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My macaron obsession

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We have a loose tradition with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law-to-be to get together every few months and undertake a baking project out of one of the cookbooks that we both have. That is when my macaron obsession began.

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We made chocolate ganache macarons from the Flour cookbook; I made them again later, trying to add some color (see above). While they were delicious, they didn’t look like beautiful macarons you see at a professional bakery. While I don’t at all consider myself an artist, the closest I get to it is making edible art through food. I love beautiful food.

I recently quit my job (more on this some other time). I had about 4 weeks of vacation time that I slowly burned off during the summer before my last day in early September. During my time off, I decided I was on a quest to learn to make beautiful macarons, with the goal of making them as parting gifts for my co-workers. I considered seeing if I could intern at the macaronerie (Miam Miam) down the street to learn the secrets of macaron making. Then I decided to do what I always do when I want to learn something: I looked up and reserved every macaron book I could find at the Boston Public Library. Once 4 came in, I canceled the rest of the reservations (I did, after all, have to bike all of them home from the library).

I read all 4 books two times each (they are 75% recipes, which I skimmed). But I wanted to read, reread, and study the methodology to understand what I would need to do. Never have I been so methodical in the kitchen, where the slogan is to “approach cooking like love: with reckless abandon”. Each book detailed a different process, with each adding it’s own weird urban legend, such as:

  • you must open the oven door 2 times halfway through
  • you must prepare the egg whites 4-5 days in advance
  • you must rapt the cookie sheet the counter several times after piping
  • you must sift everything twice
  • you should dry the cookies for 30 minutes under a fan in an air conditioned room
  • …and many more 

I didn’t want to screw this up, so I decided I would start off doing almost all of these weird requirements.

At the same time, I began volunteering at Community Servings and took a brief class on safe food handling and working in a professional kitchen. I brought that into my home kitchen, especially since my macarons would be gifts. 

To take a step back: What is a macaron? Is that those coconut mountain looking things? No, those are macaroons. French, or Parisian macarons are the little, often colorful, airy little sandwiches with a magical texture and interesting flavors. They are made with eggs whites and almond flour (which I bought after a 3 hour experience/debacle blanching and making our own flour). There are traditionally 2 methods to making macarons: the French method, where you make a meringue by beating egg whites with sugar, or the Italian method, where you make a sugar syrup and beat it with egg whites. I am French and it seemed easier, so I go with that method.

I’m not going to tell you all the steps to make the macarons (at least not right now), but I was very pleased with my first batch – coffee chocolate. As I made them, I had all 4 books laid out on the living room floor and would read the same step in each book to try to combine all the things they said (very typical of Jenny’s cooking). But it paid off – they were perfect and they looked beautiful. I was so excited, I just kept looking at them. I did it!

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Chocolate coffee macaron

I got a little more confident to get a little more reckless for my next batch – matcha green tea. I didn’t exactly have a recipe, so I modified the chocolate cookie recipe to take green tea powder instead of chocolate and modified the coffee buttercream to use green tea powder instead of instant coffee. Another hit!

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The next two batches got a little tight on my deadline for my last day. The sifting of the almond flour and powdered sugar was time consuming and prepping the eggs 4-5 days ahead (then taking out 2 hours before use) proved to require some serious planning.

I got a little more reckless and since I didn’t have orange extract, I used triple sec, (an orange liqueur) instead and made orange cookies with an orange chocolate ganache.

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Last, I totally screwed up my measurements (and by measurements, I mean weights  – everything was weighed in grams to get an exact amount) and messed up the amount of ground hazelnut I needed to use. In the end, it worked out and I made hazelnut chocolate macarons, in a gorgeous turquoise color.

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Macarons are piped, using a template for consistency

I found these cute presentation boxes on Amazon. They came without directions, but I figured out how to build them and built each by hand and created a box label. 

Overall, it was a good fun learning experience. Look for these tasty treat to come to a special event near you!

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Stepping onto the Road

Sam: This is it.
Frodo: This is what?
Sam: If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.
Frodo: Come on, Sam. Remember what Bilbo used to say: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

– The Lord of the Rings

Like Sam, this will be the furthest (and longest) I have ever been away from home. I am excited for the adventure in front of me and will greatly miss my home, my family, and my friends. David and I recognize that we are blessed and privileged to take this time and go out and travel. We depart tomorrow (Saturday, January 21) at 11:35am from Logan – fingers crossed that the snow cooperates so we can get out of this winter wonderland!

In anticipation of our travel, the blog has undergone some big changes and updates, with new sections added that include a new About section, FAQs, Itinerary/Timeline, and Packing/Gear. David has also been added as an Author, so you will start to see entries from him. More updates are needed and will be done from the road. I am excited about spending time on the blog and hope to grow it. Feel free to share the link with anyone you know who might be interested in our journey.

P.S. If you, or anyone you know is going to be in South East Asia while we are, please put us in contact! We’d love to meet up with people we “know”, or friends of friends!!

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

To Do: Doing Nothing

Being able to do nothing is something you need to learn to do. Everyone always feels like they should be doing something, with lists to guide them. Even fun, relaxing things like knitting or playing guitar end up on the list, and then they are no longer leisure because they are on the list! My response to this is “if it’s not on the list, how will I remember to do it?!” What if I just learned to not be doing something off a list, but instead just existed, and did things as they came to me?

Are we constantly volleying between and enjoying memories of the past and anticipations of the future? Do we need to learn to enjoy right now and be 100% in the moment? Have I (you) ever been fully present at any moment in your life?

One example of how I see this play out in my life is by taking pictures. I love to take pictures of the outdoors and mountains, and especially the sunrise. However, I couldn’t imagine going to watch the sunrise without taking a camera. I find that I spend most of my time taking pictures of the sunrise and the beauty around me rather than actually seeing it – saving it for seeing in the future as a way to remember the past, but not ever actually seeing and enjoying it in the present moment.

I don’t think I know how to live in the moment, but have felt like I have gotten closer to being able to do it in the recent months with quitting my job and feeling like I just know this is what I am supposed to be doing. On my recent road trip, on a long-haul day full of endless views of corn, I had a moment in which I knew and felt like this is exactly where I am supposed to be right now. I can’t explain it, but it was an overwhelming feeling that I made some good decisions and of complete contentment. That felt good.

Now, I just need to get rid of all of my lists…

 
 

A Brief View of my Road Trip

For the complete photo album of my cross-country road trip, check out my Picassa album at: https://picasaweb.google.com/JennyDuquette/RoadTripSept2011?authuser=0&feat=directlink

We spent a lot of time in the car!

The Great Smoky National Park

Black bears..just looking for some grubs!

Gorgeous peppers at the Knoxville, TN Farmer's Market

Though we saw a lot of corn, it was beautiful - so flat and unending, and so different from the Northeast.

Boulder Indoor Cycling..where you get on a track bike with no brakes, go really fast, and ride on banked walls. Awesomely terrifying.

 
 

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Road Trip!

The morning of Sept 5, I depart for a 10 day road trip. Christy, who I am helping with the drive to move to Seattle, and I will be stopping in D.C., Raleigh, Asheville, Smokey Mountain Natl Park, Knoxville, Indianapolis, Ankeny (Iowa), and Denver. I fly home from Denver on Sept 14 to go to Maine for a wedding.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2011 in Opportunity, Uncategorized

 

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Received with this msg: “I think that this sums up everything very well”

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

“If you put everything off until you’re sure of it, you’ll get nothing done”

Amen. I’m not sure of anything – I’m not sure I should have quit my real job. I’m not sure I shouldn’t have renewed my lease or that I should just be working these seasonal jobs. I’m not sure where I’m going to live. I’m also not sure that I should be “planning” to move and travel to some unknown locations for some unknown amount of time.

But, I’m sure I’m getting something done and making changes, and that I will learn a lot, it’s an awesome adventure, and it all feels like the right decision.