveliness. While none have been quite the same, Bakery Nouveau and Le Panier have come very, very close and are still very, very delicious. My love has also led me to some pretty, frou frou macaron-inspired items that I am currently coveting for this month’s Lust Objects.
Ooh la la!
Has a brownie ever been more famous than the Baked one? Baked NYC is a bakery in New York City (duh) that sells, among other things, what are supposed to be the most righteous brownies ever. Both Oprah and Martha Stewart are crazy about them. And some of my favorite foodies/bloggers/treat aficionados out there (America’s Test Kitchen, David Liebovitz, and the Food Network to name a few) also love the brownies. Needless to say, in my search for the perfect brownie, I had to taste one.
But I’m not in New York. So what’s a brownie-loving girl to do?
Well! It just so happened that Baked has their very own cookbook. So I ordered it online, waited patiently for Amazon to get it to me (thanks, M’s Prime Account! I only had to be patient a day or two), and made those bad boys as soon as that book was in my hot little hands.
Let me tell you: these suckers are OUTSTANDING. They are rich, gooey, and chocolate-y. M thought they were too soft and fell apart a bit too easily, and while I agree, I didn’t care too much as the brownie was already stuffed into my face and wasn’t going anywhere but in my belly.
For those of you who’ve forgotten, this is part of my quest for the ultimate brownie, or what I like to call The Brownie Face-Off. There are a few rules on which I judge brownies:
- Moistness – I don’t like cakey brownies. The denser, the better!
- Chocolatiness – Must be ultra chocolatey to win my seal of approval.
Lack of coffee – SO MANY recipes call for espresso powder in their brownies. I don’t like this.
- Ease – I don’t want anything ridiculously hard to prepare.
I omitted number this time because I wanted to know what the supposed “best brownie ever” really tasted like. I tried it with espresso powder and it was amazing. I don’t like coffee one bit, but the powder doesn’t make the brownies taste like espresso, it just brings out the chocolate’s flavor. I was very, very wrong about espresso powder. I’m sorry, espresso powder. Forgive me?
Anyway, I rate these brownies a solid 18/20. They are definitely moist, chocolate-y, and fairly easy, but they did fall apart a bit too easily and were missing something that The Supernatural Brownies were not. Those babies were good. I should make some more….
But these are good, too! So make them if you like chocolate and are down with Oprah.
Makes 24 brownies
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch glass pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.
3. Melt the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder over a double boiler, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the double boiler on the stovetop. Add the sugars. Whisky until completely combined, then pour the mixture into a large bowl.
4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey (THE HORROR!).
5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.
7. Let the brownies cool completely. Cut into squares and serve.
So! I finally finished A Dance With Dragons, the fifth and last published book in the A Song of Ice and Fire book series by George R.R. Martin. I really, really, REALLY enjoyed this series and really, really, REALLY enjoyed not having to wait in between publish dates to excitedly start the next book in the series. And now I have to wait until, supposedly, some time next year for The Winds of Winter (the sixth book) to come out. Hurry up, GRRM!
Tonight is also the season finale of Game of Thrones, the TV adaptation of the book series. After last week’s Red Wedding episode, I’m really hoping something awesome will happen tonight (having to do with Joffrey, ahem), but I’m guessing they’ll wait until next season for that very special episode.
In celebration of finishing the books and tonight’s episode, I have prepared lemon cakes from the cookbook A Feast of Ice and Fire, gifted to me by my fantastic friend Adam. In the books, GRRM goes into great detail describing food – some sound amazing and others… not. The talented ladies from the popular blog The Inn at the Crossroads created this lovely cookbook of the yummy snacks and meals written about in the series. M is still finishing ADWD, and when he does I am planning on making a whole ASOIAF-themed meal, but until then, I decided on these treats. One of the characters in the book, Sansa, is pretty obsessed with lemon cakes. She gets all hot and bothered whenever they’re mentioned. And with good reason, too, apparently, they are DELICIOUS. Not too sweet (unless you put the glaze on them, which I did for about half of them), they are mildly lemony and zesty. They aren’t really cake-like, either – definitely more of a chewy cookie.
Elizabethan Lemon Cakes adapted from A Feast of Ice and Fire
Makes 24 cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Grated zest from 2 lemons
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a large baking sheet.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour and granulated sugar. Cut in the butter, then add the zest and whole egg and yolks. Mix thoroughly until the dough is no longer sticky and can easily be shaped by hand.
3. Roll the dough into balls about 1 inch across and place them on the prepared baking sheet at least 2 inches apart, giving them room to spread as they bake.
4. Bake for 15 minutes until the tops of just slightly golden. Allow the cakes to cool for a minute before moving them to a cooling rack.
5. Mix the powdered sugar and milk to a smooth consistency. Once the cakes have cooled, use a spoon to drizzle the icing over the cookies.
Earlier this month our good friend Adam came for a visit. We spent the majority of our time at Emerald City Comic-Con and ate way too much food, but we also experimented with some unique red velvet recipes: Red Velvet Creme Brûlée and Red Velvet Milkshakes.
The milkshakes were only okay. They involve chocolate ice cream and red velvet cake mix, and that’s really all it tasted like. I did enjoy having an excuse to use my Vitamix, though, and show Adam how amazing it is in person.
The creme brûlée, however, was amazing. Since Adam was leaving for the airport in a few hours, I couldn’t do the proper thing and let it chill in the refrigerator for a few hours and then let it sit before serving. I instead put it in the freezer for 20 minutes and then we ate it right away. It was cold, but it was super tasty. When I have more time I shall make it properly. And eat it all myself instead of sharing because that’s how I do things when it comes to red velvet.
Red Velvet Creme Brûlée
Recipe via Sweet Peony
Makes 2 servings
Red Velvet Milkshakes
Recipe via The Little Kitchen
Makes 2 servings
2. Pulse or use milkshake setting on your blender. Serve immediately.
Not worth the waste of delicious chocolate ice cream, if you ask me.
M’s and my dear friend, Adam, is coming to visit us on the 1st. We’re planning on going to Emerald City Comic-Con, among other things, and having way too much fun. Part of this way-too-much-fun will involve Red Velvet Cake.
I am ridiculously obsessed and in love with RVC. It’s delicious, unique, and AMAZING. Adam is also a big fan of RVC and we’ve decided that during his trip here, we’ll bake something RVC-related, as RVC is obviously the best cake ever and stuff, but we’re feeling a bit adventurous. I’ve been scouring the internet for unique recipes, and have come up with the following. Which should we try?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go mop up my drool.