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Monday, February 8, 2016

Hundreds of French Macarons - a Valentine's Cooking Class at Purple Chocolat Home

I wanted to share my 
French Macaron Cooking Class
held in my home.

If you are unsure about how to make them,
just prepare for a class of 20 plus people!!

I was in a panic, as I had successfully made
them before, but of course if you are going
to teach, everything is going to go wrong,

The class was advertised on Instagram
and in less than a day, we had more than our 20 
spots full.

My oldest granddaughter is on a competition 
cheer team and they are competing in
March in LA.  My daughter and I were talking
of making and selling French Macarons to
friends and neighbors as a fund raiser, but we
ended up deciding to host a cooking class as
a fund raiser.

We literally made hundreds, so that each person could
have a box to take home.

We also filled the kitchen with them as 
part of the Valentine's Day decor.

We even included how to add a touch of
real, edible gold.

The furniture was taken out of the living room so that
each participant could have a seat and decorate their
own macarons.

Each place setting had a beautiful Macaron box,
a paint brush, a paper plate, and access to
the plate of decor items.

The demonstration part of the class took place 
in the kitchen,

After demonstrating the technique, everyone had
a turn to give it a try.

Then we moved into the living room 
to the table set up for 22 to begin

Our little cheer competitor stands at the head of the work
table, decorating her own macarons.

She also handed out prizes, as we had
drawings throughout the night including
a digital scale, a candy thermometer, piping
bags and tips, and other fun Valentine's related
items.  Over half the people received a prize.

Everyone decorated and ate and had a great time.

They each went home with a fancy box
 of six beautiful macarons.

(Screen from Home Goods - 3 years ago.)

The class was a huge success and a fun evening
to get together, learn, eat and socialize.

We already have requests for more classes.

We showcased the piece de resistance,
and the last four, (who stayed
for the final clean up) got to eat it.  I am definitely
making these for a party dessert in the

I will post this table with

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Showstopping Dessert Macaron - Just in Time for Valentine's Day

Just like fabulous dessert macarons we had
in Paris, I have created one for you large enough
to share with your sweetheart - or go ahead, have
it by yourself!

After four glorious weeks in Cabo, 

escaping the bitter January cold and dreary weather,
and spending my birthday on the beach,
(and choosing to have a real vacation, 
and not post anything!),

I came back to preparing a French Macaron making class,
so I have been crazy busy doing that.  
I will post more on that, but I wanted to show you
this beautiful dessert and give you the
French Meringue Method
for French Macarons.

My previous recipe was for the Italian Meringue
Method that we learned in Paris.  I prefer the Italian
but the French is easier, although I think the Italian
has more consistent results.

Tricks to Macaron making:
1.     Have eggs at room temp., and beat meringue to a stiff peak.
         2.     Weigh all ingredients. Fold almond flour and meringue together 
until it flows like lava.
      3.     Pipe out even meringues.  If a peak is left after a few seconds, 
give macronage a few more stirs.  
Test one by squeezing it through a bag or tip.
                     4.     Drop pan several times on counter, then prick air bubbles with toothpick.
           5.     Let dry on counter at least 20 minutes.  It will feel dry to the touch.

French Macaron Recipe – seems easier, but more finicky

Remove about 4-5 eggs from fridge and separate.  Let the whites come to room temperature.
Sift almond flour and measure out 110 grahams.  Measure out 200 grams of powdered sugar.  
Sift the two together.  Place in a bowl.
Measure out 50 grams of granulated sugar.  Add ¼ tsp. cream of tartar and stir together.
In large bowl of stand mixer, fitted with whip, place 100 grams of room temperature egg whites. 
Begin whipping at a medium level, 4 on Kitchenaid.  
When whites become foamy, gradually sprinkle in the sugar and cream of tartar mix.  
Turn speed up and beat until the mixture is glossy and holds a stiff peak. 
The meringue will clump in the middle of your whip. 
Stir in gel or powdered food coloring at this point. 
Dump the almond flour mix into the meringue and begin to fold. 
After about 40 folds, the mix should be starting to be thoroughly mixed. 
It should flow like lava from your spatula and when forced through a frosting tip it should not leave a peak
 after about 5-10 seconds.  If it leaves a peak, stir again about 5 strokes. 
You do not want to over mix.
Pipe into equal size rounds on a Silpat or parchment paper. 
Drop the pan onto counter several times to release air bubbles, 
then prick any you can see with a toothpick.  
You get a lot more bubbles with French Meringue, so be diligent on this.  
Let rest on counter for 20 minutes until tops are dry.  Use a fan if in a moist climate.
Bake at 340 for 12 minutes.  Makes about 24 – 48 halves.
Let cool, then remove and fill.  Cover and let age on counter overnight.
Then refrigerate.  I have found in  my dry climate, they need to age 
on the counter, not the fridge, as you want them to begin to absorb
the moisture from the frosting.

Watch this cute video to see method for French Meringue – done by a young girl.

Standard American Buttercream – flavor differently as desired
1/4 C. softened butter
2 C. powdered sugar
3/4 tsp. flavoring – I used almond for these
2-3 T. water or milk

In a large mixing bowl on a stand mixer fitted with the whip, mix the softened 
butter and powdered sugar, adding the first 2 T. of liquid and
 then adding remaining liquid as needed until you get a soft fluffy frosting. 
Don’t add too much or it will be runny.  Too little and it will be stiff.
Beat on medium high for 5-7 minutes.

To create these Dessert Macarons, make one extra large
macaron - about 3 inches across, one normal, about 1 1/2
inches across and one small, about 3/4 inch across in
whatever color you prefer.  Bake and cool.  Sandwich together
with Almond flavored buttercream, then fresh raspberries,
and more buttercream to cement the remaining cookies
on top. 

If desired, accent with edible gold for a crowning touch.

from what I have read, you want to use the
Italian gold leaf, as it is more pure.  

To apply gold leaf - 
use a little piping gel and smear a tiny amount onto
the top of your left hand (if you are right handed).
(I used the sparkle gel in a tube where you get cake
decorating supplies at the grocery store.  I didn't want
to buy a whole tub of it from Michaels.)
Smear a tiny amount onto the macaron, where you
want the gold leaf placed.  With a soft brush, touch
the gel on your hand, to slightly moisten the brush,
then touch the gold leaf.  The gel on the brush will
help you pick up the delicate leaf.  Then place it on
the macaron where you have smeared a little gel. 
A little goes a long ways, but adds the perfect touch.

It is good to be back, but I sure enjoyed my
extended vacation.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Baguette Baking

Who can resist the crunch of a baguette, and 
a homemade one is even better, but using the typical
curved pan in the typical oven, never quite made what
I was looking for.  I wanted something that gave me
that crisp exterior and the soft, moist interior.

I have to show you my new ceramic baguette
baking pan, I purchased from King Arthur Flour.  
I am thrilled with the results.

Cruncy, crispy, yet soft on the inside and shaped like
a wonderful baguette.

This is King Arthur Flour's 
I wanted a covered baker that captured
the steam of the no knead bread that
I was used to in making my
Crusty Artisanal Bread (click for the recipe.)

This did the trick and I can highly recommend it.

I wanted my baker to be preheated for half an
hour as I do with my other Artisanal bread, so 
I decided to shape the dough and let it rise in my
curved french bread pan.  I lined the double pan
with floured parchment paper so that I could lift
the risen dough out and place it in the hot covered
baker, without losing any of my precious air bubbles.

Cover the dough with the lid and bake as the recipe
directs.  I didn't worry about getting all of the parchment
paper inside the baker and you can see that it browned, but that 
is fine.  

The 3 C. recipe is just a little much for the curved french
pan, and it spilled out a little on the side as it rose,
but I just needed to shape it a little longer.  

My grandson was sure that the baguette loaf tasted
better than the rustic round loaf.  Maybe you get
more crunch per slice!!  He assured me that it wasn't
the same bread.  I just love the things they say!

I will be posting this with

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rothenburg ob der Tauber - A Medieval Christmas

Rothenburg ob der Tauber in the Bavarian region of
Germany was the jewel of our trip.  

The highlight of the stay here was a walking tour through
the old town with The Night Watchman.  As we walked
we were entertained with his humor and knowledge as
he shared with us the history of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

This medieval city was wealthy and industrious until
it was defeated during the 30 year war which went from 
1618 to 1648.  An army of 40,000 under Count Tilly 
was marching through the region and wanted to quarter
his troops there for the winter.  They refused and ended
up being defeated, being left poor and destitute.  Thus
poverty preserved this city as the people left it for
more prosperous areas.  

You can find the tour nightly at 8:00 pm in front of
the beautiful Town Hall.  Of course, as I have said, we
had lovely weather for an evening stroll.

We started our stay here with checking in at the
Mietermeier Hotel - a boutique hotel just outside
of the city wall, so it was only a 5 minute stroll to
get to where we wanted to be.

Each of the rooms were decorated differently, and they
were HUGE, even for American standards.  This was our 
lovely room.

This modern free standing tub was part of our 
open concept bathroom.  It also had a huge 6 foot shower
done in glass tiles.  

Here is a shot of our friends', the Harkness's, room with an additional
day bed in theirs for their daughter Hannah to sleep in.
It likewise was huge.  Their room had a closed off bathroom.
We all said we would have loved to have been able to take
a peek into every room.

Every part of the boutique hotel was wonderful.  This
was the breakfast spread.  There was a room right off this
with couch and fireplace where you could gather,
and there were several other gathering places.  We
all agreed that a full week here would have been
marvelous.  It was right around $200 a night.

The main street leading to the center of town is lined
with charmingly preserved homes, all unique and beautiful.

As you get further into the town center, the houses become
taller and more eleborate.

In all of the towns we went to, they decorated the inside
and outside of buildings with fresh trees, usually
with red bowls and lights.  The town squares and churches
had giant fresh trees placed in them.

These unique little tree holders up on the second floor
for short fresh trees were quite common here.

Windows were decorated with such charm and style.

While some were just charming unadorned.

This was definitely my favorite town, and although the
Christmas Marts were not as plentiful, the stores in themselves
were Christmas wonderlands.

The best store was the huge Kathe Wolfarht store, but alas,
they did not allow pictures inside.  This store had at least a 30 
foot tree that twirled, and a 20 foot wooden pyramid - the
famous German kind that spins by the light set off by candles.

It was amazing and you could spend a fortune in there.
(I got my cute German hat in Nuremberg.)

In Rothenburg we ate at the same restaurant both
nights (after we ate our way through
the Christmas Marts for lunch). 
 We loved it so much.  Again, it felt like we were
in someone's home for Christmas.

Not only can I not pronounce it, but I can't read it,
but it was up towards the castle on the hill.

We tried a tortellini soup - the tortellini was huge
and enough to share.

Sausages and potatoes are always on the menu, and
it was fun trying the different varieties.  I loved the
presentation in this restaurant.

This was our favorite, pork on spatzle in a cream mushroom sauce.
It was one of those sauces that make you swoon.

I highly recommend this place.  We asked a
shop lady for a recommendation, and we were
thrilled with it.

Each city is so different.  This was truly
a Christmas wonderland.  I would have
to say that Rothenburg ob der Tauber was
my favorite.  It charmed my heart!


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