MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!!! The past few days have been a whirlwind of bakingandbakingandbaking and family time and seeing old friends and xmas shopping and gift wrapping and trying to finish all the 38 different books I have listed as “to read” on my Goodreads account. I’ve had barely enough time to take a breathe. Because everything’s so hectic, I’ve actually been listening to audiobooks while I bake or wrap gifts. I’m currently in the middle of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, which can also be found free on Youtube! For the busy reader in your life, maybe an audiobook subscription might make a great gift.
So, I guess it’s really only Christmas Eve but the eve is always my favorite because that’s when my family celebrates! We have a big dinner and play games and exchange gifts, those of which I am not allowed to open until Christmas morning. My mother is making her prime rib and I am over the moon excited for it. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!! The past few years Roy and I have brought back $25 worth of goodies from Trader Joe’s and it makes a great gift for the grab bag game we play on Christmas Eve. Hawaii has recently gotten a Bath & Body Works, Bed Bath & Beyond, and will soon be home to an Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie. But we have yet to gain a Trader Joe’s! Thus, everyone here goes crazy for Trader Joe’s goodies! Cookie Butter (smooth and crunchy) and mini peanut butter cups are a no brainer gift.
I was put in charge of desserts. I made two Caramel Apple Pies (again) and chocolate macarons because you can never have enough sweets for special occasion dinners. I’d only made macarons once before, following Beth’s foolproof recipe on YouTube. I highly, highly recommend watching this video if you aren’t already an expert in macaron making. It has saved my life and many batches of macaron batter. The process itself is not long, it’s the little details that you have to be sure to pay attention to that can perfect or ruin these cookies.
Last night, Steph and I visited our third leg Sophia! We spent the night making gingerbread people and catching up. We haven’t all been together since last Christmas but the best part about these kinds of friendships is–yes I’m going to be sappy and say this but it’s CHRISTMAS–no matter how much time we spend apart, it feels like nothing’s really changed when we see each other again. I think the best part about seeing old friends is just getting the chance to laugh with each other. My favorite friendships are with the people I can laugh with.
That being said, I was practically doubling over in fits of laughter while we made gingerbreads. I was probably the most uncreative of us that night, with Steph making Ariel and (derpy) Flounder and Sophia’s one-eyed monster. I couldn’t stop laughing at Derpy Flounder everytime I looked at its face! Steph later let me keep him 🙂 Santa will have plenty of funny cookies to choose from this year!
Also, I made little terrariums as gifts! I was originally going to buy them from Twig Terrariums, but found you can also purchase DIY kits off their website (plus it’s also cheaper). I had the kit shipped to Hawaii and bought the glass containers here from a local craft store. There was no way I was about to lug 5 glass jars in my suitcase on top of all the other unnecessary things I packed in there.
These little terrarium dwellers were a challenge to find. After some researching, I found this website for all things tiny people and animals. The miniature figurines are most commonly used for railroad modeling scenes, but are the perfect size for a terrarium too. With a little superglue and rocks, you can create so many different scenes!
I’m taking a little break from the interwebs and blogging for the next few days, as I hope you all are! I have a ton of things to do with the fam and will also be preparing for the New Years Eve party we have at my home after Christmas. I’ve been thinking of something special to do for the holiday and think a New Years cake sounds more than appropriate. The next time I see you I will have another pretty pretty cake (hopefully)!
For the cookies:
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup almond flour/meal
3 tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp fine salt
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of cream of tartar
3 tbsp granulated sugar
For the ganache filling:
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
1. Whisk the powdered sugar, almond flour, cocoa powder, and salt together in a bowl till combined. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites (MUST BE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE!) until foamy. Add in the cream of tartar. Slowly add in the sugar and beat until the egg whites are smooth and form stiff peaks.
3. Pour the dry mixture into the egg white mixture in several additions, using a spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet. This is where things can get tricky. Lightly fold until all the streaks of egg whites have disappeared and the batter feels like molten lava when it drips off the spatula (please watch this video if these instructions are as equally confusing for you as they were for me the first time I read a macaron recipe).
4. Transfer the batter to a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch round tip. Pipe out 1 1/4 inch circles onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, each cookie sitting about an inch apart.
5. Hit the baking sheet against the counter to remove any air bubbles. Let the cookies sit for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour.
6. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Pair similar sized macarons together.
7. To start on the ganache, heat the heavy cream over the stove until it reaches a boil. Place the bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Pour the heavy cream in and stir until combined. Add in the butter. Place in the fridge until the ganache has hardened slightly.
8. Transfer the ganache to a pastry bag and pipe the filling onto one of the paired macarons, then add the remaining macaron on top like a sandwich.
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