Mardi Gras Beignets

Well, well, well. I meant to have these up by Tuesday (in honor of Mardi Gras, obviously) but alas. Per usual, time got away from me. It was worth the try, and at least they’re going up the same week…right?

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Damn, y’all. I have missed blogging. I’ve basically been inactive since August…that feels insane. I had a lot going on all at once!

My new job requires me to constantly be doing all the same things I usually do for this blog – content creation, cooking/baking, photography, writing. It’s amazing and I am so freakin’ happy. But doing all those tasks for work sometimes leaves me with an empty tank by the time I get around to blogging. No worries – I think it’s all about adjusting how I was spending my free time & energy. I feel like I’m finally getting into a good groove again!

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Anyway. Things have been so fun lately! In February alone I went to Boston, Alabama, and Tennessee. The trip to Boston was to visit some of my closest friends from college (it was a blast & I already miss them all so much), but Alabama and Tennessee were for my first ever work trip! My boss & I had an absolute blast photographing the menu of a restaurant that’s New Orleans/Mardi Gras themed. Since we were there the weekend before Fat Tuesday, and it’s the 1-year anniversary of when my sister and I visited NOLA, I was feeling all the Mardi Gras vibes.

So naturally I made some beignets. You should too. Here’s how…

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Mardi Gras Beignets

ingredients:

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water

1/2 cup white granulated sugar

1 tsp salt

2 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

6 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading

1/4 cup shortening

vegetable oil for frying

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

directions:

Combine the water, sugar, and yeast in a bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, check and make sure the mixture has become foamy. If it has, you’re in the clear to proceed. If it hasn’t, the yeast is dead and you need to start over with new yeast.

In a stand mixer, combine the eggs, milk, and salt. Beat until well combined.

With the mixer on low, add the yeast to the egg mixture. Then add half of the flour and slowly mix to combine.

Next add the shortening and the remaining flour to the batter.

Once the dough is well mixed, remove it from the bowl and place it onto a well floured surface. Knead the dough until it’s smooth, then place it back into the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.

Set the bowl aside in a warm area and let it rise for 1-2 hours (ideally 2, but 1 works if you’re really desperate).

After 2 hours, roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface till it’s a quarter inch thick. Then slice the dough into 2-inch squares with a knife or pizza cutter.

Place enough vegetable oil into a Dutch oven so that it fills an inch of the way up. Place a candy thermometer into the Dutch oven and heat the oil until it reaches 350 degrees.

Once the oil is at the right temperature, place a dough square into the hot oil. Start with just one as your “tester”! It’ll cook for about 2-3 minutes per side.

Once the beignet has finished frying on both sides remove it from the oil, allow any excess oil to drip off, then place it onto a clean plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar – doing so after each beignet is fried ensures that there are no bare spots in your beignet stack! Then repeat the process with the remaining dough squares.

Serve with some hot chicory coffee, and enjoy while you listen to New Orleans jazz.

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Gotta say you guys, I bit into one of these and was immediately transported to a year ago when I had my first beignet at Café Du Monde. I mean I even had the coffee to pair it with (thanks, sister!) Wow. What a dream. It makes me think, maybe it’s about damn time I share our New Orleans itinerary, huh?

Lemon Buttercream Macarons

Happy Tuesday, friends!

I’m writing this from my beautiful balcony, enjoying the sunshine and a persistent summer breeze. It’s 10 a.m on my day off, I have a homemade almond milk latte in hand and a whole day of fun ahead of me. This is bliss, y’all!

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For the longest time I told myself I liked the season of summer the least. I considered it kind of boring and pretty overrated. I mean it was the best as a kid (no school! endless slumber parties! pool days!), but as an adult it just felt sort of blah. Maybe it was because when you live in L.A every season feels like a minor variation of summer. It lost it’s allure. Or maybe I just hadn’t figured out how to summer as a grown-up. Y’all. That has changed.

I have been loooving this season again. Going on runs in the warm sun, laying out by the pool with several good books, grilling almost every day, gardening, scheduling slumber parties and lake house trips and baseball games and concerts at every opportunity. And of course, getting inspired by all the bright summer-y flavors!

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Yaaas, people. Give me all the citrus. I started off the fun with lemon buttercream macarons, the world’s most notoriously finicky cookie, and this was my first batch in two years (linking to that post so we can all laugh at my photo quality and post organization back then…oy). I know what you’re thinking. Does that mean I’m a wizard? Yes. Yes it does.

As far as I can tell, these are the perfect little treat for so many reasons. They’re decadent and light at the same time, so you won’t feel super guilty about enjoying a few. They’re sweet but also tart. They’re fun to bring into work and share with colleagues. They’ll wow at any dinner party. Enjoy one after an average dinner at home and feel a little elevated. I froze these and will be making more flavors over the course of the month so I can gift them to my mama when I see her in July, as a belated mother’s day present (her only request was “nothing matcha”, ha!).

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Lemon Buttercream Macarons

ingredients

1 cup + 1/2 lb powdered sugar

3/4 cup almond flour

2 large egg whites

1/4 cup white granulated sugar

lemon yellow food gel

1/2 cup butter

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

directions

sift 1 cup of powdered sugar and 3/4ths cup almond flour into a large bowl. whisk to combine, then set aside.

add the egg whites to a metal mixing bowl and start whisking on one of the lower settings (I start with a 4 on my Kitchenaid) until the egg whites start to look frothy. add half of the granulated sugar to the egg whites, then increase the speed to a medium (7 for me) until whites start to foam. add the remaining granulated sugar, then increase the speed to high (9 works well) and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form.

remove the bowl containing the meringue from the stand mixer. add half of the dry ingredients directly into the bowl containing the meringue, then use a spatula to gently fold meringue around and over until the dry ingredients are well incorporated. add the remaining dry ingredients along with 2-3 drops of food coloring gel, and continue to fold the batter. avoid over-mixing by going slowly. the batter is ready when it falls off the spatula in ribbons, but isn’t runny.

transfer the batter to a piping bag with a large round tip. pipe small, uniform circles onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper by holding the piping bag at a 45 degree angle to sheet. make sure not to overcrowd the sheets.

once finished with piping the batter, take each cookie sheet and carefully but forcefully bang the bottom of each corner on the countertop, to help release air bubbles in the batter! let the cookies sit for 35 minutes. preheat the oven to 305 F while you wait.

bake the cookies on the top shelf of the oven for 15 minutes. remove from the oven but let the cookies cool completely before touching them.

while the cookies cool, make your lemon buttercream by creaming butter in a clean mixing bowl. add the lemon zest to the butter and mix to combine. then add the 1/2 lb of powdered sugar. finally mix in the lemon juice.

transfer buttercream to a new piping bag and pipe frosting on the underside of one cookie. sandwich with another cookie of roughly the same size. repeat over and over again. enjoy!

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Alright. Time to read by the pool, go to a yoga class, and grill myself some Thai chicken satay skewers for lunch. Summer, y’all!

Worlds Best Carrot Cake

In my humble opinion no Easter celebration is complete without a carrot cake. It being my very favorite cake, I’ve tried more than a few variations. Even still, my favorite recipe is my moms (you can call it bias, but I swear its superiority is the objective truth).

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I’ve alluded to this cake many times on this blog, so this year I finally decided it was time to share the wealth. It’s a definite crowd pleaser, and the true magic of this cake is it freezes beautifully. I take the leftovers, freeze them by the slice, and pull them out for months (or, let’s be honest, weeks) afterwards whenever I’m craving something indulgent.

A little bit more about the cake: carrot cake recipes often call for raisins, the original version of this one included. I omit them from mine. I love the nutty and carrot-y flavors in the cake and I just think raisins distract from that.

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One of the best parts of making a carrot cake is decorating the top. So much room for creativity! This year I went for a simple but elevated look, with some piped carrot tops and candy eggs. A little Peter Rabbit-esque. Fun!

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ingredients:

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

4 cups grated carrots

1 cup pecans

8 oz softened butter

8 oz softened cream cheese

1 lb of powdered sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 cup sweetened coconut shavings

optional: cadbury eggs, orange food coloring, and carrot greens for garnish

directions:

preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

grease two 9-inch cake pans and line their bottoms with parchment paper.

in a large mixing bowl, combine the vegetable oil and sugar. in a separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

alternate between adding some of the dry ingredients and the eggs, one by one, to the sugar/oil bowl. mix after each addition. finally add the carrots and pecans, mix to evenly combine, and divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.

bake in the oven for 70 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. let the cakes cool completely before removing them from their pans. trust me here.

in a new mixing bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese together. add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract, and beat till everything is well combined.

reserve 2-3 tablespoons of icing for piping the carrots (more if you want to do additional decorations). spread a thick layer of frosting between cake layers, then ice a crumb coat on the whole cake. place the cake back in the fridge for about 20 minutes so that the crumb coat can set.

use the rest of the icing to completely frost the cake. mix a few drops of orange food coloring with the 2-3 tablespoons of reserved frosting. use a piping bag with a large, round tip to pipe the carrot tops. gently insert carrot greens into each of the carrot tops. add the candy eggs in whatever arrangement you like.

take the oven temperature down to 300 F and spread some coconut on a baking sheet. toast the coconut until lightly browned, tossing every so often so the coconut toasts evenly. apply a layer of the toasted coconut to the sides of the cake.

cut & enjoy!

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