It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. In my mind, I’m still thinking about Christmas. Next thing you know, it will be Summer. Ok, that part I can handle. If you haven’t made your sweetie something sweet yet for Valentine’s Day, then you should whip up a batch of these macarons. They were relatively easy to make. I say that because this was my very first attempt at making them…ever. Not bad. Anyway, make some for your honey.
Now, for the “Inspiring” part of this post. Do you ever look at someone who’s wildly successful at what they do and wonder – what made them that way? Take an athlete or a famous singer, for instance. Did they have parents who were uber supportive of their dreams or were they forcing to succeed to fulfill their parents desires? Well, sometimes I think people are just born to be rich, famous, entrepreneurial and/or successful. It’s in their blood from the moment they arrive on this Earth.
Like this little girl….
This is my sweet little neighbor and she’s 6 years old. She’s a normal girl with giant dreams. I have never met a child who is as entrepreneurial as she is. She has a heart of gold too. This photo of her was from this past weekend where she decided to sell cookies on the corner, in the middle of winter (see the snow in the background), to help foster kids. It was all her own idea, no coaxing from Mom & Dad. Just one little girls dream to reach out to her community to raise money for children less fortunate than her. She hit the neighborhood handing out fliers promoting her Hot Cocoa, Apple Cider and Cookie stand.
She decided on CASA Partners as the organization she wanted to support with the money she raised. A little about CASA Partners:
“CASA Partners is dedicated to supporting the local CASA Program and enhancing the lives of abused and neglected children currently in the foster care system in Spokane Country and those children who are at risk of entering the system. Founded in 1997, CASA Partners sponsors four direct service projects: My Bag, My School Bag, Bee Kind Garden, and Needs from the Heart.”
One of the programs, My Bag, provides children who are about to go into foster care for the 1st time, an age appropriate bag filled with items like a toothbrush or school needs. Most children going to a foster home have little more than the clothes on their backs and this organization gives them a bag full of items they can call their own.
Now stop for a moment. Think back to when you were 6. Did you ever think for a second about raising money and awareness for foster kids? Ya, me neither. I think I was worried about when the next Barbie was coming out.
So, as I sit here typing this post, I can’t help but think about where this little girl will be in 20 years. How she’s going to leave her mark on this Earth. She’s no ordinary 6 year old, that is for sure. There’s something special growing inside of her and I can’t wait to watch her bloom into the woman she’ll soon become. I’m proud to know her and applaud her giving heart.
If you’d like to make a donation to help Alana, you can do so by clicking “donate” below and all moneys collected will be given to her directly to make her donation to Casa Partners.
Heart Macarons with Nutella Buttercream
Macaron recipe is from www.bravetart.com & nutella buttercream is from www.mybakingaddiction.com
4 ounces (115g) blanched almonds or almond flour, or whatever nut you like
8 ounces (230g) powdered sugar*
5 ounces egg whites (144g), temperature and age not important!
2 1/2 ounce (72g) sugar
the scrapings of 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp (2g) salt
1 stick butter, room temperature
6.5 ounces Nutella
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound confectioners sugar, sifted
3-5 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
1 Preheat the oven to 300°. Ready a pastry bag, fitted with a plain tip, along with two sheet pans lined with parchment paper.
2 If using almond flour, sift it with the powdered sugar and set aside. Otherwise, process the almonds and powdered sugar for a minute in a food processor. Sift, reserving the bits don’t pass through the sieve. Add the almond bits back to the food processor and process for another minute. Sift again. You may have about a tablespoon or 2 of chunkier almond bits, but you can add those into the dry mix.
3 In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla bean (not the extract), and salt and turn the mixer to medium (4 on a Kitchen Aid). Whip for 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high (7 on a Kitchen Aid) and whip another 3 minutes, then turn the speed to 8 for go another 3 minutes. Turn the mixer off and add in any extracts/flavor/color and whip for a final minute on the highest speed. You should have a very stiff, dry meringue. When you remove the whisk attachment, there will be a big clump of meringue in the center, just knock the whisk against the bowl to free it. Add the dry ingredients all at once and fold them in with a rubber spatula. Use both a folding motion (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a pressing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl.
First timers: the dry ingredients/meringue will look hopelessly incompatible. After about 25 turns (or folds or however you want to call “a single stroke of mixing”) the mixture will still have a quite lumpy and stiff texture. Another 15 strokes will see you to “just about right.” Keep in mind that macaronage is about deflating the whites, so don’t feel like you have to treat them oh-so-carefully. You want to knock the air out of them.
4 Transfer half the batter to a piping bag. (When your bag is too full, the pressure causes the batter to rush out in a way that’s difficult to control, making for sloppy macarons.)
Pipe the batter into the parchment lined baking sheet into circles or hearts as pictured above. After piping your macarons, take hold of the sheet pan and hit it hard against your counter. Rotate the pan ninety degrees and rap two more times. This will dislodge any large air bubbles that might cause your macarons to crack.
5 Bake for about 18 minutes, or until you can cleanly peel the parchment paper away from a macaron. If, when you try to pick up a macaron, the top comes off in your hand, it’s not done. Once the macarons have baked, cool thoroughly on the pans, before peeling the cooled macarons from the parchment. Use a metal spatula if necessary.
1 In a bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and nutella until light and fluffy. Slowly add the confectioners sugar and mix well to incorporate.
2 Add the salt, vanilla and milk and mix well to combine, until fluffy.
Pipe a quarter sized amount of buttercream onto half of the cooled macarons. Top with the other half. Eat immediately, or chill up to a week. Bring to room temperature before eating.