Cookies & Creme French Macarons

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French macarons – how can such a tiny cookie deliver such massive defeat?! I winced on the inside every time I shelled out euros/francs/pounds on these things in Europe, but now I completely understand why they cost an arm and a leg. They look so harmless and beautiful on the outside… but secretly, conquering macarons requires fearless valor and resilience against the endless sources of failure behind every batch. Anything and everything can go wrong when making them, from the weather, to your oven being a degree off, to not counting backwards while standing on one foot when beating the egg whites. Okay not really the last one, but you get the idea.
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The first time my friend and I tried to make macarons, we tried the Italian method and completely, utterly failed. I was scarred and didn’t go anywhere near almond flour for years. Literally. Recently, however, another one of my friends launched a macaron business (@yysmacarons) and I convinced her to hold my hand through the process as a spring break project for me. And? …the first batch didn’t have feet! Fail. (They still tasted fine, just looked like whoopie pies instead of macarons) Refusing to settle for whoopie pies, we switched to blanched almond flour instead of unblanched and apparently that did the trick. Or maybe it was the prayers I said while they were in the oven, but I nearly cried tears of joy when they emerged with 1) feet, 2) no hollows, 3) beautiful coloring, and 4) the texture of the silpat on the bottoms.

To be honest, I’m unlikely to ever make these again on my own because the sheer defeat of having wasted time and ingredients would be miserable to face alone. I hate baking failures, but for macarons especially, having someone there for moral support when you (inevitably) fail is absolutely necessary. #dramatic #butreally

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I’m obsessed with the coloring in this photo because it reminds me of a robin’s egg – just in time for Easter! The lighter color shells with the flecks of Oreo really invokes the cookies & creme ice cream look, which I love. How great would these be if they were filled with cookies & creme ice cream instead of buttercream?! If you’re interested in this particular flavor, I’ll just direct you to the source because there are about a zillion guides and videos out there for troubleshooting macarons and more complete instructions than I could give you. I used this recipe by Liv for Cake.

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My final verdict is that for the ridiculous amount of arbitrary things that can go wrong with these finnicky cookies and the how time-consuming the process is, it’s not worth it. (gasp!) There. I said it. Yes, they are so pretty with limitless flavor combinations and a pleasant chewy texture… but these days, I bake more to enjoy what I make than for the the photographic appeal. #uglybakedgoodsmatter I couldn’t be more satisfied with finally being able to say I’ve successfully made macarons, though! Have you ever tried your hand at French macarons? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

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P.S. My intention with this post is definitely not to be discouraging – after all, success has never been so so sweet! I’d just rather buy perfect macarons if I have a craving than spend $15 on ingredients for something I could make a thousand times and still go wrong. Call me lazy. 🙂

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London, UK: Food Highlights

An entire semester (and a half) after my summer abroad, I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and share some tidbits from my month in London. Mostly because applying for internships in DC is making me so sad that I won’t be there this summer. Also because this post was started in August but never finished, so…. better late than never right?

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Scones with clotted cream changed my life. Petition to make afternoon tea a thing in the States…

People always say that when you spend time in a foreign country for the first time, there is an adjustment cycle that goes something along the lines of honeymoon stage, to culture shock, to gradual adjustment, to feeling at home. Looking back, Continue reading

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Geneva, Switzerland: Food Highlights

Appetizer:  beautifully plated combination of salmon, avocado, and grilled zucchini on a bed of mixed greens. The biscuit on top was slightly sweet and perfectly flaky.

My first real meal in Geneva – the welcome dinner a week into the program – was the best meal I had in Switzerland. The student life directors picked Cafe Papon to serve as our first glimpse into Swiss food culture, and that it did. For example, I couldn’t remember the last time I took 3 hours to eat a meal, which is something the Swiss (and French) do regularly. Eating is not just something you do to stay alive; it’s an experience that is best enjoyed slowly and in the company of others. Continue reading

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Swiss cheese and other things

Hello friends! 6 countries, 24-ish cities (I lost track), and many a plane/train/boat/tube ride later, I am back in the good ol’ US of A. When I sat down to start writing about my whereabouts for the last two months, I realized that I never published this post I wrote wayyy in the beginning of my study abroad program… so I’ll leave you with this 6-weeks overdue update before I go on about how I ate my way through the rest of Europe 🙂

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Even if you don’t typically like the outdoors, Switzerland will turn you into a hiking person because the views are breathtaking and you just can’t miss out on it.

I’ve been in Geneva for just over two weeks now and it feels like we are already getting ready to leave. One month is not enough in this beautiful place, but at least there’s lots more excitement in store for me! Continue reading

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The End of an Era

Courtesy of Devon Haddock

Beautiful last day of class at UNC… Not sure if anyone actually went to class?

As the first half of my undergraduate career comes frighteningly close to an end – aka I’m definitely procrastinating studying right now – I am reminded of my imminent 20th birthday right after finals. (I didn’t have a summer birthday until college because of how early UNC starts and ends… At least I always got to bring cupcakes into class on my birthday growing up!) Leaving the teenage years behind isn’t usually a significant event for college kids because we are still essentially fake adults. For someone who runs a blog called “Diary of a Teenage Baker”, though, I suppose I should acknowledge it.

Ever since I debuted this website about three years ago, people have asked me what would happen once I turned 20. After wrestling with the idea of changing the name, I’ve decided that it wouldn’t make sense for me to change my blog for every life stage I go through – Diary of a Broke College Student… Diary of a Law Student… Diary of a Real-Person-with-a-Job… etc. My love for cooking and baking will always be with me no matter where I am in life, so Diary of a Teenage Baker is here to stay. I’m even going to have a real kitchen in my apartment when I move off campus next year, so you can expect more regular updates next semester… after my my summer abroad!

My home for the summer

I’ll be living here for part of this summer! (Not the castle though, I wish…)

I am excited beyond words to have the opportunity to study International Conflict Resolution in Geneva, Switzerland and London, UK for a total of eight weeks. I will eat and travel my way through Europe both during and after the program, and I’ll be sure to document accordingly. That said, I feel like I am due for a camera upgrade after five years of using a mediocre Nikon point-and-shoot for food photography. My best shots have been taken with my friends’ DSLRs. I figured that my once-in-a-lifetime trip warrants the investment to properly preserve those memories, as well as for future food shoots on the blog. After much research and consideration, I’ve decided to spring for a mirrorless digital camera system that fits my travel and food photography needs. I’m super excited to learn how to use it and improve as a photographer! Hopefully you will see the fruits of that gift on this blog for sure!

I may or may not have a paper due in five hours that I should return to now, but thank you from the bottom of my heart to each and every one of you for supporting Diary of a Teenage Baker – especially those who have been following since its inception! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me and for this blog.

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