Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Paris & Macarons

The first in my Food & Travel series: 
Macarons & Paris

Macaron Tips
Macarons not Macaroons 

Macaroons – generic phrase for whipped egg white confections, almost always cookies and often with coconut.

Macarons - Meringue-based cookie, with almond flour, egg whites and powdered and granulated sugar, sandwiched with a fruit or frosted center. (See also French Macaroons)

So when it comes to baking the trendy cookie sandwich, first understand that you are making macaronsnot macaroons.  My friend Emily took a macaron class, and she sent me a few tips about some other things you should know before making the delicate dessert.

According to Emily …
1. Keep your almond meal in the freezer. 
2.  For better results, add a pinch of cream of tartar to dry macaron ingredients. 
3.  Massage butter into the ganache with a blender, do not whisk in circles — this lets in too much air.
4. Nutella can be a good buttercream or ganache substitute. 
5.  Macarons only need four ingredients: almond meal (or flour), powdered sugar, granulated sugar and egg whites. To create flavors, mix dry ingredients into the almond meal (nuts, cocoa, etc.) and wet ingredients (extracts) with egg whites after stiff peaks have formed. 

A few days in Paris

Robert and spent a few days in Paris in May — as you may have inferred from my food diary. 

While I won’t bore you with the details, I’ll hit the highlights …

A stroll in the Jardin du Luxembourg followed by an outdoor café quiche and espresso.
A jet lagged dinner of baguette and brie followed by falling asleep early to the sound of a jazz band from the Latin Quarter street below.
Our bnb on Rue Dauphine.
Breakfast pastries each morning at the café down the street.
Getting to the Louvre early and seeing all the highlights without a line.
Crepes on the street.
Gelato on the street.
Learning about buttresses at Notre Dame — from Robert.
Placing a lock on the Love Lock Bridge. Ours is probably still there.
Buying a scarf from two adorable French grandmas.
Shakespeare Books.
A Laduree macaron picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Stumbling into an amazing dinner at Bistro 1900.
The Seine.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cupcake Girl: Old Fashioned Cupcakes

Last week for HelloGiggles, I turned your granddad's cocktail into a cupcake. Don't worry, it still has whiskey ...

Old Fashioned Cupcakes
Part of my frosted cocktails series ... 

See where the recipe first posted on HG here

•   2  cups sifted flour (1/2 cups cake flour and 1 1/2  cups all purpose flour)
•   2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, just a tad less is good
•   ½  teaspoon salt
•   2 eggs
•   1 1/2 cups sugar (1 cup granulated, 1/2 cup brown sugar)
•   ¾ cup butter, softened
•   1 cup milk (or blend in as needed)
•   2 teaspoon vanilla extract
•   2 tablespoons whiskey, per cupcake

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside dry ingredients.
Cream butter and sugar.  Blend egg and extract into this bowl.
Add sifted ingredients alternately with milk, a small amount at a time.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.
Allow cupcakes to cool for 10 minutes.
Make 8-12 holes in the cupcakes, poking the tops with a fork. Now, use the whiskey you set aside to drizzle over the tops of the cupcakes. Use two tablespoons per cupcake.

Now for the orange whiskey buttercream frosting!
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2-3 cups powdered sugar, by taste/texture
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3½ tablespoons orange juice, fresh squeezed
1 tablespoon whiskey, or whiskey to taste
Mix it up. (If icing is too runny, add more sugar. If too thick, add a splash of milk.) 

Apply frosting.
Garnish with orange zest or skin.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My European Food Diary

Robert and I went to Europe in May and we had a fabulous time! We visited Paris (my favorite), Antwerp, Amsterdam and Cologne. Over the next few weeks, I will share a recipe inspired by each city and a little travel tale! In the mean time, feast your eyes on a food diary from our little adventure. 

Bon Appétit!

Sidewalk cafe quiche lorraine and coffee, Paris.

Paris Breakfast on top of a Belgian breakfast. Scenes from Belgium below.

Belgium Waffle, Van Hecke cafe in Antwerp.
Cafe Winkel Appeltaart, Amsterdam. Scenes from Cologne Germany below, Kolsch beer.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

You Really Push My Buttons ...

Have you clicked around on The Old Country Blog lately? 

About me. 

Check out my updated "About Me," feast your eyes on a linked-up recipe collage in the "Recipe Box" or find a dish organized by region on the "100 Recipes & Counting" list. 

And don't forget to keep up with me on social media & follow TOCB on bloglovin'.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cupcake Girl

Big news ... I'm now the Cupcake Girl at Hello Giggles!

This week's recipe is a reblog from said HG cupcake column: my Mojito Cupcakes.

Photo by Robert Giglio ... Cupcakes by me. Eaten by Robert, Robert's co-workers and me :) 

To see where the recipe was originally posted, click here

•   2 ¾ cups sifted flour (1 ¼ cups cake flour and 1 ½ cups all purpose flour)
•   4 teaspoons baking powder, just a tad less is good. Do Not Exceed 4 teaspoons.
•   ½  teaspoon salt, just a tad less is good. Do Not Exceed ½ teaspoon.
•   4 egg whites
•   ½  teaspoon cream of tartar
•   1 ½  cups sugar ( ¾ cup granulated, ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar)
•   ¾ cup butter, softened
•   1 cup milk
•   1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•   ½ teaspoon peppermint extract (This stuff is strong. Do not exceed 1 teaspoon.)
•   1 tablespoon rum, and 2 tablespoons to set aside
•   Zest and juice of one lime

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
Beat egg whites until foamy with cream of tartar. Gradually add ¼ cup granulated sugar and ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar.
In a separate bowl, cream butter and add remaining 1 cup sugar.  Blend egg mixture into this bowl.
Add sifted ingredients alternately with milk, a small amount at a time.
Blend in extracts, lime parts and rum.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.
Allow cake to cool for 10 minutes.
Use the 2 tablespoons of rum you set aside to lightly brush the tops of cupcakes.

Now for the buttercream lime frosting!

1 cup unsalted butter, softened  
3 cups confectioners’ (AKA powdered) sugar
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3½ tablespoons lime juice
Optional: 1 tablespoon rum, or rum to taste
Optional: 2 drops green gel food coloring
Mix it up. (If icing is too runny, add more sugar. If too thick, add a splash of milk.)

Apply frosting.
Garnish with lime and fresh mint leaves.


Back to Blogging

Dear Readers (all seven of you),


I'm back and ready to blog. You see I went a short hiatus because life got pretty hectic — but in a great way! As many of you know, I have been working and living in Pittsburgh for a few months now. Which has been wonderful. Robert, Rasco and I have been happy and loving our new home.

I mean look at him, he loves it here! 


I also got a new writing gig as contributor at Hello Giggles — so far I've written about Rasco, of course, cupcakes and movies. It's been really fun.

Robert and I also recently returned from Europe — Paris, Antwerp, Amsterdam and Cologne to be exact. Paris is now one of my absolute favorite cities. We had a lovely, lovely vacation. Writing and blogging and responsibility were miles and miles away.

Robert snapped this of me at the Eiffel Tower.


But now I am back at it. And happy to be home. Going forward, you will see the same traditions and food roots you always have over here at TOCB. But, I will be focusing more on life's little celebrations and the food that accompanies them. Nothing you haven't seen before with my TV recipes and dog birthday parties ;). Some more lifestyle and travel writing may sneak in as well.  I have some Europe stories and recipes to share and I will be in New York for the better half of June for a summer institute at Columbia.

I would also like to take a beat and say that after 2013 proved to be the worst year of my life, it has been really nice to slow down and appreciate 2014 and its positive adventures. I also have a newfound gratitude for happiness. After going through some really rough stuff, I know that times will inevitably be just as bad or worse again. But, that is no reason to be unhappy in the present.

When things are going well and you get the opportunity for fulfilling work, travel and education, take a moment to count yourself lucky. Even if you are lucky just for the moment. I'm not sure what the future holds but I have gratitude for May 2014 and happy months ahead.

Thanks for bearing with my non-linear and long welcome back.



- More writing gigs outside of the blog
- Went to Europe 
- Doing a short summer institute at Columbia
- Get ready for the old stuff + travel stories this summer 

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