Monday, May 25, 2009

Busy Weekend: Macarons!!!!!

I finished the last batch of the macaron favors right before I left to go for our emergency dance lesson Saturday.

Yes, that's right. I'm making macarons for our wedding favors!!!! Why would a girl who is notorious for not baking decide to bake one of the most difficult pastries in the world for her favors?

Because I love them and I'm obsessed with Laduree. By now everyone knows I love macarons. And no self-identified foodie could get away with NOT making her own something for her wedding, right? Right...if she's crazy. And so it goes...

I attempted the ridiculous and actually succeeded after several tries. There are many different macaron recipes out there, but there are really only two techniques: French and Italian. Many say the Italian method is more reliable, and I suspect it is if you can get the temperature right on the sugar. But I could not, so I found more success with the French method.

Here is the recipe from Martha that I modified a little bit. I have had the most luck with this adaptation of the French method.

French Macarons

2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 1/4 cup almond flour

1/2 cup aged** egg whites (KEY STEP: Aging the eggs)

Pinch of salt 1/3 cup granulated sugar

Directions To make the macarons: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a food processor, blend the confectioner's sugar and almond flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar.

Continue to whip until stiff glossy peaks form.

With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the confectioners' sugar mixture until completely incorporated. It should be the consistency of lava, and peaks should melt away at this point.

Add six drops of whatever food coloring you want. (I added red drops for light pink and green drops for pistachio green).

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Trace one-inch circles two inches apart from one another. Be sure to flip the parchment over so you don't bake the pen ink or pencil carbon into the macaron!!!

Fit a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch #4 round tip, and fill with batter. Pipe 1-inch disks onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies. The batter will spread a little.

Tap the sheet against the counter to get the air bubbles out. One or two taps will do.

THIS IS KEY: Let stand at room temperature until dry, and a soft skin forms on the tops of the macarons and the shiny surface turns dull, about 30 minutes.

Bake, with the door of the oven slightly ajar (I put a wooden spoon between the door and the oven to keep it the tiniest bit open--THIS IS ANOTHER KEY STEP). Bake for about 12 minutes.

The macarons should have "feet" those little bubbly-edged things at the bottom. Remove baking sheet to a wire rack and let the macarons cool completely on the baking sheet. Gently peel off the parchment. Their tops are easily crushed, so take care when removing the macaroons from the parchment. Use immediately or store in an airtight container, refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

I made mine in several different batches in the past couple of months and froze them.

I'm filling the macarons with ginger jam for the green and grapefruit marmelade for the pink (I looove grapefruit, and we're also serving grapefruit-flavored Italian soda as our little signature refresher at the cocktail hour). But if you want to make your own filling, the recipe is below.

Macaron Filling

To fill the macarons: Fill a pastry bag with the filling. Turn macarons so their flat bottoms face up. On half of them, pipe about 1 teaspoon filling. Sandwich these with the remaining macarons, flat-side down, pressing slightly to spread the filling to the edges. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

I haven't filled them yet. I'm packing them frozen for the trip down to our venue and then will do them the night before and put them in these tiny Chinese take-out containers that I made labels for.

Good luck!!!! It's not at all hard once you get the hang of it!!!

Next up...last minute bachelorette party!!!!

**Aging helps concentrate the egg whites. You put them in a bowl and set them out for 24-36 hours. Be sure to use pasteurized eggs!

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Non-Shower Dinner Party: Practice for the Big Day

Our great friends, Travis and Suzi, hosted a (non)shower dinner for us at their rustic country restaurant, the Heart in Hand, Friday night.

It was so lovely!!! There were about 30 people and the fun part was that it was kind of like a neat run-up to the wedding. I gotta say, even with only 30 people, it was hard to get around to saying hello to everyone (given it was only two hours or so). To encourage mingling, Suzi scared up some name tags for all the guests...even US!

Suzi did all the flower arrangements herself.

There was a little cocktail hour before (I was late, as getting out of DC was a nightmare, as it always is on Friday nights).

Then there was dinner, which was off their group catering menu. Almost all the food is some sort of recipe from Suzi's family, including some amazing yeast rolls (that tasted like corn bread), citrus poppy vinaigrette, country filet and salmon, home-made pastries...It was all very down-home and simple.
There were speeches: Suzi recalling a fond memory of G as a child and when she and Travis first met me. G thanked our lovely hosts and wonderful guests, and kidded about the great distances many came (from the city or, in his case, fresh off a plane from Seattle where he was on business).
The lovely little restaurant, located in the historic town of Clifton, Virginia, is decorated in early American style (as Suzi collects antiques). It also houses several mementos from the couple's polo life (including this picture of them after a match they played against Prince Charles--who are these people?!).

It was a non-shower party because we didn't really register for any gifts. But some guests brought us things that they knew we'd like and collect anyway!

Antique sterling wine coaster (G has a bunch of vintage and antique silver wine accessories).

Hand-painted Chinese Porcelain (we have a lot of Chinese porcelain)...this bowl is exceptionally delicate and thin.

Gastronomic foodie gifts from Spain, via Michelle.

And Venice Biennale art festival tickets for our Italian honeymoon! (After we insisted on no gifts, our mothers said that people will want an option of giving SOMETHING, so we have a account.)

It was so sweet, fun, and we are so incredibly grateful for our family and friends!! Now we're a little more prepared to engage each of our guests.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Saying No to Prom Wedding: Prioritizing Food

I got this hilarious message from my friend, Alissa, today. She was to be married next week, but, as you'll read, she had to stop the prom wedding train. PROM WEDDING!

It reminded me of why we were so adament about having only 80 people. We want to serve good food and wine in a somewhat intimate setting where we can talk with guests. We received the last of our rsvp's today, and thankfully, it's right at our estimate. We almost had the issue of crashing and burning into a giant prom wedding circus when G's dad tried to invite all the cousins. Thankfully, that train was stopped and we won't have to serve banquet hall chicken and salmon after all.

We're not alone in wanting this. Alissa, puts it more bluntly!

"Congrats!!! I know the big day is coming soon. I know you will look fabulous--as always, but I hope you stop to take a breath and have a wonderful time. I'm sure, with you at the helm, everything will be GOOOOORGEOUS.

We actually pushed the wedding back to June 6, because, well, we changed everything in February because it was becoming a beast/monster called "The Worst". Too many people. Not what we wanted--and slowly careening into prom wedding. And I hated every minute of planning. So we cut the guest list down to the nearest and dearest of 30 heads and changed the setting from my 'rents country club in Long Island to a little Inn in Staunton, VA. More dinner party than anything else. Less stress, less fuss, more us. And more fun with the details. All local food, wine, flowers, etc. So, I went from hating the wedding to loving it. Thankfully. But either way--I'm glad there is a goddamn honeymoon en route. Where are you going?!


Your fellow bride in waiting"

Hers will definitely be a stylish, tasteful and tasty affair...

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Saturday Stuff

G and I went to the gym this morning. I ran five miles (but should have done more--I'm getting married soon, you know). We went to Whole Foods, picked up a bunch of random stuff, came home, and ate a mini baguette and butter with some pressed coffee.

{It's been overcast all day, but still warm and nice and our orchids are doing well.}

Later, I wrote a thank you note to Robert for his gift of dinner at La Terrazza in Portofino. We're using these neat pen and ink Homestead notecards. But the envelopes are thin. So I created this patterned paper with our monogram to line the envelope.

This kind of crap makes me hungry. So I made some guacamole for lunch. Please don't call it "guac". You're not cool when you say gwawk like that. I digress. Making guacamole is easy. The following is not a recipe, it's just what I did. You can do it, too!

1. Coarse chopped a shallot
2. Same thing for a clove of garlic
3. Minced a small bunch of cilantro
4. Seeded and cubed a Campari tomato
5. Put everything in a bowl and mashed it with a large spoon
6. Seasoned with grey salt
7. Squeezed some lime over the whole thing

We ate it with the crumbs from the bottom of a bag of blue tortilla chips as we purchased (online) handmade cuff links for our groomsmen. Check out Gabriel Caro if you like art and craftsmanship. (If you hate those things, you probably say guac and frequent chains--but you probably have a nice bag of full-sized Tostitos in your pantry/kitchen shelf.)

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