French Macarons with Strawberry Jam Buttercream – A Seemingly Dangerous Experiment

It’s been so long since I created a recipe specifically for this blog.

Hell, this isn’t really even my own recipe, so does it count? Haaa.

For me, in the battle of cooking vs. baking, I’ve always loved to cook because there is more flexibility in the process. Measure by eye, get creative with the spices, add a little more dry ingredient to offset higher moisture, et al.

Baking? That is SCIENCE.

While there are some baked recipes I’ve made by heart for years now where I can say, “Oh, a few shakes of salt is tantamount to 1/4 teaspoon. I’m good!”, there are some others recipes where the measurements need to be precise. That’s part of the reason I’m not much of a baker, and a huge reason why I avoided baking something I’ve wanted to try for a very long time: French macarons.

I took the task to heart after seeing Mike Bakes NYC make it seem more approachable that other recipes I had come across. He explains the process in his blog in more layman’s terms, and I was, in turn, able to approach making it with less apprehension. And you KNOW I measured with a food scale to a T. I even out-Type A-ed myself here. HA!

Through trial and error, I saw how no one should expect to make that quintessential batch of French macarons on their first try. And if you have…what is your secret? PLEASE SHARE.

1.) When folding the mixture, I feared OVERfolding it and deflating it. I soon came to learn, after seeing my ratchet first batch of macarons, that I UNDERfolded – even though I truly thought I had already OVERfolded – due to utter paranoia. HA!

2.) As I made subsequent batches, the batter got worked in the pastry bag; after that, I started to yield the more quintessential-looking macarons, albeit not perfectly round. Some where oval, some where lop-sided circles, and some even got those pretty little feet on them after they baked!

3.) Some macarons had the dreaded “hollow tops”, while others didn’t. Again, I’m sure that had to do with the folding and baking process. As most ovens have their “hot spots”, there is that risk of over-baking. I baked them to the higher time – closer to 15 minutes than 13 – and I think I’ll try to cook them on the lower end next time to see the result.

French Macarons – They don’t always come out perfect on your first time attempting to bake them! No shame! Practice makes perfect.

I am glad I did this just to prove to myself, “YEAH! Allison, girl, you can make these if ya really wanna!” When all is said and done, it’s cheaper to buy the ingredients to make French macarons at home than it is to buy some at a store; thanks to getting my almond flour from a bulk bin at Whole Foods, I paid less than $10 for all of my ingredients which yielded about 3 dozen small macarons. Better than paying $10 for four macarons at most stores, if you’re LUCKY.

I used Mike Bakes NYC’s recipe for Red Velvet Macarons as a basis, obviously eliminating the cocoa and red food gel while creating my own simple strawberry buttercream to fill them with. Click on the link in the recipe section to follow along for his recipe, then swing back here for my simple Strawberry Buttercream recipe!

HAVE FAITH! Y’all can do this! And if you screw them all up, at least you’ll have some delicious misshapen macarons. It’s really win-win.

French Macarons with Strawberry Buttercream

French Macarons with Strawberry Buttercream

Macarons: Follow the link to the Mike Bakes NYC recipe!

Strawberry Jam Buttercream:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons strawberry jam

When macarons are completed per the linked recipe, whip all buttercream ingredients together with a hand blender until smooth. Pipe or spoon buttercream onto half of your macarons and sandwich them together with remaining macarons. Place in refrigerator for 24 hours to allow macarons to “mature” before consuming. Or eat them right away. You do you!

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Cinnamon Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again – which seems to be a common theme on this blog, I feel – but I love shortbread. I love the buttery crumb. I love the slight saltiness. I love the low-level sweetness. I love the fact that since there is no egg in the batter, I can eat it raw. (Ha!) A good shortbread recipe is one any good cook should have up their sleeve. You never know when you may need to whip it out!

Case in point: When a new co-worker suggested doing a cookie swap at work for the holidays, I both loved and loathed the idea. I don’t have any pressing issues with cookies: they are sugary, delicious, and soul-soothing. I was down for a cookie swap! My issue? When the HELL would I made a batch of cookies? The weekend prior was filled with shooting photos for other blogs and PR outlets, but I knew I had to squeeze in something simple and quick…

Low and behold, shortbread saves the day, once again!

I decided to go a little fancier with it, adding some cinnamon-infused semi-sweet chocolate to the mix. Cinnamon and chocolate is a combination that is sorely underutilized, and it works wonders when added to milk, semi, or dark chocolates. And, in honor of NYC’s first snow of the season on December 9th, why not sprinkle a little bit of finely grated white chocolate on top?

Want to save some more time? Make the dough the night before you want to bake – it took me 10 minutes to throw it together – and wrap it in plastic wrap before saying “Good night!” and placing it in your fridge. The next morning, take the dough out, have your coffee and breakfast, take a walk around the block, return an hour later, and roll it out!

I’m pleased with this batch. I can only hope my co-workers also enjoy it. I suppose I’ll find out tomorrow… 🤞

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JOIN THE VIRTUAL COOKIE SWAP! Please visit the following blogs; these talented folks have some additional awesome cookie recipes for y’all to try this holiday season! Come back on December 18th after 6 a.m. EST, when all links will be active: 

Madeline Hall – Snowflake Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Katherine in Brooklyn – Cranberry Jam Linzer Cookies 
lyndsey eden – Orange Zest and Almond Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
Conscious Eating with Rui – Snickerdoodle Mexican Wedding Cookies
Nommable – Nutmeg Nutella Rice Krispies
The Foodwright – Peanut Butter Cup Thumbprints
Wood and Spoon – Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
Pumpkin & Peanut Butter – Gluten Free Gingerdoodle Blondies
This Brown Kitchen – Chocolate Holiday Nankhatai Cookies
Bappy Girl – Strawberry and Blueberry Meringue
The Table of Contents – Sesame Almond Ginger Lace Cookies
Gracepcheng – Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Jenna Hazel – Soft Vegan Gingerbread Cookies

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Cinnamon Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread
(Adapted from the Pretty. Simple. Sweet recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread Cookies)
(Makes roughly 40 cookies)

Ingredients:

For Shortbread:

– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 1 cup powdered sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Chocolate:

– 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1/2 cup white chocolate, finely grated

Directions:

1.) In a medium bowl, sift together flour and salt. Set aside.

2.) In a large bowl, add butter and sugar. With a hand blender, mix on low for 3 minutes or until butter and sugar have creamed together. Beat in vanilla extract. Add in flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until combined.

3.) Form dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and put in fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight; if leaving out overnight, be sure to remove it from fridge and allow it sit at room temperature for 1 hour before using.

4.) Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll dough out on parchment paper or a lightly floured surface until it is a round disc roughly 1/4″ thick. Score then cut dough into roughly 1″ x 1″ squares. Reroll scraps and continue to cut into additional squares.

5.) Place shortbread on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet – bake in batches, if necessary – and bake for 10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from oven, place cookies on wire rack, and allow to cool to room temperature.

6.) In a double-boiler – or by placing a bowl or sauce pan over a larger saucepan with simmering water – slowly melt chocolate over low heat. Mix in cinnamon and vanilla extract and stir to combine. Place a towel or baking sheet beneath the wire rack the cookies are on; this will catch any chocolate drips. Dip one side of each cookie into the chocolate. Place back on wire rack and allow chocolate to cool / harden. If desired, sprinkle with shaved white chocolate while chocolate has cooled slightly but is still warm.

dark chocolate butterscotch cookies

Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Cookies

Oh, dear. It seems like I’ve gone off on a bit of a chocolate tangent on these past few posts, eh? And I thought I was going cranberry crazy by having two cranberry recipes on a row. I’m about to get chocolate wasted with my third chocolate-based recipe in a row! Eh. ‘Tis the season, am I right? (All in moderation, of course. I’m typing this up as I’m eating a kale salad with vegetables, EVOO, garlic powder, and vinegar. Total guilt avoided. Ha!)

One of my coworkers, Jean-Marie, is my department’s Queen of Baking! No birthday is complete without some of her chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, and her scones with currants are so incredibly authentic! With a little jam and clotted cream, I feel like I’m in a London tea house rather than a windowless 5th floor office on the Upper East Side. Don’t get me started on her Banoffee Pie! Her food has even inspired a hashtag between a few other coworkers and myself: #dammitjeanmarie ! Why? Because on those days when we say, “I’m having oatmeal for breakfast and going to Sweetgreen for lunch!”, J-M will casually drop a plate of scones by the microwave. DAMMIT, JEAN-MARIE!

ue The other day, she made these dreamy Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Cookies. Their color alone indicated to me that they would be rich, but it was quite the opposite! The cookie had a cakier and more crumbly texture than I was expecting, and the cookie’s flavor was not dissimilar to that of an Oreo, likely due to the addition of black cocoa. It wasn’t too sweet, which worked well because the butterscotch can be such a dominant sweet flavor. The black cocoa counters this beautifully. I had to ask for the recipe, and I had to make it right away. She even gave me black cocoa to use! Honestly, without it, I doubt they’d be as delicious.

dark chocolate butterscotch cookies

Dammit, Jean-Marie! These are great!

dark chocolate butterscotch cookies

Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Cookies
(Makes 12 – 15 cookies)

Ingredients:

– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 2 tablespoons dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
– 2 tablespoons black cocoa, sifted
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
– 1/4 cup granulated sugar
– 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
– 1 large egg, room temperature
– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1 cup butterscotch chips

Before We Get Started…

– The original recipe calls for light brown sugar, but I used dark. I could tell no discernible difference, so use whichever brown sugar you have available.

Directions:

1.) In a medium bowl, whisk flour, both cocoas, baking soda, and salt until combined.

2.) In a large bowl, cream together the butter and both sugars on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes light. Reduce speed of beaters and slowly add egg and vanilla. Continue to beat until combined.

3.) Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix together. Add butterscotch chips and mix until chips have uniformly spread throughout the dough. Place dough in refrigerator for at least one hour, but up to overnight.

4.) Prior to baking, preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet(s) with parchment paper and set aside.

5.) Portion dough into 12 – 15 cookies, roughly the size of a large golf ball, and place onto baking sheet(s). Flatten very slightly, but make sure they maintain an overall round-ish shape. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes; cookies may look a bit undercooked, but they will firm up once they cool!

6.) Remove from oven and cool cookies on baking sheet(s) for 5 minutes before removing and placed on a wire rack to finish cooling.

– – – –

NOTE: Because I want some credit, please know that because my Kitchen Aid Mixer is currently packed away in the back of my closet and my hand mixer is non-functional, I creamed my butter and sugar with a fork AND combined the dough by hand. YES. My hand looks vile. Ha! Digging black dough out from under my fingernails was worth the creation of these amazing morsels.

dark chocolate butterscotch cookies

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

A shortbread cookie is a wonderful thing. I enjoy them. I’ve definitely made them before. When it came time to look for dessert recipes to make for nine people on Easter while concurrently baking a ham, mashing potatoes, roasting asparagus, and mixing mac and cheese, the simplicity of a shortbread cookie recipe won once again!

easter cookie overhead shot

These cookies were a huge hit, thank goodness.

IMG_6177

After five hours of cooking and baking that afternoon, I’m surprised I still have the desire to even look at food photos from that day. Ha!

IMG_6179

Resisting the urge to nibble on the batch was hard, but I managed. Though, I did have to scold one friend for stealing one before the dinner. Lovingly, but of course.

IMG_6181

A sloppy Jackson Pollack-esque drizzle of multi-colored options made it a sweeter affair. Who doesn’t love a pop of color along with a tart buttery cookie?

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Lemon Shortbread Cookies
(Makes 12 – 16 cookies)
(Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit’s recipe for Lemon Shortbread Cookies)

Ingredients:

– 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
– 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
– 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
– 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– Generous pinch of kosher or sea salt

Before We Get Started…

– This recipe is a great example of a “no electric mixer needed!” recipe. I currently don’t have an electric hand mixer, and with all of the cacophony of an Easter Dinner happening in my tiny Manhattan kitchen, I was not about to drag out the Kitchen Aid to make just a dozen cookies. If your butter is soft enough at room temperature, you can cream the sugar and confectioners’ sugar by hand and still get a great shortbread. So, if you are mixer-less, do not fret! You’ll still end up with a great cookie. I guarantee it!

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350°F.

2.) In a large bowl, beat butter at a low to medium speed until fluffy. Slowly add confectioners’ sugar and combine well. Add in lemon peel, lemon juice, and vanilla and beat until combined.

3.) Mix (or preferably sift together) flour and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until combined.

For rolled and cut cookies:

– On top of parchment paper or on a floured board or sheet pan that can fit in your fridge, roll out dough until approximately 1/4″ thick. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. After removed from fridge, cut cookies to preferred shapes. Move onto a lightly greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly golden around the edges. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to cooling rack.

For hand-rolled cookies:

– Place bowl on dough in fridge for 20 minutes. After removing from fridge, roll dough between hands to form approximately 1″ balls. Flatten with hands until dough is approximately 1/4″ thick. (Eyeball it). Place onto a lightly greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly golden around the edges. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to cooling rack.

shortbread

Shortbread

The origins of Valentine’s Day are quite widespread and fairly muddled, though, anyone interested in history knows it wasn’t always centered around Dove chocolate hearts and bouquets given to women because of some kind of societal obligation.

“From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain. The Roman romantics ‘were drunk. They were naked,’ says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile. The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival — or longer, if the match was right.” [npr.org]

Well, with that being said, let’s make some cookies!

shortbread

I love shortbread, being a person that loves savory over sweet. The buttery crumb of a good piece of shortbread will win me over compared to any other cookie out there.

shortbread

It’s a perfect base for any kind of chocolate or sugary coating.

shortbread

My inner child was getting a bit overzealous. Well, I am the daughter of an artist…

shortbread

Shortbread
(Makes 1 dozen cookies)

Ingredients:

– 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus 1/2 tablespoon to butter baking pan
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1/4 cup sugar

Before We Get Started…

– Growing up, I habitually pressed my shortbread into the shape of a circle, then cut it into triangles. Habitually, this is what I still do when making shortbread! However, dough can be pressed into whichever shape you prefer. Also note that the dough does not have to take up the entire area of the baking pan; mine is usually a 8″ circle of dough placed on a 13″ x 9″ baking pan.

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 13″ x 9″ baking pan and set aside.

2.) In a medium bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer, on medium speed, for approximately two to three minutes or until butter is fluffy and lightened in color. Add sugar and beat for an additional two minutes.

3.) Combine flour and salt; sift the two together, if possible. Add flour mixture to the butter and sugar, beating on low for one to two minutes or until mixture begins to stick together and resemble pebbles. Remove mixer and use hands to combine the dough into a firm ball.

4.) Press dough onto buttered baking pan, making sure the thickness is uniformly 1/4″.

5.) Bake for approximately 20 – 25 minutes or until edges start to turn a light brown. Remove from oven and place baking sheet on a cooling rack. Once the shortbread has cooled, cut into smaller pieces.

6.) If decorating with glaze, combine 1 cup confectioners’ sugar with approximately 2 tablespoons of water or milk. Add food coloring, if desired. Drizzle or dip cookies into glaze. Place cookies on cooling rack and allow to fully dry.