Macarons

I finally made macarons!! They have been an obsession of mine for months now. A large part of getting my KitchenAid stand mixer was having the ability to make macarons. Amidst the studying and stressing, I purchased half a dozen macarons from a bakery in town. I ate them right away and was greatly disappointed.

Like I said, macarons have become an interest of mine, so naturally, I’ve been doing my research. Macarons are supposed to be delicate, chewy, sweet, and overall AMAZING. The half dozen I consumed that day where anything but. The shells were hollow and crumbled. They were also baked too much.

That fiasco prompted me to do it myself. I’ll post the recipe I used. I have found that the two most difficult tasks involved with making macs is:

  1. WHIPPING THE EGG WHITES: It is far too easy to over-whip egg whites. Then you’re stuck with something you can’t use. You may as well start over. If you put it in your batter, the batter won’t have the consistency required in order to dry.
  2. GETTING THE AIR OUT: If you’re not familiar with macs, the batter is almond flour and confectioners’ sugar carefully folded into meringue. You want the batter to move around without it being too runny. It’s quite finicky. Then once you have the shells piped out, you have to slam the trays against a hard surface to release any excess air. An unsuccessful removal of the air will result in a less-than-appealing appearance, but they’ll still taste great!

With my macarons (pictured), I wasn’t able to get all of the air out. I was worried my neighbors would complain about noise. My friend pointed out that an easy solution would be to lay a towel down under the trays. I also tried to make them light blue, but I didn’t use enough dye. They turned out a little green.

My FIRST EVER macs

RECIPE

Macaron shells:

  • 3/4 cup of super fine almond flour
  • 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 egg whites (large eggs at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

Filling:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp milk or heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

FOR THE SHELLS

  1. Sift the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar together into a bowl. Set this aside.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium until you see soft peaks. This should only take a couple minutes. It would be best if you monitored the progress.
  3. Add the granulated sugar to the egg whites. Mix on medium until the peaks are stiff and glossy. This should take a couple minutes.
  4. Add the vanilla and beat for thirty seconds on high.
  5. CAREFULLY fold the dry mix into the meringue you’ve just made. You want the batter to be runny, but not TOO runny. Think the consistency of lava. If you’re unfamiliar with that: you want to mix the batter until you can remove some, add it back, and the batter recombines on its own.
  6. If you want to add color, do it while you’re folding the batter. Add more than you think you’ll need.
  7. Put the batter into a bag. This can either be a piping bag with a 1/2 in tip OR a regular sandwich bag with the corner cut off. If you use the sandwich bag method, use a freeze bag. It’s stiffer and will give you more control.
  8. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Pipe the batter onto the parchment paper. Hold the bag vertically and do not swirl as you pipe.
  9. Bang the pans against a counter to release the air bubbles.
  10. Let this sit for about half an hour. This is so that the macarons can form a film. At the end, you want to be able to run your finger across the top without disturbing the shell.
  11. Bake at 325°F for about 7-10 minutes. It doesn’t take long. You’ll want to rotate the pans halfway through.
  12. Let the macarons cool. When they’ve cooled, you should be able to lift them off the parchment paper easily.

FOR THE FILLING (Buttercream)

  1. Beat the butter with the paddle attachment on medium-high until it looks smooth, light and fluffy.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk (or whipping cream), and vanilla.
  3. Beat some more.
  4. Don’t be afraid to taste test. You may need to add a pinch of salt if it’s too sweet.
  5. Pipe this onto a macaron, sandwiching it with another.

It will help to let the macarons rest in the fridge overnight inside an air-tight container. Consume with pleasure!

Studying and Staying Motivated

One of my downfalls in the past has been staying motivated. I’m talking motivated to study, to work, to cook, to clean, to wake up early, and just being productive in general.

I’m taking only 13 credit hours: organic chemistry, organic chemistry lab, genetics, ethics online, and a seminar.

I have learned that being busy does not equate to being productive. Doing busy work is not the same as committing several minutes to work on an assignment or two. I use downtime between classes to take notes or read the chapters or work on homework assignments. My major motivator these days is the fear of falling behind. That may not be the case for everyone, and that’s understandable. You have to find something worth working towards. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or drastic. For example, find a bakery with the most amazing cupcakes. Set some goals for yourself at the beginning of every week. Buy yourself a cupcake for every week you fulfill your weekly goals.

Motivation isn’t easy. I manipulated my course schedule to only have classes on Tuesday and Thursday, with the heaviest load being on Thursday. If I stumble, my assignments could pile up. I still go into work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I use the morning hours to sip some hot tea and read assigned chapters. At nights, I cook. It’s become an outlet for me. I put on a load of laundry meanwhile. When I can, I write for this blog, I read books, I bake bread. Multitasking is key.

I’ve managed to study every night and stay on top of things. I’m proud of myself. I can say that.

The most important thing to realize is that progress is relative. You shouldn’t compare yourself to others, only to your previous self. All you need to do is better than you did yesterday. You can do this. We’ve got this.

Book Club

Could this be a new subtopic? Perhaps. Let’s try it.

I love taking the weekend to realign my thoughts. I also love to give myself a mental break. I do this my reading recreationally. I purposely choose my books so that they do not pertain to the courses I am currently taking. I maintain a list of books I would like to read. I either own the books, plan to own the books, or I listen to the audiobooks while I’m at work.

My current list is:

  • 12 Rules for Life
  • A Brief History of Time
  • A Simple Favor
  • Brief Answers to the Big Questions
  • Cooked
  • Different Seasons
  • Divine Comedy
  • Doctor Sleep
  • Elevation
  • Existentialist’s Survival Guide
  • Female Persuasion
  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • Pet Semetary 
  • Red Sparrow
  • Robin
  • Sleeping Beauties
  • Wicked

If you have read these books and would like to share your thoughts, you can find me at hellolittleredbaker@gmail.com. Alternatively, if you disagree with this list and would like to suggest others, you may contact me at hellolittleredbaker@gmail.com! I’m thinking that I can start posting reviews if enough people seem to like the idea. Don’t forget to share your thoughts with me!

You On Netflix

Plenty of people appreciate a spoiler alert. This is a spoiler alert. There will be spoilers if you read any further. Do not continue to read unless you have watched You on Netflix.

Okay, first of all: social media is the worst. This stalker was able to find out everything about Beck and everyone in her life through social media alone.

This psycho man chose her, stalked her, dated her, and then killed her.

I’m almost at a loss for words.

I’ve had a sour opinion of social media for a while. People tag the locations of their photos without a second thought. Photos show only the best aspects of a life. Twitter is for every thought you have. Snapchat is for video proof you did something, sometimes it’s amazing but more likely mediocre. Facebook is where you update your older relatives on your life and occasionally dabble in political debates. People post because that’s how we connect these days.

I’m not blaming Beck, necessarily. She was doing what people do. But goodness, sometimes I wanted to shake her. What are the chances that Mr. Seemingly Perfect just shows up at a Charles Dickens festival? Dude know the king size bed won’t fit in your bedroom because he stands outside your apartment every night, watching you mess around with other men.

Beck wasn’t perfect, but did she deserve to die for that? Would he have really allowed her to live if she had gone along with his delusion?

And Candace?? Thought she was dead. Guess I was wrong. What happened with Candace?

These are just some thoughts I had after finish the first season. This show was amazingly spine chilling. It has coated me in another layer of paranoia.

Please share your thoughts and theories with me. hellolittleredbaker@gmail.com.

My History in Makeup

I started wearing makeup in the sixth grade, as was common. I started off small with only mascara. It evolved to include eyeshadow, eyeliner, the works. By eighth grade, I was a strong believer in layering mascaras, a technique otherwise known to make your eyelashes clumpy and your mascara flaky. Enter freshman year. I honed my talents by waking up hours before school to do my makeup. I even started filling in my eyebrows. I got my certificate in makeup artistry during my junior year. These days, I go more natural, unwilling to forsake the time I could be spending doing other things (like sleeping).

I did makeup for other people quite often. I would start on the eyebrows, move to eyeshadow, eyeliner, and eyelashes. I would use concealer to clean those up. Then I would use color corrector and foundation. I would set the foundation with powder, bronzer, and blush. Then highlighter would be applied, followed by a lip color. The end. The process would take about an hour, give or take.

I begin my process by filling in my eyebrows. I used to used an auburn color, but I’ve grown to love the lighter look. I use eyeshadow, maybe two different shades at a time. Darker in the my crease, lighter on my eyelid. Then mascara and I’m done. If I move slowly, it takes about thirty minutes. If I’m in a hurry, it’ll take ten.

My routine has changed drastically. I’m not the person I was in high school. I don’t think anyone stays exactly the same. I still do makeup when I’m asked to. If you ever have questions, feel free to email hellolittleredbaker@gmail.com and I will answer them to the best of my ability!

Casanova

I often like to reflect on my life and how amazing things really are. Days spent with Casanova remind me of how grateful I am to have stumbled upon him. I am in love with everything about him.

I embarked on my quest for a puppy in March of 2018. I had just moved into my apartment. It began innocently enough. It started by browsing through internet advertisements during my classes. Some of the advertised puppies had names, I’m guessing to add to the cuteness. One little puppy was named Casanova; I fell in love with the name. I added the name to my growing list of possible names. My idea was the name had to match my pup’s personality. The frontrunners were Casanova if I found a boy and Cecelia if I found a girl. Obviously, the name needed to be unique.

I spent months looking online and in pet shops and at animal shelters for my puppy, but none of them felt quite right. At the time I wasn’t sure if I wanted a boy or girl, I just knew it had to feel perfect. I had already purchased a dog bed, food bowls, and several toys.

I eventually had a dream about my puppy. In that dream, my puppy was fluffy, yellow, and loved me to pieces.

In July, my brother found an advertisement online posted by a family about an hour and half away. This family had three boy puppies: one black and white (which had already been sold), one brown, and one sandy blonde with dark hair around his mouth. I was told the mother of the puppies was a shih-tzu, the father was a maltipoo. The family sent me pictures of the sandy blonde one. I knew. That was my Casanova, the malshipoo.

I immediately arranged to pick him up. My brother went with me. On the way, we stopped to buy a little blue collar and an engraved name tag.

My sweet boy cuddled against me from the moment he was in my arms. He was eight weeks old, born on May 29th. He slept the entire way home. He didn’t understand his toys at first, but he caught on. He learned so quickly and would do anything for a piece of turkey.

I brought him a bear to play with on the ride home. He cuddled it instead.

It sounds cliché, but that day changed my life. Casanova has been a blessing. He is seven months old. The dark hair around his mouth has grown out. He cuddles with me when I’m sad. He plays with me when I need a distraction from the monotonous daily grind. He especially loves to be outside. He hates baths. He hates to be separated from me; he won’t even let me close the bathroom door. He usually sleeps with his head on a stuffed toy or a pillow. He gives me SO many kisses.

I truly adore him. My goal is giving him his best possible life. I sometimes wish he could speak so that I could explain what it means when I tell him I love him.

Finding an Apartment

Hello! With the end of my lease approaching, I have been hunting for a new abode. Having nearly completed my first year of living independently, I thought I might share some of my newly gained (though still limited) knowledge. I’m no stranger to moving around. By my count, I’ve moved approximately seventeen or eighteen times in my life. I moved away from home, into a dorm, and then into my apartment.

Apartment Features

  1. The first thing to consider is what you’ll be doing with your space. Will you be cooking? If so, you may desire a fully equipped kitchen. Will you be using a communal laundry room or would you prefer to have your own machines? With many apartments, there are laundry rooms meant for the residents. However, if you prefer your own machines, you might have to insist on washer/dryer hook-ups. Also consider whether you want carpet or hardwood flooring.
  2. You will have neighbors. Try and be observant of the residents in the area as you tour the various complexes. It can be difficult, but try to notice the thickness of the walls and the proximity of the units. Take into consideration the age group that is predominant in the area. You may not want to live near people that are going out late and honking car horns at all hours, unless you too plan to do so.
  3. Keep in mind that you will be required to move the entirety of your belongings into this new space. If your apartment is an upstairs apartment, you (and your moving crew) will have to carry everything up those stairs. That means a couch or futon, a dining table, a coffee table, a bed. You get the picture. It CAN be worth it, but if you’re not up for it, try and get a ground-level apartment.

Rent

I probably don’t have to say this, but don’t try to live beyond your means. The cost of living varies based on location. Larger cities and areas near popular nodes can stand to raise their rent. Know what you’re willing to pay for. Personally, I wouldn’t like paying an outrageous amount of money for a complex that has a tennis court, a golf course, and a mini bar. I simple wouldn’t partake in those luxuries, but I would still be paying them, ya feel? If your rent is inescapably high, make sure you have a contingency plan. Work hard, save money, and make good choices. It’s quite possible that getting away from the popular areas will lower the rent prices.

There is no shame in having your parents’ help, but don’t take that for granted. Not everyone is granted that luxury. If you can afford to help out, offer to pay some bills or a portion of the rent.

Pets

If you don’t have pets, you can pretty much skip this part. Since getting Casanova (the light of my life), I’ve started taking note of things I never had before. I now require clean, grassy areas where I can walk my boy without worrying about him. Try to consider the best things for your pet. You are their voice.

Nearby Amenities

What’s important to you? Being close to campus or being close to WalMart? Would you prefer to live walking distance from campus? Is it important that you pass a Starbucks on your way to class? Do you need to be near a shopping mall or a library? Location is everything and can inspire greatness.

In the end, be critical of the things that matter to you. Assuming that no one enjoys moving, pick the place you can see yourself being happy at for a few years.