Opera Macarons, Thoughtful Gifts And An Award

Be prepared this is the loaded post of the weekend! Take your time reading it but there were many people I wanted to thank on this site and this is long overdue. I know I still have to answer a couple of “meme” I have been tagged for and I am saving those for next week. In the meantime, let’s start at the beginning…

A couple of weeks ago, one of my favorite bloggers and fellow Daring Baker Deborah from Taste and Tell sent me an email reading that she wanted to try her hand at making macarons but she had never had one so she would not know what to look for in the texture, taste, etc… She offered to pay me to send her a box and I immediately shook my head “No, no, don’t pay me, instead let’s do a trade! I’ll send you some macarons and you’ll send me a favorite cookie or something”. She agreed and although a few health and family have delayed my sending them they are finally one their way to her house. Cross your fingers that they get there un-crushed! Wednesday afternoon the mail man dropped a box full of Meyer Lemon Cookies and jar of Deborah’s Peach and Vanilla jam. Thank you Deborah!

I had the idea of these macarons while making an Opera Cake for a birthday party last month. I know I am no genius and they have been done before but they were really fun to put together. I love Opera Cake so much I could have it breakfast, lunch and dinner. The basis of the cake are as follow: almond genoise layered with coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache. I love hazelnuts much more than almonds so I did 50/50 each in the macarons shells, I used an Italian meringue coffee buttercream and for the chocolate ganache layer I just piped it right in the middle of the macaron. You have to trust me when I tell you they were unbelievably satisfying and we liked them so much that I made another batch right away. We all have a different approach to macarons and I tend to start with a crispy shell: I know they will soften after a couple of days and I like the contrast between the crunch of the shell and the buttery creamy insides. But hey! That’s just me!!

Opera Macarons:

For the shells:
3 egg whites (110 gr) (I like to use 2-3 day old egg whites)
40 gr. granulated sugar
200 gr. powdered sugar
55 gr. ground almonds
55 gr. skinned and ground hazelnuts

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry and your macarons won’t work. Combine the ground almonds, ground hazelnuts and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a quick pulse. It will break the powdered sugar lumps and combine your nuts with it evenly. Add them to the meringue and fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small round onto parchment paper baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 315F. Let the macarons sit out for an hour to harden their shell a bit and bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache:
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup bittersweet chocolate

In a heavy saucepan set over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the stove and add the chocolate to it. Let stand 2 minutes and then stir until fully combined. Let cool until firm enough to put in a small piping bag.

Coffee Buttercream: (it will make more than you need but freeze the leftovers for up to 3 months)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 large eggs
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water

In a small heavy saucepan set over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water. While stirring bring the mixture to a boil, and continue to cook until it registers 240ยฐF. on a candy thermometer. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand held beater beat the eggs until they are frothy. Add the sugar syrup in a thin stream, beating, and beat the mixture until it is cool. Change to the paddle attachment and add in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, the espresso mixture, and beat the buttercream until it is combined well. Leave at room temperature so it will be easier to spread.

To Assemble:
Put the coffee buttercream in a piping bag and pipe a circle around the edges of a macaron shells. Pipe a dollop of ganache in the middle and top with another shell.


Allright, now moving on to the second part of this post….


The cute as can be felt slice of chocolate cake is none other than a creation from Hannah of Bittersweet. That was her Christmas gift to me…how sweet is that?!! I set it on another Christmas gift: a gorgeous display of crystal baking items by Swarovski that my mother had put together and framed for me. I am spoiled, I know that! How Hannah finds the time to do all the things she does is beyond me…she is like the energizer bunny!

Talking about bunny…it’s Eater soon and I thought it was about time I tell you about another talented artist. One day a lovely lady, Mia sent me an email thanking me for my recipe and my blog (if you know me you know I was blushing red right then), and adding that she wanted to send me a little something “just to show her appreciation”. Mia paints life on eggs and beautiful jewelry. Literally. Life. Stunning. The duck egg on the left is a traditional design of an Ukrainian woman, in her embroidered clothing , wearing a crown of flowers with ribbons and holding a loaf of Easter bread. The one on the right has a design of a bird holding a branch of leaves. Birds show the fulfillment of wishes, leaves are for a fresh start, red is for passion, the nets separate good from evil, flowers are for love and happiness, diamonds are for wisdom and knowledge, there is also evergreen for good health and dots which show the blessings which come from sorrow. How on earth did she read inside my soul is beyond me?

Thank you ladies and thank you to you all readers out there fill me with joy and excitement. I try to visit as many blogs as I can and to answer to all the emails as promptly as I can but I have never felt more proud to be part of such an awesome community. My head does not get big and my ego does not soar in cases like that but my throat gets tight and I feel uncomfortable. I just bake and write because it is in my blood and to receive these compliments is always a little…how can I say? mind blowing? So imagine my heart getting full with gratitude and passion for the work I do when I received this award from Aimee, Jen, Susan, Linda and Gretchen Noelle.


First off ladies: right back at you! I love reading your blogs, you make me laugh, you crack me up, you kick my ass and make me wish I were rich enough to fly all of you to a huge slumber baking party somewhere on a tropical island….oh boy, looks like the painkillers are kicking in again!!

Now I have to pass this on and although there are tons of you who deserve and I am sure will receive this award soon, I wanted to focus on the male bloggers (but not entirely)out there and to reveal a few other crushes (gosh if you read this blog, it is starting to sound like we need a PG rating or something)…..so…..Please accept this “Excellent” award:

– Frenchie Zen Chef of Chefs Gone Wild: my fellow expat has the excellent touch to put “sexy” in everything he makes, writes with great spunk and has the knack to take mouth watering pictures .
– Mark from No Special Effects: pure talent, creativity and gorgeous photographs, not to mention that his blogs reads like a novel and he is the most excellent commenters!
– Graeme from Blood Sugar: what can I say? I love his blog: the excellent photography, his excellent wit, charm and wonderful recipes. I’d love to be his roomie, that’s all I can add!

Now for the ladies:
– Shawda from Confections Of A Foodie Bride: what can I say that her pictures don’t already do? Excellent photography, recipes and sense of humor as well as community. I am crushing too what can I say?!!
-Carol from Paris Breakfasts: you make my day lady! I always read you while in my pjs sipping my coffee. You make me feel at home and I lust after your art. You are excellent indeed.
– Lisa from La Mia Cucina: I know what you are going to say “you guys are close friends”…but it’s more than that. Lisa not only holds my hand in time of crisis but she is the most excellent talented writer I know. Not to mention a kickass cooks….I never want to leave when she she fixes me food (but she might say the opposite since I eat like a horse)…fantabulous dishes!!

Sorry if it was such a long post but all these topics were long overdue and I kept wondering how to fit them in….Have a great weekend all!


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Comments

43 responses to “Opera Macarons, Thoughtful Gifts And An Award”

  1. Susan from Food Blogga Avatar
    Susan from Food Blogga

    We just had relatives visiting and treating them to the most luscious opera cake in Little Italy. So, seeing your opera macarons makes me simply giddy with delight! Congratulations on your E awards. You are fabulous!

  2. Anita Avatar
    Anita

    Opera macarons! Now that is the definition of heaven to me! Congrats on all the lovely gifts and awards – to me you totally embody the idea of someone who has good things happen to her because she does so many good things for everyone else! You deserve it!

  3. BlondeJustice Avatar
    BlondeJustice

    Your blog makes me happy. The colors, the stories, the treats and the joy in which you write about them.

    Thank you for putting this kind of love out into the world! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Parisbreakfasts Avatar
    Parisbreakfasts

    OH MY!
    Quelle complimente!!!
    And YOU are the TOP BANANA in my book!
    La creme de la creme!
    I’ll trade you an aquarelle any day for one of your cookies Madame Tartelette!
    Most kind
    Carolg

  5. bakeorbreak Avatar
    bakeorbreak

    Congratulations on your well-deserved award! All of your macarons always make me want to make them. I’ve never made a macaron, but yours certainly are inspiring!

  6. Manggy Avatar
    Manggy

    No way! Someone has made Opera Macarons before?! Well, as far as I’m concerned yours are the first I’ve seen so you’re a genius in my book ๐Ÿ˜‰ Your skill and experience really shows. Strangely, I watched the great Jacques Torres making them on his old show, Passion for Pastry, and his macarons were so lumpy and bumpy and not at all as beautiful as yours! (Sorry for blowing your mind just now..) I was so let down by him! I LOVES me some Opera Cake, too. ๐Ÿ™‚ Someday I will make macarons! I promise! Every dessert-lover has to once in his lifetime!

    Very well-deserved awards for you!! Thank you for awarding me! I’m positively flabbergastedly flattered. If my blog reads like a novel, it must be Sweet Valley Twins or something. It is perfectly normal to have a crush on me. KIDDING! You did not say that, just to be clear ๐Ÿ˜€

    I’d love to be his roomie, that’s all I can add!
    Well now, how can a lady resist an English gentleman, I guess?! Hahaha! I am trying to make his head explode.

  7. Cookie baker Lynn Avatar
    Cookie baker Lynn

    You are the queen of macarons in my book. If you’re ever in my neck of the woods would you come show me how to make them? I’ll bake for you, too, of course. Your blog is one of my favorites to visit – it’s always beautiful, sweet, and uplifting.

  8. Cannelle Et Vanille Avatar
    Cannelle Et Vanille

    Oh Helen… these macaroons look superb!! And I love opera too. One of my favorites. Congratulations on your award, you truly have a magnificent blog. Well done!

  9. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    because you’re worth it ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I’d love some of those macarons with my tea…mmmm!

  10. Jerri at Simply Sweet Home Avatar
    Jerri at Simply Sweet Home

    These look great!

  11. Madam Chow Avatar
    Madam Chow

    I just tried macarons for the first time on Sunday – they had an orange buttercream filling. Yum! Lovely, happy post.

  12. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Oh, yum. If you ever want to make another trade, well, I’d be interested.

  13. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Wow! An award from the Goddess of Pastry herself! Thank you! Thank you! How sweet! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I guess this is where make my acceptance speech… euhh.. I’m trying not to get too emotional with this… I would like to thank… the Academy for voting for me… my mom for hiding the cookie box when my grades were bad in school – it pushed me to learn how to bake my own… Oh the tears are flowing…sniff… I would like to thank the kitchen Gods for their omnipresent inspiration… Sniff..I need Kleenex… this is hard!… Finally I would like to dedicate this award to all the un-eaten cookie crumbs left behind. You are not alone! Thank you all!
    ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. Babeth Avatar
    Babeth

    Bravissimo for the award and the macarons what to say except can you send some to me? They look soooooo good ๐Ÿ™‚
    xoxo

  15. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Aww, thank you so much, Helene!

    Imagine the kitchen capers we’d have if we were roomies! Wow.

  16. Mandy Avatar
    Mandy

    I love Opera cake! And Opera Macaron? Only you can come up with such clever idea, my friend. Congrats on the award!

  17. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Isn’t Hannah just wonderful? I just received some sushi pieces in the mail from her, similar to your slice of cake. Very appropriate, if you have seen my blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Those macaroons look delicious!

  18. Jessy and her dog Winnie Avatar
    Jessy and her dog Winnie

    Your macarons always look perfect!

  19. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    the Macarons are so beautiful! wow.

  20. Deborah Avatar
    Deborah

    Oooh, can’t wait to try the macarons! And in all seriousness – you are one of my favorite blogs, and one of the nicest people out here in blogland! Keep doing what you love doing, because you are great at it!

  21. Ben Avatar
    Ben

    Congratulations Helen! Very well deserved award. And you are right about Lisa, she is a great friend and she is always there for you when you need her ๐Ÿ˜€

  22. Brilynn Avatar
    Brilynn

    You and your macaroons never cease to amaze!

  23. MyKitchenInHalfCups Avatar
    MyKitchenInHalfCups

    Sigh! You always can sweeten the pot! And I’m so glad to know that it’s called a tete!!
    Beautiful indeed.

  24. Cakebrain Avatar
    Cakebrain

    your opera macarons are inspirational…I’m gonna make myself some right away!

  25. Susan @ SGCC Avatar
    Susan @ SGCC

    Congratulations on all those awards! You deserve each and every one! Good things happen to good people.

    Those eggs are exquisite, as are your beautiful macarons. You never cease to amaze me!

  26. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Congrats on this award….you deserve every nomination mentioned!

  27. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Congrats on the award!

    Those Opera Macarons look terrific!

  28. Big Boys Oven Avatar
    Big Boys Oven

    such lovely opera macarons!

    elegant & a class of it’s own!

  29. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Congratulations on your award and your lovely Opera macarons! I hear that the macarons are a very trendy dessert in France.

  30. La cuisine des 3 soeurs Avatar
    La cuisine des 3 soeurs

    Mes lointaines notions d’anglais ne me permettent pas de tout comprendre, mais tes photos comme tes macarons parlent d’eux-mรชmes. Ta rรฉcompense est lรฉgitime.

  31. Veron Avatar
    Veron

    I can’t believe I did not see this for a day. These macarons are wonderful – gorgeous. It is quite the opera. Congratulations on all your awards – you totally deserve it you know. *hugs*

  32. Ginny Avatar
    Ginny

    Congratulations on the awards! They are well deserved as you continue to excel in every way! I love the macarons. Every time you make a new kind, I tell myself I need to try. we shall see.

  33. Whitney Avatar
    Whitney

    Thanks for the recipe, I’m curious when you’re beating the meringue can you give me an idea of how long to beat it and possibly what speed? I’m a tad worried about overbeating it and not knowing when its done. Thanks

  34. Lis Avatar
    Lis

    Holy crap you’ve made me teary! ๐Ÿ˜›

    Thank you, my love.. those sentiments are felt by me for you tenfold.

    You deserve this award and every other! And you’re killin me with the macarons.. opera cake inspired. *swoon*

    Love you!
    xoxo

  35. Lis Avatar
    Lis

    PS – You can eat me out of house and home anytime you want!

    Har!
    xoxo

  36. Emily Avatar
    Emily

    That Zen Chef-he’s a riot.

    I read this the other day, but didn’t comment. I think I was distracted by something. So I’m commenting today.

    I think that’s cool that you guys exchanged homemade presents. I’ve never had a macaron either. Maybe someday I’ll make them. Maybe.
    An opera macaron sounds fabulous. What could be better???

  37. BitterSweet Avatar
    BitterSweet

    Opera macaroons = Genius! What a wonderful combination of flavors, and of course, they look beautiful as always.

    I’m so happy that you really like the little slice of cake, too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  38. Obsessive Foodie or Food Addict....You Decide Avatar
    Obsessive Foodie or Food Addict….You Decide

    I want to make macarons soooo bad but I am afraid……..very afraid.

  39. Jaime Avatar
    Jaime

    i’m not sure if i will ever be brave enough to make macarons, unless they are a DB challenge and i am forced to make them! they are so beautiful and delicate looking… the only time i have ever had them was in paris and i would hate to make them and fail miserably!

    congrats on the award – i would award you one (i’m composing that post right now) but it appears you’ve already gotten it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  40. Venus ~ Vi Avatar
    Venus ~ Vi

    I am totally mesmerized by these tantalizing macaroons! It is driving me banana that I canโ€™t have one. It leaves me with no choice but to bake some of my own~

  41. Jen Yu Avatar
    Jen Yu

    One day I am going to attempt macarons and if they are half as beautiful as yours, I will declare victory! xxoo

  42. Luna Avatar
    Luna

    Well, I’ve never tried to do macarons..
    But I wanna try to do it soon..
    And yours looks amazing.. =)

    By the way, I added your blog to my favorites..!

  43. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Look at these wonderful images.I can not make.is a huge gap at the bottom of the shell.I've done thousands of experiments, but not I have read several times but still syrupand tang.com can not solve the problem.
    please help.thanks.
    fatos.

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