The Creative Mama » inspiring art, encouraging women

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When I grow up …

I still can’t believe that, technically, I am grown up.  Imagine that.

A darling friend of mine talked a bit recently about feeling rather unmoored and how unexpected that feeling was to her.  Having always had an expectation that by a certain age she would know how exactly her life should be.  This, I could relate with.  I’d always imagined I would be a mother, and while it was not an easy path, it did happen.  However, when I look at my expectations for my professional life, things aren’t quite what I expected. 

In fairness, I think in this phase of life I do know myself better than ever.  My expectations of myself, and those around me have definitely matured.  I embody much greater empathy and compassion then I ever did in my ambitious youth.  And yet, somehow, I still don’t know what exactly I’d like to be when I grow up.  I’ve tried some things and developed a strong sense of what I don’t want to be.  I’ve discovered things that I find immensely satisfying, and yet I’m not sure they are things I can “be.”

As my children are growing along with my free time, I’ve been asking myself this question often.  I know what sort of person I want to be — yes.  But how I am going to spend the many years ahead (I hope) in endeavors that are fulfilling, and hopefully with some financial rewards, is still a huge unknown.

At times I face these questions with apathy — all will be revealed (please, please, please).  Other times I am profoundly anxious that I should have all the answers at this age.  Today I think I’ll just remember, the butterfly spends a long time is its chrysalis before emerging.  Perhaps it isn’t the right time yet.

 This article was written by Amy Bader.

 

The French Macaron

So unless you’ve been hiding under a rock recently, you know that French Macarons (pronounced ‘macarone’ in your best French accent) are the new “chic cupcake”. I’ve seen them on magazine covers, in specialty bake shops, and… I’d never had one. Ever. And as a girl who has a serious sweet tooth, I was curious not only as to if I could make them look as pretty as I’ve seen, but I was also anxious to bite into one to see if they are just as delicious as they look!

So I set out on a mission to make a batch of macarons. And I made a total of three.  

Count them. 1-2… Three.

Most of them stuck to the pan, which is why I only ended up with so few. Note to self: Every oven is different.  To ensure that you have the right baking temp., get an oven thermometer to double check. My oven is a 1989 model (don’t be jealous), with a rotary dial for the temp. So it’s pretty hard for me to get the exact temperature that I want.

A couple of days later, I decided I was going to try it again. Practice makes perfect, right? This time, I had my little helper in the kitchen with me. She would have tried to make them by herself, or anything for that matter, if I had let her.

We went by a different recipe than before, and we made delicious chocolate macarons with a ganache filling. I’m here to tell you that you can’t just whip these together willy-nilly. You have to be exact with your measurements and follow the directions to a tee. But guess what? If you do that, you can make delicious macarons also!

It was quite impossible to take pictures of the process as I made them myself. So I called up my friend Lauren, who is owner of Meringue Macaron Kitchen and was able to capture the process of her baking these beautiful cookies.

So let’s get to it. I’ll show you how you, too, can be a pastry star by following these directions to make a delicious double chocolate macaron!

If you’re using the ganache filling, make sure you have that made ahead of time. You’ll use equal parts of heavy cream and chopped chocolate (I used 100g of each). I always use Ghirardelli’s semi-sweet chips, because it’s the finest chocolate that Kroger carries. Bring the heavy cream to a boil on the stovetop and then pour over the chocolate chips in a separate bowl. Let sit for 2-3 minutes before mixing until smooth. Let it cool in the fridge.

You’ll need 5 ingredients for the actual cookie: almond flour, eggs, sugar, confectioner’s sugar and cocoa. And you’ll need a kitchen scale, a stand mixer, a piping bag and parchment paper.

Making macarons is a methodical process, and you have to be prepared for the next step as it comes. To start off, you’ll want to go ahead and line your baking sheets with parchment paper and get your piping bag ready by securing the tip in the bag. You’ll want to use a half-inch round tip. 

Next, we’re going to weigh all of our ingredients into separate bowls. Yes, it’s kind of a pain, but is best if you want to achieve a really pretty macaron. Use a sieve to sift your ingredients as you measure them and throw out any larger almond meal grains that won’t pass through. You want 110g of almond flour, 200g of powdered sugar and 50g of white sugar. Once weighed, you can mix together the almond flour and powdered sugar, but keep the white sugar separate. You need 4.5 Tbl of cocoa as well (I didn’t weigh/sift the cocoa).

Lauren had a full morning of baking and had all of her ingredients weighed and measured in her beautiful bowls. I love these bowls. So country chic. I now want to replace all of the dinnerware in my kitchen.

After you have your dry ingredients weighed and measured, it’s time to make the meringue.

Weigh out 100g of egg whites. The number of eggs you use will be based on their sizes, but you will use anywhere from 3-5 eggs. Be careful not to get any yolk in your egg whites so that they will whip properly.

Place the egg whites and white sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed until they start to foam and form stiff peaks.

Once the meringue is ready, it should be glossy and stiff. The standard way of making sure you have a nice meringue, is by holding the bowl over your head without the egg whites moving. Don’t feel like a fool. I speak the truth!

Remove the bowl and then fold the egg whites a few times to smooth with a rubber spatula. *Note: If you want to make a regular macaron, you can add in any food coloring at this point and then omit the cocoa in the next step. Lauren’s meringue had a caramel color because she added a little brown food coloring to hers. Your meringue should be white at this point if you are making the chocolate macaron.

Next you’ll add in the almond flour, powdered sugar and cocoa. Fold the mixture into the egg whites 40-50 strokes until the mixture runs like lava. You don’t want to under mix, but you also don’t want to fold it too much. As with making the meringue, this is one of those steps where practice makes perfect. And Lauren has it down to a science!

Once your mixture is smooth, you’ll put it in your piping bag to pipe on your pans.

Pipe them in 1″ rounds. They’ll flatten out some before you bake them, and you don’t want them to be too big.

You’ll then let them sit for 20-30 minutes at room temperature so that they can form a skin for the outer shell. At this point, you can preheat your oven to 285 degrees. If you’re lucky like me and have an older oven, you might want to double check your temperature by using an oven thermometer.

 Put them in the oven, one tray at a time and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Every oven is different, so keep your eye on them towards the end of the bake time to make sure they don’t start to burn on top. As they bake, they will puff up and form little feet. I just think they look darling!

 

After removing them from the oven, let them cool before removing them from the parchment paper. You can then pair them up in size and add your filling to the middle.

I used a ganache filling. Umm yumm. Am I right? I could eat my weight in this stuff. But you can experiment with all sorts of different flavored fillings and macaron colors!

And that’s it! Easy peasy, right? Once you make them for the first time, you’ll realize that they are not as difficult as they first appear. It just takes practice! If you’ve never had a macaron, they are soft cookies with a thin outer shell and are simply delectable!

And they actually taste better after sitting in the fridge for 2-3 days, or you can freeze them until ready to serve.

Lauren makes a variety of beautiful macarons that she sells locally, but the “Wills Macaron” is by far my favorite. How adorable are these?! You can read about her precious Wills and amazing testimony on her blog.

This article was written by Jenn Rutledge.

The printable macaron recipe is below. Enjoy!

Double Chocolate French Macaron
A divine chocolate macaron recipe with a ganache filling.
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Ingredients
  1. 100g egg whites
  2. 50g white sugar
  3. 110g almond flour
  4. 200g powdered sugar
  5. 4.5 Tbl cocoa
Ganache
  1. 1/2 C heavy cream
  2. 1/2 C chocolate, chopped
For the ganache
  1. Bring the cream to a boil over the stovetop and then pour over the chocolate in its own bowl. Let sit for 2-3 minutes before stirring until smooth. Keep in fridge to cool.
For the macaron
  1. Weigh out all of your ingredients into separate bowls beforehand. Place the egg whites and white sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on medium speed until they are glossy and soft peaks start to form. Remove bowl from mixer and fold egg whites a few times to smooth. Add in the almond flour, powdered sugar and cocoa and fold 40-50 times until it is smooth and flows like lava. Place batter in piping bag and pipe into 1" rounds on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Let sit for 20-30 minutes and preheat oven to 285 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes until set. Remove from oven and let cool before removing them from the parchment paper. Match together cookie sizes and fill with the ganache. They taste best after sitting in the fridge for 2-3 days or you can freeze them until ready to serve.
Notes
  1. *This recipe is for a chocolate macaron. To make the standard cookie (if you're going to use food coloring), omit the cocoa from this recipe.
The Creative Mama http://thecreativemama.com/

 

Allowed to Choose

(This post was originally published on Dec 5, 2012.)

“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”

Kahil Gibran

 He had been four for all of three months when he first broached the subject.  “Mom, I want to play violin.”  The child who waited to walk until he was 15 months old, who seemed to insist on not even trying until he knew he would be successful, Oscar no doubt had given this some serious thought before proclaiming his wishes to us.

We contacted a violin teacher.  She politely asked us to wait “until after the holidays” when it would be easier to transition a new student into an existing class.  We relayed her words to our eager son–“after the holidays”—and went on with the subsequent days focused more on Santa than Stradivarius.

On the morning of December 26, 2008, he woke up, walked downstairs full of purpose, and immediately inquired as to what time we were picking up his violin.

This past weekend he played with an orchestra for the first time, and there were tears in my eyes—the requisite tears of maternal pride, of course, but tears for something more.  For the first time Oscar was part of something bigger than himself.  For the first time he lent his single musical voice to a collective whole.  He was part of a team.

Oscar has never been particularly drawn to sports; in fact, when contemplating future athletic obligations in school he once asked, in all earnestness, “Does chess count as a sport?”

Up until Sunday night I often thought of what Oscar might miss if he chose not to participate in a sport, particularly the opportunity to be part of a team.  But I realized during the orchestra’s performance that he had chosen his sport—and he chose well precisely because he was allowed to choose.

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